Tales from a city that is not too big and not too small II

The tale of Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy the Rainbow Coloured Bat


Once, upon a time that was, and was not, a time of Transition, there was a small hedgehog whose name was Mr Hedgehog. He was rather small and he had a friend who was called Pugsy the Rainbow Coloured Bat. Now quite how Pugsy got her name is for another time, for today our tale is another.


Came one day the two friends to a city that was not too big and not too small, with a cathedral in the centre, and a green all around, to see many people gathered all about.


“What are they doing?” whispered Mr Hedgehog, for as everybody knows, hedgehogs are shy creatures, and don’t like to be noticed.


“I don’t know,” replied Pugsy, “but I want to…”


And that said she flew up to the very top of the cathedral where she could get a better view. There were certainly a lot of people, and it was light.


Now by rights, being a bat, Pugsy really ought to have been finding a place to sleep, for as everybody knows, bats sleep in the daytime. Pugsy found a perch where she could hang upside down quite comfortably from one of the statues lined up along the top of the big church, but of course, she couldn’t get to sleep.


“What are they doing, Mr Hedgehog?” she called down.


And Mr Hedgehog, from his hiding place under an oak tree, where he hoped no one could see him, and where he too really ought to have been asleep, if it weren’t for all the excitement, said


“I really don’t know, Pugsy….but I want to”


The two young friends, who really ought to have been asleep, for the sun was full up and shining, just couldn’t get to sleep for curiousity.


“Maybe,” wondered Pugsy, “we could dress up. Then no one would know we were a bat and a hedgehog, and we could sneak out and see what all the people are up to?”


But sleepy Mr Hedgehog was taking a nap.


“Ooh!” exclaimed Pugsy, and taking her courage in both rainbow coloured wings she flew down into the darkened spaces inside the cathedral where no one could see her and where the sun was away from her eyes and she could see better.


“What have we here?” she said to herself as she landed on the edge of a big old dusty cardboard box “… dressing up clothes! Just what we need.”


“Mr Hedgehog!”


Sleepily, Mr Hedgehog opened first one eye, and then the other


“Ooh, what a fright!” he said in alarm, as an old man in brown trousers gazed down at him.


“It’s me, Pugsy” hissed his friend.


“What? How?”


“Well, people wear clothes, so if we do too we’ll be able to explore without anyone guessing who we really are” explained Pugsy. “My granddad wears brown trousers, and I found this grandfather mask in the dressing up box, isn’t it grand!?”


“What will you wear?” she asked, holding out a baseball cap.


Mr Hedgehog tried it on for size and Pugsy rooted around some more and found…a plastic parrot.


“Look,” said she “you could be a pirate!” and started to search for a pirate’s hat.


Just at that moment, with Mr Hedgehog sporting a rather large baseball cap making him look a little like a tortoise, was spotted by three children.


“ooh er” he mumbled.


“Hello” said Pugsy, “Maybe you can help us? Can you keep a secret?” For she was sure that of all the people in the world it was the children you could trust most of all.


The girl in the blue top, the girl in the multi coloured skirt and the boy in green looked down at the strangely dressed creatures.


“Who are you?”


“I’m a granddad and he’s a pirate in the making” said Pugsy. “Can you keep a secret?”


“Yes,” said the girl in the blue top and the boy in green, but the girl in the multi coloured skirt didn’t look at all too sure so the secret was whispered to the two who had promised that they could keep  a secret.


“I’m a rainbow coloured bat, and he’s a hedgehog!”


“Will you help us?” asked the two young friends, both looking quite starry eyed now with lack of sleep but full of excitement that they were finally going to find out what the people were doing all around the green.


“What is it you want to know?” asked the three children.


“We want to know what it is all these people are doing on the green this sunny day,” replied Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy the rainbow coloured bat, who were now Granddad and Pirate.


“We got dressed up so we could go and find out, but we really ought to be asleep, maybe you could tell us what is happening?”


“Well” said the three children “over there they are selling food”


“Selling food? You mean that stuff that comes on those road things in big metal boxes on wheels? The stuff in plastic bags that people get out of big cold buildings with lots of shelves?” asked Pugsy, who had quite often explored the world of people when she thought that no one was watching.


“No,” laughed the children “Real food.”


“Real food? What, like beetles?” said Mr Hedgehog hopefully.


“No,” laughed the children. “Local food, fruit and veg grown around here, and bread baked right here in the city.”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, fascinated, “I didn’t think people did anything like that anymore. And what about the Book Cycle? Where is it going?”


The Seagull and the Book Cycle. Could he be Mr Hedgehog & Pugsy's friend too?


“Nowhere” laughed the children “It re-cycles books”


“Re-cycles” echoed Pugsy “where to?”


“Round and round” explained the children. “Books get swopped and sold over and over again, so that lots of people get to read the same book many times.”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, “you mean like in those horrid brightly lit places where lots of people come out with the same thing, each in another bag, and then throw the bags all over the ground and in the trees and in the water too, like the one that drowned our friend the sea turtle?”


“No,” said the children, horrified, “you don’t get a bag at all if you get a book from Book Cycle, and the books aren’t new, they’re old ones, and people can keep bringing them back and taking others and some books go all across the sea to children who don’t have so many books to read”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, “I didn’t think people thought about things like that”


“So why are all these people gathered here on the green?” asked Mr Hedgehog.


“It’s a Green Fair” said the children.


“What’s a Green Fair?” asked Pugsy “are the people going to dig up all the grass so that Mr Hedgehog has nowhere to walk at night?”


“No,” said the children, ”of course not! The people here care about Nature, and about looking after places, and animals, and each other”


“Really?” said Mr Hedgehog disbelievingly. “You mean they aren’t planning to build a carpark here?”


“No,” laughed the children “these people like growing things, and having fun together outside, and teaching children about useful things.”


“Useful things?” said Pugsy, looking interested. “You mean like how to catch insects for supper?”


“No,” laughed the children, “children don’t eat insects! But look what we made!” And they showed their new friends the bracelets they had made with the forest school teachers out of natural things you can find in the forest.


“Artists! Oh look Mr Hedgehog,” said Pugsy, “they’re artists; real ones! How exciting!”


“What else can you learn in a forest school?” asked Mr Hedgehog, not being greatly impressed with bracelet making. He was hoping for something a bit more exciting.


“Fire lighting and den building,” called out the children in glee, “and how to collect things to eat in the forest.”


“Like beetles?” said Mr Hedgehog.


“Insects?” added Pugsy the rainbow coloured bat, now beginning to yawn as the sun got brighter and her night eyes got tireder.


“No,” laughed the children “Nuts and berries, and things children like to eat!”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, ”well, I have to say I am surprised, have people turned over a new leaf then?”


“A new leaf,” said Mr Hedgehog hopefully “looking for beetles?”


“People here do seem quite nice. I think it might be time for bed though” Pugsy yawned, and thanking her new friends she flew back up to the top of the cathedral and perched upside down on the feet of a statue. From under one sleepy eyelid she could just make out Mr Hedgehog trundling off to his cosy resting place under the oak tree, plastic pirate still sitting on his shoulder.


“What strange people” said the girl in the multi coloured skirt, “I’ve never seen a pirate with a plastic parrot on his shoulder before, and what were those rainbow coloured wings sticking out of that granddad’s shirt?”


“Can you keep a secret?” asked the girl in the blue top and the boy in green.


“I think I probably can” said the girl in the multi coloured skirt, for if it’s one thing you can be sure of, children can usually be trusted to be honest about things.


“That was Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy, the rainbow coloured bat!” they said.


“Pugsy, the rainbow coloured bat!” exclaimed the girl in the multi coloured skirt. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why the last time I heard about her, she…”


But that, dear listeners, is a tale for another time. But if you would like to find out what they do down in the forest, you really should take your grown ups to Exeter Forest School, for you just never know who might turn up…



Many Thanks to the girl with the rainbow coloured bat finger puppet and her little brother with his hedgehog finger puppet for helping to create and tell this tale, and to the girl in the blue top and her friend the girl in the multi coloured skirt and her brother in green for helping the story have its ending. Thanks also to Chris and Tom of Exeter Forest School for teaching the children to make the bracelets that helped the story along, to the Woodcraft Folk  who made the finger puppets with the children who inspired this tale, and to all who made Exeter Green Fair happen and without whom this story would never have been born.


Tales from a city that is not too big and not too small I

On A Fair On A Green


Once, to a city that was not too big and not too small, with a cathedral in the centre and a green all around, came a storyteller a-walking, name of WynnAlice.


Came she to hear their story, and a delight to hear were their tales; He of Fine Integrity, in addition to his hospitality, told tales of the wondrous Book Cycle http://www.book-cycle.org which wasn’t a cycle at all, but a big old warehouse where books of all kinds and covers were collected in big heaps, saved from the fate of being consigned to the rubbish, and redistributed far and wide across the land, aye and across the oceans too.


To countries where books were expensive and education hard to come by were they sent, free of charge, and to the people in the city that was not too big and not too small, were they made freely available, not more than three at a time, for an amount of pennies that each person could decide according to their means.


At Book Cycle met WynnAlice with He of Wondrous Love for the Equine and heard the tales of how he tamed horses by love and needed not to break them, and worked with them to provide horse drawn chariots for the disabled. http://www.facebook.com/simon.saddlechariot


On the Transition Well Being Show (Phonic FM 106.8) Positive News did they tell in place of doom and gloom, and He of Kindness and Compassion phoned in to help find WynnAlice a place to rest her head on the next stage of her journey walk.


From She of Community Mind WynnAlice did learn of her dream, the Harvest Project, and too of the dream of the city to grow its own food and sell it in its own local shop.


Time it did pass in transition fashion and came one day WynnAlice back to the city that was not too big and not too small. To a Green Fair did she come, on the green, and there wondrous things did she behold. Next to the place where she lay her storytelling rug, was the Real Food Shop stall.


The Real Food Shop stall sold Emma’s bread (www.emmasbread.co.uk ), which wasn’t just any bread, but bread made by Emma in the very city itself, each morning, in the Real Food Shop in the centre of the city. Quite the most delicious bread you ever did taste it was, and the people did tell her that in the morning you did need go early for to get your freshly baked bread.


And not just bread did the Real Food Shop (www.realfoodexeter.co.uk) sell; a stroll up the high street and a visit to the shop did show that the dream of the city that was not too big and not too small was come true; for fruit and vegetables, milk and yoghurts, herbs and chocolates, juices, and potions for health did the shop stock, and all of it locally grown, made, and produced.

The Importance of good neighbours

WynnAlice’s heart it did sing for to see the dream come true; to admire the brightly coloured cafe upstairs and see the happy workers, and know that all is possible once it has been dreamt. Awards had the shop and its cafe won, run by volunteers, and supplied by nearby community organic farm; it was a joy to behold and an inspiration to experience.


What else, wondered she, of the vision of this fair city, was now dreamt into being? On the Green at the fair did she wander, tasting tasty local field grown strawberries, and talking to growers and volunteers alike. Come to the City Fruit Harvest said they, and on enquiry learnt that this Big Exchange of city abundance was organised by She of Community Mind, who had indeed made her dream come true and you can find them here http://www.eci.org.uk/HarvestHarvest .


At the fair on the green  He of Fine Integrity did she meet again, and received from him her very own copy of the first Transition newspaper, and He of Kindness and Compassion was there too and asked the storyteller to please come soon to a forest nearby where he and Tom the Enthusiastic had set up a school on the edge of the organic farm that supplied the fruit and veg to the Real Food Shop.


Once that was agreed, WynnAlice sat down upon her woollen blanket for around her sat children, eager for stories. And so there came to exist two new tales, for as everybody knows where there are children new stories are bound to appear. And so it was that the tale of Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy the Rainbow Coloured Bat, and that of The Super Heroes of FunTown were born.


‘Twas indeed a day to remember, with sun shining down on the Green Fair, on the green around the cathedral, in the fair city of Exeter.

Toad, Snake, and Long Crippler

Once, in a time that was and was not a time of transition there was a town that was not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep, steep high street with a castle on the top.


‘Twas a town of many great deeds, and always had been from the time, ‘tis said, that brave Brutus braved the oceans and sailed up the River Oak and found a place just perfect for people to make their home.


Some say ‘twas a home already and the three headed stream that ran through its ancient streets had drawn many to be healed for hundreds of years. Three headed stream, three lanes leading to three wells; Toad, Snake and Long Crippler.


In times long gone by guardians of the town were set to watch over the precious Leechwell, for many, ‘tis said, would still gather there to be healed in their eyes, aye and their skin too. Bathing in the waters that flowed down to the wells, or immersing themselves in the three sided pool that they flowed into, peoples of old could be cured, or so it is said.


When Maudlin Road still hosted a hospital the lepers, ‘tis said, would walk down their prong of the three headed lane to be healed, till times they grew hard and the hospice did close its doors.


Time it did move on, and the town forgot its precious healing waters, until one day the townsfolk planned a terrible thing; A Car Park, right over the place where the triple headed Leechwell flowed into its three sided pool.


And in a trice, those folk who had n’er forgot their town’s treasures, the folk that left ribbons and glass beads as offerings, as offerings have always been left since the beginning of times, to honour the places where peace on earth can always be felt, and the special feelings of all the ancestors kept safe, rose up, in defence, of the Leechwell.


Three in number, three lanes, three headed well, three sided pool, three named guardians; Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, the ancient place of worship was not to be covered by an inch of manmade concrete and hidden from view. And so it was that a band of well respected folk came together to protect the town’s treasure for once and for all, and worked hard over many a long evening for many a long year to write reams and reams of words on paper until one day news came from the Capital, far to the east of gold pieces to be sent to rescue Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, a reward for their hundreds of years of selfless service.


Little by little gardens were designed and planted, play areas began to appear, and herbs were procured to scent and teach in the little herb corner. Excitement grew in the town that was not too big and not too small, and the townsfolk gathered in the Car Park that covered the once proud market gardens that had fed the town for so many years before the coming of the Super Markets had brought metal box on wheels after metal box on wheels to the town and taken away all the money the townsfolk made, to the Capital, and beyond, to be given to feed strangely named things called Profit, Debt, and The Economy.


Gathered they, on the hard cold surface, peering excitedly towards the wall and through the gates that were locked tightly, like those of the selfish giant in the tale of old, and wanted to get in.


Excitement grew, built and rose to a fever pitch, and a procession appeared, with musicians a playing, and children a dancing, and amongst its number three giant figures, who entered through the gates and locked them once more.


All faces looked upwards, 200 or more there were, that fair autumnal evening, to see if they could gain entrance to the Leechwell gardens.  And then came the Mayor and his Lady, and with golden chains about his neck the leading man stepped forward from out of the crowd and was given a key, a large golden key.


The key to the gardens, the gathered folk breathed, and gasped and gazed….but the golden key could not open the gates…


Again, and once more, three times did the Mayor try to open the gates to the triple guarded wells of the people of the town that was not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep, steep high street with a castle on the top, and three times did he fail.


Till, suddenly three large faces appeared above the stone wall, and all could see that they were Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, aye and there were more too, Apple Tree and Woodpecker were present an’all.


Spoke out from her position beside the gates, The Mistress of Living Wisdom, called she to Toad, Snake and aye, to Long Crippler too to speak to the people of what they guarded. And as guardians of that magical place spoke they, and with them spoke Apple Tree, and Woodpecker too.


“We are the guardians of this place”

And the people and their children listened to their words and heard their plea – who would take care of the land and all who dwelt upon her, who would tend the gardens and take care of the creatures who lived on the plants, the grass and the trees?




And then a great cry went up


“We will”


Called out the children and their families


“We will”


“We will take care of the gardens and all who dwell in them”


And the gates, they did open and the giant creatures of the garden and the children who had attended them came out and processed around the waiting people, music played, and the people followed and the creatures went back into the garden, and so did the people, more than 200 of them, they filled the garden with joy like the little boy in the story of the selfish giant, and those who had been shut out in the name of Progress burst into the precious new gardens and the sins of the past were swept away and the joy of the families breathed life into the space.


Toad, Snake and Long Crippler smiled to themselves, and crept unseen back to their wells, high up above the garden in the place where three lanes meet a three headed well from where a three sided pool could be filled with healing waters as ever it had.


Cure eyes from their strain, cure skin from its irritation, salving balm upon a love sick heart, the three stone troughs are filled with their treasure as ever today as ever they were, and in this very garden the three sided pool nestles, awaiting the pot of gold that will cause it to be filled anew with those that need its help.


Filled with children, filled with hope, aye and a wishing well too, Leechwell Garden awaits your wishes to fill the future with joy, and the next chapter, of this story is soon to be told…



I wrote this tale to commemorate the famous healing well of Totnes, Leechwell Gardens, on the occasion of A Magical Autumnal Evening, a fundraiser for Totnes Lantern Festival, 1st September 2012.