Brownies, Cub Scouts, and Daisies assembled at Whitney Memorial Forest in Winchendon this Spring to construct nature-inspired homes for fairies, gnomes, and other rare woodland creatures.
Fairy houses, which can take many forms, are made from found materials in the woods. Mount Grace is hoping that increased use of the forest by local scouts, and of course the local elf community, will lead to more active stewardship of the forest by those who enjoy it.
Whitney Memorial Forest, a 90-acre property donated to Mount Grace by Adelaide Whitney in 2002, is within easy walking distance of the center of Winchendon and provides welcome open space in the middle of a fairly built up area. This proximity to a large population means extra efforts must be taken to prevent dumping on the property.
The program, co-sponsored by the MassLIFT AmeriCorps Members at Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, and the Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon, began with a lesson in Leave No Trace principles—guidelines for hiking and outdoor activities that are endorsed by scouting groups. MassLIFT members Teresa Arey and Willa Caughey, who organized the event, explained the six principles to the scouts and encouraged them to act out the dos and don'ts of Leave No Trace through short skits.
“It was wonderful to see such a large group of kids interacting so creatively with the forest and learning to be respectful stewards of the land,” said Caughey. “I was encouraged to hear Scouts happily imagining not only fairies and gnomes but insects, birds, and other creatures visiting the homes they built. We are all looking forward to future events and stewardship projects at Whitney Memorial Forest with this enthusiastic bunch.”
Following librarian Julia Cardinal’s reading of Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane, the children broke into small groups to build their own fantastical dwellings using found materials from the woods and assisted by educator Clare Green. Houses featured runways to facilitate fairy flight, indoor swimming pools, chimneys, mushroom chairs, and backyard fruit and vegetable gardens.
While a show of hands revealed that only one Scout had ever been in Whitney Memorial Forest before, the Scouts planned to return to the forest for more events.
Scouts later met at Beals Memorial Library, and painted signs to be posted around the property asking those who enjoy the land to keep Whitney Memorial Forest clean.