"The High Hills - You're going to the High Hills?
Oh, Mr Apple, may I go too?"
It's a misty autumnal morning, on the
cusp of Winter. An inspiring morning,
as it happens, because Young Wilfred Toadflax
has been dreaming of explorers,
and reading about them in his favourite
book "Daring Explorers of Olde Hedgeways".
Wilfred wants nothing more than to follow
in the footsteps of his hero, Sir Hogweed
Lucky for Wilfred, his dream is about
to come true. Mr and Mrs Toadflax have
been weaving blankets for the Voles who live
in the High Hills, to keep them snug
through the winter months. They're dyed with
a unique gold lichen - Great Grandpa
Blackthorn's special lichen - which grows in
the mountains, in some long lost
location. Alas, it's now run out. Still, they've
enough blankets for the time
being, and they and Mr Apple will soon
be off to deliver their wares. And
- yes - Wilfred can come too, provided he gets
permission from his parents.
It doesn't take much begging from the youngster
to get their agreement, and
two provisos. He must be helpful, and
he must always do what Mr Apple says.
Our Wilfred eagerly agrees, of course, and
he takes additional advice from the
words of Sir Hogweed Horehound.
good explorer should take in his trusty pack, all he
needs to survive an adventure..."
Wilfred's own pack is positively brimming
with trusty equipment and provisions.
And although it draws a few chuckles from his
family and friends, it's safe to say
that its contents actually prove more than
useful as his adventure in High Hills
Thus begins the sixth film in the "Brambly
Hedge" series. And yet again,
it's a feast for the eyes and the ears.
Each frame is imbued with lovely
seasonal detail and atmosphere. Here
we have the grey mists of Autumn
on show, with muted colours in the landscape,
and the little inhabitants
are swaddled in thick scarves and coats
as they embark on their mini
adventure. Gosh, the tailoring is magnificent.
There are such textures and
stitches in those minute mousey clothes.
And the lighting is extraordinary.
Wilfred and Mr Apple get lost in the High
Hills, and as the fog surrounds them,
so they are enveloped in chilly grey and violet
hues. Meanwhile, their concerned
friends and relatives flit between the
houses of the hedgerow, lit with
cozy orange firelight which spills through
the windows, drawing them
towards company and kinship...
Once more, little Wilfred steals the show.
He is instilled with such enthusiasm
for his little adventure, from whiskers to
tail. And it's balanced by Mr Apple's
sturdiness. They may be lost, and his old injured
paw may well be troubling
him so, but Mr Apple remains steadfast and
true for his little companion.
And admiring of him too, for Wilfred proves to
be the pluckiest of his explorers
with his trusty pack. There's a fair bit
of drama in this tale, with some suitably
vertiginous camerawork accompanying the
pair as they climb the hills. Their
whitewater descent includes some ambitious
and clever juxtapositioning, with
the models riding computer-generated rapids.
It all ends safely, back home at the
hedgerow and another of this series' exquisite
delights: The multi character
shot. This viewer counted thirteen excitable
mice crammed in to frame,
enthusing to Wilfred's tales of adventure
with Mr Apple.
So what we have here is yet another flawless
adaptation to savour. Students
should be forced to watch this, to see
just how much craftsmanship has gone
in to bringing Jill Barklem's mousey world
to life. Oh, and let's not forget
the voice cast. Jim Broadbent works
wonders with Mr Vole, a rustic man
of the hills whom you feel you've known
all of your life already. And Wilfred's
enthusiasm, and Primrose's precious concern
for her friend. Ah, t'is great.
These are films to watch on a chilly evening,
cosseted in front of the fire
with cocoa and cake - especially the tales
set in Autumn and Winter,
when the film makers really go to town
with the seasonal toning...
Come... gather round... fetch a blanket
for snuggling and we'll watch
"The High Hills" premiered
on BBC1, on 2nd April 1999...
Hedge: Winter Story
Hedge: Spring Story
Hedge: The Secret Staircase
Hedge: Sea Story
Hedge: Poppy's Babies
Hedge books at Amazon.co.uk
Hedge on DVD
"The High Hills" is included
in this four film compilation:
Hedge: The Classic Collection
2 / "The Secret Staircase", "The High Hills",
/ HIT Entertainment
/ January 2004
Then there are these two releases:
Hedge: Spring Story
2 / HIT Entertainment
/ April 2007
compilation DVD includes "Winter Story"
2 / HIT Entertainment / December 2005
a HOT Animation production for
HIT Entertainment PLC
in association with the BBC
based on the books by Jill Barklem