Northwood Trail – York’s New Fairy Sanctuary, Buttercrambe Moor Woods

[GIFTED] Many thanks to Northwood Trail for inviting us to this press event. You can find out more about the experience and book tickets for yourself on their website.

path surrounded by trees and forest, with small fairy house nestled in the brances of the tree on the right

If you go down to the woods today… you’ll likely find some extremely excited bloggers gallivanting off to hunt for fairies. Situated in Buttercrambe Moor Woods, just outside of York, Northwood Trail offers a unique and immersive experience in which families can explore the fairy sanctuary and museum, grab a drink and some snacks, and enjoy a leisurely walk the woodland fairy trail.

As soon as we saw the sign welcoming us and explaining that there’d be no wifi but promising we’d find a better connection, I knew this place was going to be right up my street. Our experience began in Northwood Kitchen, a beautifully rustic spot to enjoy a nice drink and a bite to eat during your visit. And honestly, any place in which you’re greeted with ‘prosecco with fairy dust’ upon entering is already a solid 10/10 with me. Whilst still in its development stages, the Kitchen is to offer organic coffee and natural foodie bits, and the gorgeous décor means that your local Costa isn’t even in the same stratosphere of comparison.

Next to Northwood Kitchen, we find the bespoke Fairy Museum, described as ‘the original site of the headquarters for the New Society of Arcane Natural History – established in the 19th century to research and protect fairies and other nature spirits.’ Carefully curated by dedicated research teams, visitors are welcome to read about and take in the displays… including a magical little surprise hiding behind the ‘Open Me’ doors that *almost* had me speechless. And believe me, that’s saying something.

As for the trail itself, it was genuinely a joy to go gallivanting off into the woods, maps in hand and without a care in the world. We leisurely made our way around the 20-30 minute walk, full of sights to see and little bits and pieces to get involved with. Being situated in the depths of the forest, there was something so soothing about the peace and serenity of the environment, briefly interrupted every now and then by a little child’s pure glee at discovering another one of the miniature fairy houses and doors all about you.

As well as things to look at, the walk also boasts a maze (that I genuinely feared Natalie would never find her way out of and see the light of day again), sticks and props for den building (which quite frankly I could have left Izzy to play with all day) and a majestic woodland throne to climb and sit on (where I could finally enact my lifelong dream of being ultimate queen of the fairies). I’d make a joke about our maturity as functioning adults, but that’s just it: the trail brings out the inner child in you, and as you may just be able to tell below, that’s something I can very much get on board with.

pippa posing on carved wooden chairs surrounded by forest, with arms and legs in the air and generally living her best life

Besides the originality of the whole concept, the one thing that resonated with me at all stages of our visit is that this is an organisation that takes environmentalism seriously. Throughout the experience, there was a clear emphasis on natural and ecological sustainability, from the team’s food production methods to the lack of plastic and commercialised branding around the site. It offers visitors an experience that really is all about appreciating nature and your surroundings, and to me, that’s what really puts this attraction on a pedestal. The family behind the business really did do a wonderful job of bringing their vision to life.

Whilst the organisation undoubtedly achieves their aims of being magical for the whole family, it did mean that some compromise needed to be made on its accessibility for disabled visitors, such as myself. The experience is marketed as accessible, and whilst I was pleased to see vital accommodations such as disabled toilets and detailed information on facilities on their website, my recommendation for fellow disabled visitors would be to proceed with caution and be prepared to compromise.

Although the trail itself got the balance just about right, with paths being developed enough to accommodate a wheelchair but not so over-manufactured as to take away from the immersive and natural environment, I am so immensely relieved that I opted to take my transit wheelchair rather than my power-chair at the last minute. In all elements of the setting, the trail, the kitchen and the museum, it was clear that even my small power-chair, Janice, would have prevented me from getting around and enjoying the experience in the same way as non-disabled guests.

Fortunately, my transit wheelchair navigated by pro-pusher Izzy, and the fact that I’m lucky enough to be able to hop in and out when necessary (within reason), meant that we had no major issues, but I’d strongly recommend opting for a transit wheelchair rather than electric, if you can, when visiting Northwood Trail.

louise, pippa and natalie, standing up and holding trail maps, surrounded by green forest
Image Credits: Natalie Hanson

I do appreciate that it’s very difficult to get the balance right with attractions such as these, and if you’re in a similar position to me, I’d still tell you to persevere and give it a go. In fact, there are even elements of the experience that lend themselves particularly well to chronic illness: the low-level lighting and quiet serenity of the surroundings could make the environment particularly inclusive for those with sensory overload, and assistance animals on leads are welcome. A full access statement is available on the Northwood Trail website, and I do hope as many people as possible can enjoy it for themselves.

So if you’re in York, or visiting, is it worth venturing out of the historic city and into the woodland? Absolutely. If you’re in need of a bit of serenity in the midst of chaotic everyday life, there’s something absolutely cathartic about escaping for a couple of hours into the forest and simply taking the time to enjoy your surroundings. And oh my goodness, I can only begin to imagine how magical some of their upcoming seasonal events could be. I’d opt for an atmospheric Halloween Lantern Making Workshop in the forest over an over-hyped and anti-climactic night out in town, any day of the week. You don’t see sights this adorable in Kuda, let me tell you.

I’ll be back, Northwood Trail, and you should all know that I’ll be sporting some majestic fairy wings on the back of my wheelchair for the occasion. Who’s to say fancy dress is only for the children, right?

 

[GIFTED] Many thanks to Northwood Trail for inviting us to this press event. You can find out more about the experience and book tickets for yourself on their website.

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