A much-loved fairy tree in North Lancing has been reinstated with a more eco-friendly ethos.
There was dismay from many residents after the fairy tree, which has captured the imaginations of many children since it was set up three years ago, was stripped bare.
Countless drawings, letters, flowers and gifts had been attached to the tree, near Lancing Leisure Centre, since Hayley Rogers set it up in July, 2015.
But the mother-of-two was heartbroken to find last week that someone or some people had stripped the tree bare, removing all the items, in an act – a note left behind explained – driven by environmental concerns.
She said: “This is such a disappointing thing to have happened to such a magical place.”
An outpouring of support for the fairy tree followed on social media, with many families describing how much it had meant to their children.
Resident Lisa Bond wrote: “My little boy wished that I found a prince at the fairy tree and then three years later my now fiancé proposed to me there in May this year...completely gutted.”
Clare Greaves wrote: “I visited often with children I childmind - and I know lots of my co-minders did to.
“I only visited a couple of weeks ago.
“The little ones love it and feel the magic, it’s wonderful to watch them exploring and listening out for the fairies.”
Victoria Emerson wrote: “Magical experiences like that are few and so to destroy something like that without looking to simply work with the organisers is simply shocking.
“What a wonderful opportunity it would have been to use it as a tool for educating little ones in a magical setting.”
Hayley said: “We have had an overwhelming positive response through our Facebook page, and are truly humbled at the love that we and the fairies have been shown.”
Whoever had cleared away the items had also left a note at the tree, which was signed from ‘the fairy’.
Written in verse, the note read: “My friends are the creatures who live in the wood, but foil, glitter and plastic all do them no good, so my message to all is really quite clear, please don’t leave harmful things like that here.”
Hayley said: “It just seems like a certain individual or organisation didn’t feel that it was environmentally friendly enough for them and made a decision for the whole community.”
But Manor ward councillor Carol Albury said she had been in contact as to why the items were removed and said: “I really don’t think this was meant to upset.
“No one wants to destroy this magical tree, but it is in an open nature reserve and all that is being asked is that plastic, tinsel and glitter that is harmful to wildlife is not included.
“Pictures that can attached by the string that is around the tree, or natural gifts, feathers, painted cones, pebbles etc the fairies would love.”
Many residents agreed that plastic and other harmful items should be removed.
Commenting online, Belinda Hussein wrote: “Pleased the broken plastic has gone, sad the natural stuff got taken. Looking forward to it coming back bigger and better but with natural stuff only.”
Hayley, determined that the magic of the fairy tree would not be lost forever, began work to reinstate the tree last weekend, pledging that it would from now on be more eco-friendly.
She said of the note-leaver: “We have taken their concerns onboard, and we hope that we can work towards being more eco-friendly.”
Some of the hard-carved wooden doors and windows have now been replaced.
Hayley said: “The fairy tree is back and will be there for children and families to enjoy for years to come.”
Hayley has also been working with Sompting Big Local and Sussex Forest Activities to arrange a free community Fairy Tree Play Date, to which residents young and old are invited.