I’ve been collecting Monica Edward’s books for a few years now. I hit upon a stack of Armada paperbacks at a used book sale one year and didn’t realise till much later what a treasure they were.
When I wanted to start reading the books, I researched the book titles and found there were two main series – The Punchbowl Farm series and the Romney Marsh books. I also understood that there was a degree of crossover between the two series – with characters from one series being found to crop up in the other.
So I looked for the first title in the Punchbowl Farm series – and found that ‘Black Hunting Whip’ was a good place to start, with ‘No Mistaking Corker’ being a prequel to the series set on Punchbowl Farm. I also found out from many sources that ‘Black Hunting Whip’ was a good book to read at Christmastime, being set in and around that season. I’ve been searching for a fair few years for ‘Black Hunting Whip’ and this year my brother was able to send me a copy published by Girls Gone By Publishers for Christmas. It arrived just after Christmas of 2020 and the days in between Christmas and New Year were pleasantly spent reading this little gem.
‘Black Hunting Whip’ is a children’s story set in the location of a farm, nestled deep in a Surrey valley. Surrounded by apple orchards and built of quarry stone, the foundations of Punchbowl Farm harked back to Tudor times. On a whim, after bidding the final price at an auction, Mrs Thornton finds herself the owner of this derelict farmhouse, with its surrounding fields and meadows. The entire family, Mother, Father and four children relocate to the English countryside, to this very old farmhouse and overgrown land.
While digging the old foundations of the house for artefacts, the eldest boy Dion comes across a notebook, telling the tale of a young boy of his age, whose dream it was to wield his black hunting whip, a present from his deceased father and ride to victory at the local Guildford Show. Dion is determined to find the ancient hunting whip which is buried at a specific location on the farm. It’s a treasure hunt of sorts. Part history, part mystery and there are many clues along the way.
The story is also about how the family adjust to living in a rundown farmhouse with no conveniences like running water or electricity. The book written after WW2 has many period details which are charming, details of village life that are interesting. There are of course horses and then cows and other farm animals. All the children love to ride and so there are smaller stories related to the care and well-being of the animals. The book is set around Christmas time – so that too is lovely to read. Preparations for Christmas, details of Christmas presents and food eaten are enjoyable.
This book is so much more than a pony book. Horses play a smaller part in this particular book. The main plot centres around the black hunting whip and its history and the quest to find it. Family, animals, nature all play a part in making this such a good read. The characters are well fleshed out and I believe many of the incidents are based on real life events that occurred in Monica Edward’s own life although things have been modified. She did indeed purchase a farm, similar in description to Punchbowl Farm.
The illustrations were particularly charming. The picture of Punchbowl farm nestled down in its valley helped me to visualise the beauty of the location. Fireside, candlelit pictures of the entire family sitting down to their meal were endearing. There was one particular illustration that depicts the funny incident of the children trying to spy in the upstair’s bedroom of a neighbour of theirs (I promise you there’s a reason for this) by climbing atop a horse and then the shoulders of a sibling – and then being caught in the act by a village person! I like the character of Mother and that of Dion and Lindsey. Most of all I liked the feeling of family closeness.
I look forward to reading more books in this series and by Monica Edwards. Let’s hope I find the next book in the series sooner! Thank goodness I