Rambles with Uncle Nat
First edition: 1947
Publisher: National Magazine Co.
Illustrator: Nora S. Unwin
Category: One-off Character Books
Type: Short Story Books
Publisher: National Magazine Co.
Illustrator: Nora S. Unwin
Category: One-off Character Books
Type: Short Story Books
On This Page...
- Lambs and Lambs' Tails
Story: Sunday Graphic Jan 28, 1945
- The Early Butterfly
Story: Sunday Graphic Feb 11, 1945
- Whose Voice is That?
Story: Sunday Graphic Mar 4, 1945
- The Sleepers Awake
Story: Sunday Graphic Mar 11, 1945
- A Bunch of Flowers
Story: Sunday Graphic Mar 18, 1945
- Little Tailed-Polls
Story: Sunday Graphic Mar 25, 1945
- Where the Bee Sucks . . .
Story: Sunday Graphic Apr 1, 1945
- Home on the South Wind
Story: Sunday Graphic Apr 8, 1945
- All Kinds of Homes
Story: Sunday Graphic Apr 15, 1945
- Fairy Gloves
Story: Sunday Graphic Jul 9, 1944
- The Strange Little Bird
Story: Sunday Graphic but unpublished
- Sickle-Wings and Fork-Tails
Story: Sunday Graphic Jun 18, 1944
- The Pond-Dwellers
Story: Sunday Graphic May 21, 1944
- The Mouse That Flies
Story: Sunday Graphic Jul 2, 1944
- The Little Miner
Story: Sunday Graphic Jul 16, 1944
- The Toad and the Frog
Story: Sunday Graphic Aug 13, 1944
- The Poppy Pepper-Pot
Story: Sunday Graphic Jul 23, 1944
- The Magic Dragon-Fly
Story: Sunday Graphic Aug 20, 1944
- The Bee Postman
Story: Sunday Graphic Jul 30, 1944
- Away Go the Seeds
Story: Sunday Graphic Sep 10, 1944
- Conkers and Acorns
Story: Sunday Graphic Seo 24, 1944
- The Brilliant Leaves
Story: Sunday Graphic Oct 1, 1944
- The Busy Squirrel
Story: Sunday Graphic Oct 22, 1944
- The Ivy Feast
Story: Sunday Graphic Oct 8, 1944
- The Wonder Working Worm
Story: Sunday Graphic Oct 15, 1944
- The Hidden Flowers
Story: Sunday Graphic Oct 29, 1944
- A Table for the Birds
Story: Sunday Graphic Nov 5, 1944
- Guests at the Bird-Table
Story: Sunday Graphic Nov 12, 1944
- The Bare Brown Trees
Story: Sunday Graphic Nov 19, 1944
- Ever-Green Coats of Winter
Story: Sunday Graphic Dec 10, 1944
- The Hunters Are Hunted
Story: Sunday Graphic Dec 3, 1944
- Tracks in the Snow
Story: Sunday Graphic Jan 14, 1945
- A House on His Back
Story: Sunday Graphic Feb 18, 1945
- A Little Twigging
Story: Sunday Graphic Jan 21, 1945
- Rookery Nook
Story: Sunday Graphic Feb 25, 1945
- Strange Mistletoe
Story: Sunday Graphic Dec 31, 1944
Enid Blyton and Nora Unwin have collaborated in this lovely book to prove the truth of Uncle Nat's remark and to make the English countryside a vital part of every child's life – so says the inside cover comment and the four season's worth of rambles are proof.
This is a 64 pager that has colour or black-and-white pictures on every page and it's divided up into Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rambles – a "ramble" meaning to wander about rather aimlessly.
The ramblers are "Uncle Nat and the children" who aren't defined all that much so observations as to character needs to be gleaned from whatever they say and do individually. The beginning of March is when Uncle Nat, Mary, and Peter set forth to discover the world of nature and they commence with a visit to a field where they are given a short discourse on hazel catkins, often called lambs' tails because of the resemblance. The children pick some to take home for observation and the reader is encouraged to follow their example and see the catkin characteristics for themselves.
Red Admirals, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells, and Brimstones are discussed one sunny day and we learn a little about the kids as well because they're quarrelling when Uncle Nat arrives to take them on another jaunt; so at least we know they share a little of Philip and Dinah Mannering's shortness of temper. Their squabble centers on the fact that Peter doesn't believe Mary saw a butterfly at this particular time of the year. The children learn (as we all do) that quite a number of butterflies go to sleep for the winter but on a warm spring day they may wake up to take a short flight, and their uncle actually takes them back to his residence in order to prove it. Up near the ceiling in an old wash-house they spy several butterflies moving about with ragged wings and the message is of course that we too should look for early butterflies on a warm day.
Birdcalls are distinguished and discussed next and then the hibernators such as toads, grass snakes and hedgehogs emerge from their hiding places to look for food. Flowers, and little "tailed polls" have their turn in the nature study lessons and once again we learn from Enid Blyton/Uncle Nat that tadpoles' tails don't fall off, they simply become shorter and shorter until they disappear. The children take half a dozen home with them.
As the flowers and trees are maturing in the sunshine, the bees are busily flying here and there and one of the attractions is the pussy-willow tree that's clothed in gold from top to toe. Yellow stamens have pushed their way out from the fat catkins and as they're full of pollen, the bees are making a beeline for them and the children learn from their uncle that two different willow trees exist – a "Mr. Willow" and a "Mrs. Willow." Mr. Willow supplies the pollen and the bees take it to his "wife" so that she can produce seeds.
There are migrating birds to look for in the spring and nests of all kinds to search out including that of the robin which, EB always likes to tell us, prefers nesting in something belonging to Man, his friend.
Summer brings the foxgloves, which Uncle Nat informs the children, was originally "folk's glove." In answer to Peter's enquiry he informs the children that fairies were always called the Little Folk so "Fairies' Glove" would be a good description. A nest containing a cuckoo is the next subject and an advantage we enjoy in this day and age is the ability to observe something that Uncle Nat and his pupils probably couldn't. There are one or two movie-snippets floating around showing a baby cuckoo heaving its host parents' eggs out of the nest in order to gain their undivided attention – a treat that wasn't readily available in 1947 but you can bet Uncle Nat tells the children all about the dire deed.
Ponds can be very interesting to explore and the children are taken to one on Uncle Nat's property so that caddis grubs, water beetles and the odd snail living in a watery world can be observed. The kids do what we all must have done at one time or another and take samples home to put with their tadpoles. A point to note is that two kinds of water beetles can be found – the fierce one that enjoys a feast of tadpole and a peaceful one that eats waterweed.
Name a mammal that can fly! This is a question that may or may not win a bet because not everyone knows that "A Bat" is the answer; flying squirrels are more into gliding so you're on pretty safe ground. Mary's action when a bat darts near her head is typical of many Blyton females – ... she gave such a yell that Uncle Nat and Peter almost jumped out of their skins. Nat reprimands her – a little unfairly perhaps because a small furry thing zooming near anyone's head in the dusk might elicit a similar response. Uncle actually manages to catch one and after the more orthodox introduction, Mary loses her fear of the little creatures.
The mysterious mole becomes less so when one of the velvety creatures is also captured for close inspection and the children learn that the mole's fur can be stroked both ways – not just from head to tail as with most animals. The reason for this may be obvious when the mole's environment is considered.
Frogs, toads, poppies and dragonflies are next on the menu and then the theme shifts to autumn.
It's September and there's a picture of Mary and Peter lying by the flower-beds soaking up the sun. They learn all about bees in the first lesson of the season and then their Uncle teaches them how the various plants distribute their seeds. The month passes by quickly because now it's October with associated conkers and acorns and displays of autumn leaves that decorate the countryside. The squirrels are gathering nuts and the ivy is flowering and Uncle Nat shows them how to make a "wormery" – a collection of worms in a jar with the right blend of earth, sand and gravel.
The children grow daffodil, hyacinth and tulip bulbs in bowls and they make a bird table with Uncle Nat's help although he calls it a "dining-table," which sounds perfectly acceptable. Winter comes along and the bird table, as it is now being called, is visited by chaffinches, starlings, sparrows and also tits that love the hazel nuts included on the carte du jour.
The trees are now bare but the children can recognize the silver birch and the elm and the yew without their leaves. Uncle Nat says that many people can't identify trees in the winter and he wonders whether any boy or girl is as good as Peter and Mary at naming them. There are evergreens of course and Mary wonders about the holly tree's seeming ability to think because they are told that the prickles are placed lower down to stop animals eating the leaves, but near the top where the herbivores can't reach, the leaves are prickle-less! Other evergreens are the spruce, the silver fir and the pine.
One day the children and their uncle meet a rat and a weasel and a hare and a fox all searching for food despite the cold and when it's even colder and snow is on the ground, the children take on the role of detectives as they search for various tracks and endeavor to determine what creature made them. There are subtle hints such as the placement of birds' feet, and the absence of claw marks in the prints left by a cat. The cow has a cloven hoof, and fox prints are usually accompanied by a few marks in the snow where a bushy tail has brushed against it.
The final lessons in the book include the habits of snails, the naming of various twigs the trio have collected, rooks and their ways, and the strange origin of the mistletoe bush that hangs on the branches of several trees after being "planted" by a bird. Enid Blyton has described this on many occasions and for the uninformed – there's a bird named the mistle-thrush that thrives on the sticky mistletoe berries. It partakes of a feast and then, as the berries are extremely sticky, the bird flies off to another branch that may be on a different tree and wipes his beak on it to get rid of them. One or two seeds will stick to the branch and in time will send tiny root-like threads called sinkers down into the sap of the host tree, and away they go.
The rambles end with no fanfare –
"Well, I hope you've enjoyed them," said Uncle Nat.
"Oh, yes!" said the children, and Mary added, "There's only one thing I'd like better than this year's walks, Uncle Nat – and that's next year's, of course!"
Nora Unwin, who illustrated one or two other Enid Blyton books, has supplied the pictures. Her surname is unusual and also familiar - no doubt many fans will recall that three years earlier a "difficult" girl called Mirabel Unwin played her part in the fourth St. Clare's book.
Inside the cardboard covers is a panoramic picture of Uncle Nat and his nephew and niece rambling their way past a farm.
The theme where a man teaches children about the countryside was also a feature of Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book that appeared a few years earlier and for that matter there was also the Animal Lover's Book.
Most of the subjects covered take only a couple of pages, including the pictures.
Presumably Uncle Nat's first name is Nathaniel.
Red Admirals, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells, and Brimstones are types of butterflies.
Philip and Dinah Mannering are a brother and sister who star in an EB series of books - the first one being The Island of Adventure.
Enid Blyton chose to use the term winter-sleepers rather than hibernators and that's reasonable because the latter word doesn't seem to be all that popular.
I hadn't realized there were both fierce and gentle water beetles so now it's explained why the one in my aquarium viciously attacked his cohabitant – a small fish!
No doubt the mole's fur being strokeable both ways is due to the fact that it scurries through holes that are just big enough for its body and if reversing, the fur doesn't "go against the grain" as it were.
Rambles With Uncle Nat does not cover the chosen subjects as thoroughly as the other EB nature books so it could be used to introduce a younger child to the flora and fauna of the British countryside.