This is my first ‘Out and About’ post of the year on Curiously Creatively, though the activity does hark back to last year. I have been meaning to write about one of my favourite features of the south Dublin parkscape for some time, but it has taken me a while to get around to it. I am, as you might perhaps have guessed from the photograph here, talking about the Fairy Tree in Marlay Park. All of these photographs date back to a walk in the park during the Easter holidays last year, when we decided to pay another visit to the Fairy Tree (it is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody is ever too old for a Fairy Tree). This blog post and the photos have been lurking in the ether ever since.
We discovered the wonderful Fairy Tree a few years ago, suddenly coming across it during one of our rambles in our early Dublin days. It seemed so amazing, almost a magical moment, to find the customised tree near the stream in the middle of the woodland. I always intended to try to find out something about it, the who, why and when of this fantasy creation in the woodland. I hazarded a guess that it was not actually constructed by the fairies, but then again, you never can tell what goes on in the woods when nobody is watching. The top of the tree resembles a castle from a fairy story, with several turrets now pointing skyward in the place of tree branches. It was a lovely find for us that day, as we had no idea it existed and its charm certainly added to (and continues to add) to the appeal of Marlay Park.
After asking the ever-helpful Google a few questions I came across a 2014 post on the HSE EVE Estuary Centre website where I discovered that an art teacher called Paul O’Hare created the Fairy Tree. He works with adults with learning difficulties at St Michael’s House in Templeogue and began the tree project in 2010. Several years later, the tree looks to be thriving so I assume that work and maintenance continue. The base of the fairy tree is an old beech tree stump (about twenty feet tall) the remains of a 300 year old storm damaged woodland veteran. It is nice to see something so delightful created from the remains of a once leafy tree, giving it a new lease of life. Judging from various blog entries and TripAdvisor contributor posts, Paul O’Hare and his students have created their very own five-star rated Dublin tourist attraction (and of course it is free to visit). As one person commented, ‘Beautiful piece of art and the fun of the fairies’.
The tree has been fitted out with enough windows and doors to accommodate the most discerning of fairy folk. I tried to get some good shots of the details of the construction for those of you who have yet to discover this woodland feature. You can see a couple of different styles of window and a very sturdy looking wooden door. For somebody like me (as also does Verity) who has always loved dolls houses and all things miniature, it is wonderful to take in the attention to detail here. The interesting thing about looking at all of the tiny features on this exclusive tree house is just how easy it is to suspend your disbelief (or maybe that’s just me). I know that there are no fairies (or other woodland folk for that matter), behind the façade yet nevertheless I am lured into the fantasy as I walk around the tree seeking every little feature. Perhaps that is because the idea of trees being houses and safe havens is a theme that crops up in so many children’s stories.
The Fairy Tree in Marlay Park combines very effectively a beautifully crafted fairy palace with audience participation in the traditional form of leaving gifts for the fairies. Young visitors have made their own contributions to the tree, leaving notes and gifts for the fairy community. As you can see, somebody has even left a gift of some Easter eggs on a windowsill. At some point, the tradition of leaving babies’ soothers for the fairies seems to have started and then become a regular feature of the Marlay Park Fairy Tree. I noticed on the parenting website Rollercoaster that one piece of advice to a mother asking about ways to persuade her child to give up the soother included taking it for the fairies at Marlay. This has obviously become a regular practice judging by the offerings that we saw left at the tree, so I can only assume it works! I also spotted a pretty triangular decoration made of twigs, though I don’t know whether this was made by a visitor or one of Paul O’Hare’s team.
If you haven’t been to Marlay Park and visited the fairies, do go and drop in on them sometime. There’s also plenty more activities to do in the park, including strolling around the lovely walled garden.
I would love to hear from any other Fairy Tree fans out there!