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FAIRYTRAILS #1: Hawthorn

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Our first tree in this outdoor storying challenge!

'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out!' - An old saying that means "Don't take your warm clothing off until the Mayflower (Hawthorn) blossoms!"

Welcome to our 'Fairytrails' challenge! If you would like a quick outline of what this is all about, click here! If you're ready to go - let's do it!

Recognising hawthorn...

It's not an easy task to identify trees in winter but you can give it a good go with the following bits of information:

  • Hawthorn is dense and thorny (WARNING: watch out for those spiky thorns!)

  • The bark is brown/grey, knotty and fissured (so not smooth but with splits in it.)

  • In spring, the leaves have got toothed 'lobes' (like fingers) and they are about 6cm long.

  • Their berries are a dark red, not very fleshy and with a large seed in the middle.

  • The flowers are white and have a strong smell (which - apparently - is the same smell given off by medieval plague victims!)

  • Use Flora Incognita or the Woodland Trust app to help you be certain that what you are looking at is, in fact, a hawthorn tree!

When you pop out for your walk and finally find your hawthorn tree, you might be interested to know:

  • In Wales the Hawthorn is also known as Bara Caws (‘bread and cheese’), because that's the taste you'll enjoy if you have a go at nibbling the early leaves (WARNING: don't do this unless you're up with your Tree ID!)

  • Traditionally, on the first day of May, young people used to head off into the woods to gather hawthorn blossoms (and, um, enjoy some special outdoor time together!)

  • The dewdrops on hawthorn were believed to be precious - women used to ash their faces in the dew they'd collected from the trees on May Day and some people even washed their hands in this special water believing they'd get better at whatever profession they were in!

  • A lone hawthorn was most likely to be inhabited by the 'fair folk' (the fairies!)

The real Faerie Tree at Ard Clinis Monastery, County Antrim

Now's the time for a tale...

Our story today is told by the magnificent storytellers Emily Hanna and her son Leo who, together, bring us Tales from the Dragonfly.

Click here to listen to episode 5: 'The Faerie Thorn' where a little boy is stolen by the fairies but finds his way back because of a thorn...!

Outdoor storying challenge #1:

OPTION 1: Collect some natural materials and create your very own Faerie Tree!

OPTION 2: Design the ultimate faerie costume out of natural materials - either for you to wear if you're really ambitious or as a picture!

Bushcraft, podcasts and other things that might interest you...

  • Check out how to make nettle line and hawthorn hooks.

  • Find out about hawthorn's role in Celtic mythology.

  • Listen to the History and Folklore podcast and their hawthorn episode.

  • Listen to Icy Sedgewick's Fabulous Folklore podcast episode on the hawthorn.

  • Take a peek at the fab nature activity boxes made by wonderful Somerset-based Earthwise.

Happy outdoor storying y'all! Let us know how you get on!

Pridie, Elva & Adelind :)

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