Spring 2023 Blog

 It’s been a soggy start to spring this year, but that has not dampened our mood. We have some exciting news for you!


As a family we used to spend hours wandering through Epping Forest in all seasons and weathers. One of the most prominent trees I can remember visiting as a child was the Hornbeam Tree, home to the Toadflax family in the books. It was a gnarly twisted old tree, with a hole through the middle allowing you to peer through to the forest beyond. I remember the tree perched above a wooded valley, where down below a spring trickled out of the hillside and meandered through stretched tree roots. Except I don’t remember, as it’s over 25 years since I was last there, and the tree is nowhere to be seen.

Whilst trawling through Jill’s vast archives of sketchbooks, notepads, and illustrations, I found a photo of the Hornbeam Tree taken in the mid 1990s. Coincidently, around the same time Country Walking magazine got in contact with me to ask if I could help plan out a walking route for a feature taking in key locations from the Brambly Hedge books and significant landmarks from Jill’s life in and around Epping.

The walking route would include the London Underground station at Epping, where the idea for Brambly Hedge was born, Jill’s blue plaque on Church Hill, her parents’ old shop Pynes Stores, and then down into the forest to find that missing Hornbeam tree.

I had heard rumours that the tree had been lost to a storm a few years ago, but equally I had heard rumours to the contrary. After a lot of clambering around in the undergrowth between tree stumps and piles of decaying branches we happened upon a fairly unassuming hornbeam tree, by no means the biggest or most impressive in the area. It was clearly very old, one side of the tree had collapsed to the forest floor, but crucially it had a hole in the trunk through which you could peer out at the forest beyond. We walked round to the undamaged side of the tree and it all clicked into place.

There it was! The view of the tree as seen in the illustrated cross-section featured in Winter Story and the photos from the archive. This was The Hornbeam tree.

I subsequently revisited the tree with Epping Forest’s biodiversity representative, who confirmed that the tree is in good health considering the damage, and likely to be around 400 years old! It’s incredible to think that the humble home of the Toadflax family could have been a sapling in the 1620s, a time when the first Charles was crowned King.

You can read more about the walking route through Epping in the April edition of Country Walking. I would also like to thank Jenny Walters (Features Editor) and Tom Bailey, (Photographer) for all their help in our quest to find the tree.

There is also a feature about finding the Hornbeam Tree in the Guardian here.

We will be releasing more information about the tree in due course.

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Aside from our exciting journey through Epping Forest, there has been plenty going on around Brambly Hedge.

We have had countless emails over the years asking for Brambly Hedge to made available in French again, we are pleased to announce that French editions are now on the way, with the first books due to publish in Spring 2024. In March the new Pop-Up Book launched in the USA and Canada.  A new German language edition of Spring Story has been released and we also have new editions publishing in China this spring.

We hope you have been enjoying the new Kitchen at Crabapple Cottage puzzle. Four new puzzles (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) created by Cobble Hill are on their way for the USA and Canada, I have just seen samples of these and they look wonderful. The puzzles should be released in North America any day now. We will be making a limited run of these puzzles available in the UK direct from our website, so keep an eye on our social media for more news.

A new set of ‘Picnic Time’ notecards has just been added to our card range. The Picnic pack includes eight cards and envelopes, featuring two illustrations from Spring Story. Wilfred’s Birthday Picnic features on the first four, the second four include one of my favourite Brambly Hedge illustrations, Basil chilling his bottles of wine in the stream. The new Picnic notecards are available from our website.

On the subject of picnics, Brambly Hedge was featured in a recent episode of The Great British Menu on BBC 2, where chef Marianne Lumb, a Brambly Hedge fan, created a wonderful dish called ‘Yumbly Hedge’ that included salsify, mushroom puree, and hazelnut bearnaise.

Now, I’m feeling hungry! Time to go and make use of that freshly picked wild garlic.

We wish you all the most wonderful spring!

Pete Barklem

April 2023

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