Friday, 5 August 2022

Gnome City

This is about the sort of gnomes you find in gardens, but no ordinary collection. The gnomes I'm going to write about lived for a very long time at the Gnome Reserve at West Putford, deep in north-west Devon, halfway between Clovelly and Holsworthy. Opposite at West Putford was a gallery I used to go to, then called the West Gallery. I bought a large glass artwork from them. But I never visited the Gnome Reserve, only a stone's throw away, except once in 2015 when needing to go to the loo: I sneaked in and out very discreetly. There were plenty of people there, so I wasn't noticed. 

An unusual toilet-roll holder. I say nothing.

I did wonder afterwards why anyone would so much fancy the company of sundry gnomes that they'd be prepared to negotiate some desperately narrow and confusing country lanes to reach the Reserve. If the gallery hadn't been there, I don't think I'd have made the effort. You must understand that while I readily admit that gnomes can be engaging, they are not my ruling passion in life. But they clearly are with some. 

So I never toured the Gnome Reserve. And this year, in 2022, I discovered that the owners, who had put together this remarkable collection of all kinds of gnomes over many years, had finally taken retirement and had sold their property. But the gnomes hadn't been made homeless. They had moved. A notice at West Putford told me they had taken up residence at the Merry Harriers Garden Centre near Woolfardisworthy, or Woolsery as it is usually known. (I prefer Woolfardisworthy)

I was mildly intrigued. Enough to go and see. It was a hot day, and this would be something to visit not too far away. A shady place. And perhaps to have a cup of tea at the garden centre. I wasn't at all expecting to be thrilled or entranced. I was thinking more of the photographic possibilities, if there were hundreds of gnomes doing all kinds of stuff. I had LXV primed and ready to shoot. 

The Merry Harriers Garden Centre turned out to be a nice place to visit. It was substantial, well-stocked and attractive. It had a restaurant with an extensive garden attached. And in that garden, reached primarily through the restaurant, was the new location of the Gnome Reserve. But there was also a path from the front of the garden centre straight into the garden. I didn't know that at first, but on asking a mum and her daughter, obviously local customers, the young girl showed me. She told me it was a secret path. 

First though, I had a good look around the garden centre itself. It seemed to have everything. Including these little gnomes for purchase, both traditional and in beach attire:

This was certainly an encouragement, though not as inspirational as the very large and lifelike gnome at the garden centre entrance.

Which brings me to my first puzzle. This gnome looks quite young - about twenty in our terms - and yet sports an old man's white beard. Odd, that. 

So, into the garden. It was very attractive, nicely planted with a central pond and a shady walkway that kept on revealing more and more gnomes in groups, all engaged in some activity. Here are some general views of the garden.

Now for the gnomes. There were so many that I can't do them justice. So I have singled out those that especially caught my attention for one reason or another. They were all sizes, mostly small, but some gnomes were as large as myself. They were all ages too, some with baby faces, and some with mature or very old faces. Regardless, all male gnomes had a white beard. The only beardless gnomes were female, and they were in a definite minority. So I couldn't see how the population was sustained. 

Some gnomes looked wise and knowing, others innocent and childlike, but nearly all of them were extraordinarily cheerful. A gnome's life must be a gas. 

I was surprised at how musical gnomes were. I spotted at least two beat combos.

Albert Hammond's Free Electric Band and Dire Straits' Sultans of Soul sprang to mind. Toe-tapping stuff. Really cool. And some gnomes stood around digging the scene.

Even Gnome Royalty joined in cheerfully, as One does. 

But in quieter corners, gnomes read books, or conversed with animals.

This youngish gnome was blatantly smoking. It looks so odd, a youthful gnome with a pipe hanging from his lips. Perhaps he thought he was Sherlock Holmes.

But I expect this was the limit of Gnome Naughtiness. I doubt if this gnome policeman - apparently the only gnome with a proper job to do - was often called upon to fight crime in the Gnome Reserve.

I was anxious to pose with a willing gnome, and fortunately this fellow agreed to be in the selfie I set up:

I then asked him if I could take a proper shot of him, as a deep character study. He huffed and puffed about that, as he was busy and really couldn't spare the time, but eventually gave in and struck a characteristic pose, which I think reveals his inner nature and garnered wisdom. And thankfully he kept still for the shot.

When is a gnome actually something else? I wondered if this one was in fact a dwarf from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (or Dwarves, surely?):

It wasn't all gnomes. There were animals and fairies too.

As you can see, toadstools galore. The gnomes lived inside the larger ones. (Now why do I think of Fred Flintstone?)

Gnome City.

So there you are. I hope this post will whet your appetite for visiting the Gnome Reserve at the Merry Harriers Garden Centre near Woolsery (or Woolfardisworthy) in North Devon. I couldn't cover it all. There will be additional surprises awaiting you. I appreciate that you might wish to go to other attractions in the vicinity, such as Clovelly, or the Big Sheep. Forget them. Chill out with the gnomes instead.

1 comment:

  1. Thats a lot of gnomes Lucy. Glad to see that they got a new home when the reserve closed.


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