The following piece first appeared in 2015, following author Kathryn Aalto’s appearance at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books to promote her then-new book, “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh.” Aalto reflected on the joy’s of walking-at-will in her new home of England, about how little is off-limits in a country that grants a legal right to roam. Her observations and wanderings seem especially pertinent in fall, a time when all we want to do is roam and take in this season of color.
When landscape design historian/educator/author Kathryn Aalto moved her family from Seattle to England several years ago, she remembers looking down on the approaching English landscape as their plane descended and thinking, “How am I going to raise my children here?”
Aalto was used to the more untamed land of the Pacific Northwest. Below her was a highly manicured rolling countryside, the result of several centuries of human domination.
“I needed to get a sense of place,” she told a gathering last night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, the latest stop on her U.S. book tour. “I discovered that walking was going to do it.”
It did, resulting in part in her new book, “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh.” In it, she casts a naturalist’s eye on the 6,000-acre Ashdown Forest in southeast England, the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, the setting for Christopher Robin’s childhood adventures with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the magical menagerie.
Aalto talked about the English countryside of bracken, gorse and heather. She talked of the “nibblers” — the goats, the sheep, the Belted Galloways — that manicure the landscape. She showed a photo of the expansive walnut tree that inspired Pooh’s home. And she shared from her research insights into Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and illustrator E.H. Shepard.