Gnome Countryside is a nature trail and environmental awareness retreat (gnome biome) nestled in the rolling hills of Amish farmland in southern Lancaster County at 63 Bridle Path Road in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania.
Opened in 1982, Gnome Countryside is brainchild of master storyteller Richard “Dick” Humphreys, a retired Solanco art teacher who conducts wilderness tours to raise awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship and reveal the wonders hidden in the hillside and valley of his 14-acre property.
Richard and his wife, Mary live in a restored 1800s log and stone home within Gnome Countryside, from which they give educational tours about gnomes and nature. In 1985, a 150-year-old chestnut log house was moved to the property and added to the original house. Their house is referred to as “Gnome Gnest.”
“We can’t promise anyone that they will see any gnomes, but we can promise everyone that they will have a wonder-filled walk full of wonderful memories to share with their family and friends.” – Gnome Countryside Disclaimer
Each tour begins in a cozy room referred to as “the Gnomery”, where stories, songs, and little gnome facts are shared by Mr. Rich Humphreys, commonly referred to as “the Gnomeman.”
Visitors touring the retreat learn that Lanape Indians who once lived in the region believed that little people lived among the ledges of the rock. Hikers are encouraged to search for evidence of these enchanted creatures (gnomes) as then amble though the woods.
While walking along the wooded trails, participants are encouraged to use all five senses to discover the beauty and enchantment of the forest. In this typical Pennsylvania deciduous woodland, you may catch sight of a jack-in-the-pulpit, ladyslipper, Christmas fern, trillium and who knows…Maybe even a gnome!
Tours of Gnome Countryside run from mid-April through the end of October. Gnome countryside offers a field trip which touches on aspects of zoology, geology, biology, botany, native plant identification, and ecology through storytelling, nature lore, poetry, parachute games, music, singing, humor and of course fun, as well as search for gnomes and listen to the secrets of the trickling Gnome Gniagra, balance yourself at Gnome Henge and share the magic of the Bamboo forest. Then there is the “Labyrinth of Gratitude”, a mazed walkway for considering, and appreciating what the earth and its inhabitants give to each of us, and the “Valley of the Shadows of Litter” where children learn about the effect of litter and garbage on the world.
NOTE: In February 2014, the restored log home of Richard and Mary Humphreys located in Colerain Township was destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was undetermined, though not suspicious. A coal stove and wood stove were in operation when the fire broke out. While no one was hurt in the fire – the Humphreys were away at the time – the fire did destroy all of Humphrey’s research, stories and articles. Luckily, said Humphreys,”I still has my memories.”
An online fundraising effort called “Save Gnome Countryside” through the Youcaring.com website helped the Humphreys raise money to rebuild their home. Community volunteers helped clear the debris from the fire to get the property back into shape for tours. Luckily, no gnomes were injured in the fire.
The Humphreys home had been part of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society’s annual house tour and was featured in “Handmade Houses” that showcased homes from across the country in 2009.
63 Bridle Path Road
Kirkwood, PA 17536