Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue of the International Gnome Club Newsletter.
Ann Atkin is our club’s founder and an inspiration to everyone who loves gnomes all around the world. She and her family ran The Gnome Reserve for over 40 years, which is a place that I had the pleasure of visiting during my honeymoon in 2015. Well, the Atkin family has finally decided to “call it a day” in running the Gnome Reserve and recently sold the property as private house. While you can no longer visit the beloved Gnome Reserve in all its glory any longer, the good news is that the gnomes have relocated to the Merry Harriers Garden Centre, which is a family-run business just a few miles away.
Running the Gnome Reserve was so very enjoyable for Ann and her family members, Richard and Margaret, but also a lot of hard work and everyone is getting older – we can all relate to that! To learn more about this big transition, I asked our very own Ann Atkin a few questions about how all of this came to be.
“I had the most wonderful 42 years with The Gnome Reserve, including The Wildflower Garden and making little pottery pixies daily in The Pixie Kiln, which our visitors (adults and children) liked to take home with them as well as prints of my paintings – landscapes inhabited by gnomes, landscapes inhabited by fairies and some with birds,” Ann said.
When I asked Ann about keeping some of the gnomes from her collection for herself, she said that she still has one gnome – a little painted bronze one with an open umbrella, which she is very fond of. However, the bulk of her collection has now made its way to Merry Harriers.
“As I say, they were 42 really happy years…and I miss it all very much especially the visitors,” Ann said. “We used to loan visitors gnome hats so they could forget about any cares of the world, put on their gnome hats and just be at one with the gnomes (and fairies in The Wild Flower Garden) and the trees, the stream running through the woodland, the birds, mosses, flowers, and nature. Some of the visitors came just once while on holiday, but lots of them came perhaps every year – and that was so very enjoyable.”
Merry Harriers has now welcomed The Gnome Reserve’s 2,000+ residents so you can visit many of them here in the gardens! This local business in the UK sells plants, garden products, furniture, and even has an onsite restaurant. The Merry Harriers staff was unavailable to be interviewed for this article. But I hope to connect with them and feature their business and their new home for the gnomes in a future issue of Gnome News.
“It is cheering that Merry Harriers is keeping it going… and I think I shall help them there for about 3 days a week!” Ann said.
I think it’s amazing that Ann will be able to stay involved with her gnomes in their new home and that her collection will be largely kept together for many more people to come see and enjoy. Hopefully one day soon, I will get back to the UK and can visit them at Merry Harriers. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite Gnome Reserve photos to reminisce about old times. I wish Ann, her family, and the Gnome Reserve gnomes all the best in during this transition and their next phase of life!