This odd incident occurred on October 29, 1979 in a swampy area of Wollaton Park, Nottingham. There's not much information to go on...all the evidence is anecdotal, but it is an interesting mass sighting of gnome / fairy creatures:
“The witnesses were a small group of children aged eight to ten, and the events took place in September 1979 in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. They were in the park grounds at 8.30 p.m., when it was getting dark but there was still some light to see by. In a swampy area with trees, fenced off to stop the public from entering, the children saw about sixty little men, about half as tall as themselves. They had long white beards with red tips and wrinkled faces. They wore caps on their heads, described as being like old-fashioned nightcaps, Noddy-style, with a bobble on the end.they also wore blue tops and yellow tights. For most of the fifteen minutes that the children spent with them, the little men were in little cars. There were thirty cars with two men in each. The cars didn’t have steering wheels, but a round thing with a handle to turn. There was no sound of engines, but they traveled fast, and could jump over obstructions like logs.”
“They were also seen up in trees, coming out of and returning to holes. The children felt they could only come out after dark. Despite the disbelief of their parents when told about the little men, the children were adamant that they were not making up stories. They also claimed to have seen the little people before, during the long summer holiday. Their headmaster interviewed and recorded them separately soon after, and despite a few discrepancies in their accounts, and differences of emphasis, the children do sound truthful.” - Fairies: Real Encounters With Little People
Furthermore, the author Janet Bord adds this seemingly innocuous footnote, based on its similarities to the sighting:
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 red car driving around in circles’. He was about 18 inches tall and had a white beard and a ‘droopy pointed hat'...he just disappeared after a while.
In Fortean Times #31, there is another reference to the sighting:
Several children returning home after playing, heard a sound like a bell and saw coming out of the wooded area about 60 little gnome like men with wrinkled faces and long white beards, they were about 2-foot tall and were riding small bubble-like vehicles. The beings rode over the swamps near the lake and some chased the children towards the gate of the park. Some of the humanoids wore red hats and green pants and seemed to be laughing in a peculiar way. The children ran from the area. - darklore.dailygrail.com
There was a later reference in the Fortean Times #34:
"Wollaton Park in Nottingham, Notts, is the setting for one of the most bizarre modern-day encounters with the Little People ever recorded.
A small group of 8-10-year-old children were walking home from the park at around 8.30pm one evening in late September 1979 when, they claim, a vertiable cavalcade of gnomes, approximately 60 in total drove out of the bushes around the park's lake in 30 tiny red and white bubble cars.
According to their amazed eyewitnesses, these extraordinary entities had greenish wrinkled faces with white beards tipped in red, wore brightly coloured tunics and leggings, and were only half as tall of the children. The Gnomes drove around for about 15 minutes - even playfully chasing the children - but were not frightening or aggressive.
Not suprisingly, when they attended school the next day and spoke of what they had seen, the children were interviewed separately and rigourously by their headmaster, but their testimonies were predominately consistent and they insisted that their story was true.
Furthermore, once it became public, other local people came forward to claim that they too had spied these mini-motorists in the park, especially near the lake, and Marjorie Johnson, a former secretary of the Nottingham-based Fairy Investigation Society, confirmed that she had recieved a number of previous reports of Little People frequenting this locality". - Fortean Times #34 (Special 2005 Edition)
Gnomes are said to be the spiritual beings who inhabit the spirit realm of the earth element. As spirits of energy they are commonly invisible to the average person, only those that possess second sight can see them clearly. However being on the first level of the spirit realm, they are close enough to the physical realm in order to easily inter-react with it. By tradition Gnomes were the protectors of secret treasures hidden in caves beneath the earth. Legends have it that they were reluctant to help and aid humans, but if you were to gain the trust of one, they could prove to be powerful friends. On the other hand, if you were to lose their trust, deceive them or misuse their aid, then all hell could be let lose.
In Wicca/Witchcraft Gnomes are called to instill confidence, steadfastness and endurance, but can also be used to bring about gloom, melancholy and despair should that be required.
The Earth Spirits or Gnomes absorb from the ethers (a plain of existence beyond the upper and lower worlds of shamanism, and beyond the astral plane, but lower than the level of the Gods) and release the energy into matter to give it life. They are formless, but take the form of whatever they interact with. Thus, when they meet a human, they take a human form, though short, stocky and thick-set, due to their earthy nature. You can read more here.
The Gnome-Mobile In the film, an eccentric millionaire and his grandchildren are embroiled in the plights of some forest gnomes who are searching for the rest of their tribe. While helping them, the millionaire is suspected of being crazy because he's seeing gnomes! He's committed, and the niece and nephew and the gnomes have to find him and free him. The film was based on a 1936 Upton Sinclair novel The Gnome Mobile that tells the tale of a brother and sister who befriend distraught forest gnomes in order to save a ring of ancient redwoods from a greedy logging company.
Is it possible that this mass sighting was influenced by a children's film? It's food for thought...Lon
The Gnome-King; Or, the Giant-Mountains: A Dramatick Legend [By G. Colman].
A Witch's Guide to Faery Folk: How to Work with the Elemental World (Llewellyn's New Age)