Tidy Bag

Orinoco Womble bench unveiled at AFC Wimbledon stadium

Elisabeth Beresford’s son and daughter joined some of the Wombles to unveil a unique sculpture at Plough Lane.

The wood-carved ‘Orinoco Womble Bench’ has been installed outside the AFC Wimbledon football stadium, close to the bus stop near the Gate 3 entrance.

At one end of the bench is a full-colour Orinoco Womble statue, complete with his tidy-bag, and wearing a yellow-and-blue football scarf.

The other end is a rubbish bin overflowing with food wrappers - all carved from wood. To mark the times we live in, there are even some discarded blue face masks.

The bench and statue have been made from fallen and replanted oak, by wood sculptor Lorraine Botterill. See more photos below.

A bench was originally proposed for Wimbledon Common in a crowdfunding campaign in 2020, which was put on hold after the Covid-19 outbreak. Now the project has been revived with the help of Wimbledon in Sporting History (WiSH), and moved to Plough Lane.

Fans and families gathered to watch the grand unveiling on Saturday 9 July, as part of a celebratory ‘Wombles Day’ at the stadium.

AFC Wimbledon’s mascot Haydon was on hand to entertain the crowd, along with former Wimbledon FC mascot Wandle. Unusually, they appeared alongside Great Uncle Bulgaria and Madame Cholet from the Wombles books and TV series.

Author Elisabeth Beresford’s son Marcus Robertson made a speech to introduce the bench, inviting several guests to join him:

Marcus continued:

“My mum, Elisabeth Beresford - Liza Robertson in her real life - would have been extremely proud of today’s moment. We lived locally, we loved Wimbledon. She supported Wimbledon the football club vicariously through me because I was a regular goer from the 1970s right the way through, went to all the rounds of the FA Cup here, and have season tickets here. So for us as a family, it’s not just about the Wombles; Wimbledon football club is a very big part of our lives.

“But the most important person of all would clearly be Great Uncle Bulgaria, the sage of the world Wombles. And he’s very shy, he doesn’t speak very often; he issues statements even less regularly than the Queen. But 20 years ago, when asked would he support the franchise team going to Milton Keynes or the new local team appearing on Wimbledon Common, he made it absolutely clear. He said: ‘Cousin Buckingham of the Milton Keynes burrow may well want to go and watch them, but we will be watching something much nearer to home, here in Wimbledon.’

“And 20 years on, he has issued another statement, and as far as I’m aware he’s not issued a statement about anything else in the world in that intervening period. He says, and I quote you again: ‘AFC Wimbledon returning to Plough Lane has thrilled all sports-loving Wombles, in particular Haydon and of course the much-missed Wandle who has reappeared. Most Wombles work very hard cleaning up after messy humans, but there are exceptions. And it is very appropriate therefore that the lovely sculpture is being unveiled by Orinoco, who was, and is, the fattest, laziest and greediest of the Wombles, and it’s so fitting that he should be sitting on a bench while the rest of us are out there working, like Alderney and Bungo who are here in spirit as well.’

“And so, with no further ado, as the sort-of inspiration for Orinoco - which I was for my mother sadly - I will now, with the rest of the family, unveil the statue.”

Once the bench was unwrapped, everyone posed for photos with the Wombles, before moving over to the concourse outside Gate 2 where the Wombles helped to unveil another wood-carved sculpture, of Roy Law and Dave Beasant, the two captains that led the Dons to Wembley glory in 1963 and 1988.

Afterwards, there was a community litter pick with the Dons Local Action Group in the area around Plough Lane, with the aim for it to become a monthly clean-up.

And from now on, Orinoco will be permanently ‘on the bench’ at AFC Wimbledon!

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