Cultural Wellbeing Grant supports Foss Fairy Trail

As part of York’s Culture Strategy, Make It York, York CVS, and City of York Council have come together to award funding of more than £60,000 to nineteen social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health across the city.  

The grants, which were made available via the Better Care Fund and Ways to Wellbeing, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation, and social distancing. This series of case studies profiles each of the 2021 recipients:  

One of the projects which has been supported by the grants was the Foss Fairy Trail, a public river walk created by Tracy Ostle, to encourage families to discover the magical hidden fairy world on the banks of the river Foss. 

The Foss Fairy Trail allows those walking along the river edge to explore a fairy village and discover the folklore, flora and fauna of the enchanted homes. 

Tracy, the founder of the Fairy Trail, began the project after walking down the river pathway during lockdown and seeing a fairy door leaning against a tree – the little door added magic to an area that had otherwise been neglected and abandoned. 

This little door inspired Tracy to create a series of ‘Nut Huts’ for the local squirrels, and the first of many fairy houses which have now been placed along the river with the aim to make people smile. To date, there are X number of fairy houses and magical installations across the river Foss.  

With the help of local funding, the project has escalated with the support of volunteers and community members, with regular clean-up projects taking place along the riverbed as well as a variety of workshops and children’s events.  

With this support and sheer determination, the Foss Fairy Trail has now become a retreat for many people. Volunteers regularly comment on how the fairy houses and general enhancement of the area have lifted the community as a whole. 

One anonymous volunteer said, “Being a volunteer for the Foss fairy trail really saved me from a dark hole of depression and fear, I felt welcomed into a world of nature and magic, I felt part of a community I can’t begin to say how much that helped me. Volunteering for the fairy trail lifted my depression enough for me to make some good decisions on where to go next in life coming across so many good people inspired me to go back and get Maths and English qualifications and do the thing I always dreamed of – going to university to study art. The Foss fairy trail volunteering gave me confidence and hope that I could do this. Thanks to the Foss Fairy trail I feel filled with hope in the future once more.” 

Tracy, founder of the Foss Fairy Trail, said, “From what started as a bit of a joke in lockdown, laying down fairy houses to make people smile has now become an increasingly popular river walk with locals and tourists alike.  The area is now providing free fun for families, helps people escape the drudgery of daily life and students sometimes study or sketch there.  I am thrilled that all the hard work myself and the volunteers have put into the project has paid off!  I get such joy from seeing a diverse number of people enjoying themselves, and all for free! You don’t often get that nowadays!” 

“A number of people have approached me when working down the trail and commented on how the changes to the area have helped improve their wellbeing. . . A gentleman homeless alcoholic comes to mind. He often sat on the trail watching people enjoy themselves and would love to have a chat. He bought us some solar fairy lights and said he had been so inspired by the efforts of the trail it had inspired him to become a better person.”  

Tracy has also published her own book ‘Why it all began’ – a tale of the fairies travelling down the river path and interactive with nature watching. All proceeds will go towards the continuation of the Fairy Trail.  

You can also find out more about upcoming Foss Fairy Trail events here

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