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The Gnomes of Wollaton Park

I am sure that it would surprise a great many people to be told that there have been fairies, gnomes and elves seen in Nottingham in quite recent times. The most famous incident was in the late September of 1979. This took place in Wollaton Park, which is the extensive grassland, studded with trees, which surrounds stately Wollaton Hall, home of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises  :

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Wollaton Park is in the centre of Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

wollo general

I do not know the exact place where the fairies and gnomes were seen, but I suspect that it was probably here. Again, look for the orange arrow:

possibly here

This location fits in quite well with details I have found, namely, “near the lake”, “swampy”, “near an exit from the park” and “near a fenced off nature reserve”. The most frequently quoted directions are “in a rather wet area down by the lake”. Here is the Lake. The orange arrow points to the place where doting parents take their children to feed the ducks and fight off the Canada Geese:

lake close up

The little elvish creatures were seen by a small group of children between eight and ten years of age who were playing in a swampy section of the park. The children were Angie and her brother Glen and her sister Julie. There was also Andrew and Rosie who were brother and sister, and Patrick. Here are just some of the sixty gnomes:

gnomes-376967

The children were playing just as dusk was falling, around half past eight. The light was deteriorating but it was still bright enough to see. The children’s attention was attracted by something that sounded like a bell. They saw a throng of around sixty little gnome like men coming out of an area of woodland and bushes which had been fenced off to prevent the general public from entering. The little men were riding in small bubble-like vehicles. These cars were completely silent but they were very quick and could jump and skip over anything in their way such as fallen trees or branches.
Down near the lake they seemed to be enjoying riding over the marshy swampy area, and a few of them chased the children towards the exit gate from the park, just in play, though, not aggressively.

gnome vbnm

The little men were just half the size of the children, around two feet tall. They all had wrinkled faces, perhaps with a greenish tinge and long white beards, tipped with red. Sometimes they laughed in a strange way. On their little heads, they were wearing what the children described as caps like old-fashioned nightcaps. They were just like what Noddy used to wear, with a little bobble on the very end:

noddy

They had blue tops and yellow or green tights or pants. Despite the encroaching darkness, the children were able to see them all plainly. Patrick explained to the Headmaster: “I could see them in the dark. They all showed up.”:

Vintage gnome garden statuette.

The children watched them for about a quarter of an hour, as the men drove round in their little cars. Each of the fifteen cars carried two little men. They did not have steering wheels but some kind of circular device with a tiny handle to turn it. The little men also were climbing up into the surrounding trees, going into and emerging from, holes in the trunk or branches. All of the children felt that they had somehow surprised the little men, who usually would only have come out after night fell. Eventually, the children all ran away, because it was getting late. The little men had not been threatening or aggressive.
The adults who subsequently heard their stories thought that the little group of children were all telling lies, but the children were completely unwavering in their belief that they had seen what they said they had seen. Furthermore, they had seen the little men previously, during the six weeks of the long summer holiday from school. Some were at the lake, but others were at the Gnomes Anonymous, anti-Alcoholism Group:

beer garden gnome

The day after they returned to school, their Headmaster questioned them all separately and recorded their answers on a cassette tape recorder. The children all told, more or less, the same story. Their drawings too, were all very similar:

drawing

The Headmaster’s opinion was that the children were all telling the truth, although, as might be expected, there were minor differences of detail and emphasis between their different accounts. His overall final judgement was that “The children do sound truthful”. Here is the Headmaster on the School Photo taken that year. You can see why he believed the children:

garden-gnome-among-lilies-of-the-valley-no47-randall-nyhof

In actual fact, the Headmaster actually corresponded about the events with Marjorie T Johnson, the author of “Seeing Fairies”:

Untitled

He sent her the cassette tapes of the children he had recorded. His letter said:

“I think the tape reveals the wide measure of corroboration between the children, as well as the fluency with which they were able to describe the events. I remain sceptical as to the explanation of what they saw, but I am also convinced that the children were describing a real occurrence.”

When the children’s story about the Wollaton little people became public, a number of claims were made that they had been seen before in the boggy area around the lake. Marjorie Johnson, formerly Secretary of the Nottingham-based “Fairy Investigation Society”, confirmed that she had “received a number of previous reports of Little People frequenting this locality”. They included Mrs C George of Stapleford near Nottingham, who, in 1900, had seen both gnomes and fairies by the Wollaton Park Gates as she walked past on the pavement. Here is one of their little cars, abandoned temporarily by the roadside, and taken into the police pound:

Noddy-car_2618947b
Just before the children’s experience, Mrs Brown reported that she had been led telepathically around the Park, from one beauty spot to another, by a group of gnomes. At each stopping place they had magically provided her with a feather to find.
The famous writer on mysteries, and expert on fairy sightings, Janet Bord, added an interesting extra detail to the story:

“Over six years before the Wollaton fairies were reported in the media, I had corresponded with Marina Fry of Cornwall, who wrote to me giving details of her own fairy sighting when she was nearly four years old, around 1940. One night she and her older sisters, all sleeping in one bedroom, awoke to hear a buzzing noise (one sister said ‘music and bells’). Looking out of the window they saw a little man in a tiny blue and yellow car driving around in circles’. He was about 18 inches tall and had a white beard and a ‘blue pointed hat’…he just disappeared after a while.”

werty

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