Just before the summer holidays finished, we visited Belleek woods in Ballina, Co. Mayo. We had visited the woods before, but one of the paths was now part of a new cycle greenway from Ballina to Killala (called the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway) and we thought we’d try some of the route.
Monasteries of the Moy Greenway
As we followed some of the woodland paths on our return we found these lovely fairy houses. The fairy trail has been a relatively recent addition to the woods and many of the fairy houses have been made locally through the men’s shed project.
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It was a great little find and particularly entertained our six year old who enjoyed running ahead to see what little fairy house she could spot next.
One of the distinctive features of our Irish countryside are our hedgerows. These field boundaries are part of our cultural and agricultural heritage, often forming townland as well as farm demarcations.
In many counties, including Mayo, hawthorn makes up a large proportion of these native hedgerows (hawthorn is estimated to occur in about 90% of hedgerows in the county).
Hawthorns flower in May, so it is sometimes called the May tree, or whitethorn. This year there is an abundance of hawthorn blossom, much like last year. Some of the hedgerows look almost white (perhaps an indication of why it is also called whitethorn). Anytime there is a strong wind, the little roads around us are covered in fallen blossom. So it almost looks like it has been snowing!
In Ireland, the hawthorn is often associated with fairies and the underworld. Lone hawthorns in the middle of fields will not be touched for fear of upsetting the fairy folk. Hawthorns can live up to 400 years old, and while they never get tall, they can become quite gnarled, so you can see where it may get this reputation.
Hawthorn in the background with rainbow
A couple of weeks ago the kids decided they would create their own little miniature fairy worlds. With just a little bit of help from me and a whole lot of their own imagination they set to work.
Miniature fairy doors
My daughter was adamant that only fairies and elves would be allowed – no pixies. It was wonderful to see how much enjoyment could be got from a few logs, flowers and twigs.
Miniature fairy doors