I’ve always been a fan of supporting local businesses and community initiatives and this has only become more important to me during the coronavirus pandemic. With not far to travel and limited options on things to do with or entertain a toddler, local attractions, outdoor spots and community ideas have become a lifeline for us over the past few months.
One community idea, which I came across recently, is Bonhill Gnomes. Some wonderful people living in the area went out and placed a load of gnomes along the towpath next to the River Leven. On the Bonhill side of the river, it’s not as busy or used as a through-way to Loch Lomond like the Alexandria side. Instead, this location is a dogwalking hotspot with lots of family homes close by, creating the perfect setting for a kid-friendly trail.
The walk itself is about half a mile long (well, a mile if you walk along and back!) making it ideal for those with little legs. As its along a towpath, the terrain is suitable for pushchairs or other accessible vehicles and aids, meaning pretty much anyone can go for a peek. However it’s worth noting that some of the trail leads off the beaten track, though not far, so be wary of that if you plan to take a pram or bikes and scooters for the kids. I’d also advise taking your wellies as some of those areas off the main path can get very muddy (thanks, Scottish weather!). On the other hand, you can spot most of the gnomes from the path so it’s not essential, but if you’ve got a wee one (or ones) like ours then getting up close and personal with the gnomes is not optional unless you want a tantrum!
The creators of Bonhill Gnomes go by The Gnommies, heroes who walk among us spreading joy for the local people. Mr and Mrs Gnommie regularly share information about the gnomes on their Facebook page, which has garnered the attention of over 850 people so far. We regularly check the page to see if there are any different gnomes to hunt or new things to discover. At one point, there were over 50 spread throughout the trail to find!
New gnomes to find is both a pleasant surprise and a curse – the reason for such an influx of new gnomes is that some of the gnomes have met an unfortunate end. Whilst sometimes this has been inevitable due to nature, with gnomes falling off trees in high winds or being swept away when the water level rises in the river, unfortunately there’s also a problem with some people removing or vandalising the gnomes. I honestly don’t understand what joy some people get out of ruining other people’s fun but I don’t want to give them the oxygen talking about them. And in fact, they probably don’t realise they are just making it more intriguing and fun, prolonging the interest in the gnome trail as there are consistently new characters to look out for.
It’s clear to see both from the online community and the trail itself that everybody locally is enjoying the trail, and actively getting involved too. We’ve added our own gnomes to the trail, as have other kids. Painted stones and garden windmills have also paved the way on the path, with kids writing their names on stones and gnomes, making the trail really something for everyone to take part in and get involved with. Recently on the Facebook page, there have even been suggestions to name new gnomes so the fun continues online as well as offline. We even had a couple of cyclists come up to us on the trail the other day asking what this was and if there was a Facebook page so they could bring their kids here.
If you are local to this area (or even if you’re not, as the 5 mile travel restrictions have been lifted – hurrah!) and have kids or grandkids, I’d strongly recommend this as something different to do whilst the kids are off school. It’s fun, it’s free and its fresh air and exercise as my gran used to say.