Botanic Gardens lecture explores Hundred Acre Wood

In the first event of Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Fall Lecture Series, author Kathryn Aalto will discuss her New York Times best-selling book, “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood.”

Katherine Aalto

The 2019 Jane and Torrence Harder Lecture will be held Thursday, Sept. 12, at 5:30 p.m. in Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall. A garden party will follow outside the Botanic Gardens’ Nevin Welcome Center; both events are free and open to the public.

This year’s Harder Lecture celebrates the link between the literary and natural worlds, and will take the audience on a “walk” through England’s Ashdown Forest. The journey places listeners in the Hundred Acre Wood, one of the most iconic settings in children's literature. This forest is where A.A. Milne observed his young son, Christopher Robin, at play with his animals and revived memories of his own childhood exploring the wilds – a synthesis that became the stories beloved by children and the adults who have read with them for nearly a century.

As an American landscape historian and garden designer living in England, Aalto developed a passion for walking the country’s public footpaths and discovered Ashdown Forest and the farm where the Milne family lived. Using E.H. Shepard’s original illustrations for “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner,” along with her own photographs, Aalto places listeners in the story’s spaces: a hollow tree, a bridge from which to watch sticks race in the water, a place buzzing with life.

Parts travelogue, biography and natural history, Aalto’s talk weaves history with humor, birdsong with booklore, to reveal the natural stage upon which these masterpieces of children’s literature were created.

“Katherine Aalto warmly teaches us that without the Hundred Acre Wood, we might never have known Winnie-the-Pooh, and the forest that still inspires generations of children and parents to forge friendships through the discovery of nature,” said Christopher Dunn, the E.N. Wilds Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens. “Nature shapes stories, families and cultures, and in turn our ongoing work is to appreciate and conserve that natural world.”

Aalto’s work explores historic, horticultural and natural history themes. She is author of “Nature and Human Intervention” (2011) and the forthcoming “Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World” (March 2020).

Lynn Yenkey is a freelance writer.

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