This Easter sees the return of a popular interactive art installation of fairy doors and children’s writing, as part of a guided trail at Cary’s Meadow, Norwich. Springtime is the perfect time to visit the trail with the kids and inspire them to connect with the magical world of nature.

A new trail of fairy doors at Thorpe St Andrew’s Cary’s Meadow in the Broads National Park, has opened to the public and runs until the Summer. Follow a beautifully illustrated map of the meadow, where each magical door unlocks a poem or story inspired by the natural world. The stories and poems are written by children from Norwich, Thorpe St Andrew and across Norfolk, as part of Arts Council England supported project Natural Wonder, the creative work of writer and socially engaged artist Ruthie Collins, in collaboration with local artists, Norwich Men’s Shed and the Broads Authority.

The doors mysteriously vanished after storms caused chaos across Norfolk and the UK in February. Their welcome return sees new designs made by members of social enterprise Norwich Men’s Shed, commissioned by Natural Wonder with support from the Broads Authority. New poems and stories by children at Henderson Green Academy are appearing behind each door, inspired by nature, biodiversity and local wildlife.

Two of the new fairy doors can now also be found near new ‘reptile hotels’ hibernaculum on Cary’s Meadow. These are piles of rubble and grass that have been especially created as habitats to encourage wildlife, including reptiles and amphibians, such as grass snakes and slow worms.

Sign at Cary's Meadow, Norwich.

Project creator, Ruthie Collins said: “It’s so wonderful to see the doors return, people are really excited, and we know little ones are looking forward to enjoying them.

“They are a great way to support awareness of wildlife habitats and biodiversity, plus give communities a lift to the spirits. It’s also just fun to enjoy literature in a fresh way. All the children worked hard on their creative writing, and we’re really excited to see new poems and stories from Henderson Green appearing this Spring.”

Spring Art Prize

There is also a Spring Art Prize open to children in Norfolk aged from 2 up to 11 to take part, to create an art piece inspired by the fairies that might live inside the doors – what would a day in the life of a fairy living in the Norfolk landscape look like? What do you see around you as part of your day? Think about the life inside the soil, the life in the waterways, or the air, trees and plants? What flowers, flora and wildlife might you see?

Photos of entries on A4/A3 paper are fine to send in, or small 2D works – can be clay, recycled materials, collage, illustration, paint, or any materials you like! Entries can be on any media, from paint to drawings, to mixed media, or even sculpture. Photos of the works can be sent to ruthie@ruthiecollins.co.uk, with the first 20 to enter eligible for a free Spring treat. The winner could snag a bundle of nature inspired books and eco-friendly art materials, with entries being shared on the Natural Wonder online gallery and social media. Schools are also welcome to get in touch if they would like their class to submit entries. The deadline for entering is 27 May, and the winner will be announced in June.

One of the Fairy Doors, with painted mice.

Illustration Inspiration

For inspiration, go and take a walk out in nature, or at Cary’s Meadow. You can find resources on the biodiversity you might find in the Norfolk landscape alongside the Fairy Doors trail map, by artist Joe Fear – on www.wondernatural.co.uk.

Download the map at: The Fairy Doors Trail – Natural Wonder (wondernatural.co.uk) or scan the QR code at the gates when you enter the meadow.

The illustrated map, created by Norfolk illustrator Joe Fear was commissioned by Natural Wonder and features some of the wildlife, flora and fauna you can find on the meadow. The map has been made into an interactive gallery for the children’s stories and poems, with web design from Norwich based business Elementary Creative.

Broads Authority, Education Officer, Nick Sanderson, said of the project:

“Norfolk is home to a quarter of the UK’s rarest species of plants and animals and is a real hot bed of biodiversity.

“It’s role in ecological education is world class, so it’s great to help people learn about its natural history and heritage through getting outdoors and also learning through literature, creativity and having fun.”

Roberta Wood, Norwich Men’s Shed Coordinator, said:
“Social distancing has really changed the way members access the workshops at Norwich Men’s Shed – physical making is key to our offer, but Covid regulations make any group projects difficult.

“Making the fairy doors provided the opportunity for members to be part of a community project while working individually and safely. Our members really engaged with this project and created a fantastic collection of fairy doors that reflect the skills and interests of our varied membership.”

As part of Natural Wonder Ruthie is writing a series of poems inspiring connection to the natural world inspired by the landscape of Norfolk, while running educational activities and practical actions to help conserve and increase access to nature in the community, funded by Arts Council England. The free trail runs until summer 2022, alongside a programme of Fairy Doors events and writing by children from all over Norfolk who have loved writing and learning about nature as part of this project.

Open Fairy Door at Cary's Meadow.

Cary’s Meadow is on 3 Yarmouth Road in Norwich – postcode NR7 0EB. There are 147 different plant species growing, including wild orchids in the summer. It once belonged to a dairy farmer named Walter Cary and then to his son George, who lived in a cottage where the pumping station is now, by the car park (just off the A1242 Yarmouth Road in Thorpe). The farming tradition continues and from July to December cattle graze here. The cattle help to keep the diversity of plants on the meadow by stopping scrub spreading into the open grassland.

You may also see bats, rabbits, and butterflies such as the common blue and orange tip. The willow trees are good for birds such as willow warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats.

We first came across Cary’s Meadow when we passed it on Paddleboards last Summer, and the Fairy Doors Trail gave us the perfect excuse to visit in person today.

Flanked by water on most sides, Cary’s Meadow is a lovely little oasis of nature on the edge of the City. It is packed with flora and fauna, and on our visit we spotted a few Muntjac Deer, various types of butterflies and insects, birds and lots of lovely Spring flowers, including Aconites and Daffodils. A walk around the entire site takes less than hour, but if you take your time, you’ll be rewarded by birdsong a-plenty, and potentially spot other wildlife too.

Entry is free and there is a small, free car park.

Dogs on leads are permitted, but please do clear up after them if you visit.

For more information about events and to download the map visit: The Fairy Doors Trail – Natural Wonder (wondernatural.co.uk) or scan the QR code at the gates when you enter Cary’s Meadow.