Regular walker Colette Power says if you go down to the woods today you will be disappointed to see the once picture-perfect fairy homes in our local forests have fallen into disrepair since the pandemic
IN recent years there has been a big trend in West Cork woodlands for building houses for the many fairies that live in the forests.
These dwellings started out life as cute, colourful and creative constructions built by lovers of the forest and its little people, both fairy and mortal.
However, sad to say, these once-pretty dwellings have now fallen into a terrible state of disrepair. The forest floor is now strewn with myriad hazardous materials, from broken wood and plastic toys, and even dolls’ houses, to very dangerous rusty nails and screws.
We all know the harmful effects of plastics and items like little glass beads to wildlife and the dogs who love to walk in the woods.
Little dog paws are perhaps at the greatest risk and indeed a rusty screw in the sole of a human foot is a serious business, too – as this human can now testify!
Many of the houses were attached to the trees with screws and even steel bands. The wooden parts are now fallen and rotten, leaving the poor trees riddled with rusty sharp metal and scarred forever.
Clearly, some of these were once built by well-intentioned mortals but the fairies do not have the manmade tools needed to either maintain, repair or dispose of them safely.
I am hoping that this may be a reminder to their original builders to return to work in the woodlands of West Cork, to either repair or else safely remove these dwellings, in the interests of the safety and beauty of our priceless natural amenity that is the forest.
While it is wonderful that children want to engage with the magic of the woodland, they can be told that they can still bring their toys to visit the fairies – but, please, just take them home again. The fairies have the most beautiful places to live, high up in the beech tree, or in the roots of the magnificent oak. These have been their homes since the forest was born, so many seasons ago.
I am describing here, particularly, the Coillte-managed, Dromillihy Woods at Connonagh near Leap, but I am sure it is not unique. Coillte, the official keeper of the forest, must also have a role to play in this.
Signage may help to increase awareness of the importance of a clean habitat. Updated information boards could help to remind us that the forest is a living and breathing ecosystem. Regular removal of hazardous materials from, and near, the forest paths would also make our woods a safer place for all.
With so much emphasis now on clean beaches and seas, it seems our forests have become the poor relation, with many never recovering from recent winter storms like Ophelia.
The forest is low key, often losing out to the excitement factor of the wild Atlantic sea and surf. It is a haven of tranquillity for young and old alike. They are loved by old dogs and children, solitary joggers and also those of us now built more for comfort than speed!
It is also a living calendar, marking the coming and going of the seasons, with swathes of bluebells and blueberries, fabulous foxgloves, whispering trees, chattering jays and magpies, a whole world living under its canopy.
As with our coasts and beaches, perhaps our motto for the forest should also be ‘leave no trace’.
Let’s aim to keep the fairies’ habitat, so generously shared with us mortals, as it was Once Upon a Time ... green, clean and, of course, magical.