Tag Archives: park

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

A Paris Sunrise – Friday Fictioneers

The streets of St Germain were almost deserted – except Alice returning home in her diaphanous red gown, carrying her stilettos. She wasn’t drunk or under the influence of drugs. Rather, her overactive imagination was suddenly swept away by the alluring, white tulips in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Their luscious, white faces were all smiles, drawing her in like a drunken bee intoxicated by pollen dreams. Usually reserved, she finally unleashed her soul: “Why tiptoe through the tulips, when you can leap? Geronimo!”

 That’s where Alice was found – sound asleep by a young man wishing he’d drunk his morning coffee.  

…..

99 words PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda

Tulips aren’t a flower you see a lot of in Australia. Indeed, they were very rare when I went to Europe back in 1992 and really had the chance to appreciate them more fully – especially as I flew with KLM and landed in Amsterdam. So, my story had to have a European setting, even though we do have a tulip festival in Canberra. Indeed, that reminds me I ought to go to our version of Floriade sometime.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields, and I encourage you to join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sailing In The Park…

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”
– Spoken by Ratty to Mole in Wind in the Willows a children’s book by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932).

It seems Rat knew a lot about sailing when he shared this piece of wisdom with Mole. When the uninitiated looks out and sees that lone sail moving swiftly across the water and is usually green with envy, they have no idea how much work has gone on behind the scenes to get out onto the water.

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We’re a family of sailors, non-sailors and a couple of in-betweens, and my mother the non-sailor speaks of my father saying he’s going “down to the boat”, which usually means he’s fixing something rather than actually going out for a sail.

Moreover, even if you’ve done all of that and your boat is in good working order, you’re still at the mercy of the wind and it simply has a mind and will all of its own. Indeed, I’m sure willing the wind is even beyond the power of prayer, and there’s nothing, nothing at all, you can do to “make it happen!”

All you can do is apply a bit of humour and remain philosophical.

Today, we tried one boat ramp, but it was closed for repairs. Geoff rigged up the boat. Found a few issues, and by then the wind had disappeared and the sun was gone.

So, unfortunately, the laser made it no further than the park. Ironically, the boat just happened to be parked within eye shot of the Imagine sign, leaving Geoff to imagine what it would be like to get the boat out on the water for a sail.

Hopefully, he’ll get to find out next weekend when the Winter Series opens up at the Sailing Club. The club has been closed for a few months due to the Coronavirus, but has been cleared to re-open, at least to some extent. It will be great to be back.

Have you been out sailing lately? How did it go? I’d love to get out there again soon, but in the meantime, we had an enjoyable paddle on the kayak instead.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Red Tree of Bangalow, NSW.

“There is a shade of red for every woman.”

-Audrey Hepburn

Please don’t mention red trees to my husband. Once when we were driving around Byron Bay, I kept pointing out red trees and wondering out loud what type of tree it was, which resulted in years of stirring and him or the kids pointing to every red tree we came across and calling out: “Red tree!!” I would’ve thought a bit of passion and enthusiasm was a good thing, but clearly you’re supposed to hide your love away. Be more contained.

“Red has guts …. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red … to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.”

–Valentino

Anyway, as soon as I drove into Bangalow on our recent holiday, I spotted the beautiful bright red tree in the grounds of Bangalow Public School. Indeed, I’m lucky I didn’t drive off the road. Red trees have that kind of effect on me, not unlike Chris de Burgh and his Lady in Red:

“Trees do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” 
―  Herman Hesse

 

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The Red tree viewed through the school gates. 

For those of you for whom the name “red tree” is woefully insufficient, and you need to know the official scientific names of trees, this is an Illawarra Flame Tree or Currajong.

It grows up to 35 m in the wild but only about 10m in gardens. The bright red bell-shaped flowers grow in clusters at the end of branches, often after the leaves have dropped, giving the plant a distinctive look. It is a deciduous tree that is often found growing alongside the Red Cedar in lowland rainforest habitat.

A few months after the jettisoning of the leaves, the tree produces masses of bell-shaped vivid scarlet flowers. They do not always flower annually and put on their best display maybe only once every five years, especially after a hot dry summer. In between these times, they may only produce one or two branches of flowers on the whole tree.

It produces a tough leathery dark-brown seed pod, containing rows of corn-like seeds that are surrounded by hairs that will irritate the skin and nose and throat if inhaled. They are toxic to many native animals and birds.

Backyard Buddies

 

red tree flowers

The twists and turns of these dazzling red flowers is so intriguing. I could stare at them for hours grappling with their idiosyncrasies. 

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ”
―   Kahlil Gibran

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“Put on your red shoes, and dance the blues away322222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666.”

David Bowie

 

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“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” 
― 
Wangari Maathai

 

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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These root protuberances reminded me of chicken feet. 

“I am old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug.”

Al Gore

The Little Red Book Box.

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

― Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Do you remember those snazzy red telephone booths from back in the day? Well, that’s what I thought of, when I stumbled across the little red book box at our local park. It was drop dead gorgeous. Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to take it home with me…along with the book. Designed to withstand the weather, it houses an arm full of books. The concept is, that you take a book and leave a book. So, it operates as a free, community-minded, book exchange.

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How good is that?!!

Well, I guess the system is only as good as it’s “clientelle”. Like those roadside food stalls with an honour box to leave your money, this system depends on trust. Integrity. Honesty. You need to be a giver and a taker.

Not a cheat and book thief like yours truly, who took a book without leaving one behind. Well, I didn’t have a book with me, and I do plan to drop one back. I truly do, even though I find it exceptionally hard to part with any of my books. Indeed, they might need a crow bar to pry the book out of me.

So, what was the book? It was Alexander McCall Smith’s: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I have other books in the series, but not the first one. So, it was a good find.

Now, I just need to read it.

Looking at my book pile, that could be a problem…along with parting with a book.

Humph…no one said that it had to be one of MY books, did they? That definitely puts a different slant on it.

Do you have anything like this book exchange system where you live? It’s a great idea!

xx Rowena

PS Just a little coincidence. I’m currently reading Markus Zusak’s: The Book Thief. Obviously, it’s led me astray.

PPS: It turns out that the little red book box in our local park, has “friends”. Known as “little free libraries, they’re the brainchildren of our local library. What a great idea. Sounds like I should be investing in a new trench coat to transport my book choices in appropriate attire. Wouldn’t that be great! Much better than a brown paper bag.

 

LOCAL OUTRAGE- Friday Fictioneers

Desperate to attract passing tourists, Council voted to upgrade the local park.

While surveys confirmed locals had wanted to install a steam locomotive and have a mini railway running on weekends, they’d ended up with “Rusty” , a “pile of scrap metal”, instead. Accordingly, Rusty was only good for one thing and for more information, you’ll need to consult the local dogs, who’d voted him the best telegraph pole in town.

Then, last Sunday morning, Rusty was gone. No one had seen or heard a thing, but in his place, there was a garden gnome.

Apparently, Nigel  had come home.


This is another contribution for the Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena