I was just the right age to enjoy the Wombles first time round, and when I was just about old enough to have thrown out my childhood wombles toys, I fell in love with them all over again. I began collecting Wombles memorabilia from the 1970s, scouring car boot fairs and charity shops for annuals, toys and models. There was little stuff around at this time, but rumours were around of a re-launch…
Then in 1990 there were a couple of new Wombles specials made for TV, and a whole load of new Wombles toys hit the shops. Being a hard-up student, I could not afford to buy them, but I hoped that they would end up in second-hand shops before too long. Throughout these wilderness years, friends would surprise me with Wombles treasures from jumble sales and second hand shops, and the collection grew very slowly.
Then in 1998 there was an amazing revival of all things Wombly: the new Cinar children’s TV series spurred a massive range of new merchandise, clothes, toys, books, and the rest. And this time I could afford to indulge my habit, so I proudly bought whatever I could find for my collection.
It was in 1999 that I discovered ebay, the biggest secondhand shop in the world! I was able to track down countless Wombles items from around the world, both original memorabilia and new items that weren’t for sale in the UK. My Wombles Collection grew explosively after this time, and is still expanding today.
Things ticked along for a few more years, I realised I had to get my collection organised because I was starting to forget what I already had, and was buying duplicates… so to do this I began photographing and filing the items, and thought I may as well put the database online while I was at it – and the Womble Burrow was launched in 2005. There have been various re-makes of the website over the years, moving from Word, to Freeway, to iWeb (see below), and finally here to WordPress. This latest move (spring 2013) has been the most significant change, as I’ve gone back and re-photographed every item to upload higher-resolution photographs.
This major overhaul has been prompted by a renewed interest in the collection – which was triggered by a regional glossy monthly Norfolk magazine running a feature on my Wombles collection. Getting out some prized pieces for the photographer reminded me how great they were, and encouraged me to spruce up the website for anyone who wanted to find it after reading the article.
At the same time, the Wombles are coming back into public consciousness again – playing at Glastonbury Festival, celebrating 40 years on TV, and there’s even a re-make of the TV series in the pipeline thanks to Mike Batt. I can hardly wait, and have storage boxes at the ready for all the merchandise which will no doubt accompany it.
In 2016 I took part in a public exhibition about ‘magnificent obsessions’ as a collector, and was inspired to develop a proper catalogue of items in the collection. Once I’d done this, I was awarded the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of wombles memorabilia in the world, and am proud to be championing these furry creatures and the optimistic message they spread about living simply, sustainably, and well.
My collection has become legendary, and friends make jokes about opening the house as a Wombles museum. Well, this is the next best thing – although I would love to hold a public exhibition one day – contact me if you have any ideas about how to make this happen.
I’m still looking out for the few pieces I haven’t managed to find yet – as well as eagerly awaiting each relaunch and new marketing drive. If you have anything you’d like to donate to my collection, or even just send me a photo so I know what I’m missing, that would be wonderful, thankyou.