Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fairies left homeless by floods

One of the fairy houses at Gelt Woods
 - the sign says 'Home Sweet Home'
THE latest victims of this year's summer floods are the fairies of Gelt Woods. The woods near Brampton in Cumbria have been home to the fairies for at least four years when their houses were first spotted in the roots of trees and along the river bank (The precise location is kept secret to avoid human neighbours being disturbed by thousands of fairy-loving tourists). Each summer since 2009 the fairies have returned and this year was no exception. However, following the torrential rain of June the River Gelt burst its banks and has washed away at least two of the fairy houses. It's not believed any fairies lost their lives in the tragedy. Fairies, it seems, like to live by water but some just built their homes perilously close to the Gelt. Wiser fairies built further up the hillside and one enterprising fairy built her home in a tree.

There are some people - cynical unromantic humans - who suggest it is a local artist who puts the fairy houses there each summer. And removes them in the winter for fear of frost damaging them. Children and fairy lovers know better.

A fairy door to a fairy house
Whoever or whatever is responsible, they provide some simple pleasure to children (and adults) in an age where most children rely on TVs, Wiis, video games and other technology for their fun. Grandparents in particular are known to dare to turn off computers and take their grandchildren for a walk through the woods. And just as the kids are crying out 'Boring' or 'Can we go home now', have pointed out some brightly-coloured object in the distance. The children then discover for themselves the strange, mystical world of the Gelt Woods fairies.

There can be a dozen or more fairy houses in the woods but, to be honest, it's difficult to count because some of them are remarkably well camouflaged. Some of the houses have signs such as 'Home Sweet Home' above the door. And others have fairy boots placed on the doorstep. It's also possible to find tiny wheelbarrows, garden seats, baskets and other fairy furniture beside the houses.

Remarkably, the doors are never stolen or even damaged - even though they are visible all summer. Indeed, when a mischievous Jack Frost has broken off a door handle or letterbox, it's placed carefully beside the door for the fairies to find and hopefully repair.

Children have been known to leave gifts for the fairies: sweets, flowers and gold-paper stars seem to be the most well-received presents. And some children have even left letters for the fairies - though I'm not aware of anyone yet receiving a reply.

Hiker Lesley Park finds one fairy sensibly built her house
high up in a tree and so avoided the floods
Cumbria has always been a popular haunt for the little folk. In Coniston, the fairies helped the copper miners with their work. In Whitehaven, fairies lived on a rocky outcrop just south of the coastal town and danced at annual fair at Fleswick Bay. Fairies were also known to live beside Bassenthwaite Lake but their homes were sadly lost with the building of the A66. In Little Langdale the fairies have been happy to share the cottages owned by local people and pay their 'rent' by performing little duties around the house, or leaving fairy butter in the woods nearby. It's a county where humans and fairies have lived happily alongside each other for centuries so the news of the flooding is likely to be a cause of much concern. It's hoped the fairies soon rebuild their homes - but a little further away from the river this time.

  • Quick plug: My hand-bound book, Fairies of Cumbria, covers the Gelt Woods fairies and many other Cumbrian fairy legends. It is available for £4.99 as a 'real' book or £2.04 as an ebook (yes, sorry about that odd 4p - I'm not sure why that appeared!). See my online bookstore for more information.

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