Book Review – The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood
By Kathryn Aalto
ISBN: 978-1-60469-599-1
Published by Timber Press

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto is published by Timber Press.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto is published by Timber Press.

Winnie-the-Pooh holds a special place in most of our hearts; the ‘silly old bear’ and his band of friends brought their own special, heart-warming charm to many of our childhoods, thanks to the stories of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, written by A.A. Milne.

When I first saw this new book and realised that The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh detailed the real-life locations that were the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood and the other special places in A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh’s stories, I thought this was an endearing, and rather lovely concept for a book. Now that I have read The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, I can tell you that this wonderful book offers the reader so much more than you might at first anticipate.

Charming illustrations by E.H. Shepard adorn the pages of 'The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood', yet this book is full of interesting and informative content. I am sure it is a book that will become a much loved and treasured gift.

Charming illustrations by E.H. Shepard adorn the pages of ‘The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood’, yet this book is full of interesting and informative content. I am sure it is a book that will become a much loved and treasured gift.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh is a book rich in content, it’s not superficial at all, this is not a book that you could flick through and read in a day. Full of interesting details, it took me a long time to read this book; it’s a book to be savoured, and is an absolute joy to read.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh offers the reader a deeper insight into seemingly every aspect of A.A. Milne’s life: his upbringing, childhood and schooling, then following on as he embarks on employment, his engagement and marriage, then the arrival of their son, Christopher Robin, the family’s lifestyle and close relationship. This insightful book even includes Christopher Robin’s own accounts of his childhood and relationship with his Father; it also features a chapter on E.H. Shepard, where the reader can discover more of the collaboration between the author and artist. The author, Kathryn Aalto, is very well read on A.A. Milne, and references other books and sources in her book, which add greatly to the interest for the reader. Kathryn includes anecdotes from all stages of A.A. Milne’s life, giving the reader a deeper insight into the man behind these special and much loved stories.

'The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, is filled with beautiful illustrations by E.H. Shepard.

‘The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, is filled with beautiful illustrations by E.H. Shepard.

The author, Kathryn Aalto, spent a year researching the Hundred Acre Wood on foot – “hiking through the heather, hopping over rocks and streams, listening to birds and bees, and attempting to climb a pine tree or two.” Kathryn has evidently put a huge amount of work into this book, she sought out the few people, still alive today, that knew A.A. Milne, and found out about their experiences and memories of the author. Kathryn’s admiration for A.A. Milne and his stories about Winnie-the-Pooh is evident throughout this book, which has clearly been written with great affection.

'The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood' is a charming and informative book.

‘The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood’ is a charming and informative book.

In The Natural World of Winnie-the Pooh, Kathryn Aalto covers all aspects of the Winnie-the-Pooh books and stories in great detail, referring to even intricate observations, such as how the characters in the stories were drawn and depicted in their loved, yet slightly misshapen condition. I particularly enjoyed reading about the actual, real trees that inspired the houses of each of the characters. There are numerous quotes and references to the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, as Kathryn offers explanations as to the story’s setting and real-life location, often giving her own thoughts on the feelings behind the emotion expressed within the tale.

Young naturalists will be fascinated by the details of the flora and fauna of the real-life Hundred Acre Wood.

Young naturalists will be fascinated by the details of the flora and fauna of the real-life Hundred Acre Wood.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the real-life places and locations that feature in Winnie-the-Pooh’s books, there are photos of times gone by, native flora and fauna in the forest, birds, butterflies and other insects, deer, even the geology of the forest is covered in this delightfully detailed book.   I think if there’s anything you’ve ever wondered about the Winnie-the-Pooh books, the author A.A. Milne, the artist E.H. Shepard, or any of the places featured in the book, your questions, and much more besides, will be answered in detail in this charming book.

Kathryn Aalto provides helpful, detailed, instructions on finding Poohsticks Bridge and the other locations in the Winnie-the-Pooh books – thankfully these special places haven’t been lit up by florescent lights, or turned into a theme park, so there aren’t huge signs marking their whereabouts. You can find out about all the locations included in the Winnie-the-Pooh books, including Hundred Acre Wood, Ashdown Forest, and A.A. Milne’s home at Cotchford Farm inside this book.

'The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh' features photographs and information on the birds and other animals that frequent the real-life locations that provided inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

‘The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh’ features photographs and information on the birds and other animals that frequent the real-life locations that provided inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

Kathryn provides an insight into the rare plants, birds, invertebrates and animals, past and present that live, or have lived, in Ashdown Forest, describing the effect they have had on this special place.   The conservation of the area and the methods used to maintain the habitat are also expanded upon. There are some lovely photographs of the plants and trees to be found at the real-life locations that were part of the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh is a very special book. I think it would make a super present for anyone who’s read and enjoyed A.A. Milne’s stories of Winnie-the-Pooh; it would make an ideal gift to give to a family, or to Grandparents, or Great-Grandparents. This is an interesting, inspiring and heart-warming book that is full of nostalgia and has been written with love and affection.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto and published by Timber Press.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto and published by Timber Press.

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To read my interview with David Neale, an award winning Garden Designer, based in Guildford in Surrey, please click here.

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For gardening advice of what you could do in your garden or at your allotment from mid-December until mid-January, please click here.

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