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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Cumbrian mini-housing estate that's certainly elf-build

A pair of purple doors with yellow handles, a round yellow window and a curly number ‘6’.

Fairy houses photo
Roger Lytollis investigates the fairy houses at Gelt Wood, near Brampton

Who lives in a house like this?

If you want more clues it might help to mention that each door is about two inches high and two inches wide, and that they are situated among the roots of a tree.

The question of who has taken up residence behind the purple doors – and several other homes in the same country lane – has become quite a talking point in a remote part of Cumbria.

Locals report that these houses appeared one day within the past month on a quiet road near Gelt Woods, about 10 miles east of Carlisle.

If you go down to these woods today you’re sure of a big surprise in the form of some very small homes.

Some people say they have spotted more than half a dozen.

But no removal vans were seen unloading dolls-house furniture. No pint-sized occupants have been glimpsed coming or going.

So did someone place these doors and windows among the trees in the hope of intriguing the locals and charming their children?

Or could there really be little people living here?

Fairies? Pixies? Ronnie Corbett?

With the expense of rural accommodation, it shouldn’t be a surprise if some enterprising imps had the initiative to build houses here half-hidden among the trees, although it has yet to be determined if they are paying council tax.

After being sent photographs of these miniature tree houses by a bemused reader, the News & Star set out to solve this pixie mystery. We promised to leave no stone, or toadstool, unturned.

Fairies and pixies have to live somewhere, don’t they? And why wouldn’t they choose here?

The road is secluded and rarely disturbed by cars. It is flanked by fields, one of them populated by cows.

We are not going to reveal the exact location to ensure the little folk are not overrun by fairy fans, but if you want to find the general area try typing ‘Fairyland’ into your Satnav.

There’s something very Enid Blyton about this place. Rabbits scamper in a field at the top of the hill. A footpath sign points the way to a place called ‘Too Top’, which sounds as if it was torn from the pages of a fairytale.

Walking down the hill, the pixie palaces are on the left side of the road, which has a bank sloping up to fields.

The first door I found was green, with two tiny green pixie boots outside.

Whoever lives here must be very trusting. Or perhaps in Fairyland they’re still taking precautions to avert the threat of foot and mouth. Fairies were very much the hidden victims of the disease.

All these items are very light and appear to be made from porcelain or something similar.

The next item I spied peeking from the tree roots was a yellow-framed window with red curtains.

A few yards further down was a yellow window and a letterbox.

Had the Pixie Post already been today?

I heard a rustle to my left and glanced around in time to see the flicker of something disappear down a rabbit hole.

Was it a rabbit, or could it have been something else?

This place certainly seems quiet enough for timid creatures but I wondered if they would find enough to eat here.

The trees are bursting with red berries and on the bank there was a half-eaten toadstool. I know fairies traditionally shelter under toadstools, but if they’ve got their own houses these days maybe they can use them for food.

I’m not sure what else they would eat. Fairy cakes?

As for drink, the only clue was a crushed can of LCL Pils lager.

This stuff is five per cent proof, and at that strength it surely can’t be good for your elf.

There’s a cluster of cottages at the bottom of the hill. Normal-sized cottages, big enough for humans to live in. Do the occupants know anything about their new neighbours?

I knocked on the first door. As I waited for a reply I rehearsed my opening line.

“Hello. I’m here to talk about fairies.”

“Hello – if I was to say the word ‘pixie’, what would you think?”

There was no reply. Probably just as well.

A man walking his dogs hadn’t heard about them. “I’ll have to have a look,” he said, and vanished up the hill.

Debora Davidson of Croglin was here with her West Highland terrier Milo. Debora is no stranger to the fairy houses.

“I come down here every week and I first saw them about a month ago. I’d love to know who does them. They’re very imaginative. Then again, it’s nice that it’s a mystery.

“Nobody knows who did them. I asked somebody the other day and they didn’t know. They said there’s some more along the river.”

Is it possible that they were put there by fairies and pixies?

“Without a doubt,” said Debora, who may well have been humouring me...

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Milo can see them. Dogs definitely have that ability to see things that we don’t.”

The man I’d spoken to a few minutes earlier came back down the hill.

“Pot,” he said.

I was about to agree that this would certainly have explained a lot about the whole business, then he elaborated.

“They’re made of pot. They’ll have been made by someone round here.”

But he didn’t know who.

I was ready to admit defeat in my quest for answers when yet another dog-walker appeared. I told him about the fairy houses and the various theories and I asked if he knew about them.

He looked at me and said: “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”

I hate to say it, but I have a feeling that this man might not even have believed in fairies.

Thinking about it rationally, the doors and the pixie boots probably were made by someone who lives locally and who left them there to intrigue and entertain.

But there’s a part of me that can’t help wondering if someone is waiting inside a tree stump for the dog-walkers to pass by, before pushing open their door, pulling on their boots, and heading out into the big, wide world.

  • Carlisle City Council are aware of the new properties near Gelt Woods.

A spokesperson told the News & Star: “This is by far the smallest scale development we’ve come across and although planning permission is usually needed for new housing schemes, we won’t be expecting any applications winging their way to the Civic Centre.”

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