The Wombles Turn 50 Years Old This Weekend

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 16 months ago

Last Updated 03 February 2023

The Wombles Turn 50 Years Old This Weekend
Three Wombles looking straight at ya
The first episode of The Wombles aired on the BBC in February 1973.

Wanna feel old? The Wombles turn 50 years old this weekend.

The first TV episode of the popular kids' TV programme — about a group of fluffy subterranean eco warriors who go on litter-picking adventures across Wimbledon Common — ran on 5 February 1973 . Voiced by the great Bernard Cribbins, who we lost in 2022, the show ran for two series (each with 30 episodes), striking a chord with young children and their parents, and has been loved ever since.

Newer versions of the show have been made — including an ill-fated CGI adaptation — but it's the original stop motion episodes, directed by Ivor Wood (who worked on everything from Postman Pat to Charlie Chalk) that endure.

To mark the Wombles' half century, 10 of the original five-minute Wombles episodes have been digitally remastered, and will appear on the official YouTube channel from 5 February — with more being released throughout the rest of the year.

Of course, The Wombles go back a little further than 1973; the first book about them was published in 1968 by Elisabeth Beresford, who is said to have struck on the idea for the loveable creatures on a Boxing Day walk with her children, when her daughter, Kate mispronounced it 'Wombledon Common'.

You'll find a green plaque dedicated to Beresford and her creations at her former Wandsworth home (the late author actually lived close to Wandsworth Common, but maybe it's just as well she decided to go for a longer walk that Christmas — 'The Wandles' doesn't have the same ring to it).

The unusual Wimbledon residents also launched a pop career — the music written (and owned) by the savvy Mike Batt — and if Wombling Merry Christmas isn't on your festive Spotify playlist, then you'd better sort it out.

And, by the way, if you wanna feel really old, Uncle Bulgaria is now 349.