Whenever I tell anyone I’m trying to create an enchanted forest, the responses are usually something like this “will you have a late-night light show?”, “will you have fairy lights?” “fairy houses?” “concrete garden gnomes?” “Unicorns?”
No,no,no that’s exactly what we’re not doing. (Well, we wouldn’t say no to a baby unicorn if we could find one.) We’re creating an enchanted forest by finding ways to stir your imagination and create magic within. It’s all about getting you to slow down and see beyond the trees, the muddy tracks, and brambly blackberry.
It’s about creating a space where your thoughts are lightened, your worries lifted, a place where you can admire the intricacies of the natural world, like the red and white toadstools (Fly Agaric/Amanicta Muscaria) that grow in fairy rings on the moss carpet under the oaks as part of the experience.
Slip on your gumboots and forget that you can make it through each path in 20 minutes if you walk fast enough. While you’re clambering over fallen logs or dodging overhead branches, think back to your favorite childhood story books and let yourself believe there are faeries hiding in the shadows, or that the trees in the Whispering Woods are sharing long forgotten secrets.
Turning a short walk into a magical trip is not just about believing in fairy stories. It’s about entering a place where time stands still, and where you can truly hear the sounds around you, the songs of the tuis and bellbirds, the soft pounding of the black walnuts dropping to the ground. It’s about stopping to admire the myriad of colourful fungi and crawly critters at work transforming old life into sustenance for the new. Stop to marvel at the uniqueness of each flower, of the shape and structure of nature, of the patterns in the ghost leaves, the skeletons of the fallen Autumn foliage as it passes through one phase of mortality to feed the buds of Spring.
Keep in mind that you’re never alone. A hidden sleepy Morepork (owl) may open one eye to watch you pass, while the cheeky fantail may flit alongside you, seemingly trying to tell you something. If you are quiet enough, you might notice a tan and creamy spotted fallow deer searching for chestnuts and acorns, or a pheasant rustling through the undergrowth might suddenly fly across your path.
In the dappled light, contemplate the history of the trees, the myths woven around their existence, and the songs, poems of old.
If you step into the forest with the end goal of walking through within the allotted time, you will see a few trees, and come out with nothing but a few scratches. Creating our enchanted forest is not about changing nature, it’s about rediscovering yourself and changing your perception of what is real.
“Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing” AA Milne.