This past June, one of my ultimate quirky travel dreams came true in the English countryside. In the midst of a three-week Eurotrip, we went well out of our way to visit the Gnome Reserve in North Devon.
Ann Atkin has been an idol of mine for many years. She holds the world record for having the most gnomes (at least 2,042) and she started the International Gnome Club, which I write newsletter articles for.
To get here from Bristol, the “roads” were more like treacherous and death-defying hedge mazes.
But a tiny sign with a friendly face finally appeared to reassure me and my wonderfully gnome-tolerant husband that we were on the right path.There’s no other way to describe this experience but euphoric. Believe it or not, this place is visited by around 25,000 people each year, and I couldn’t believe I was finally one of them.
But first order of business…a gnome hat!
It is requested that all Gnome Reserve guests wear gnome hats while they tour the magical four-acre wonderland. You wouldn’t want to offend the gnomes with your bare, ugly head, now would you?
Ann’s collection has been featured on TV and in magazine tons of times and she’s pretty much the worldwide expert on the subject. I’m working my way up that ladder though, don’t you worry.
The reserve is a wonderful place for a casual stroll, and there’s something new and exciting to see around every corner. Lots of pointing and squealing took place, as you can imagine.
Followed by some light fishing for stones in the gnomes’ dried-up pond.
Everyone you could want to be here was here. There were spacemen gnomes, pilot gnomes, and eating and drinking gnomes, as pictured here. Not particularly known for healthy habits, these lil’ guys were enjoying a feast of cake and wine. I can support that.
There were even a few rare racially diverse gnomes living on the property!Gnome races were taking place in another section of the reserve. I always place my bets on the one with the red hat.
And even a gnome chess tournament was taking place! Perhaps that chess board could use a little dusting off though, wouldn’t ya say?
Siegfried is the oldest gnome in the Gnome Reserve, and Ann sculpted him herself back in the late 70s!One of my all-time favorite gnome scenes here was the fishing scene. While I was only able to fish for stones earlier, these guys got real flowing water and some seriously serene scenery.
But the #1 highlight of my visit was getting to meet Ann. It was a weekday morning that we visited and not too crowded, so I was able to chat with her a while about gnomes and such.Ann is a skilled artist and sells her paintings (prices start at £5) and pixie figurines in the entrance building of the Gnome Reserve.
If all this gnoming makes you crave some refreshment, you can order sandwiches and cream teas from the Gnome Kitchen. There’s a little picnic area to hang out in for a while to savor the experience a little longer.
But there’s more! I know you’re wondering, “But HOW? How could there be any more to life than THIS?!”
Well there’s a wildflower garden here as well that Ann encouraged me to tour and view the labeled species of herbs, wildflowers, and grasses. There was even a quiz! Yep, I missed a few. This area is more nature-themed rather than gnome-themed, and full of fairies and pixies, but it was still a very lovely little activity.
Before heading back to the car and sadly leaving my new-found gnome friends behind, I browsed the gift shop for a few treasures to take back home with me. I bought four of Ann’s handmade pixies/gnomes and one of her gnome-themed paintings. And also a couple cups of locally-made ice cream to celebrate this awesome day.
I’d been wanting to visit this gnome mecca since I first heard about it 5+ years ago and it totally lived up to the hype. I wish the nearly 80-year-old Ann all the best as she continues to take the gnome world by storm and be an inspiration for gnome lovers worldwide.
The Gnome Reserve is typically open between March 21 and October 31 between 10 am and 5 pm daily. Adult admission is £3.75, and it’s definitely worth it…even if you’re not an obsessed fanatic like me.