What would you do with 4 acres in North Devon? Artist Anne Atkins created a gnome reserve with more than 2000 garden gnomes – a veritable gnome village if you will. And, an adjoining wildflower trail (free space for the gnomes to frolic?). One of the quirkiest places to visit in North Devon, this gnome world makes a great family day out. Sort of like the Elf Garden in Iceland, my kids thoroughly enjoyed their time. We met a few families who were return visitors so clearly this gnome world in Devon is a popular attraction.
The Gnome reserve and wildflower trail is a quirky quintessentially English experience. For a child, it’s a world of romping in forests and magical mystery adventures that Enid Blyton would recognise. For an adult, the gnome world is English eccentricity in all of its random yet harmless outrageousness.
Founded in 1979 by trained artist Ann Atkins, the Gnome Reserve and wildflower garden is a charming place tucked away in a corner of North Devon. Ann mans the visitor centre and her family operate the gnome village and wildflower centre. She seems to be about 80 years old so she clearly is enjoying her work if she’s still doing it almost 4 decades later.
The Gnome Reserve has a lot of appearances on television and in books. We’re talking more than 70 times! Ann’s art and prints are located in collections around the world.
Not only does Ann create the gnomes, Ann paints magical scenes of fairies and pixies that are sold in the gift shop. Of course, my daughter got a painting for her room and my son got a gnome with an Arsenal shirt for his favourite football team.
This visitor attraction will be part of the 25,000 people who visit annually. Like my kids, these are also the same sort of people who have seen Gnomeo and Juliet several times.
The Gnome reserve has a small visitor centre which has a gift store where you can watch Anne Atkins work on her projects in between tending to her visitors.
You can also see displays of some antique gnomes and grab some snacks to tide you over after walking four whole acres. British snacks of course involve cream tea, sandwiches and Ribena.
Did you know that the world’s most expensive garden gnome is insured for 1 million pounds and is stored in a bank vault? Try and snicker at that if you will.
Be prepared to don a gnome hat to visit the gnomes. It’s only polite to fit in with the locals.
Sheltered among the trees, the 2000+ gnomes are busy going about their business whether it’s fishing or practicing for the London Olympics. Amidst the gnomes, you get other cute creatures such as bunnies.
Fishing for stones makes for a nice interactive activity. Of course, my kids made it a competition to see who could get the most stones.
Ann has so many gnomes her collection has entered the Guinness Book of World Records.
A Gnome World Gallery
Who knew gnomes could do everything that a person can do? My daughter decided her favourite gnome was the one practicing yoga and my son’s favourite was the one doing karate.
I have to be honest I expected more flowers in the wildflower trail sort of like a wildflower meadow. It could have been the season, but the wildflowers we saw were more plants that were clearly labelled.
In fact, there were more than 200+ types of British wildflowers which are all labelled. I have heard of many of the plants but had never seen them in real life. Or, if I did I didn’t know what they were!
For example, you hear about spearmint all the time as a chewing gum flavour but it was interesting to see (and to smell) the real plant.
A wildflower quiz kept the kids attention well.
Visiting The Gnome Reserve Devon
The Gnome Reserve Devon is located in West Putford, near Bradworthy (a few miles from Closely) and near the border with Cornwall. It is open 7 days a week from March through October. Check out the Gnome Reserve Devon for costs and times.
Dogs are allowed in the reserve on leads. The narrow paths could be difficult with wheelchairs but fine with baby buggies.
We stayed at the Saunton Sands Hotel, a great family-friendly four-star hotel, approximately 45 minutes away by car from the gnome reserve.
What do you think? Would you or your family enjoy a visit to the world’s first Gnome Reserve?
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