I am dedicating this post to my good friend Mrs Rabitt, who’ll soon be moving to M11Land so I imagine she’ll be on the Audley End Mini Railway pretty much every weekend. We’d never been there before but we were looking for a day out pre Eva’s birthday and their Fairy and Elf Walk sounded suitably fluffy and girly for my ethereal little girl.
We booked train tickets online the night before and cut it pretty fine for getting our designated train. They advise you arrive a while before your departure, but I’m not sure 4 minutes really gives you enough time. Still, we got there just as the train was boarding and managed to all sit together, though it was a bit of a squeeze with 4 of us in one mini carriage:
The train ride was about 40 minutes in all and takes you on a winding route through the woodlands and over the River Cam (which I swear was much bigger last time I saw it. I’m not sure we could have punted on the one we saw today). Reuben had an I-Spy sheet to complete on the way, and there was lots to see. Shelters fulls of teddies, bedecked with flowers, little huts with gingham curtains and even some pandas:
Roo enjoyed ticking all the things off his list, although we didn’t spot all the wildlife (what is a muntjac anyway??) I suspect the noise of the train and children may have scared the rabbits off. We saw a pheasant, but other than that we were a bit light on actual living things.
But we did spot fairies! About halfway through, we pulled into what can only be described as a bower:
There we were greeted by three fairies and one elf (it was Eva who knowledgably told me that he was an elf because she knew “a yot about fairies”. They performed a little frolicky dance for us and then walked along the train, presenting each child with a little bottle of fairy dust, which they would need to scatter over their wishes in the forest to make them come true. It was very sweet and I think Eva enjoyed the magic of it all.
On the train went., back to the station:
On the way, we passed another train and waved. It’s a strange British thing that while we go out of our way to not talk to strangers, we also feel obliged to wave at those same strangers if they’re passing us in a train. I blame Edith Nesbit.
Back at the station, Roo only had one agenda in mind and it was far from flowery and fairylike:
Roo loves a bouncy castle. As Nathan observed, it’s the ideal environment for a boy who can’t stop bouncing and often hurts himself on walls. At £2 per child for unlimited time on the bouncy castle and swingboats, it was good value too. The sun was out so we sat back and had a snack while they played. It was like the Ladybird Book of Bank Holidays.
But we still hadn’t done what we came for, which was the Fairy and Elf Walk. Again, we had an I-Spy list for this, which kept the boy amused, and a word to find as well, which we never completed (if anyone who works there reads this, please let me know what the word was. I have 5 letters and can’t work it out at all). First though, we had to make wands and wishes with one of the craft fairies:
There was another craft station too, which sadly we didn’t get to…but everything was so pretty and well thought out. There were flowers and ribbons wrapped around everything, which the flowery, ribbony girl loved.
I only wish I’d put her in a fairy outfit, like so many of the small girls were – but there was rain forecast, and a tutu isn’t practical soggy forest wear. Clearly a brand-new, lilac bunny dress is, though…
I wasn’t expecting too much of the Fairy Walk – this whole day was reminding me of the kind of days out we’d have as kids, which were almost inevitably disappointing. In the 80s, a fairy walk would have consisted of a pile of acorns with a Christmas tree decoration sitting atop and we’d have been grateful for that much. Today’s kids, though, are a tad more discerning and this Fairy Walk was packed with tiny works of art, all rendered in superb detail:
I particularly liked the Cleaning Fairy:
At the start of the walk, the kids had written their wishes down on bits of paper and when we reached Christabelle the Wishing Fairy, we tied them to the wishing fence and sprinkled them with the fairy dust from the train. You can’t read Eva’s any more, thanks to the sheer quantity of dust she poured on it, but she’d painstakingly written “flying” on it:
Reuben’s was more specific and I’m pleased to say it’s come true already. At bathtime, I showed him the old pile-of-10ps-in-the-ring trick and now he can, indeed, do magic:
Other wishes ranged from the whimsical to the practical:
We wandered through the forest for an hour or so, ticking all the fairies, goblins and gnomes off Reuben’s list and playing in the wigwams along the day. It was the perfect springlike weather for it – I can’t guarantee you’ll get the same if you go and honestly, it might not be so magical in the rain.
Then it was back to the play area for more bouncing and having a go on the swingboats:
Nathan and Eva also went off to the playground, where they found a wooden train and a cart and horse:
We were starting to rush, but the skies were darkening and the forecast rain wasn’t going to hold off much longer. Another day we’d have enjoyed a picnic and a ride on the even-smaller-than-miniature railway that ran around the play area. Instead, we decamped to the Station Box Cafe for a kind of linner, just as the wind and the rain started.
For those not familiar with the concept of linner, it’s the meal you have around 3PM when you’ve had an 10:30 brunch. In this case, it was kids’ hot boxes of nuggets and chips, that came with water, fruit, a chocolate biscuit and a colouring sheet. Plus “Station Burgers” for the adults. It being 3PM, supplies were starting to run out so the kids had an extra biscuit instead of fruit in their boxes and we had onion-free burgers. But it was all good, and the burgers surprisingly tasty.
It was a lovely day out, definitely helped by a bit of sunshine. Eva and Roo were both enchanted by real-life and model fairies and it was a pretty easy drive out of London as well. I’m not sure if the real life fairies are there all the time, but I think the Fairy Walk is there for the summer. More information here anyway…