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The world of Wombles author Elisabeth Beresford
Elisabeth was inspired to write the Wombles by her daughter

Born in 1926 Elisabeth Beresford served as a Wren during World War II before finding work as a ghost writer on BBC Radio's Woman's Hour.

In her spare time she wrote fiction, starting with romantic stories for women's magazines.

The Wombles books were inspired by a comment made by her daughter during a Boxing Day walk on Wimbledon Common.

She said she thinks the books being republished in 2010 would help encourage children to recycle more.

The idea for the Wombles came about following a Christmas spent with Elisabeth's in-laws when she and her two children went for a Boxing Day walk on Wimbledon Common.

She described the moment: "Over Christmas I had to keep the children quiet as their grandparents were visiting, so on Boxing Day, after the grandparents left, we got in my car and went to Wimbledon Common.

"The three of us ran backwards and forwards screaming at the top of our voices and it was my daughter who said to me 'oh ma, isn't it great on Wombledon Common!', and I said 'That's where the Wombles live'."

Elisabeth Beresford
Before writing the Wombles Elisabeth was a Wren during World War Two

This idea stemmed a series of books, which featured Wombles looking more like teddy bears than their later TV series incarnation.

Elisabeth's association with the BBC led to Woman's Hour producer Monica Simms suggesting she take her idea to television company FilmFair who produced television for the BBC and, with the help of Ivor Wood puppet versions of the Wombles were made and Film Fair produced the series with Bernard Cribbins providing the voices.

The theme tune for the show was written by Mike Batt and Elisabeth said "it was Mike Batt who invented recycling [for the Wombles]", but she added "I'm all for recycling".

Many of the characters in the stories stemmed from Elisabeth's family: "Great Uncle Bulgaria was my father-in-law, Madame Cholet was from my daughter Kate... my brother had two children and John was a very clever boy who went to Wellington College, which is where Wellington came from... and Orinoco I just picked off a map."

One of the newer additions to the burrow is Alderney womble

Elisabeth moved to Alderney at the request of her former husband Max Robertson, who she met at a Conservative Party Conference in Brighton.

She said: "Max decided I need to go somewhere quiet where I could work get away from the BBC and for some mad reason I thought Alderney was somewhere off Scotland.

"When we flew over the Channel I thought we'd lost our way, I was horrified and I'd never seen such a small plane before."

In 1998 Elisabeth was made an MBE and she said, "The Queen's a mad Womble fan, she even knew my children called their father Womble the Terrible... she loved it, I think it was a bit of light relief for her."

A history of the world at Candie
18 Feb 10 |  TV & Radio



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