First published 5th June 2006 on

As part of marital therapy I got the hubby to take me to Gnome Magic (anyone who knows the A12 will have seen those beguiling brown signs just outside Colchester and wondered “Just what in tarnation goes on there? I expect it involves gnomes, but where is the magic?”). I’d become even more tantalised when I caught a glimpse of an oversized gnome perched on a pole – apparently fishing whilst nowhere near a lake. It had to be done. Hubby and I arrived to an empty car park and our erstwhile bravado deserted us, so we had a calming fag – during which time two carloads of families arrived so we took the plunge and went through the alley of dreams to find a very nice cafe full of fabulous cakes run by a very friendly lady who asked if we just wanted drinks there or whether we wanted to pay to go into the garden. So there was a choice! Wow! And considering there’s a lot of gnomes in the cafe too – it seems like a bargain introduction to the world of gnome. However we’d come so far already and so we paid for the garden experience – but not before chatting to our charming hostess about the place (she said a lot of people like us had just popped in out of curiosity – had they ever left??!!!) – and letting her show us the gnomes she made for local schoolchildren to paint – including a rather cool terminator gnome.

The gardens were absolutely gorgeous and there were little labels to say which plants were which – so had I been a gardening geek the £4 entry fee would have been worth it already. There’s over 4 acres land there – so it’s a nice stroll, although when you enter the woodland you enter the domain of the gnomes.(Less scary than the shambling gardener bloke we kept bumping into).

Of which there are all sorts – some rather randomly placed, some naff (I liked the flying supergnome) some with bizarre badly worded faux political messages displayed near them (apparently gnome land is ruled by some sort of facist dictator and the tired labourers are close to revolution – one caption near some gnome gardeners bizarrely read “Chancellor’s New Strategy ‘Work until you drop'”- these gnomes aren’t happy). The “Teddy Blair’s picnic” consisted of a bunch of Rupert Bear gnomes sitting around what appeared to be an old ludo board. There were armies of pixies with their leaders sitting on mushrooms looking stoned. Gnomes riding pigs. Gnome perverts hiding in the bushes with binoculars. All this and lots of little wendy houses too – I felt like I’d found my spiritual home in some respects. I did ask the nice lady why they didn’t advertise the fact that people could just use the cafe – but it seemed like they didn’t want TOO much publicity (presumably it would disturb the inhabitants of the wood) – and were content to keep their custom to the occasional weirdo and gawker.

So if you ever see that sign off the A12 and feel curious – go for it – it’s definitely worth it. As the sign outside says “Gardens! Gnomes in Woodland! Refreshments! Gnome sales!” And it does what it says on the tin.