One of Those Days in England travel blog

A A Milne's house


Stick bridge

Hampton Court




Woke this morning at the awesome Holiday Inn Gatwick. No breakfast, just out. Got to watch a tow truck driver remove a VW from the lot I was in. He had me hemmed in, so I had to watch. Once freed I drove seven miles to Ashdown Forest. Seven miles of tight roads, wrong side, in-a-hurry British tailgaters. It's white knuckle driving and it's the last day and I still have both mirrors.

Ashdown forest was the hunting ground for Tudor fisher king Henry VIII. He allegedly liked hunting the abundant deer. They are still plenty of signs on the road that would make you think there are moose around there. Henry probably was more in the Boleyn strumpet that lived nearby. The forest is 20 miles or so south of London.

I had other reasons. After the bleakness of the bronte sisters I needed something lighter in a literary vein. Ashdown forest is where A. A. Milne lived. The forest is where he and Christopher Robin walked and where Winnie ther Pooh was born.

As I pulled up Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye was on the radio. Appropriate, I guess if you're Kevin Spacey. I knew where to start but was sketchy on details. Gills Lap was a place to park at one end of the trail. I wandered around. The trees look just like how Shepherd drew them in the books. Small birch trees. Around gills lap there aren't many trees except one copse Christopher Robin named the enchanted forest. further up is a memorial to Milne and Shepherd. A park bench and a view. The whole area is muddy. Not too muddy but you have to watch your feet. And there are a bunch of horses about. I walked across a road and down a field to a small bridge which is where Pooh discovered the North Pole.

Next I drove a mile or so north to another car park and walked down to the sticks bridge. On hunch I continued past the bridge up to a road and walked a quarter mile or so down it. On the right tucked in the trees and off the road was Milnes' house. I couldn't see too much. Certainly not the pool in the back yard Brian Jones drowned in after his handy man killed him. Brian was The Rolling Stone who taught Keef how to do drugs. There's rumor that there are drawings on the wall of Crotchford farm of Brian and Piglet sharing a hookah.

Left Ashdown and headed to Hampton Court. I got there around 2:30. Late on a November Monday is great. I got to park in the castle. There are about 10 spots in there and they are usually filled. Cardinal Wooleey built this place. Enourmous and decedant for the 1500s, it was added on to by everyone through the early 1800s. I was too late for the gardens which looked nice but I wanted to see the building.

Henry VIII showed up one day and implied that having a better castle than the king was probably bad for your health. Woolsey, always a bit of a health nut, gave Henry the castle. I did the tour of Henry's apartments which have a church built in them. There are kitchens in the back. The shame was they are doing some restorations and have the oven closed. The guy there says they burn huge logs in the oven year round and cook food and give it to the tourists. As it was the whole castle was very cold. Henry had a fire place in most rooms. The kitchen fireplaces burned 4-5 tons of wood a day. That's a lot of trees.

I looked at the paintings and listened to the audio guide but pretty soon they were telling me to get the hell out. I ran to the back of the castle for a final look at the building. I was told this building is now closed. I said I just wanted to see Woolsey's private office. Don't know why but those were the magic words. The guard said you can't look at anything else. We passed other guarded. He'd say "Woolsey's office" they would nod knowingly. It was small office with ornate woodwork dominated by a painting oh Henry. Underneath it said "Su casa, mi casa"

Anyway they began poking me with their big fake halberds to get me to leave.

I took the car back to the rental at Heathrow. The guy checked it out and said OK. I said Is that it? Yep. Really? He then began to look at the car like he'd missed something. I needed to act fast. I started asking for directions to the underground which was directly across the street. The ride to Kensington wasn't to bad 40 minutes or so. I got out at Gloucester road and hauled my junk to the Exhibitionist hotel. I'd been dreading this place since I booked it. If you haven't figured this out, I am cheap to a fault and I like to pull the hotel slot machine and get a good deal. Sometimes you have to shoot blind, like getting mystery hotels on Hotwire. No idea what they are until you've paid for them. All you have is their recommendation based on their questionable star rating. Well this silly hotel has a 5 star rating. I am not sure why. It's all very artsy modern pretentious and weird. I asked an older guy in the elevator how he ended up in this hotel. "My secretary booked it. I aven't sacked her yet." The hotel is across from the natural history museum and actually is comfortable with a very big bathroom and yet another tub. Props to the Holiday Inn - scalding hot water. I stay in this place until Saturday morning. All London from here out.

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