PHOTO BY BEN QUINTON
When A. A. Milne closed the book on the Winnie-the-Pooh story, Christopher Robin was preparing to leave for boarding school, and Pooh, Tigger, and the rest attended a farewell party in the Hundred Acre Wood. This month, Disney’s Christopher Robin finds the titular character (played by Ewan McGregor) all grown up, with a demanding job that interferes with family time. Then one day, during a pensive moment in the secluded garden outside his home, Pooh reappears and asks for help tracking down the rest of their merry band.
The garden that hosts this reunion is London’s Merrick Square, a private plot for 32 Georgian row houses in Trinity Village Estate, near Southwark. Planted with London plane, chestnut, sycamore, and linden trees, the protected area retains much of its period charm—though the bench on which Christopher and Pooh reunite was brought in as a prop. Still, that shouldn’t deter visitors from peeking through the original 1850s cast-iron railings, or stopping by during the annual Open Garden Squares Weekend (held in June), when some 200 London green spaces open their gates to the public.
“I thought the garden provided the necessary intimacy and felt reminiscent of part of the forest—the part of Christopher Robin’s past that he closed off in becoming an adult,” says director Marc Forster, who helmed the Oscar-winning Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland. For inspiration in depicting what Forster calls the “dreary, gray” London of Christopher’s adult life, the production team turned to the work of L.S. Lowry, a 20th-century British painter of industrial landscapes. Meanwhile, scenes in the Hundred Acre Wood were shot in Ashdown Forest, the East Sussex woodlands where the real Christopher Robin (Milne’s son) took his stuffed friends on adventures.
“Pooh and his friends bring all the fantastic whimsy themselves, so it’s more about seeing the world through their eyes,” Forster says. “It’s our perspective that makes a place feel either mundane or special.”