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Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

If you like mice you'll love Brambly Hedge! Brambly Hedge can be found on the other side of the stream across the field - maybe close to you. Here if you look carefully you may spot a wisp of smoke or see a flight of stairs going up into a tree trunk. For it is in this place that a community of mice has made their home.

The first Brambly Hedge books - Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Storyand Winter Story - appeared in 1980. They are written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. Their production followed five years research by Jill. Her love of natural history and interest in rural crafts shines through in the beautiful illustrations and fine details of the stories.

Each story, complete in itself, tells of the everyday life of the mice - gathering food, producing pickles and preserves that are kept in the Store Stump for use in the winter. The mice also enjoy themselves having fun at a birthday picnic, a wedding or a snowball.

In the books we meet characters such as Mr. & Mrs. Apple who look after the store stump, Poppy Eyebright who is in charge of the dairy, Dusty Dogwood who runs the mill, Lord and Lady Woodmouse, Mrs. Crustybread - the cook and the younger mice - Wilfred, Teasel, Catkin and Primrose, to name but a few.

In Spring Story a surprise birthday picnic is arranged for Wilfred. All the mice are invited and the picnic food is made, including a birthday cake. The mice meet together to go off for their picnic but to Wilfred's disappointment no-one mentions his birthday! What a surprise he has when he opens up a picnic hamper to discover the Birthday cake! 

A wedding is the theme for Summer Story. Poppy Eyebright and Dusty Dogwood become engaged in June and marry on Midsummer's day. Naturally everyone comes to the wedding dressed in their summer finery. The groom and best man are covered in flour but it doesn't matter as the mice gather on the decorated raft to witness the marriage. Great feasting and dancing follows and no-one notices the raft coming adrift and floating down the river!

Autumn Story tells of harvest time. Old Mrs. Eyebright warns the mice of bad weather and they all set to to gather in the berries, seeds, nuts and grain for the winter. Lord and Lady Woodmouse are out and about with their daughter Primrose who somehow manages to get herself lost. A search party is arranged. Primrose meanwhile is having an adventure - meeting up with elderly mice who invite her to tea and discovering tunnels and holes. The bad weather closes in and she becomes frightened by strange figures coming out of the gloom towards her. But all ends well when she realizes one of the figures is her grandfather.

My favourite of all these stories is the Winter Story. Snow and frost have come to Brambly Hedge and the young mice are too excited to sleep and make plans for the next day when they can play in the snow. Excitement grows when the snow is so deep that plans are made for a Snow Ball. Only old Mrs. Eyebright remembers the last snow ball - held the year she was married! All the mice help to prepare the Ice Hall and the feast. What a sight greets them when they return dressed up to dance the night away! Great fun is had by all before finally at dawn the mice creep away to bed as the ice begins to melt.

Other Brambly Hedge stories include The Secret StaircaseSea Story and Poppy's Babies.

Information for this article has been gathered from

Contributed by Catriona Charlesworth.

(Published 4th Dec 2014)

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