Friday, June 01, 2007

The plank bridge

I go to Ireland soon, for the summer. While I'm away the "plank bridge" along my Path will be replaced with something sturdier -- or so I am told.

The bridge has been an important part of my life for 43 years, a place to watch and reflect. Readers of The Path will know that it is where I imbibed the Arcadian values of Frederick Law Olmsted -- the dream of a place somewhere between the the Urban and the Rural, between Technopolis and Wilderness, a natural place without tyrannies of government or religion.

When my kids were young they played Pooh-sticks on this bridge, dropping in sticks simultaneously upstream, then rushing across the bridge to the downstream side to see whose stick emerged first. A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh and the game of Pooh-sticks, was an Arcadian himself, a champion of the blended values of city and countryside, artifice and nature. Pooh and his friends live in just such a world, which no doubt accounts for the enduring popularity of the books.

My walk across England along the Prime Meridian took me within five miles of Cotchford Farm, where Milne wrote the Pooh books in the 1920s. Pooh-sticks Bridge is still there, on a public footpath, and it is a great sorrow to me that I somehow missed it on my walk. Not quite sure how I would have linked it to the discovery of cosmic space and time, but I'm sure I would have found a way. Ah, well, a reason to go back, maybe this time to walk the Weald Way, a long-distance footpath that passes even closer to Cotchford Farm than does the Prime Meridian.