Tag Archives: outside

Exploring A Victorian Garden – Bathurst’s Machattie Park, Australia.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” is how I’ve felt about Bathurst’s Machattie Park since returning home. Two weeks ago, I had no idea this park even existed and my awareness of landscape design was also minimal. Indeed, I’m even one of those dreadful plant murderers who should be banned from buying plants altogether.

“Not all who wander are lost.”

Alice in Wonderland

Yet, now I find myself travelling down all sorts of rabbit holes (like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland on steroids) exploring every nook and cranny of Machattie Park. Not only that. I’ve even found myself nipping over to France in a virtual sense to explore a myriad of magnificent historical gardens to gain a deeper understanding of its layout.  Apparently, the park was designed in the “French style” whatever that meant. I am certainly none the wiser, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.

Located between William, George, Russell, and Keppel streets; Machattie Park forms the graphical and cultural heart of Bathurst. Machattie Park was opened on Saturday 20th December, 1890 – a whopping 132 years ago when my Great Grandmother was two years old and I wasn’t even a distant dream. Fortunately, the park has been very well preserved and has only experienced minor change since then. Indeed, a visit to Machattie Park feels like stepping out of a time machine, and I could even picture myself wearing period dress promenading with my parasol back in the day.

When you look at the park today, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever the site of the former gaol. After the gaol was relocated, this space was known by the inauspicious title of: “Gaol Reserve”. Although it was used as a sports’ ground by the local schools, the crumbling foundations of the former gaol remained and it was a far cry from what we see today. However, the people of Bathurst under the leadership of the Progress Association, has vision and campaigned for the site to be transformed into a spectacular park with all the bells and whistles. When he opened the park, Mayor Crago expressed their grand ambitions for Bathurst and how the park was to play a central part in making Bathurst shine: “The park will henceforth he one of the landmarks of the city and the most beautiful spot in Bathurst, enabling us to hope that eventually our city will become the Ballarat of New South Wales1.”

While touching on the opening of the park, I found another gem this time in Dr Spencer’s speech, who was the President of the Progress Association. While these sentiments were no doubt said in earnest at the time, they certainly made me laugh today and it reminds me of my rather posh private school where we weren’t allowed to walk on the grass:

Now please remember this, and I speak especially to the intelligent and independent youth of Bathurst, those young men who will in the future guide public opinion. Let me tell them that they will not succeed in life unless they keep off the grass, and that no dogs are admitted. These regulations are for the benefit of all, and will be cheerfully obeyed by everyone with a spark of intelligence and good nature.2”

So, what is it like to walk through Machattie Park today? I guess I should also put a particularly emphasis on TODAY. As far as I could tell, most if not all of the trees in Machattie Park are deciduous. So, he park varies considerably from season to season. We were there in late Winter when the trees were stripped of their leaves forming bare skeletons against the muted sky. However, the daffodils and jonquils were in flower and looking particularly stunning.

Yet, despite the seasons, Machattie Park has a peculiar charm, serenity and spirit which extends well beyond just “going to the park” or “being in the great  outdoors.” Even on our rushed walk through, I felt an uncharacteristic sense of peace and calm, despite almost rushing around trying to absorb it all through my camera lens. There I was bending down to photograph the daffodils and jonquils. Next minute, I glace up and spot the fountain and I’m off again  zooming in to capture what I now understand to be dolphins, but which looked more like feral carp to me.  Then there was the band rotunda, which was known as the Music Temple. It was hard not to notice the Federation-style Gardeners’ Cottage on my right either with its roof tiles which came all the way from Marseilles, France. However, before I knew it, we were inside the Fernery and gob smacked by a trio of marble statues by Giovanni Fontana. As if all of this wasn’t sufficient fodder for my camera, there was also the very quaint Munro Drinking fountain which was erected in 1901. All of that was a lot to take in. Yet, as I said, the park was strangely relaxing at the same time.

Above: The Fernery. The sculptures were by Giovanni Fontana.

Naturally, I’m not the only one who has found peace and tranquility in Machattie Park. Browsing through the historic newspapers online, I came across this reference from the Bathurst Times on the 16th October, 1909:

“And now that the fountain on the main basin is spraying, it is almost like listening to a small waterfall or cascade. When one feels run down and tired, it is well worth while to put ones troubles on one side; sit down in Machattie Park and listen to the drip, drip, drip, and the splash and hissing of the water as it soothes, and lulls and —  just then one’s book drops down, and then comes peace — perfect peace.3.”

I absolutely loved that account! It was so poetic!

Relaxing in Machattie Park in front of the rotunda.

Of course, I was just a traveler passing through Machattie Park. There are locals who would have so much more to say about it, and know it much more intimately, of course, having spent all of their lives in Bathurst. I can well imagine them sitting the park feeding the ducks, listening to the band or attending Carols By Candlelight with their parents or grandparents and now doing the same with their children or grandchildren. No doubt, there’s also been a lot of romance in Machattie Park over the years too…that magic twinkle in the eye and perhaps a return to the park for solace with a broken heart. There’s certainly a real sense of timelessness visiting Machattie Park.

A Lucky Duck on Spencer’s Pond

Well, that’s the end of our tour through Machattie Park. Now, it’s over to you. Have you ever been to Machattie Park and do you have any stories you’d like to share? Or, perhaps you have a and park near you, you’d like to share? Or, perhaps even your own magnificent garden? I’d love to hear from you.

the Munro Water Fountain.

After spending days revisiting and researching Machattie Park, I’m needing to quote White Rabbit:

“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Best wishes,

Rowena


References

1.National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), Monday 22 December 1890, page 2

2. Ibid pg 2

3. [1] Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), Saturday 16 October 1909

The Sun Finally Comes Out – Terrigal Beach, Australia After the Storm.

Yesterday, I had an inkling of how Noah must’ve felt when the sun came out at the end of the Great Flood. Although we haven’t been flooded in here, it’s been raining for what actually seems like longer than 40 days and 40 nights, although Geoff tells me there was a break in between, and we actually had some sunny days.

Anyway, I was in Terrigal yesterday to get my hair cut. Afterwards, I ventured down to the main drag to buy more doughnuts and go for a walk along the beach. That was when I spotted a very strange, shining object in the sky, and even wondered if it was a UFO at first.

However, It turned out to be an otherwise foreign object known as “The Sun”. It’s been raining for so long around here, that I barely recognised it once it finally stuck it’s head out again.

A lonely red bucket at Terrigal Beach.

I haven’t been able to find any cumulative totals of how much rain has fallen locally lately. On the 25th February alone 137.6 mm fell in Gosford. That was the highest daily rainfall for February on record. We were lucky to only catch the edge of the threatened “rain bomb” during the week. However, others were badly hit.

Foamy Shore, Terrigal

Terrigal wasn’t looking too worse for wear. Loads of creamy foam had washed up onto the beach, and the ocean pool has metamorphosed into a kelp farm. However, while it’s looking okayish, the beach was closed for swimming due to poor water quality.

Yet, it seems that wasn’t enough to dissuade a few parents with their toddlers from paddling on the edge. Seems they must be wanting a night in Gosford Hospital with gastro. Goodness knows what’s in the water, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Ocean Pool, Terrigal converted into a kelp farm after the recent heavy rains.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our brief visit to Terrigal, and thank you for joining me.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Nothing like putting the map at the end:

Above: Map of NSW Central Coast. Terrigal is in the right about a quarter from the bottom and we live South of Woy Woy.

Table Talk…Table Done!

“There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

Don’t know how it is round at your place, but getting anything done around here is a very long and winding road that makes mission impossible look quick and easy. So, any successes need to be celebrated with the full brass band out in force and waving the flags. We did it! Yesterday, we finished restoring our new to us but anything but new outdoor table.

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

While restoring the table has been a journey, just getting it here has been a story in itself. My friend Roland found the table “beside the road*”. When I saw it in his lounge room, I was filled with envy. Damn! Why didn’t I find it? Well, to be honest, even if I’d found it, I wouldn’t have been able to shift it unless it was just down the road and the kids actually lifted a finger to help. Geoff, I’m afraid wouldn’t not have aided and abetted bringing any more tables home. We already have enough tables!! However, as it turned out, Roland had second thoughts, and decided it was too big. Before he could offload it to the opportunity shop, I stuck my hand up, and it was all mine. He even stuck a post-it note on it with my name on it. So there could be no challenges to my precious piece of real estate.

There was just one problem.

Well, there was more than one problem.

There usually is around here, which is why getting anything done is such an arduous, circular process.

The Table Arrives in the Dark of Night.

Firstly, the table needed transport, and unfortunately not being related to Enid Blyton’s Magic Wishing Chair, it wasn’t going to sprout wings and magically fly down the mountain to our place. It needed Geoff, and that required more than a confession. Serious negotiation was required. You see, there was already a table and a fish tank out where the intended table was meant to be going. The fish tank has been sitting here waiting to make to next step of it’s future life after it started leaking something like five years ago, and the existing table was falling apart and we’d bought the wood to replace the top. However, nothing had happened and Geoff has been painting the house, replacing the guttering, and anything but idle. I decided that table could go out the back. I didn’t care where the blessed fish tank went as long as it was gone. I didn’t care where the lot went. I wanted my new table out the front so I could have friends over outside once this wretched lockdown eased, and actually start getting social again within the safety of home. After all, we’ve not been in lockdown for 106 days and Monday is Freedom Day. I want to be a part of it.

Sometimes, hints are broad suggestions aren’t enough. Roland was wanting to clear his garage and I desperately wanted to table here, and measuring tape or no measuring tape, Geoff found himself making room for the table, and driving up the hill to pick it up. I don’t play the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” card often, but by now I was in make it happen mode. He had no choice but to capitulate and assist.

“To share a table with someone is to share everything.”
― Paul Krueger, Steel Crow Saga

However, there was just one small complication with the table. It was more of an indoor table than an outdoor table, and aside from needing protection, he top needed sanding. In other words, the table was “a project”. What’s more, the rest of the family was quick to extricate themselves and call it “YOUR project”. Geoff fetched the orbital sander from the garage and with my arms vibrating and my head buzzing, I started rowing backwards and forwards giving my arms quite a workout, which proved quite a shock to the system in itself. Seeing me with a power tool in hand must’ve been like an apparition too. Rowena the Writer is a far cry from Bob the Builder and his mates.

This could be the raised hand of a drowning woman as the sanding continues…

“To gather together around a table – the ultimate symbol of communion – is the only truly authentic way to properly prioritise the ritual of eating.”
― Michelle Ogundehin, Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness

After beavering away for a veritable eternity with the orbital sander, the scratches were definitely winning. Moreover, these scratches giving have that worn-in distressed look that people go out of their way to age their furniture. The table looked like the scene of a cat fight with random scratches all over the place, and the annoying perfectionist in me was starting to picture our guests sitting at the table and counting all the scratches and thinking about how awful we were. I did try saying they’d be much more interested in the dessert and conversation, and wouldn’t care but I knew better. I asked Geoff for stronger sandpaper, and at this point he finally realized I wasn’t wanting to do a superficial sand, but more of a reconstructive face lift. I wanted to strip this baby right back to bare wood, even if it meant losing loads of personality. It could regain character in time.

the lingering mystery square, which looks like a UFO flying across one end of the table.

Now, the belt sander came out, and it was incredibly satisfying to see all those scratches evaporate in clouds of dust.

“The oldest form of theater is the dinner table. It’s got five or six people, new show every night, same players. Good ensemble; the people have worked together a lot.”

Michael J. Fox]

“Here’s yet a spot,” she cries, desperately rubbing. “Here’s the small of blood still.”  This spot isn’t going anywhere either.

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that the table top is oak. It has a beautiful grain, and when I finally came to apply the decking oil, the wood just shone. It looked amazing. Although it was “your project”, Geoff ended up sanding and painting the legs. By then, my arms had had it. I’m much more in favour of teamwork than being a lone ranger – especially when I’m the one needing assistance.

I know you can’t be too demanding about a free table that was left out beside the road, but what possessed someone to sandpaper so ferociously against the grain? Thanks to the belt sander and yours truly, all gone!

The table was finally finished yesterday and moved into position. It looks amazing. I cooked up a big lamb roast with all the trimmings to celebrate last night, but it was cold and dark by the time it was really so we still haven’t christened the table yet. Moreover, I’ve been tapping away in here in my pyjamas with the dog on my lap ignoring the outside world, which is so bright and sunny. Geoff has gone sailing.Our daughter is doing her final dance class in the kitchen and for dinner or worse our world here in Greater Sydney is about to open up.

Best wishes,

Rowena