I was still in my pj's and tempted to have a day of couch-hugging but opted for a day of tree hugging instead. Adam and Amy accompanied me due to their new desire for exercise . . and let's face it, he and I need a little. I wasn't quite so prepared for the reality that my knee is really stuffed and serious weight loss needs to be addressed.
Anyhoo . . We headed half way up the Blue Mountains along the Bells Line of Road to Bilpin, famous for it's apple orchards and what is now arguably one of the most gorgeous Botanic Gardens around but located on a steep hillside and catering for plants who enjoy a cooler climate than their tropical city cousins.
Unfortunately, we were just a couple of weeks early to witness the explosion of Waratahs, Azaleas and Rhododendrons which were laden with buds but . . after hundreds of steps (ok I might be exagerating just a little), steep climbs up and down, ventures into rock gardens, eucalypt forests and rain forests we all agreed the hour's drive was well worth it even if my Barramundi on caper and dill mash and the kid's enormous club sandwiches were grossly overpriced.
The Gardens take their name from the mountain on which it is located. The original owners of the land were the Darug Aboriginal people. 'Tomah' is an Aboriginal word meaning tree fern. Tree ferns for the uninitiated are those bracken style things that in our climate grow literally into trees but in Europe tend to barely pierce the forest floor.
In 1804 the naturalist and explorer George Caley was the first European to visit Fern Tree Hill, now Mt Tomah. In 1823 Archibald Bell, with Aboriginal guides, found the route across the northern Blue Mountains now known as Bells Line of Road. (I'm glad I researched that because I always thought it a weird name for a road). Even driving up there today, you wonder how these explorers managed to forge a way through the eucalypt forests and sandstone outcrops but it's an incredibly pretty drive and one I indulge all visitors so . . .wanna see it? Get on over here!
The first land grant in the area was made in 1830 to Susannah Bowen. She too had a mountain named after her . Three sawmills also operated in the area milling Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) and Brown Barrel (Eucalyptus fastigata). These species still dominate the rainforest sections of the mountain. The fastigata are similar to the Californian redwoods. Some over 500 years old, huge, tall and magestic.
In the early 1960s the 'then' owners of the land stipulated that they would donate it to become an annex to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and presented the land in 1972. It opened to the public on 1 November 1987. It wasn't long after that I first visited it. Rather barren, full of saplings and new plantings and only a glimmer of it's full potential. It's now 186 hectares of sandstone woodland and gullies, beautifully maintained as a conservation area.
Today was the first time I'd been back for about 15 years and it's come on a treat . . .enjoy!
Black Boys . .not very politically correct but slow growing, black stumps charred by years of bushfires and green spikey hair. . .much prized by minimalist gardeners.
Huge Eucalypt Fastigata, not long for this world I fear but I think there might be faeries in there. Adam crudely nicknamed it the 'vagina' tree . . strange how young men's minds work!
The Waratah, a native to Australia and NSW emblematic flower, I'll be honest, I've never seen one before other than in florist's shops.
As were the Koi who followed us along the path hoping for a feed.
Beautiful in blue with an amazing view and buzzing with bees . . I tried a macro shot but there were too many and they weren't happy about being photographed.
Bloody tree hugging yuppies!
If you're into things like this. Click on the Flickr Slideshow . .I'll have them up in a jiffy!