Spring in the Southern Highlands Gardens

17 October 2019 / Words and Photos by Ken Keeling

29 and 30 September 2019

On a crisp Sunday morning 10 Canberra cars gathered at the Spotlight car park in Queanbeyan before heading to Bungendore to collect our remaining two cars. Because of road works north of Tarago, our originally planned route was revised to take us east toward Oallen Ford Rd, then north to Bungonia and on to Marulan for the mandatory coffee stop.

Refreshed and regrouped, we travelled the Hume to take the Illawarra Highway to the Red Cow Farm Gardens at Sutton Forest, where the group spent a relaxing time wandering amongst the statue studded gardens.

From Red Cow Farm we took the back roads via Exeter to Mount Ashby Estate for lunch at their French themed Café (La Palette). Most of our group accepted the well-presented charcuterie platter, which was enjoyed on the sunny patio. Everyone enjoyed their lunch and, needless to say, a little Estate wine was added to assist digestion - but not enough to inhibit driving responsibly.
After lunch some individual cars split off to visit other places of interest, one venturing as far as Kangaroo Valley, while a small group went to Berrima to explore the National Trust’s Harper’s Mansion, maze and gardens.

Before sunset all our disparate groups had checked-in at Craigieburn, Bowral, our overnight accommodation.

After settling in, our people gathered around the open fires in the common areas for pre-dinner conviviality until being seated for our group dinner. The pre-arranged fixed menu “Winter Roast” dinner proved to be a good choice and everyone enjoyed both the food and companionship, as was reflected by people still sitting at table, deep in animated conversation after 9pm. It was only when several senior catering staff joined the last few MX-5ers for conversation was it realised that we stragglers were the last people left in the dining room!

Monday morning found a somewhat reduced group of five cars ready on time to depart for Corbett Gardens in the heart of Bowral to visit their annual Tulip Gardens display. There were flowers of every shade combining to present a kaleidoscope of colour that dazzled the eyes - a most impressive display.

And those of us that enquired about the profusion of Mary Poppins artefacts scattered about the gardens learnt that Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE, author of the Mary Poppins stories was in fact Australian-born, in Queensland in 1899, and had spent 10 years of her life (1907-1917) in Bowral, where she developed a talent for creative fantasy and for writing stories for children. She subsequently moved to and settled in England where the first Mary Poppins book was published in 1934.

After the Corbett Gardens, the latter part of Monday morning was taken up by a visit to the most impressive gardens at 5th Chapter Estate, secreted away down an obscure lane, but well worth the navigation exercise. These private gardens are the result of exceptional planning, long term vision, dedicated effort and significant resources, all culminating in an astounding range of well-balanced themes - vistas over ponds, an enclosed topiary garden, meadows, glades, rhododendron forests and man-made lake. Those who made the visit were very well rewarded.

Apart from several cars that had to return early, the remainder of our group gathered at the Sutton Forest Inn for lunch and to mark the end of our run to the Southern Highlands to see several impressive Southern Highlands Gardens in Spring.

Ken Keeling
Run Leader - 2 October 2019