When I have been on walks with small children, I have often felt that they are seeing things that I don’t see. Sometimes it’s the little details that I’ve seen thousands of times but never really observed. Other times, it’s the things I don’t see because they’re not there. But the child has a confidence that goes beyond “I’d like to imagine I’m seeing something”. It appears to me they are actually seeing and responding to whatever it is. No matter whether it is there or not.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen while out hiking.

1. The Teacup Stump

Recently, while walking Ferny Creek’s Tan Track, I came across a stump covered with teacups:

The Teacup stump, Ferny Creek

Nothing there suggested that this was done by children or intended for children. But it reminded me of a couple of places I had visited while travelling the UK.

2. Winnie-the-Pooh’s House

The original Winnie-the-Pooh, as conceived by A.A. Milne, lived in Ashdown Forest. If you visit it, you can see such places as the Poohsticks Bridge, Eeyore’s gloomy place, Roo’s Sandy Pit, the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and a memorial to the author and illustrator of the books. Near the bridge is “Pooh’s House”:

Winnie the Pooh's House, Ashdown Forest

To me, it looks like a pretty non-descript tree. Yes, it’s nice someone thought of the concept, but I almost walked past it without stopping. But it had obviously made an impression on a child, because there was a note by the base of the tree. I don’t have the exact wording, but it was something like:

I suppose you were out visiting when I called, but will hope to see you next time I am here.

I’m interested in the confidence of this note. To this child, Winnie-the-Pooh is not just a story, but a real character: Someone you can visit. Probably they were told by their parents that they would be visiting Pooh’s house, believed it, and looked forward to talking with the Bear of Very Little Brain. Sadly, they didn’t get that opportunity, but it looks like they didn’t let that spoil their day.

3. The Original Fairy Bridge, Isle of Man

On my final day in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, I was looking for a walk before taking the ferry in the afternoon. I found a six mile walk which claimed to include the ‘real’ Fairy Bridge as well as views of the Irish Sea.

The Original Fairy Bridge, Douglas

It’s a nice, peaceful spot, with a simple stone bridge (though far too overgrown to actually cross the creek using the bridge). And there’s plenty of evidence that children have been here. There are pictures attached to a tree on one side of the creek, and a small Santa Claus hanging from a twig on the other side of the creek. There’s a small hole in the bridge, which has had various things left in it: small cups, saucers, and other tableware, plus some letters to the fairies. This time I did get a record of one of them:

Letter left at the Fairy Bridge

I love this letter for the innocent confidence it shows that the fairies really exist. They have been missed. The child is bursting to ask them questions. And the questions themselves: From an almost scientific question of how the fairies manage to travel between different places, to more general questions about what life looks like as a fairy. Really, it shows a child trying to understand the fairy world and how it compares with our own world. Apparently the letters get cleared out from time to time, but there are more pictures of letters at the bridge here.

So there’s three simple but lovely examples. I have some more examples from the intersection of fiction and real life, but they will have to wait for another post (edit: more examples, some conclusions).