The Realm of the Fairies

The Realm of the Fairies

Autumn is a magical time. In this edition of the newsletter, we ask you to suspend judgement and logic, and take a walk on the enchanted side with us. There are some places on earth which have an aura of magic, and the distinct possibility of fey folk. A setting that gives your imagination wings. Found high in the Amatola Mountains, Hogsback in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province is just such a place…

Fairies originated from the oral traditions of Celtic, Germanic, and Ancient Greek myths. They have even made appearances in Arabic literature and Sanskrit. Most of the first tales of fairies date back to Greek mythology, where fairies protected the Earth with vigour and great power. According to the legend, Gods and Goddesses created the world. Immediately thereafter, they made meadow nymphs, forest nymphs, water nymphs, and tree nymphs to take care of the Earth.

An area for fairies in the Hogsback Arboretum.

The earliest mention of fairies in English folklore is in the book Otia Imperialia (“Recreation for an Emperor”), written in the early thirteenth century by Gervase of Tilbury. He was a world traveller who wrote about his findings, which included seeing magical creatures whom he called fairies. They were both small and tall, ugly and beautiful, good and evil. In the British Isles people were scared of fairies, who were considered mischievous creatures with the ability to curse them. Just saying the word “fairy” out loud could summon them, and so the words “the Neighbours, the Gentry, or Little People” were used.

A garden dedicated to love…

This fear of offending the fairies was very real and impacted on everyday life. “Fairy paths” were avoided. Digging in the fairy hills was forbidden, and homes occasionally even had corners removed for fear of blocking the fairy path. When building a cottage, it was considered best to align the back and front doors – which were left open at night when necessary to let the fairies pass through.

We, however, live in Africa. So, what is the link, you may well ask? Well, our little village of Hogsback positively vibrates with magic. A little enclave of enchantment in which fairies would thrive… 

Ian pictured with one of the really tall trees in the Arboretum.

The Hogsback Arboretum is absolutely beautiful. One can so easily imagine fairies frolicking on the banks of the sparkling streams, or amongst the many flowers in the gardens. Bird life abounds, and if you are very lucky, you may even spot the endangered Cape parrot. 

Azaleas abound.

One of the oldest gardens in Hogsback, established in 1884 by the British colonial government of the time, it’s a living museum filled with trees from all over the world, including huge Californian Redwoods. It is also home to the Garden of love, the Garden of peace and the Garden of remembrance. In this beautiful setting you will find the 39 Steps Falls. This lovely, easy walk to the falls only takes about 15 minutes to complete – or longer if you want to simply wander and appreciate the lush beauty of nature.

The 39 steps waterfall.

The Labyrinth at ‘The Edge’ is an eleven-circuit Labyrinth, similar in design to the labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France. It is one of the most intricate of labyrinth designs, with a diameter of 29 meters and a circumference of 91 meters. The length of the pathway is 700m, and the total distance of the walk to the centre and out is 1.4 kilometres, making it one of the largest labyrinths in the world. It was completed in 2002.

The Labyrinth at ‘The Edge’

Labyrinths worldwide are used for a walking meditation. Strolling the single winding path, from the outer edge in a circuitous way to the centre, is said to be a way to quiet the mind, recover balance in life, calm anxieties, encourage meditation and enhance creativity, insight, self-reflection and stress reduction. Whilst you are there, may we politely suggest spoiling yourself at the casual restaurant, where the food is simply sublime! 

Carrot cake and a fresh blueberry milkshake – just the thing after walking the labyrinth.

Hogsback has a large variety of accommodation, and we chose “Away with the Fairies” in keeping with our theme. This quaint little spot is situated right on the Hogsback cliffs overlooking the indigenous forests of the Auckland Nature Reserve. A highlight (which you would need to book) is taking a bath (yes – they have hot water) in an outdoor tub located right at the cliff edge…

Anyone for a bath on the edge of the cliff?

“Gandalf’s Den” is a delightful room, complete with a deliciously huge bathtub. 

I think our world is poorer for having lost the fairies. The mountains, forests, waterfalls, streams and gardens in Hogsback seem to emanate a feeling of ancient magic, which soothes one’s frazzled big-city soul. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth popping in. I would go as far as suggesting that it is a worthy destination on its own – just be sure to give yourself enough time to soak up the magic!

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team


Away with the Fairies

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