PNG images: Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear, is a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne.

The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children's verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.

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The Winnie-the-Pooh stories are set in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, England. The forest is a large area of tranquil open heathland on the highest sandy ridges of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty situated 30 miles (50 km) south of London. In 1925 Milne, a Londoner, bought a country home a mile to the north of the forest at Cotchford Farm, near Hartfield. According to Christopher Milne, while his father continued to live in London "...the four of us – he, his wife, his son and his son's nanny – would pile into a large blue, chauffeur-driven Fiat and travel down every Saturday morning and back again every Monday afternoon. And we would spend a whole glorious month there in the spring and two months in the summer." From the front lawn the family had a view across a meadow to a line of alders that fringed the River Medway, beyond which the ground rose through more trees until finally "above them, in the faraway distance, crowning the view, was a bare hilltop. In the centre of this hilltop was a clump of pines." Most of his father's visits to the forest at this time were, he noted, family expeditions on foot "to make yet another attempt to count the pine trees on Gill's Lap or to search for the marsh gentian". Christopher added that, inspired by Ashdown Forest, his father had made it "the setting for two of his books, finishing the second little over three years after his arrival".

Many locations in the stories can be linked to real places in and around the forest. As Christopher Milne wrote in his autobiography: "Pooh’s forest and Ashdown Forest are identical". For example, the fictional "Hundred Acre Wood" was in reality Five Hundred Acre Wood; Galleon's Leap was inspired by the prominent hilltop of Gill's Lap, while a clump of trees just north of Gill's Lap became Christopher Robin's The Enchanted Place because no-one had ever been able to count whether there were sixty-three or sixty-four trees in the circle.

The landscapes depicted in E. H. Shepard's illustrations for the Winnie-the-Pooh books were directly inspired by the distinctive landscape of Ashdown Forest, with its high, open heathlands of heather, gorse, bracken and silver birch punctuated by hilltop clumps of pine trees. Many of Shepard's illustrations can be matched to actual views, allowing for a degree of artistic licence. Shepard's sketches of pine trees and other forest scenes are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The game of Poohsticks was originally played by Christopher Milne on a footbridge across a tributary of the River Medway in Posingford Wood, close to Cotchford Farm. The wooden bridge is now a tourist attraction, and it has become traditional to play the game there using sticks gathered in nearby woodland. When the footbridge recently had to be replaced, the engineer designed a new structure based closely on the drawings of the bridge by Shepard in the books, which were somewhat different than the original structure.

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