I was so sad to hear that Jill Barklem, creator of the Brambly Hedge book series died late last year. I loved having these sweet books in my school library. The idea of living in the hedgerow seems so special especially to a reader from Australia where we have no hedgerows. Yesterday I visited an excellent Vintage book store and I found two little Brambly Hedge stories - Summer Story and Autumn Story.
Summer story, after many months of quiet meetings beside the mill stream Miss Poppy Eyebright and Mr Dusty Dogwood "officially announced their engagement." Everyone is involved in the preparations for the midsummer day event which will take place on the river. Dusty makes a 'raft' using a flat piece of bark which is tethered with plaited rush and nettle ropes. In the kitchens cool summer foods are prepared such as cold watercress soup, fresh dandelion salad, syllabubs and meringues with wild strawberries and special wines. Reading this book to a young child there would be so much to explore and perhaps even cook.
On the day of the wedding everything goes well until the vigorous dancing makes the ropes holding the raft snap.
"The raft floated gently past fields of buttercups and meadowsweet. ... Eventually, the raft was caught in a leafy clump of rushes and forget-me-nots. The ropes were made fast, and the dancing began again."
The mice set off to collect ripe blackberries in Autumn Story. Young Primrose, daughter of Lord and Lady Woodmouse, becomes lost just as a storm is about to begin. Primrose has become distracted as she collected flowers and she finds herself in the home of two elderly harvest ice. "They sat Primrose down, gave her a slice of cake, and handed her their album of family portraits to look at." After this delightful visit she continues on her way and spies an interesting hole. Inside is a maze of tunnels and Primrose quickly becomes lost. Eventually she finds the way back outside but she is so exhausted and the rain is falling so she huddles under the brambles and tries to stay brave "when to her horror she saw five little flickering lights coming through the woods towards her. She could just make out five strange figures behind them. They were shapeless and bulgy, and seemed to have no heads at all." The five are in fact her family and friends and Primrose is rescued. Her mother takes her home, puts her in a clean nightie and they share a mug of hot acorn coffee.
You can watch a little of the television series here. Once you could even buy Brambly Hedge china from Royal Doulton. You could follow the Brambly Hedge books with a visit to Beatrix Potter and her famous titles and also the Tumtum and Nutmeg books.