The ideal gnome show

April 28 2021

HIDDEN away in a Kingswood garden is an astonishing grotto of fairies and gnomes.

Ron Smith-Bishtopn with one of the exhibits in his fairy garden

More than 40 hand-painted magical creatures make up the rockery, alongside fairy houses, dragons and five waterfalls.

The creation is the work of great-grandfather Ron Smith-Bishton, who has spent more than 20 years working on the fairy garden.

He said: “It started off when we used to go on holiday to Boscastle in Cornwall every year. There was gnome shop there so each time we went I’d pick one to bring home as a memory and put it on the rockery.

“Then as the years went on, I started adding more to it. I love the sound of water, so I added some waterfalls.

“Whenever I went to a garden centre and saw a piece I liked, I’d bring it home. I always choose concrete ones so I can paint them.

“The display is getting higher every time I add something new. It involves a bit of mountaineering to get to the top!”

Ron, 75, and his wife Margaret have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren who have all been kept entertained over the years by spotting the new additions to the fairy garden.

And Ron isn’t finished yet. He said: “It’s always evolving. At the moment I’m adding a fountain with a fairy on the top. I love being outside and gardening, so it’s a good thing for me to do.”

This year’s additions to the garden are even more welcome because they are unexpected. 

Last year Ron spent three weeks in Southmead hospital with kidney problems and wasn’t expected to survive.

Then, as soon as he was discharged from hospital, the grotto display was at risk when the decking across Ron’s garden rotted and collapsed.

Ron was too weak after his hospital stay to carry out the urgent work himself, but thankfully relatives and neighbours swung into action to move parts of the display to safety and make the garden safe.

Up until his hospital treatment, Ron worked as a gardener for other people, and prior to that spent 40 years working at the lingerie manufacturer Pearson’s in Staple Hill.

He also has the claim to fame that he appeared on the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks twice, playing in two different bands.

He caught the gardening bug after living in a children’s home that backed onto a garden centre when he was young and nowadays loves a trip to destination garden centres in Lacock, Burnham and Gloucester.

However, some of the best parts of the grotto are bought locally. Ron said: “Kemps garden centre on Westerleigh Road is the best place for the little houses I use. I’ve never found better ones.”