A visit to the enchanting Northwood Fairy Trail
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Halloween doesn’t have to mean ghouls and ghosts. Take a trip to an enchanting fairy sanctuary near York, the first of its kind
you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. Especially if it's Buttercrambe Moor Woods, near York, for they have been taken over by fairies. All around this pretty, diverse woodland are artefacts and treasures, treehouses connected by bridges and walkways and mushroom fairy rings, all designed to feed the imagination, nurture the soul and reconnect with nature.
The enchanting Northwood Fairy Trail is the brainchild of Carolyn and Christian Van Outersterp, who have created this magical experience as a tonic to the bright lights, noise and distraction of visitor attractions.
'We don't have lots of primary coloured plastic and we've not designed the trail to distract and entertain,' said Carolyn. 'For us it was about creating a place that encourages imagination, exploration and a connection to nature at its most beautiful and magical.
'Children have a huge capacity to appreciate nature, beauty and intricacy. We want to see that thrive. You won't actually see fairies in the woodland but you'll see their clothes, their houses and we have a fairy museum that people spend hours in. Families keep going back in because they have enjoyed it so much. Children come out declaring 'fairies are real'. It's such a magical thing to see.'
Carolyn and Christian moved north more than a decade ago after their design and manufacturing business making fireplaces for a famous clientele and London's business elite suffered at the hands of the recession. They both craved a simpler life for themselves and their then small children - Galatea, Midori, Alto and Angel. They found it in their very special woodland. Initially they launched Jollydays Camping - think safari tents and fun - and then five years ago started North Star Club, a luxury glamping experience near Beverley.
'We were the first to do it,' said Carolyn. 'Glamping is such a massive business now but back then, people just weren't doing that kind of thing. We definitely led the way.'
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But for the past five years they had longed to create a magical experience designed to inspire and fire up children's imagination - and people of all ages. It's been a family effort building the fairy woodland with all four children involved in creating the magical space from the physical building to making the fairy houses and costumes. Eldest daughter Galatea, 22, who has a large following on her YouTube channel, The Authentic Observer, has curated the wonderful stories and illustrations that permeate the woodland and the museum and tell the tale of the forgotten history of Northwood.
For Halloween (from October 25 to November 3) Northwood Fairy Trail will play host to a special event. But rather than the scary ghouls with loud bangs and crashes, they have created a gentle, imagination-encouraging experience. The woodland will be lit with lanterns, lights will be on in the fairy houses and there will be storytelling and gatherings around a campfire. One session each afternoon children (or adults) can make a lovely autumn lantern using foraged woodland bounty or delightful fairy or woodland animal silhouettes.
'We want to create something calm, something gentle and nurturing. We're not interested in scaring children to death,' says Carolyn. 'We're happy to say we won't be offering any chainsaw wielding psychos in the woods. Autumn is a beautiful time of year to be here and the lovely evening lantern walks will make the most of that beauty.'
What Carolyn and her family have created is a wonderful tonic to traditional attractions with the aim of reconnecting children and their families with nature. Although it has been hard work - they have not had a day off since it launched in June - it has been worth every second for the reactions they get from visitors.
'This woodland is a place very close to our hearts,' said Carolyn. 'Our children have always loved it here. We are a unique place and it has been a family effort to create it.
'This is a very special place and to be able to share that magic with everyone who comes here is truly wonderful. To see families go in, maybe with the dad feeling a bit cynical, and then seeing them again at the end completely captivated with the stories we have made here, it is impossible to put into words how fantastic that feels.' u