What’s the most satisfying way to spend your time in the Lakes? Is it the adrenaline-fuelled scramble over some fine ridges? An early-morning dip in a mountain tarn? Or one of our favourites: standing on a bridge and “racing” sticks from one side to the other?
Yes, Poohsticks, not only loved by all our young visitors but by the older ones, too, of all generations. Poohsticks is a sport first mentioned in The House at Pooh Corner, the second of the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne. It is a simple sport which may be played on any bridge over running water; each player drops a stick on the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream side is the winner.
It’s taken very seriously indeed, so seriously that the annual World Poohsticks Championships have been held at Day’s Lock on the River Thames since 1984. And recently scientific researchers designed a formula to help people find the perfect Poohstick venue, concluding that one of the best places to play the game is in the Lake District.
So this week we’re challenging you all to a game of Poosticks because Thursday (Jan 18) is Winnie the Pooh day. It was the birthday of author AA Milne and across the globe there will be celebrations, though it’s not the best time of the year for a teddybear’s picnic (with lashings of honey).
Poohsticks as a sport was developed at a bridge in Ashdown Forest, in Sussex, where it’s thought that Milne and his son Christopher Robin first played the game. Though it’s not certain whether the sport was first played at the bridge then written into the story, or vice versa.
One of the finest places to play Poohsticks near here is at the ancient Slaters Bridge in Little Langdale, which is a delightful walk, just a couple of miles from here along a charming wooded track. But you’ll have your own favourites. And this is a good season to play it when the storms have brought twigs and branches down, and you might even find some pine cones lying around. But please, never break a stick off a living tree.