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It might not be quite the clash of civilisations as imagined by author J R R Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings books, but a dispute involving the fairies of a Ballachulish woodland and forestry bosses is shaping up to be a bit of a bruising encounter all the same.
It was sparked after Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) put up signs at woodland at nearby Brecklet asking people not to leave artefacts such as the sort of small ‘fairy doors’ that are popular with young children.
However, Highland SNP councillor Niall McLean has contacted the forestry authority after the issue was raised by local people, disappointed FLS was taking what they saw as a heavy-handed approach to the issue.
‘There’s a few of these wee doors been left up against some of the trees and it’s been done by a grandparent or someone similar – it’s been quite well done and it has proved a popular way of getting the smaller children keen to visit the woods for walks,’ Mr McLean told us.
‘Surely the point is we want our children to engage with our woodlands and, if this encourages more to visit, I would have thought that was a good thing. In fact, much of the actual rubbish that can be found at this site, such as protective plastic tree tubes, seems to have come from Forestry and Land Scotland itself. For example, the sign asking people not to leave items is the biggest piece of plastic in the area.’
And Mr McLean revealed he had been sent a letter purporting to be from the ‘Brecklet fairies’ angry about the actions of FLS.
It states: ‘We, the Brecklet fairies, send a strong message from our Queen that we are not urchins but can be if provoked.
‘We have been here since the dawn of time. We seen the Picts, the Norse Men, Romans (Leg IX ), the Gaels, the Clan MacDonald, the Quarry men, the Crofters, the Forestry Commission, now you Forest and Land Scotland, come and go.
‘You accuse us fairies of introducing non- natural products to this forest when we are in fact recycling discarded items. You, on the other hand, have unnaturally introduced all the non-native trees.
‘We used to live under mighty oaks and Scots pines that supported a diverse ecosystem. You exclude wildlife with your miles of fences while casting a shadow on life with your trees only fit for pulp. Your sign is the biggest piece of plastic in this wood.
‘You were gifted this site and have a responsibility to the children to make it a place to enjoy.’
Mr McLean added: ‘Feel free to quote that I believe in the fairies and I will treat them as I would other community members. But there is a serious note to this, which is, if we want to encourage children to enjoy and look after the natural world, then we have to make them feel welcome in such places. After all, fairies are part of Scottish history and mythology.’
An FLS spokesperson told us: ‘Getting young people into woodlands to experience nature is a big part of what we do and fairy houses are a great way to encourage them to visit.
‘Fairy doors/houses made out of natural materials and that are located in areas slightly off the path are great. But over-sized doors or anything that uses materials that are not biodegradable are not so good – they tend to make the site look a little messy.
‘It is important – for the fairies and for our other woodland visitors – that the forest stays as natural as possible, so at the end of this month we’ll be removing any fairy houses that are directly on the path or made of inappropriate materials.
‘That should be enough time for children to move their natural doors further into the woods, and take their non-biodegradable ones home; fairies are partial to gardens, too.’