Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

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bear

The last black bear to live on Salisbury Plain was a female, lived to the age of twenty, had a varied diet and would have liked Woodhenge as she enjoyed climbing poles. This bear travelled to Stonehenge in the lead up to Christmas one year, passing close by the stones on the route we have known as the A344. That this journey was in a car is not even the most outstanding aspect of this story, because a decade on this bear would become the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.

This story begins with the outbreak of the Great War, and an English born vet that enlisted in the Canadian army and purchased a bear cub in Ontario from a hunter who had slaughtered the cub’s mother. Lieutenant Harry Colebourn (above) named the bear Winnie, after Winnipeg, his adopted home town, the pair then travelling to Britain with Winnie becoming the regimental mascot to the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade. Arriving on Salisbury Plain on 18 October 1914, the soldiers would write of some of the mud and the worst wintry conditions remembered, but Winnie nonetheless enjoyed climbing the central pole of the tent. With a pressing appointment in France looming, Harry borrowed a car to drive Winnie past Stonehenge and on to London Zoo on 9 December 1914. It was there, frequently visited by A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, that the last black bear to live on Salisbury Plain would become a legend with the publication of the Winnie the Pooh stories in 1926.

Winnie the Pooh visited Stonehenge – fancy that!

B.E.

Reading: Fred Colebourn, Harry Colebourn and Winnie-the-Bear (Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives, 1988). Val Shushkewich, The Real Winnie: A One-of-a-Kind Bear (Toronto, 2003).

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.