Off into the woods we go.
The right spot is key.
Where we lived in England in the heart of the Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is a stunning area called the Isle of Purbeck. Its not actually an island (oh those quirky Brits!) it is actually just divided from the main land by a river. Some smart publicist probably thought it was a great name to get tourists in. The Purbecks are full of rambling little villages all thatch and duck pond quaint. If you know the right roads and you are there at the right time (the area gets closed regularly for military training) you can go to an abandoned village called Tyneham . It was evacuated in the second world war and has remained abandoned all these years. A woodland has sprouted up between the buildings as they tumbled into ruin leaving the ghosts of homes entangled with trees and shrubs. A short walk down a dirt road you get to a beach which is essentially an old smuggler’s landing. The beach has a straggly bit of sand and copious amounts of beach glass worn soft by the tide and time and it is the best place I have ever been to find rare lavender, purple and red beach glass. It is a magical place: my children have only ever known Tyneham Village as “The Fairy Woods.”
Gathering little treasures en route.
Location, Location, Location.
The first time we went K. was only two and I was pregnant with E. It was spring and Tyneham Village was bursting with Bluebells and Wild Garlic. The sight of a British Bluebell wood is one of my most treasured memories. It is breathtakingly beautiful and ethereal. M. ran ahead of K. on our first visit and hid pennies in little crevices in the dry stone walls, tumbled homes and cracks in bark. When K. started finding pennies and wondering where they came from somehow a story of fairies hiding gifts was spun out. K. went on to concoct her own theories about the sea glass which became “fairy gems” and were her very favorite magical thing. Even now K. loves nothing better than heading to the beach to hunt down stray pieces of sea glass.
Ground preparations and foundations.
From that moment K. was convinced of the existence of fairies and would bring little gifts for them when we visited The Fairy Woods- a couple of raisins, a few nuts and memorably a carrot stick which M. was made to chop into little pieces so they could carry them! I’m sure there were some grateful squirrels when we visited. We regularly went back. Usually in Spring as the bluebells were up. We would pack a rope swing, our camp cooker, a little dome tent and a picnic. An entire day would pass as we basked in the sun or cowered in our tent from the rain and as dinner time would approach we would pack up our sandy shoes, grass stained knees and damp tent to head home again.
Acorn cap potted ferns.
It was a natural progression that we start building Fairy houses. Our first was on Badbury Rings– an Iron age hill earth works again in Dorset. Its 3 rings stand about
10 30 foot tall at best (thank you M.) but would have been much higher in it’s hey-day. As you walk up the entrance and ascend the central mound, to your left a tiny lily pond hums with frogs and dragonflies and in front of you a woodland thickens. Our fairy house was rickety; made of twigs, grass leaves and bracken. K. was more interested in running through the woods with Daddy collecting interesting bits and pieces to decorate with: acorn caps, mossy bundles, pretty leaves, stones, flowers and conkers.
Every Fairy Village needs at least one house with a swing.
Fairies enjoy good landscaping.
We have built a lot of fairy houses but E. was 5 when she decided they didn’t exist declaring for all to hear “I don’t believe in Santa because God never said let there be fairies that fly.” I never did figure out where Santa came into it- we weren’t really into the Santa thing so I can only guess it was a bit of information from school she was working on… and that was it. That little nugget of wonder was gone.
Sometimes we still gather piles of twigs, ferns and pebbles; sit, squat or kneel in a likely corner and begin to build. We try not to add anything to our house that isn’t natural, after all we don’t want to trick the fairies’s little squirrel companion into eating something poisonous! So shells are okay plastic not so much. Raffia is good, wire or glue- naw.
K. likes to build for tiny fairies:
K.’s Tiny Fairy house with Abalone shell pool.
E. likes to hunt unusual objects:
E’s bigger house with a zig-zag path, Buck-Eye and Autumn leaves decor.
J. is all about the detail:
J’s beautiful garden path approach.
Me… I like to sit in the dirt with my children breath in the air and enjoy a little bit of fairy wishing.