October 14, 2021
A.A. Milne’s “Poohsticks” bridge goes under the hammer
by Tom Clayton
It may not look like much—a wooden bridge across a stream in Ashdown Forest, near Tunbridge Wells, UK, measuring around 30ft across. But it holds a special place in the history of children’s imagination, as the birthplace of a simple game, invented by the author A.A. Milne: Poohsticks.
The crossing—originally named Posingford Bridge—was built in 1907. It sits in the heart of Ashdown Forest (the inspiration for Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood), and was officially renamed “Poohsticks Bridge” in 1979 after the global success of Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. By 1999 the bridge was so worn down by the number of yearly visitors that it was dismantled and rebuilt using local oak, with the help of funding from Disney.
Now, as per reports in NPR and elsewhere this unique lot has gone up for sale at auction with Summers Place house, and is expected to go for anywhere between $50,000 and $80,000.
For those of you not so familiar with the adventures of Milne’s most famous creations, Christopher Robin (based on Milne’s son) and Winnie-The-Pooh (his favourite teddy bear), the auction house’s description of Poohsticks serves as a useful primer:
First mentioned in The House at Pooh Corner, it describes how Pooh accidentally drops a pine cone into a river from a bridge and after watching how it appeared on the other side of the bridge, devises the rules for Poohsticks. It subsequently appeared in later books being played by the other main characters, Christopher Robin, Eeyore and Tigger and was immortalised in E.H Shepard’s illustrations.
Like so many of Milne’s ideas, it’s a beautifully simple and inclusive concept, and the game has thus remained popular ever since its creation.
However, without a league or registered “players,” it is obviously quite difficult to put a number on how many partake in Poohsticks. There is a well-attended World Championships which has been held in Oxfordshire since 1984; the most recent winner was seven-year-old Innes Turnbull in 2018 (the 2019, 2020 and 2021 editions have all been cancelled for various reasons). So it seems the simple appeal of Poohsticks—not to mention that of its fictional originators—shows no sign of dimming.
Fancy bidding? Well, you’re too late: bids closed on Wednesday. But it’ll be fascinating to see how much this truly unique piece of literary memorabilia goes for.
Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.