Simple and such fun: here’s how to play properly
Pooh Sticks, the game that’s made for anyone who just can’t help but pick up sticks in the forest, and is best played with a big crowd of friends, was originally invented (by Pooh himself, obviously) all alone and using pine cones. But Pooh had such larks dropping pine cones of the bridge in the Hundred Acre Wood and rushing to the other side to watch them come through, he shared it with all his friends.
If you wish to play on the actual bridge Pooh and friends used, you’ll need to head to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, on which A.A. Milne based the books. The bridge itself is a footbridge which crosses a tributary of the Medway in Posingford Wood. It’s a lovely day out and - pro tip - if you fancy a Little Smackerel Of Something, the nearby village of Hartfield has a cafe named Pooh Corner with cakes a plenty and plenty of Milne memorabilia, too.
Pooh Corner’s owner Mike Ridley wrote a little booklet with the rules of Pooh Sticks in back in 1996 to mark the 70th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s rather charming and we think every spring picnic to somewhere near a river needs a copy of these rules in order to play Pooh Sticks Properly (A.A Milne capitals intended). So here they are:
First, you each select a stick and show it to your fellow competitors. You must agree which stick is which - or whose, as it were.
Check which way the stream is flowing. Competitors need to face the stream on the side where it runs in, under the bridge (upstream). Note: If the stream runs out, from under the bridge you are standing on the wrong side! (downstream).
Choose someone to be a Starter. This can be either the oldest or the youngest competitor.
All the competitors stand side by side facing upstream.
Each competitor holds their stick at arms length over the stream. The tall competitors should lower their arms to bring all the sticks to the same height over the stream as the shortest competitor's stick.
The starter calls, 'Ready - Steady - Go!" and all the competitors drop their sticks. Note: the stick must not be thrown into the water*.
At this point in the game all the players must cross to the downstream side of the bridge. Please take care - young players like to race across. Remember, other people use bridges and some of them have vehicles or horses.
Look over the edge of the bridge for the sticks to emerge. The owner of the first Stick to float from under the bridge, is the winner.
Remember: Falling into the water is SAD (Silly And Daft)!
*Eeyore apparently suggests dropping it ‘in a twitchy sort of way’ but we think doing so might risk disqualification.
In our March issue, which is in shops now, our Outing feature, In Search of Spring, looks more closely at Pooh Sticks (and how to win) as well as other days out for those seeking spring.