Posted in Events, Reading

Scarecrow Trail Celebrates Roald Dahl’s Matilda’s 30th Birthday

photo of Matilda scarecrow with Little Free Library
A guest appearance by Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail

It’s an annual tradition in the village where I live to have a Scarecrow Trail each September, organised by Louise Roberts. Each year I try to tie it in somehow with the Little Free Library on my front wall, and this year I chose Roald Dahl’s Matilda, possibly the most well-known and best-loved booklover in fiction.

Free Roald Dahl Books to Borrow

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been raiding local charity shops to find secondhand (pre-loved) copies of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, and I’ve amassed about a dozen – so this week only, the children’s section of my Little Free Library (the one on the right in the picture) will contain exclusively Roald Dahl books for young visitors to borrow. (Donations of more Dahl books will be most welcome.

Happy 30th Birthday, Matilda!

By chance I discovered last weekend that this year is the thirtieth anniversary of Dahl’s Matilda, and this autumn there will be special editions of the book published featuring cover illustrations of what she might be like by the time she’s 30 – doing great things in every one!

How to Visit the Scarecrow Trail

The Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail runs from today through next Sunday, and there’ll be tea and cakes served in the Methodist Hall from 3pm until 4.30pm both Sundays. Everyone welcome!

cover of "Trick or Murder?"
Available worldwide in paperback and Kindle ebook
  • For more information about the wonderful Roald Dahl, here’s his official website:
  • To find out about the Little Free Library scheme, visit
  • For scarecrows of quite a different kind – home-made guys for Guy Fawkes’ Night – check out my autumn-themed novel, Trick or Murder?
Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

Beware of Scary Crows

My column from the October edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News was written in the run-up to our annual village Scarecrow Trail

Photo of two scarecrows with a zimmer frame, radio and cups of tea
Charmingly detailed scarecrows outside Beaufort House, our local residential home for elderly people, during the 2016 Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail

While taking the scenic route to Cheltenham earlier this week, I nearly crashed the car when I spotted Harry Potter on his broomstick. A closer look revealed he was in fact a scarecrow in someone’s front garden, sadly too distant for inclusion in Hawkesbury’s Scarecrow Trail.

I don’t know why scarecrows attract people as much as they deter birds, but there is something very winning about a well-made scarecrow, and not only on Hawkesbury Show Day. I reckon Scarecrow Trails are what inspired the Gromit and Shaun the Sheep events that recently took Bristol by storm, every exhibit a riff on the same theme, allowing its maker to express his or her own sense of fun.

Photo of Debbie with Gromit statue
Selfie with my favourite Gromit, designed by Cath Kidston
Photo of a Very Hungry Caterpillar costume
Our Very Hungry Caterpillar scarecrow was cunningly recycled from a Village Show carnival costume by replacing four children inside it with two planks of wood and two bricks

You’d think birds would have to be daft to be repelled by such inanimate objects, but don’t be taken in by them. Crows are smarter than you might think. If you google “crows using tools”, you’ll be scared by their prowess. Like early man, they’ve learned to manipulate sticks and to bend or break them to form more useful tools. I’ve even seen a video of one bird giving another CPR until they both flew away unscathed.

Birds may not have the opposable thumbs that helped human beings get to where we are today, but with the bonus of long beaks, they are slowly catching up with us. Let’s hope they only ever use their powers for good. But just to be on the safe side, I’m leaving my scarecrow in place after Trail week is over.


Cover of All Part of the Charm
My memoir of village life is available as an ebook and in paperback


If you enjoyed this post, you might like All Part of the Charm: A Modern Memoir of Village Life the book I published earlier this year combining all my columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News from 2010 to 2015.

It also includes as bonus material a collection of essays I wrote about moving to the village 25 years ago. Now available in paperback or as an ebook, it’s perfect bedtime reading – or for your smallest room!