Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club

A short break in Winnie the Pooh country

‘Have we got the sticks?’ My husband and I were doing a final check for our night away. I often pack walking poles for a hiking holiday, but this time the sticks were gathered from our own garden. When you head to Winnie the Pooh country, home-grown twigs are essential piece of kit.  

Ashdown Park Hotel Ashdown Forest in East Sussex is a glorious mix of woods and heathland, a landscape that inspired author AA Milne to create some of the world’s best-loved children’s stories. And as a lifelong fan of the bear with very little brain, a walk in the footsteps of the Woozles was an essential part of my overnight stay at Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club.

With overseas travel so uncertain this summer, I’ve enjoyed a number of short breaks around the UK, revisiting favourite haunts and discovering unknown areas like Ashdown Forest. Less than two hours from home, the Ashdown Park Hotel at Forest Row was built in the mid-19th century and has had many transformations across the decades. 

Originally a private estate with a lake, fine trees and its own church, the house became a hospital and convalescent home for Belgian Army Officers in World War I; a training establishment for novice nuns from the 1920s; an American university; and then a management training centre for bankers. In 1993, it was bought by Elite Hotels and a new phase in its history began.   

Today, Ashdown Park Hotel prides itself on being one of the finest country house spa hotels in Sussex, with nine categories of room to choose from, each room individually decorated and furnished. If you’re planning on making use of the hotel spa, fitness facilities, or Par 3 18-hole golf course, I can recommend the Fairways suites located next to the Country Club. 

Our Fairways suite Our huge ground-floor suite included a spacious sitting area with settee and armchair, a well-stocked welcome tray, and all the little extras I’d expect of a luxury hotel. Lots of luscious Molton Brown toiletries too in the bathroom, with its double washbasin, bath with shower above, and – oh joy – a decent magnifying mirror for make-up. In fact my only niggle was the location of the full-length mirror, bizarrely hidden inside the wardrobe door which wouldn’t fully open due to the proximity of the main door.

I loved our private terrace overlooking the greens and parkland, perfect if you are taking your four-legged companion on holiday too, or you want to step straight out for a stroll round the lake, fairways, and extensive woodland. And if you want to up the pace a bit, three colour-coded jogging trails wind around the estate. I didn’t see any of the free-range deer that roam the estate, but I did surprise a young fox basking in a sunny corner of the walled garden.

Memorial to Milne and Shepard The main entrance to Ashdown Park Hotel is opposite the Ashdown Forest Visitor Centre at Wych Cross, open on high season afternoons and at weekends. If, like us, you call at the wrong time, you can still gen up on the area from the information boards. The Normans set aside Ashdown as a royal hunting forest, and it remained the playground of kings for over 300 years. The Tudors dug iron ore here with picks, using charcoal from the trees to fuel their blast furnaces.

Today, Ashdown Forest is tranquil again, located on the highest sandy ridge of the High Weald and offering sweeping views towards both the North and South Downs. On the way to the hotel, we took a short circular walk from the car park at Gills Lap near Hartfield, close to AA Milne’s former home. Along the trail, we enjoyed the magic of Pooh’s ‘Enchanted Place’, passed Roo’s Sandy Pit, and took in the view from the memorial to Milne and his illustrator EH Shepard.      

Peech and honey dessert There was also time to soak up the delightful Arts & Crafts atmosphere of the National Trust’s Standen House, just a few miles away at East Grinstead. All of which worked up an appetite for dinner in the hotel’s Anderida Restaurant, which rightly deserves its 2 AA Rosette ranking. An amuse-bouche of roasted aubergine with yoghurt and chervil led into my choices of crab salad starter, stone bass main course, and intricate peach and honey dessert, with a welcome inter-course palate-cleanser of mango sorbet.

The two large dining rooms with their brocade chairs, white table linen, and sparkling glassware are grand rather than intimate, but the atmosphere is relaxed. On a Monday night in August, almost every table was occupied with diners dressed in everything from floral frocks to casual attire. But staff are always smartly turned out and we found them all, without exception, to be friendly, efficient and well-trained.  

Gillian at Pooh Sticks bridge After a sound night’s sleep in our comfortable super-king bed, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, before checking out with garden twigs to the ready. Pooh Sticks Bridge may be surrounded by trees, but visitors are politely asked to take their own tree trimmings, rather than denude local woodland. Without a leaflet from the forest centre, it wasn’t the easiest place to find, but eventually we tracked down Pooh Car Park, just off the B2026 at Chuck Hatch.

From here it’s a 15-minute downhill walk along a broad, surfaced track through woodland to the familiar bridge across the stream. The route is easily accessible to buggies and wheelchairs, unlike the heavily pitted path from Gill’s Lap, but do go early at holiday times to stand a chance of having the bridge to yourself.

We were lucky. The only sounds were bird song, babbling water, and our own competitive cries as our sticks floated into view beneath the boards. Feeling that I had ticked off another bucket list box, I headed home happy, rested and well-fed, ready to start rereading one of my all-time favourite books at bedtime!

Gillian Thornton was hosted by Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club, a member of Elite Hotels. Located in the heart of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, the hotel has 106 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, two restaurants, an 18-hole par 3 golf course and a Country Club with an indoor pool and spa facilities. Stay overnight from £179 per room (two sharing), including a wide range of breakfast options. Call Ashdown Park on 01342 824988 ( 

78 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Gillian Thornton

Travel writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

With over 7,000 years of history, Malta is the ultimate holiday destination for any history buff!…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.