The Chief Elf ushered the two little fairies in our group to their allocated wagons. We follow and board the miniature train. Lakshmi’s excitement doubles now that she has been officially referred to as a fairy. The young fairy in the next carriage is celebrating her fourth birthday. The Chief Elf sings ‘Happy Birthday’ and we join in. The birthday girls’s pink fairy wings flutter as she joyfully listens to the singalong. Our two fairies forgot to bring their wings. Wings or no wings Lakshmi and Lavinia are beaming from ear to ear. The railway, which was inaugurated in the early sixties by the racing legend Stirling Moss, whistles and starts stirring. Our journey begins and the destination is the enchanted forest.
The train chugs through tunnels, over the rivers, winding its way around the serene settings. Deep in the forest, deer roam and sheep graze. Amidst these gentle flowing streams and wild flowers, Teddy bears meet up with their friends and sip tea from the finest of China cups. They look at the scones, biscuits and cakes piled up on the cake trays, but refrain from touching them wary of their ever expanding waistlines. At the stations some bears are waiting to board the train with their heavy luggage. Further along we pass the abode of the stars of the forest, the Dragon and his friend, the Unicorn. The little fairies and elves wave frantically trying to catch the dragon’s attention. He acknowledges their gesture with a snort and steam spews from his nostrils. Before we know it, we are back at the station ready to disembark and start the second phase of our journey.
The next part is on foot, but first it is time to make magic wands and write a wish to hang on the wishing tree. The flower covered archway marks the entrance to fairyland. Is it only fairies lurking in this part of the forest, we step in tentatively looking for clues. The Fairies of the woods are all stuck in their wooden tree houses, possibly due to the lockdown, busily engaging in their daily activities when the guests come knocking on their doors. Most are good natured and don’t mind the intrusion. They wave back. Some are too engrossed in their chores and ignore the trespassing. The tooth fairy is busy counting the previous night’s collection. From the bountiful hoard it seems the lockdown hasn’t affected her job. She eyes Lakshmi’s teeth, but Lakshmi is not ready to give them up yet. Lakshmi and Lavinia make a hasty exit and find themselves in the goblins’ grotto. The goblins surround the two fairies and start banging their pots and pans. The girls look around for a way to escape. A gap appears and they make a dash for it. Next stop is the gnomes’ hideout. The sprightly crew are having a rest after a busy day in the gardens. They stop mid sentence to observe the girls and wait anxiously for them to leave before carrying on with their banter.
It is time to leave the fairy kingdom. The smell wafting from the cafe’s barbecue grill is proving too strong and the hunger pangs are starting to take hold. We make our way to the picnic area. The children’s playground is full, the fairy godmother is entertaining young ones with stories of the hiccuping dragon and there are various family group activities going on around the park. We still have plenty to do before we leave Audley End. The grey clouds stayed threatening all day but held back till we were well on our way back home. The predicted thunderstorms didn’t materialise till later in the day. I forgot to ask Lakshmi if her wish was to keep the rain fairies away, probably it wasn’t. Come rain or shine they were promised an enchanting day out and the Fairies and Unicorn made sure they had just that.