Goodbye Christopher Robin: My day at the Hundred Acre Wood
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Recently named one of the best loved children's book of all time, everyone who is anyone knows and most likely loves the cubby little chubby all stuffed with fluff- Winnie the Pooh, and his band of adorable friends. As an individual who grew up in Kent, the thoughtful bear was a large part of my childhood, with regular visits to play Pooh Sticks and building a house for Eeyore being one of the highlights of my innocent summers. To celebrate the release of Goodbye Christopher Robin, a cinematic depiction of the life of A. A. Milne, the man we have to thank for the charming stories and his son (the one and only Christopher Robin, no less), The National Student were invited to a day at the Hundred Acre Woods, the hallowed setting for the stories. Winnie the Pooh burst onto the radar back in 1926, but the life and toils of its creator, Alan Alexander Milne, were much less well known until bestselling biographer and children's literature expert Ann Thwaite decided to take on the case. A. A. Milne: His Life was published back in 1990, and has earned Ann the title of the ultimate Pooh expert. As a consultant for the film and author of the new adapted version of the biography to coincide with the release of it, Ann was our guide around the woods that meant so much to Milne. Ann is an extraordinary individual whose charisma and incredible knowledge awed us all, wishing that we could be like Ann when we grow up. With dozens of stories to share and much wisdom to impart, Ann led us into Ashdown Forest- a hidden gem in the East Sussex countryside. Surrounding by miles of rolling fields and tranquil spots to reflect, its no wonder that Milne and his family retreated to this spot in search of peaceful solitude. A strong theme of the film and indeed of Milne's life in the countryside was the idea of the wilderness and its depiction in literature as a kind of therapy for him, in which he could escape from the horrors of war. Ann shares that she is pleased with how recognisable the forest is within the film, as Christopher "valued it hugely" as "the playground of his childhood". It becomes apparent that really the star of this film is not Winnie, but instead a father and son who came together as a result. We wander along to Gill's Lap first, known in the stories as Galleon's Lap in an iconic scene where Pooh is knighted by his good friend and creator Christopher Robin, known as Billy to his beloved mother and father. Ann surprises us with her very own childhood copies of the stories, published back in the 1980s and still in pristine condition. Here we get a sense of just how timeless Alan and Billy's imaginings are, and can almost see them acting out the scenes in front of us as Ann points out the precise spots in which they occurred. As we stroll down the dirt track it is clear that this remarkable piece of nature is something which can be relied upon to never change, and always be there as a friend to listen when the state of the world is transforming into something unsettlingly unrecognisable. The site for Milne's and E. H. Shepard's memorial (the iconic illustrator of the stories and close friend of Alan's) is a peaceful spot atop a world of rolling fields, in a clearing far from civilisation and adorned with only the chirps of the birds. "And by and by they come to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleon's Lap", a spot which is the setting for many a poignant scene in the film, in which Milne and his Billy reflect on the war, the life they made for themselves and the magic that they captured from the forest and "gave to the world".
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