A day at the The Enchanted Fairy and Elf Walk at the Miniature Railway in Audley End.
We joined some friends on Monday for a magical adventure – a day of finding fairies and elves in beautiful woodland and a miniature train ride!
The miniature railway was built in the 1960s by Lord Braybrooke and runs for 1.5miles through woodland next to Audley End House, the former home of the Braybrookes, and now an English Heritage property and separate attraction. The railway hosts various family events throughout the year but in the summer months a fine collection of fairies and elves are welcomed into the woodland.
We arrived late morning (it’s about an hour’s drive from us) and were greeted by a life-size fairy at the entrance! There was a short queue to pay then we played in the Picnic and Play Area whilst we waited for our friends. There is a lovely collection of wooden playground equipment including a train with a real bell which Imogen loved.
You also get plenty of opportunities to wave at the train passengers on the railway and on the even smaller extra railway (the Saffron Walden & District Society of Model Engineers run an additional short circular railway on some days during the summer, this is an extra £1 per person). There are also swing boats and bouncy castles that are an extra £2 per child but you get a wristband for these and can go on as many times as you like.
We ate our picnic lunch then went off in search of fairies!
As we entered the woods, we were greeted by an elf who helped us to make a fairy wand with a pencil which we could then use to tick off the fairies in the booklet guide when we saw them. I thought the elf was just going to point us in the direction of the craft materials but she came and sat with us to help. Imogen loved playing with the ‘magic dust’!
We also wrote wishes onto pieces of card to hang on the Wishing Tree.
Armed with our wand pencils and wishes we set off further into the woods.
The girls were very excited to see each fairy then would quickly run off to see another whereas I would have quite liked more time to linger and take in the displays!
Each fairy is set in their own little woodland home, decorated with themed dolls’ house accessories and there is a little explanation about them. It really was very sweet.
At first, I thought there was just one page of fairies to find, but when we kept turning pages I realised that there is about 25.
The woods also has a den building area, model animals, the Wishing Tree, elves, unicorns and a Troll under a bridge too.
Seren’s favourite was Serena the Mermaid, mermaids have been her favourite magical creature for a while and how appropriate that she had a very similar name. Imogen was slightly overexcited and very much into it, she kept asking for “more fairies, more fairies, more fairies!”.
My favourite was Goldie the Tooth Fairy, I think we could wrap a myth around her at home.
Other fairies included Holly the Christmas Fairy, Snowberry the snow fairy, Iris, Lily, Delphine and Daisy the flower fairies, Ginger and Brownie the baking fairies and Luna and Twinkle the night time fairies who protect children who are afraid of the dark (wish they could make a visit to Seren who insists on sleeping with the big light on, another myth for us to create I think!). The adventure is supposed to take around 40 minutes but I think we were in there for longer.
After we had met all the fairies, we had just missed a train so popped into the Signal Box Cafe for drinks and snacks before queueing up for the next train. It was a bit of rush to get onto the train as there was 7 of us to seat together (2 mummies and 5 children aged 4 and under!) so of course we wanted to sit together. Originally, the 4 bigger kids (aged 2 to 4) were in a different carriage though next to us but we couldn’t see them. I managed to shuffle them around so we all in connecting booths in the same carriage. Originally I did this because I thought it would be nicer to enjoy the experience together but then I realised this was absolutely essential from a safety point of view, especially with Imogen because when we approached tunnels she was leaning out of the window and then in the second tunnel she was scared and I had to yank her over to me for a cuddle!
Safety scares aside, the train journey was lots of fun and took around 20 minutes. The woodland houses a large number of teddy bears and other soft toys arranged in displays to see as well as models of pandas. There are two very dark tunnels and the train also crosses the River Cam and River Fulfen. The bridge across the Cam is home to an original World War II pillbox. Next to us in the carriage was a young guy who works at the railway but was visiting on his day off (that should tell you something about how good it is!) and was really helpful in pointing out things to us and taking our photos.
I managed to placate Imogen’s pleas for “more fairies!” with a little fairy gift for them both from the shop (despite them picking up cuddly toys and wanting those to add to the 7695 cuddly toys we have!).
Seren has taken her fairy booklet out with her every day this week to show everyone – she is completely enchanted!
Audley End Miniature Railway, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JB.
Various tickets are available – we bought combined Fairy Walk and Train Ride tickets for £8 each (under 2’s are free). You can pay extra for more train rides. Tickets for the littler gauge railway that occasionally runs are extra as are bouncy castle / swing boat rides.
The Fairy Walk and Train are open every weekend until 9th October plus through the school holidays until the 2nd September. The railway hosts various special events throughout the year including at Halloween and Christmas.
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