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FAIRIES have been dancing in the garden of a Staverton couple, according to ancient English folklore.
A large fairy circle has appeared in the lawn of Tom and Sue Gaylard's home in School Lane. Mrs Gaylard, 85, said: "It amazed me. I had never heard of it or seen anything like it before and I couldn't believe it."
The perfect ring of mushrooms, know as a fairy or pixie circle, first appeared about three years ago and has re-appeared annually, each time getting bigger.
Mr Gaylard, an 85-year-old retired railway worker, has lived in Staverton with his wife for more than 20 years.
He said: "We don't believe in fairies of course but it is known as that. We didn't really pay much attention to it but then our daughter-in-law saw it and ran out to make a wish in it."
In times gone past the rings, some of which are hundreds of years old, defied explanation spawning a host of legends in countries around the world to explain their presence.
In English folklore the rings were said to be caused by fairies dancing in a circle, wearing down the grass beneath their feet. Toads would then sit on the worn down areas, poisoning it and allowing the fungus to grow - hence the name toadstool.
In Sussex, fairy rings were called hag tracks', while in Devon it was believed that fairies would catch young horses in the night and ride them round in circles.
In Denmark elves have been traditionally blamed for the rings while in parts of Austria they were thought to be the result of land being scorched by the breath of dragons.
The rings are in fact naturally occurring circles of fungi that can grow up to 10 metres in diameter. They are caused by fungi under the ground casting out spores in a circular pattern resulting in the distinctive ring.
In some cases the fungi remain underground and the ring is marked by discoloured patches of grass.
The circles, which can appear anywhere, can be formed by an estimated 50 different species of mushrooms and toadstools.
Most cultures regard the rings as lucky, with their benefits as diverse as granting wishes to improve your looks.
Although their true origins have been known since the 18th century the circles are still regarded as a fascinating phenomenon of the natural world.
FAIRY FACT FILE:
- Tinkerbell: Created by author JM Barrie, she inhabited Neverland with the Lost Boys in his famous tale of Peter Pan
- Oberon and Titania: The fairy king and queen of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
- The tooth fairy: The creature who arrives in the night to take milk teeth left under children's pillows, leaving money in their place.
- Sugar Plum fairy: In folklore they are rarely seen and then only at dawn. They were the inspiration for Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.
- Mavis Cruet: The fat fairy who couldn't fly, part of the now cult children's TV show Wilo the Wisp.