As we emerge from social isolation and consider exploring our own backyard, Western Australia’s Ferguson Valley has a little secret it’s looking forward to sharing with us. Under two hours south-east of Perth, Gnomesville had garnered an impressive reputation around the world mushrooming from a single garden gnome left in the hollow of a tree, Now a thriving, albeit static, community, it’s keen to find a spot on our bucket lists. A local “Game of Gnomes” destination rather than “Game of Thrones” usual locations in Croatia, Iceland and Malta.
On the Road to Gnomewhere…..
Heading south, the road from Perth cuts through broad swathes of grassland tanning under a sun-drenched sky. Traveling through Pinjara and on to Waroona, a neat country town of modest municipal buildings that shelters under blooming jacaranda trees, we enter rich dairy and cattle country. Around 140km from Perth, Harvey and its famous cheese centre is the perfect pit-stop for a free tasting of savoury firm and fetta cheeses and a gelati cone from the G Spot Ice Cream counter. From here, we pass the expansive Harvey Springs Estate Winery where vines braid the hillsides and Angus cattle, corralled by neat white fences, graze on still-lush farmland. Swinging left onto Henty Road, a bitumen strip slices arrow-straight through fields of neatly baled hay where tree branches, lit by sun-dappled light, cast swaying shadows in the soft breeze. Entering the Ferguson Valley, the land falls away in gentle folds revealing then concealing immense vistas punctuated by vineyards grouped together for easy tourism stops. And then at the end of the road at the junction of Wellington Mill and Ferguson Roads, there they are, standing on leaf litter and tree bark, peering out between stems of tall grass and looking for all the world like a weekend get-together in a rural country town.
Better Gnomes and Gardens
Gnomesville began around a decade ago when local resident, Kathleen Kelsley decided that a hollow at the base of a large redgum tree was the perfect home for her gnome. Another local, Tony Crowder, thought this it needed a name and so the first sign, “Dun Gnoming” was hung over the hollow. Little did they know that these simple gestures would, over the years, capture the public imagination and spawn a village that now numbers around 10,000 curious creatures. Gnomes started to quietly appear overnight and visitors from Australia and overseas began the pilgrimage to Gnomesville.
An old meter box was the first piece of infrastructure becoming the Gnomesville Garage. Now, entire gnome families nestle under signs reading “Gnome Sweet Gnome” and “Only the Gnomely”. Vast red-hatted numbers line Gnomesville’s ‘streets’ staring as sightlessly as Easter Island statues while others with surf boards and beach thongs appear ready to hit the waves. Eyes twinkling, smiles fixed, there’s something a little spooky about the way they cluster in the sun-lit bush land, silent folk watching as we stroll past the jolly gnome in a large hat holding a ‘Welcome’ sign.
Wandering the path, we encounter black-clad biker gnomes wearing ‘Born to Ride’ t.shirts while another – could that be Celine DeGnome? – wears a frosted wig and sparkly sunglasses. There are plenty of classic pipe-smoking, bespectacled gnomes with cheeky smiles and snub noses, some picnic under trees others occupy high-rise housing estates or ascend, row upon row, into tall trees for a better view. If Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen or Cersei Lannister are here, they are well hidden and whilst none belong to the House of Stark, many are inscribed with the family names of visitors who have come to add their geo-gnomes to this magical collection.