A new ‘Tree of Trees’ inspired by A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh to be unveiled in Ashdown Forest

A major new installation inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh’s latest adventure Tales from the Forest is to be unveiled in Ashdown Forest today. The ‘Tree of Trees’ is a majestic, ten-foot high sculpture of a tree made using recycled wood harvested from the forest and featuring over 1,400 leaves contributed by school children from across the UK.

The project will highlight how Ashdown Forest, the real Hundred Acre Wood, inspired A.A. Milne’s stories and the new sequel, Winnie-the-Pooh: Tales from the Forest, by author Jane Riordan and illustrator Mark Burgess. It will introduce children around the UK to the importance of protecting the ecology and inhabitants of this very special environment.

The ‘Tree of Trees’ will be made from recycled wood from species found in Ashdown Forest, including sweet chestnut, beech, silver birch and oak. The branches will feature fabric leaves decorated by over 1,300 children from 25 schools nationwide, from Bolton to Brighton. The project is supported by classroom resources for schools to explore the ecology of the forest, understand how to protect the environment and discover how writers from A.A. Milne almost 100 years ago, to Jane Riordan today, have inspired people to treasure these environments.

As part of the project, children have taken inspiration from A.A. Milne and Jane Riordan to create their own imaginary names for some of the species regularly found in the forest, from the Snifflesnaffle (woodmouse) to Diamond Slitherside (adder).

Jane said, “With it's forest setting, inspired by the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, it's no great surprise that trees are central to the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Characters seem to be forever walking under them, climbing them or falling out of them! And so, at a time when so many trees are being lost to deforestation, it feels more important than ever that we celebrate our trees and the incredible wild places like the Ashdown Forest where we can all go and enjoy them.”

The sculpture will be unveiled by Jane and East Grinstead school, St Mary’s C of E Primary School, who decorated leaves for the tree today. The Tree of Trees sculpture can be found in the garden of the Ashdown Forest visitor centre and will be enjoyed by visitors until it naturally decays over the course of a year or two. The materials are sustainable and locally sourced, with crayons from independent business The Natural Crayon Company used to decorate the leaves.

The project is a collaboration between Ashdown Forest, the landscape that inspired Hundred Acre Wood; Farshore, the original publishers of Winnie-the-Pooh; and Ootiboo, who create projects to inspire creativity in schools.

Sarah Bates, Publishing Strategy Director at Farshore, said, “It’s been a real pleasure to introduce children to the link between the real world and Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood through this project. Our aim was to reconnect children with nature through storytelling and creativity – just as Milne and Shepard did with these wonderful characters and stories nearly 100 years ago.”

Angus Cameron, Creative Director at Ootiboo said, “It has been great to design and deliver a project that through the connection with Winnie-the-Pooh, raises the awareness of conservation at Ashdown Forest for schoolchildren from Dover to Manchester.”

Ash Walmsley, Countryside Manager at Ashdown Forest said, “Ashdown Forest is an incredible place and has inspired many generations of storytellers, poets, and artists in its long history. The rare and vulnerable habitats and the wildlife that makes the Forest so special need our protection and it is great that the next generation of young storytellers have already started to become inspired through this project.”

Photo: Ben Wetherall

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