Following a recent visit to the sublime Gnome Reserve between Bideford and Bude in North Devon it was great to see this guest article submitted by Estelle Page who is a thirty something interior designer.  You are most likely to find Estelle taking in the scenery at a local garden show or painting a delightful scene at a nearby National Trust home.  In this article PR Estelle Logic looks at the strange phenomenon of the travelling gnome, and why these little men continue to have a place in the heart of Great British garden owners.

English Gnome Sunbathing at Gnome Reserve North Devon

Garden ornaments have had something of a makeover in recent years. Stone and steel structures are popular, and ornaments in the shape of Buddha’s, angels, cherubs and small animals are widespread. But I don’t think anything can beat the uniqueness and kitsch-ness of a garden gnome.

It’s something about their cheeky little faces, their humanoid character and their colourful clothes that is both whimsical, yet so real. This is made never more evident as those stories you hear of in the news every so often of gnomes that have jetted off round the world – leaving their owners aghast!

Image by kmoney56

Gnome in sixty seconds

One example of this is Murphy, owned by Mr & Mrs Stuart-Kelso from Gloucester for over ten years. He guarded their sheds and looked over their pond for all that time, like a loyal 10 inch high leprechaun should.

One day, Mrs Stuart-Kelso came out into the garden to find Murphy gone. Of course, she jumped to the conclusion that some cruel robbers had got away with him, and he was never to be seen again.

Image by HarshLight

However, just 11 months after his disappearance, she found Murphy back in the exact same spot, along with a mysterious parcel. On closer inspection, she found a photo album full of photos of Murphy in wonderful places around the world, including the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal and Sydney Opera House. He had also been on quite a few active adventures, including shark diving in South Africa and glacier climbing in New Zealand.

He even had a small passport with immigration stamps in it, to prove this wasn’t an evil hoax. Don’t you just love gnomes – you wouldn’t have got that from a fake plastic heron.

Where do gnomes come from?

German model maker Philip Griebel is the first recorded master of gnomes, starting to produce them in the mid nineteenth century. The impish characters, wearing human clothing and usually with a beard and floppy hat, were believed by people at the time to ward off evil spirits.

But it was Briton Sir Charles Isham who spotted their potential on his travels and decided to bring them to Blighty. He brought some home to liven up his extensive lawns back in 1847. One of the original prototypes (made of terracotta) still stands at Lamport Hall, Northampton and is valued at over £2 million!

Choose your gnome!

Gnomes are cheerful and industrious little fellas. Some have wheel barrows, fishing rods, nails, painting equipment or spades. They can be sitting down, lying down or standing up.

They can also be actually useful. Some have been designed to hold a solar light so that you can have an amusing conversation starter at your garden BBQ. Gnomes can be made to carry bird feed, or a bird bath to add interest. They can also be found in made of wax, as a candle to be burnt.

But the best one I’ve found is one called the mini-world traveller, with sturdy boots and a rucksack on his back. He must be a mate of Murphy’s! Be sure to pick him up of you’re passing.