Fairy hunting at Furzey Gardens in the New Forest

The other weekend, we went to the New Forest for a much needed, long weekend break.

The lovely Alice (of Alice & Amelia, Dorset and the South West resident experts) who’s daughter is only about six months older than Little Miss, recommended we visit Furzey Gardens and their fairy door trail.

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Little Miss raring to go at Furzey Gardens, map in hand, Nelly Elly poking out of her backpack for moral support when the fairy trail goes cold…

Surprisingly, fairies haven’t featured hugely in our lives yet apart from the Tinkerbell movie when Little Miss is ill and her Tinkerbell costume she got last Christmas. But that’s always more about Tinkerbell than fairies in general.

Despite this, we thought Little Miss would enjoy the day as she’s loves nature and being outdoors.

Well blow me down with a feather, when we said we were going fairy hunting she knew exactly what we were doing and she talked about it non-stop from the drive to he New Forest on Friday until we actually went to Furzey Gardens on Sunday morning!

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Little Miss surveying the lily pad pond at Furzey Gardens – can you see any fairies?

Furzey was beautiful. The gardens aren’t actually that big – and adult could easily meander round in under an hour – but it’s full of little paths and cut throughs to get lost down. And then throw in the hunting for fairy doors and you’re there for hours.

As we were in the throws of potty training, we were limited to an hour before dashing back up the hill to find the bathroom, which wasn’t nearly long enough.

Little Miss was really excited by the idea of fairy hunting, but was perhaps ever so slightly young (she’s two and a half now). Most of the doors are hidden out of sight and you really have to search to find them. If there was too long between finds, we could see Little Miss becoming disheartened or worse, disinterested and in the end, one of us would run off to find one, then the other would follow with LM so she wasn’t waiting more than a couple of minutes between doors!

The only other draw back was, being a Sunday afternoon, it was a bit busy – not rammed, but enough kids running around looking for doors that some may feel the element of ‘mystery’ is lost. (The kid screaming, “A CASTLE! DAD! DAD! WE FOUND A CASTLE! for example, sort of ruined that moment for us…)

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I wonder who lives here? (Nelly Elly straining to get a view of the latest door.)

That being said, we really had a lovely day. The sun was shining and the gardens provide such a beautiful setting for the day out that you just sort of embrace the excited kids – it’s all part of the charm.

Little Miss has talked about going fairy hunting numerous times since then, telling us all about the adventure – just in case we might have forgotten. So it clearly made an impression!
For those of you there for more than just fairy doors, there’s Furzey’s award-winning Chelsea Flower Show creation on show, a 16th century cottage to explore and some special, ancient thatched roofing to admire (yes, really).

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Little Miss is on the case! (Don’t think she could fathom the map either…)

Top tip: 

Don’t forget to pick up a map to get you started from the main office. But a few things regarding the ‘map’ (which is a generous term for it):

  1. As maps go, it’s not that helpful if I’m honest – we weren’t the only parents wandering around more confused by the map! – and only about seven of the doors are listed on the map, leaving you to seek out the rest (apparently there’s around 30). But it’s a good starting point so you have an idea what you’re looking for.
  2. If you go with the map, take a right out of the cafe/reception area to start. Don’t follow the path naturally to the left – the numbering of fairy doors goes right first. (No idea why – this didn’t help with the confusion!)
  3. After you’ve found the first few on the map, I would go freestyle and just start hunting round behind every tree, in every thicket, in every garden feature. Most are well hidden, but remember, where there’s fairies, there’s fairy dust…

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Entry:

Summer fees –
Adults: £8
Kids 4-16: £4.50
Under 4s: FREE!
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids): £24

Winter fees –
Adults: £5
Kids 4-16: £2.50
Under 4s: still FREE!
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids): £14

Getting there: take a SatNav or Google Maps. Seriously.

Furzey Gardens
Minstead
Lyndhurst SO43 7GL

And if (when) you get lost… Tel: 02380 812464

It’s only accessible by car, but trust me, it’s worth getting lost down New Forest country roads for. We all had a really lovely day. And it’s free parking.

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Facilities: 

Toilets
Coffee shop with a range of cakes, soups, and light bites 
Gift shop
Free parking

I didn’t actually spot any changing facilities, but then, I was running in with Little Miss who had wet herself, so didn’t think to look either…

If the weather allows it, I would recommend taking a picnic rather than eating at the cafe as its a tad on the pricey side. So find a secluded nook, or pull up a bench by the pond, and drink in the view while you nibble your sarnies.

As well as the fairy trail, there’s also a children’s playground and a party space you can hire.

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