Tidy Bag

New Wombles audiobook read by Richard E Grant on BBC Radio 4

Johnny Vegas and Richard E Grant

This Christmas, BBC Radio 4 will be taking listeners on a host of festive Wombles adventures, narrated by Richard E Grant, directed by Johnny Vegas and based on Elisabeth Beresford’s original books.

The series consists of six chapters from the first Wombles book, abridged into 14-minute episodes by Sally Harrison and Susan Vale.

Two more audiobooks will be released on BBC Sounds.

Elisabeth Beresford’s daughter, Kate Robertson, acted as script consultant.

The programme information reads:

The Wombles live under Wimbledon Common, and it is their special responsibility to ‘tidy up’ everything that untidy Human Beings leave behind.

Radio 4 and BBC Sounds celebrate these much loved classic characters, marking 50 years since The Wombles first appeared on the BBC.

This joyful festive listen is based on the original books by Elisabeth Beresford, performed by Richard E Grant, directed by Johnny Vegas and nestled in a new soundscape for Christmas 2023.

Full of fun and warmth, with an underpinning environmental message - this is novelty and nostalgia combined and a gift of Christmas comfort-listening for all to enjoy.

This is a Woolyback Productions and Holy Pie collaboration, for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

(In fact it’s 54 years since The Wombles first appeared on the BBC, as stories from the first two books were broadcast on Jackanory in 1969 and 1971 before the animated TV series was made.)

The Wombles

Available on BBC Sounds from 5 December

Episode 1: Bungo

Broadcast: Christmas Day, 25 December 2023 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: It’s Bungo’s first day at work on Wimbledon Common, but can he avoid both humans and dogs?

Description: We are introduced to the Wombles’ burrow underneath Wimbledon Common. Young Bungo has just chosen his name from Great Uncle Bulgaria’s atlas and is ready to become a Womble of the World as he embarks on his first day of work, tidying the Common.

Episode 2: The Christmas Party and Mr D Smith

Broadcast: Boxing Day, 26 December 2023 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: Great Uncle Bulgaria invites an elderly human visitor to share a Christmas feast.

Description: The Wombles are feeling very festive, and in true Christmas spirit, Great Uncle Bulgaria invites an elderly gentleman to join in with celebrations in the burrow.

Episode 3: The Snow Womble

Broadcast: 27 December 2023 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: There is Wombling wintry fun on the Common and Tomsk makes his own skis from found timber.

Description: It’s snowing on Wimbledon Common and all work is suspended. Bungo, Orinoco and Alderney are wondering at this strange new outside world.

Episode 4: Bungo’s Great Adventure

Broadcast: 28 December 2023 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: An impulsive incident leads to a rescue mission. Will Bungo find his best friend Orinoco?

Description: A really long hard winter makes life a difficult business for all wild creatures, and the Wombles are no exception. Orinoco’s been finding things particularly tough and an impulsive incident leads to a rescue mission for his best friend Bungo.

Episode 5: Yellowstone Womble

Broadcast: 29 December 2023 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: A helpful stranger turns out to be a long lost friend and quite the welcome visitor.

Description: A helpful stranger turns out to be quite the welcome visitor. Great Uncle Bulgaria is delighted to see his long lost Cousin Yellowstone from America but Tobermory’s not so sure.

Episode 6: Tobermory’s Surprise and the Midsummer Party

Broadcast: New Year’s Day, 1 January 2024 at 6:15pm on BBC Radio 4

Summary: It’s summer at last and Tobermory’s secret project takes the Wombles to Battersea Park.

Description: Bungo’s idea for the Wombles’ Midsummer Party comes to fruition as Tobermory’s secret project is revealed.

The Wandering Wombles

Available on BBC Sounds from 11 December

Episode 1: The Enormous Lorry

Summary: Large lorries are causing the burrow to shudder and Great Uncle Bulgaria hatches a plan.

Description: There’s a loud rumbling in the burrow and cracks are starting to appear in the walls and ceilings. Great Uncle Bulgaria decides it’s time to take action.

Episode 2: Fresh Fields And Pastures New

Summary: Plans are being hatched in the burrow library and Wellington is trusted with a secret.

Description: Plans are being hatched in the burrow library and Wellington is trusted with a great secret. Bungo’s curiosity is soon to be satisfied by a summons to the Operations Room.

Episode 3: The Great Adventure

Summary: Training is underway but Bungo and Orinoco don’t feel in the least bit adventurous.

Description: Training is tough when you’d prefer a nice forty winks. Bungo and Orinoco prepare for Operation Wandering Womble.

Episode 4: Captured

Summary: Bungo and Orinoco embark on a long journey as they head out in search of a new burrow.

Description: Bungo and Orinoco embark on Operation Wandering Womble and a very long journey. Watch out young Wombles!

Episode 5: The MacWomble

Summary: Bungo and Orinoco find themselves tied up in a dark, damp burrow a long way from home.

Description: Bungo and Orinoco are now missing in action. Feeling very homesick and frightened they find themselves captured and awaiting their fate.

Episode 6: Nessie

Summary: Having landed in Loch Ness, Bungo sees a Thing moving through the water towards him.

Description: The adventure continues as Bungo and Orinoco manage to escape captivity. Having climbed out of the cell, landing in the waters of Loch Ness, what is this strange, lumpy Thing now moving towards them?

Episode 7: Wellington’s Discovery

Summary: Wellington and Tomsk form a second scouting party to look for land a bit closer to home.

Description: Wellington and Tomsk form a second scouting party. Will they find a plot for a new burrow and can they go undetected by Humans until Tobermory comes back to get them?

Episode 8: Troubles

Summary: As trouble comes in threes, Great Uncle Bulgaria and Tobermory weigh up their options.

Description: There’s an old Womble saying that trouble comes in threes. The lorries are still thundering towards Tibbet’s Corner, Orinoco and Bungo are still missing and there’s been further downwards movement in the burrow. Great Uncle Bulgaria and Tobermory consider their options.

Episode 9: The Wandering Wombles

Summary: Tobermory and Miss Adelaide make it to Scotland to seek out the missing young Wombles.

Description: Tobermory and Miss Adelaide have made it to Scotland and Great Uncle Bulgaria has a royal appointment.

Episode 10: The New Burrow

Summary: Arrival at the new burrow feels incomplete without the missing Wombles.

Description: A journey across London to the new burrow feels incomplete without Tobermory, Miss Adelaide, Bungo and Orinoco, but there are some interesting distractions to be going on with, not least the discovery of ancient Womble cave paintings and a wealth of Womble antiques.

The Wombles To The Rescue

Available on BBC Sounds from 11 December

Episode 1: Great Uncle Bulgaria Gets A Letter

Summary: The Wombles are happy to be back at home but a surprise visitor seems unusually quiet.

Description: It’s lovely to be back home under Wimbledon Common but a surprise visitor ruffles some feathers (or fur) and Great Uncle Bulgaria receives a very important letter.

Episode 2: Tobermory Sees Trouble Ahead

Summary: Plans are afoot for Great Uncle Bulgaria’s trip to America, but Tobermory is worried.

Description: All the young Wombles are far too excited about being back in their old home burrow to notice that Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Madame Cholet are rather quiet and thoughtful. Exactly who will accompany Great Uncle Bulgaria on his overseas trip? And who’s going to run the burrow while he’s away?

Episode 3: The Grey Wolf Of Wimbledon Common

Summary: Are you a Womble or a Wolf? Wellington’s quick thinking saves the day.

Description: There are Human Beings on the Common, but what are they up to? Wellington and Alderney’s curiosity results in the need for a bit of quick thinking.

Episode 4: Cousin Botany’s Secret

Summary: Great Uncle Bulgaria writes home and Wellington asks Tomsk to help him realise an idea.

Description: Wellington and Tomsk work hard to create their vision and Great Uncle Bulgaria reports back on his and Bungo’s travels.

Episode 5: The Big Splash

Summary: Cousin Botany has something to say about Wellington and Tomsk’s oil rig.

Description: Wellington and Tomsk construct their ‘oil rig’ only to come face to face with a furious Cousin Botany who, suddenly, has quite a lot to say.

Episode 6: Remember You’re A Womble

Summary: Bungo and Great Uncle Bulgaria return to find a Wombling wonderful surprise awaiting them.

Description: ‘Zero Hour’ has arrived as the rain arrives and starts to fill the tanks of the new underwater plant farm. Madame Cholet rustles up a delicious new recipe and the rest of the burrow is humming with excitement at the return of Great Uncle Bulgaria and Bungo.

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