Ancient coppiced Oak, a portal to another World… Deep Play


in Love Trees, NPPF

Today my friend Lily of Kindling Play and Training sent me a link to this article: Deep Play and Spirituality. It reminded me so much of an experience I had the other day that I was inspired to share it with you…


Guardians of the Wood

We live by an ancient Oak coppice and woodland. It is a place full of sparkling moss, toadstools, jade lichen tresses and prancing Red Stags. There are songs played in the Ivy that wriggles around the gnarled trunks of Oak, both rising up to form the ceiling of a magical world of strange lights, musical leaves and breezes that tickle your ear.

Lichen tresses and Sloe gems

A young friend, 5 yr old Cassie, came to visit and camped for the very first time in her life.  Over a glass of berry juice we had a little chat about things before heading off to the woods to see what we could do to stop being bored. I casually mentioned Fairies and Cassie shrugged and ran off across the field to the gorse bushes that mark the top of the woodland.

Entrance to the Old Oak Wood

We entered the woods, chatting about this and that.  Then we had the idea of making crowns out of what we could find amongst the trees and in the fields! I had some baskets lying around so we used them to collect materials. I suggested we use Holly to make the circle of the crown because the young branches are really long and bendy. Cassie loved the look of Yarrow, Heather and Ferns. We collected Hawthorn berries and flowering grasses too. Cassie kept having fantastic ideas about what we could use, so many in fact two hours had passed in the blink of an eye and we hadn’t even started making our crowns!

With our baskets full we set off to find just the right spot to set-to creating our magnificent crowns.

Fairy Portal

Little did we know.. the very place we chose to sit was right next to a Fairy Portal. All the signs were there, but we were so engrossed in making our crowns that we missed them all. There was the tell tale yellow flower Cow Wheat marking the entrance to the soft mossy portal that sat within the four enormous Oak trunks of an ancient coppice stool, that stretched to the sky with such strength and glory.. we should have known. You can see in the photo above, the place is teeming with Fairies. Like I said, we were so busy putting together our crowns and choosing our majestic titles and names that we just didn’t notice.

Cassie, Princess Splendid the Magnificent

We finally finished our crowns and we decorated our baskets with Bell Heather so they could be our regal handbags. After all that collecting earlier we had a few left over flowers and twigs that we didn’t know what to do with. It was then that I noticed we’d been sat next to the Fairy portal all this time! We’d been so noisy! Singing songs about poo and making jokes about bums. How rude! Cassie decided we should leave the Yarrow, Holly branch, Haw berries, Oak leaves and string for the Fairies as a gift. So we placed them respectfully inside the portal and said thank you for letting us play there. As we walked back to camp, wearing our crowns and carrying our regal handbags, we mused over whether or not the Fairies would accept the gift, what if they make something with what we left? We determined to come back at dusk with our headtorches to keep watch.

We ended up sitting round the fire under the stars that night, toasting marshmallows, chatting about things and making jokes. We forgot all about the Fairy portal and the gifts we had left.

Fairy portal - ceiling

After breakfast the next day Cassie and I mooched on down to the Fairy portal. Cassie reached it first and I could tell by the look of utter shock on her face that something was there, something was in the portal! I rushed over and right enough, there in the centre of the coppiced Oak were the flowers we had left but they were tied to a little Holly archway!  Not only that, there was a giant flower under the archway on the moss, I can only describe it as looking like a massive fuchsia.. it was a gift for Cassie handmade by the Fairies.

We sat for a long time by the portal discussing it all in great depth and telling each other stories of Fairies; How the portal only opens when the stars fill in the gaps between the leaves in the ceiling, that Fairies love to dance and that their singing sounds like the tiniest little stream tinkling over smooth stones. Cassie was so grateful for her special gift that she wanted to make them something in return. A house! Fairies need a house to shelter in for when they’re out and about at night and the weather’s bad!

House for the Fairies - built to say thank you

So, we duly built the Fairies a house. With an Oak gall for a post box, Oak leaves for the roof and little Heather trees lining the pathway. We even left them a cap from a hazel nut for them to use as a hat. From that moment on we found signs of Fairies everywhere, did you know there are fire Fairies that spark out of the flames and river Fairies that splash you when you’re not looking? Well, you do now…


Cassie remembers through art

When Cassie got home she drew this beautiful picture of her time she spent camping here. Not only did she enjoy the Fairies, she also enjoyed meeting this years lambs and using the compost toilet!


Cassie says thank you

Our time playing together was timeless, full of wonder and magic. We were lost in a world of play and imagination. An experience I will never forget.  Thank you Cassie xx


Learn more about how important it is that children have access to natural spaces not only to teach them about what a Holly Tree is or that Bell Heather smells beautiful but to let their imaginations run free and their bodies run wild. Perhaps that way we will end up with healthier, happier adults that have a deep respect for our natural environment and an understanding of our place as part of it:

Forest Schools Outdoor Play and Learning

Childhood and NatureA Report to Natural England

Richard LouvChildren and Nature Movement


*There is now a public consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that ends on the 17th October*

The NPPF has the potential to make it harder for local communities to protect their green spaces from development. Learn more here:

You can help keep the pressure on government ministers by supporting the National Trust and the CPRE campaigns.

Don’t forget, if you’re on social media to share these links with your friends and followers and tweet your questions/comments about the NPPF using the #NPPF hashtag.

This is OUR landscape!



Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Previous post:

Next post: