Tributes have been paid to a “big kid” who became a world renowned expert on Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh Corner creator Mike Ridley, who created a shrine to Winnie the Pooh in Sussex which attracted visitors from around the world, has died following a battle with cancer.

For more than 30 years, Mr Ridley dedicated his time to creating the shrine to A A Milne’s memorable children’s character in Hartfield before deciding to sell in 2011.

His daughter Clare Ridley said the creation of Pooh Corner, which sells a range of Poophernalia, Pooh-related food and offers a gateway to the Pooh country which inspired the character’s creation, happened almost by accident.

A potter by trade, Mr Ridley moved to the site that would become Pooh Corner in search of a workshop facility before uncovering the link between Ashwood Forest and the origins of Winnie the Pooh.

He started making home-made fudge and selling it to passing motorists before gaining a licence from Disney to create Winnie The Pooh tableware.

From that Pooh Corner began to grow, becoming a pilgrimage site for Pooh fans from nearly 100 countries.

The Argus:

Ms Ridley said the link between the area and Winnie the Pooh had been lost before her father brought it back to life.

She said: “I think AA Milne was a very private person, and so was Christopher Milne who didn’t like being Christopher Robin, so I think that’s why the link was lost.”

Ms Ridley said her father decided to sell the shop in 2011 to retire to Suffolk but her cousin Lauren Little now worked at the shop.

Miss Little, 19 from Heathfield, joined the Pooh Corner staff in August last year and returned to the store after a brief time working at Harrods in London.

She said: “Mike’s passion and dedication towards the store was just incredible, he put his life into it.

“I am so proud to say that my uncle was the founder of Pooh Corner.”

Growing up, she said that her father’s real passion was Rupert the Bear, while he will be buried with a Daffy Duck soft toy in his coffin because of his ability to mimic the Disney character.

Afuneral ceremony will be at 1.30pm on July 12 at the West Suffolk Crematorium in Risby followed by a wake at the Alpheton Village Hall from 3pm.

He is survived by his wife June and daughters Clare and Emma; his sister Wendy and her husband Robin, stepsons Andrewand Ian and grandchildren Nathan, Maya, Lucy, Isla and Tillie- Rose, who knew him as Grandpa Pooh.