A story of two pop­u­lar chil­dren’s au­thors

Buck­ing­hamshire has a strong her­itage when it comes to chil­dren’s literature. Don­ald Stan­ley finds out more.

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N1938 two writ­ers made their homes in Bea­cons­field: Enid Bly­ton at ‘Green Hedges’, now the site of Bly­ton Close, where she cre­ated Noddy, and Ali­son Uttley of Lit­tle Grey Rab­bit­fame at ‘Thack­ers’in Ellwood Road named af­ter the Tu­dor house in one of her books, .

Although Enid had trained as a nurs­ery teacher, her am­bi­tion from be­ing a school­girl was to write for young chil­dren.

In con­trast, Ali­son had been only the sec­ond woman to grad­u­ate with hon­ours in Physics from Manch­ester Univer­sity and com­menced writ­ing when wid­owed to sup­port her son and her­self.

Although her ear­li­est work was for chil­dren she later wrote for older ones and adults.

In do­ing so she re­flected her love of ru­ral top­ic­sand the ob­ser­vance of county lore. Thus she would save her­self from mis­for­tune upon meet­ing a sin­gle mag­pie by bow­ing and greet­ing it cour­te­ously.

‘A Year in the Coun­try’ was a di­ary of the Buck­ing­hamshire coun­try­side.

It started in De­cem­ber when she walked through the cherry or­chards,

Enid Bly­ton at Green Hedges, her home in Bea­cons­field per­haps of See­leys as she wrote of their great trees de­cay­ing as their sur­vivors still do to­day, to col­lect leaves and berries from beech woods around Forty Green for Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.

To coun­try folk the weather is im­por­tant and so at the com­mence­ment of Jan­uary she quoted an­cient Buck­ing­hamshire folk­lore: ”If the Kal­ends of Jan­uary be smil­ing and gay/You’ll have win­try weather till the Kal­ends of May” – an­cient in­deed as for the Ro­mans the cal­ends were the first three days of the month and gave us our word cal­en­dar.

The last three days of March, she wrote, are bor­rowed from April and prover­bially have bad weather and the say­ing ‘As many mist­ises in March, so many fros­tises in May’ fore­told the dates of mist or fog in March would be the same as that of frost in May.

Figs were eaten on Palm Sun­day which was called ‘Fig Sun­day’.

Di­alect words she heard in­cluded chil­dren ‘douft­ing’ or pad­dling in the brooks at Che­sham.

She wrote of the cus­tom of bak­ers and con­fec­tion­ers putting bunches of snow­drops amongst their goods and of birds such as the cuckoo and wry­neck be­ing fa­mil­iar as visi­tors to her gar­den but to us areen­dan­gered species.

She wrote of men thatch­ing and wom­en­keep­ing them­selves warm with a ‘Chaddy pot’ whilst they made pil­low lace or plaited straw for hats.

Ali­son Uttley wrote of chil­dren pad­dling in the brooks in Che­sham.

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