by Pauline Stewart
In the age old story of Uncle Tom’s cabin, there is a little girl called Topsy. She likes to sit on old Uncle Tom’s knee and listen to stories. He asks her where she has come from, Topsy replies, “I just grew” Tim Martin, a grandfather himself, who is the one who made and placed these fairy tale houses, says, “That’s what has happened to the fairy houses; they have just ‘grown like Topsy’.”
The Informer printed a story about the fairy houses (7 February) in the macrocarpa tree on Buffalo Beach Road, Whitianga, also at the Esplanade playground, and at the Pheonix Palm along the Buffalo Beach front path. To Holly Shan, the writer, they were a delightful mystery, but to quite a few locals, it was easy to recognise that this was the work of Tim Martin.
Tim explains that the story of the fairy houses in the macrocarpa tree started when the bollards were erected at the small reserve on Buffalo Beach Road and the old macrocarpa tree, a feature of the small reserve, had received a much needed trim. There was a quite a public outcry at the appearance of the bollards because they blocked access for boats, riders, swimmers, in fact, any kind of parking by families to actually enjoy the reserve. In response to this, the bollards were moved promptly to a more amenable position and the grass was planted up, welcoming back the public.
Sue Costello, who is part of the of the Thames Coromandel District Council Parks and Open Spaces team, knowing of Tim’s work elsewhere, suggested that he might use his skill with fairy tales to create some ‘wonder and wander’ time around that tree. She felt that the tree ‘totally lends itself to the fairy community.’ So Tim constructed some little fairy houses, just right for a child’s imagination and skilfully placed them so they nestled in the crevices of the cherished macrocarpa. Sue explains that the idea is to ensure children are engaged in the open spaces in terms of physical play and their imaginations. She had first seen Tim’s creative and skilled workmanship at the Whiti Markets and had asked him if he might install the first community of fairy houses at the then new playground on the Esplanade, and another one followed at the Pheonix Palm along the beach front path.
When asked how and where it all started, Tim smiles, “You could say, I have been “hobnobbing” with fairies for several years. About eight years ago, I wanted to create something for my two granddaughters. My daughter lives here on the Coromandel, and she asked me if I could make something for them. I don’t mind saying, my first attempts were not so wonderful. I would be embarrassed to show anyone those. However, I was brought up on fairy tales by my mother. She was very artistic too and perhaps her story telling and her imagination rubbed off on me. I grew to love the stories and of course, I passed them on to my daughter.”
There are other places Tim has been at work. The gardener who tends the gardens and landscaping for the Whitianga Medical Centre asked Tim if he could create something suitable for the pohutakawa tree outside the premises. Tim has also done some ‘fairy house’ creations for Central Kids Mercury Bay Kindergarten in Eyre Street and the Steiner School in Racecourse Road.
There is no photo here of Tim, only his work. Let’s keep some of the mystery.
Several passers by - joggers, walkers, dog walkers have commented to The Informer since the article about the fairy house trees . All have said how they lift the spirit, bring a smile, and some have commented “I want to bring my kids to see them.”