There’s Gnome Place Like Gnomesville
Gnomesville. Where all the travelling gnomes go
What is it with gnomes? Do we love them, are they just this mystery of life, are they the disregarded elements of life … there to help but not rewarded?
There was a property in the south east of Tasmania, down at the Tasman Peninsula near Dunalley I think it was.
The farmhouse was about 60 metres from the road and there right along the driveway were gnomes … all sorts of gnomes and ornaments.
I thought I had seen it all … until I headed west.
A night flight from Brisbane to Perth saw me reading up some notes on places to go, things to do on a short time in Western Australia.
One of these was a visit to Gnomesville.
What? I need to see this. I’m told it’s down in the Ferguson Valley, a couple of hours south of Perth and about 30 minutes inland from Bunbury.
That’s where I have met Pete and Kay, who moved west from Queensland as they have a son working in the mines in the north-west of WA.
“Gnomesville? It started from nothing,’’ Pete tells me. “But it’s just grown and grown.
“It suffered in the storms but it’s back bigger than ever.
“Apparently there were some complaints about the intrusion of the gnomes onto the landscape. Yet I never seen anything like it.’’
He then tells me about when his son was in the navy they would kidnap gnomes from the homes of friends.
Take them on the ship, on a journey overseas.
They would send postcards of the gnomes in exotic places … enjoying the beaches in Hawaii, climbing the mountains in Nepal.
And then bring them back home.
Gnomesville is something like that I guess. Maybe in reverse.
People take their favourite gnomes to this isolated valley and drop them off, to be among fellow gnomes.
The drive out through Dardanup is pleasant in the extreme – dairy farms and wineries.
The Moody Cow Brewery has a name for craft beers and food. St Aidens Winery is a favourite of locals … and the little cemetery near it. Picturesque.
Then at Wellington you start looking at the map. Just where is Gnomesville?
Lots of trees and rivers as well as a significant dam in the state forest. There’s a signpost to a giant kauri tree.
In 1881 a timber mill was established in the area and Wellington Mill became the largest private timber town in Western Australia.
The timber mills closed in 1929 and a fire destroyed most of the town in 1950.
Next to the site of the old Wellington Mill is a sign: Gnomesville one and a half kilometres.
Suddenly, it’s just there … no service station or coffee shop on the roundabout. Just in the trees along the roadside.
There are a couple of others cars pulled over to a small parking area … and thousands of gnomes.
People from across Australia and throughout the world have stopped by and left a gnome or a family of gnomes here. Sometimes with messages attached, others with such sayings as: The Gnoman Empire, the MetroGnome, Gnomely Child, Funeral Gnome, Gnome for Wayward Youths, Sherlock Gnomes, Gnomeo and Juliet, and the Gastro-Gnome.
Imaginations have really run wild.
Only The Gnomely, and one dressed like Elvis Presley.
It was only recently I found seven in the garage roof at home, from my daughter’s younger days.
In that half light of the garage ceiling they definitely had a creepy, almost sinister look .. but I suppose we all would if we had been locked away for more than a dozen years.
Seven dwarfs. Oh, I have just realised … there is a difference between dwarfs and gnomes – or is there?
“Definitely not the same,’’ a university lecturer tells me. “Gnomes belong in a garden and dwarves are real.
“I have a gnome but he looks very sad. He’s reading a book.
“The thing about gnomes is, you have to be careful what you say because you never know when someone might be a closet gnome fan.’’
But is that the definitive answer … even from a university lecturer?
Gnomes have this mystic aura surrounding them.
According to Evelyn H Armstrong, writing for Boredom Therapy, gnomes used to be real people the rich hired as decorations.
The practice dates back to 18th century England and the rich had ornamental hermits living on their property.
Building a small hut for a sad-looking hermit, who was let live free of charge, gave landowners a chance to showcase their passions for solitude and wealth.
But the small statue of a dwarf-like character, often bearded, and nowdays placed in a garden, seems to have its origins much earlier.
In mythology a gnome is said to be of a legendary race of human-like beings, usually imagined as short and possibly bearded males, who inhabit the inner parts of the earth and act as guardians of mines, mineral treasure and the like.
So, I can see where the confusion about dwarfs and gnomes may come from.
In the story of Sleeping Beauty she is cared for by the seven dwarfs who spend their days in a mine.
At Gnomesville, be prepared to take time to walk around the roughly formed paths and reflect on what you are seeing. There are even memorials to family members.
You find yourself quietly walking among them in … respectful.
Just the sigh of the breeze in the trees. There is a poignancy about it.
Some of the older gnomes have not weathered well with age, some are brittle to the touch.
There are gnomes on bikes, gnomes in planes, gnomes playing soccer and playing hockey.
Many are dressed in Australian rules football club colours.
There’s a nativity scene, chess boards … one who survived a bush fire, another who travelled from the USA.
Quirky, traditional, imaginative – gnomes of all shapes and sizes. And so many are telling the stories of families.
Whatever way you look at it, Gnomesville brings a sense of wonderment to the young and old alike.
They can give hope … to those alone, to those with an illness. They remind you miracles can come true.
Is there anything better than to make a child happy, even for just a day.
THE STORY SO FAR
The story starts when Ferguson Valley local Vicki Campbell saw new surveying pegs and found out that the old couple on the south side were to have some of their land annexed for a new T junction.
There was much concern about this T junction, not only from the land to be taken but also from the T being at the bottom of a hill.
A public meeting with the Shire and landholders outlined the objections and a decision was made to consider a roundabout. Eventually this came to pass but tensions still remained.
At this time the first gnome appeared. No one put it there. Vicki is quite clear about this.
This was the gnome of legend. It was first seen in the hollowed out old tree next to the roundabout.
It wasn’t long before other gnomes joined in this silent protest.
In the early years, vandalism was a problem. Of course as it became known that hurting a gnome brought bad luck, so this no longer an issue.
After a while it seemed that improvements were needed to the village. At this stage Vicki’s husband, Kevin stepped in. With gravel, wood kerbing and some chainsawing, the village took shape.
Kevin worked tirelessly in his trademarks thongs and shorts but sadly passed away.
He is remembered by a post with a plaque and a pair of thongs in bronze near the site of the first gnome’s appearance.