Landscape designer and historian, Kathryn Aalto, created an “amiable field guide” to the Hundred Acre Wood, where Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet once wandered with Christopher Robin. She talked to me about “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood” for Words & Pictures, the SCBWI’s online magazine.
Rowena: Helen Macdonald said when she received the Costa Award this year that her memoir, H is for Hawk, is intended as a “love letter to the English countryside and all that we’re losing and have lost”. Does nostalgia play a part in your love affair with English landscapes?
Kathryn: My love affair with the English landscape is a torrid one, that’s for sure. It’s a mix of nostalgia as well as discovery. As an expat from California now living in Devon, I didn’t grow up with an ancient network of footpaths as we have here. They’re a revelation. A couple years ago, my family and I walked the Coast to Coast Path from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. The kids had direct exposure to nature: they navigated guidebooks, read maps and searched the landscape for trails. It was a pivotal experience, like A. A. Milne experienced in the 1880s, one he recaptured with Christopher Robin wandering in the Hundred Acre Wood. But in terms of nostalgia, childhood has changed so much since the first Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926. Since then, there’s been a decline in native English meadows by 90%, and children can no longer wander freely like their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. Milne had tremendous freedom to explore and indulge his imagination. Few children enjoy that today. I’m also nostalgic for childhoods before electronic diversions were so prevalent. With so many footpaths in England, there’s always a place for us to walk and explore.
Read the full interview here: