The Wombles were mentioned in this week’s episode of the award-winning BBC4 sitcom Detectorists.
They were the focus of the closing scene, in which the lead characters Andy and Lance discuss the recent death of a fellow member of the metal-detecting community.
Lance: He was a legend, Rod McClin.
Andy: Didn’t people say he had metal detector shoes so he was constantly detecting?
Lance: There’s lots of stories about old Rod. Yeah, he used to go detecting at the end of each day for loose change on Wimbledon Common.
Andy: Wimbledon Common.
Lance: What about it?
Andy: Well, it’s not real.
Lance: Not real?
Andy: No, it’s fictitious. It’s made up for the Wombles.
Lance: No, it wasn’t.
Andy: Yes, it was. ‘Underground, overground, Wombling free…’
Lance: No, no. I know the Wombles lived there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real place.
Andy: You believe in Wombles?
Lance: Course I don’t. Look, the fictitious Wombles lived fictitiously on the real-life Wimbledon Common.
Lance: Google it.
Andy: . . . No signal.
Lance: Google it later.
Detectorists is written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, who also stars as Andy, alongside Toby Jones as his friend Lance.
It’s not the first time that existential questions have been asked about the Wombles. People are often unsure whether Wombles are real animals – or whether they’re bears, rats, moles or something else.
On the panel show Would I Lie To You? in 2012, actress Katherine Parkinson admitted that she was so sure Wombles were real that she used them as an example of a mammal in her GCSE biology exam. She said: “I should make clear that I didn’t think the children’s programme was a documentary. I thought the children’s programme was based on a real mammal.”