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It’s magic! Norfolk man creates ‘fairy tree’ in front garden in girl’s memory

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:51 19 June 2017

Neil and Jan Rafis, and their granddaughter Poppy Robinson, four, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in their front garden at Wreningham, which Neil made from an oak tree stump. Neil and Jan hope that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Neil and Jan Rafis, and their granddaughter Poppy Robinson, four, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in their front garden at Wreningham, which Neil made from an oak tree stump. Neil and Jan hope that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

When a Norfolk man was left with the 10ft remains of an oak tree in his front garden, he was stumped to know what to do with it.

The 'fairy tree house' is dedicated to Emily Rush, who died aged eight. Picture: Archant LibraryThe 'fairy tree house' is dedicated to Emily Rush, who died aged eight. Picture: Archant Library

But it did not take 57-year-old roofing contractor Neil Rafis long to come up an idea, and he quickly set about putting his building skills to work.

Now the efforts of Mr Rafis’s labours have become an unexpectedly delightful new attraction in the village of Wreningham, where he lives in Ashwellthorpe Road.

With its pitched roof and miniature doors and windows, passers-by have been stopping to take photos of the fairy-story structure, which has been christened Emily’s House.

Mr Rafis said: “There was a 70ft oak tree outside my house, and last June a big branch fell off.

A fairy in one of the windows at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA fairy in one of the windows at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It had a (TPO) tree preservation order on it, but it had a disease and it had to be cut down.

“Then I was left with a 10ft stump. I first put a little roof on it and then it grew from there.”

And Mr Rafis then decided to turn the ‘fairy tree house’ into something which not only put a smile on people’s faces, but also helped others.

He dedicated it to little Emily Rush, who died of a rare type of kidney cancer called Wilms Tumour in December 2015. Mr Rafis is a friend of Emily’s parents, Mick and Julie Apicella, who live near Wisbech.

The Fairies welcome sign at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Fairies welcome sign at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He said young visitors could search the tree for a sweet surprise. Mr Rafis said: “I’ve hidden some lollies around the tree for children to find, and I’ve put up a collection box next to it if their parents want to make a donation.”

He said money donated would to towards East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), which cared for Emily before she died, aged just eight.

Mr Rafis said: “I also thought it would be a nice way of raising awareness of what EACH do.”

He said the tree house had attracted a lot of attention so far. Mr Rafis said: “People have been stopping to take photos with it, and they’re welcome to.

The open front door which reveals lollypops for the children who visit Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe open front door which reveals lollypops for the children who visit Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“The teachers from the local school knocked on the door and asked if the children could come down and draw it, which they did.”

Donations to the appeal can also be made online at uk.virginmoneygiving.com, search for In memory of Emily Rush

READ MORE: Mother’s devastating first day of school photo raises awareness of childhood cancer

One of the doors and a welcome sign at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYOne of the doors and a welcome sign at Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Neil and Jan hope that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEmily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Neil and Jan hope that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A fairy, donated by someone unknown, in one of the windows of Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA fairy, donated by someone unknown, in one of the windows of Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

An owl on the roof of Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAn owl on the roof of Emily's House, the fairy tree in the front garden of Neil and Jan Rafis at Wreningham, made from an oak tree stump. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Poppy Robinson, 4, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in her grandad, Neil Rafis' front garden at Wreningham, which he made from an oak tree stump. Neil hopes that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPoppy Robinson, 4, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in her grandad, Neil Rafis' front garden at Wreningham, which he made from an oak tree stump. Neil hopes that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Neil Rafis, and his granddaughter Poppy Robinson, four, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in his front garden at Wreningham, which he made from an oak tree stump. Neil hopes that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNeil Rafis, and his granddaughter Poppy Robinson, four, with Emily's House, the fairy tree in his front garden at Wreningham, which he made from an oak tree stump. Neil hopes that people will come and visit, take pictures and make a donation to EACH in memory of their friends' daughter, eight-year-old Emily Rush, who died in 2015. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


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