Enchanted Forest brings delight

KINDNESS: A castle is the latest addition to Methven’s Enchanted Forest, made by Sonia and Athol McAlpine.
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If you have had the pleasure of strolling through the section of the Methven Walkway running alongside the Mt Harding Racecourse, you will have noticed many attractions throughout.

This is all thanks to the hard work and kindness of Methven residents Sonia and Athol McAlpine.

The seeds of the idea sprouted during Covid, when the couple decorated and built up an old tree stump outside their home to look like a miniature house. They soon noticed it became fascinating for a lot of children passing by.

Once the Methven Lions Club finished refurbishment of that section of the walkway, located off the Methven Highway, Sonia thought it might be a good idea to place a few dreamlike secret doors along the path to help people’s wellbeing.

“The number of things for people to see and do outside is a good thing,” Sonia said.

Of course, you can’t always please everyone and the odd complaint was posted on a Facebook community page, insisting the forest remain natural. But the vast majority of the locals were behind it and even the district council has shown its support as long as no plastic is used.

It was 2021 when the first door was put in and very soon after the wooded area became known by the community as the Enchanted Forest.

Sonia works for Harmer Earthmoving during the day. She designs the Enchanted Forest attractions, while Athol, who retired in January, uses pallet wood to build the features. They fund the project themselves.

“It’s a labour of love, it is so pleasing to see children get excited and shouting ‘Here’s another one’,” Athol said.

Now there is about 100 doors, and a complete variety of other items including gnomes, bunnies and signs. The newest addition is an enchanted castle, which was installed a couple of weeks before the Methven & Foothills Walking Festival over Easter.

Sonia and Athol are now at the stage where they have no intention of adding more items. It’s just a case of making regular checks and maintaining the existing features.

The Enchanted Forest is on part of the Methven Walkway next to the Mt Harding Racecourse.

There is also the danger of damage, and the odd bunny ear has been ripped off over time and also a glass mirror has been broken on two occasions. Ashburton Glass has come to the rescue on both occasions, kindly replacing the mirrors for free.

Athol gave praise to the community for all its support and respect for the features.

“Things like the gnomes would be up on Trademe and there would be a lot of damage throughout in most other regions, but it’s not the case in Methven,” Athol said.