Parks / Gardens, Sydney
So I turned and walked through a tunnel beneath the railway and started to climb the stairs up beside a park landscaped into the slope.
Halfway up I traversed this park over to the next ascending walkway and then, soon after, moved on to another delightful little park that had a sculpture beside the path (pic 2).
It was not long after when I accosted one of the three gardeners, named Ruben from Uruguay, and he told me how the land was actually railway land but Wendy Whiteley, Brett's widow, had always tended it and had a dream.
For years they had tried to get it off the railway until the local council managed to glean a one year lease. Hopefully, and I feel confident in this, they will have it permanently in the long term. One can imagine the public furore should the railway want it back again as it's land that was never used by them.
Fondest memory: Ruben told me how he'd been involved for some time in the whole affair and he and his two co-workers were obviously enjoying their work.
Criss-crossed by narrow walkways with benches and tables scattered here and there it is an uplifting experience just to be there.
Wendy Whiteley's "Secret Garden", much loved by all, is nestled between Clark Park on Lavender Street and the Lavender Bay rail shunting yard. Lavender Bay Precinct has committed to provide ongoing tangible support to Wendy Whiteley and her gardens by having four working bees each year.
Wendy created the garden following the death of her husband Brett, 53, in 1992, to drugs and her daughter, Arkie, 35 to cancer, in 2001. Wendy observed that “you can go two ways with grief, I could have given up and slid into an abyss of depression, or become suicidal…..I just felt an overwhelming desire to do something positive…doing something creative, right here, would be the most freeing thing I could do”.
Despite knowing little about planning a garden, Wendy was undeterred.
It's now known as "Wendy's Secret Garden'' to the locals, ``I don't get daunted by things,'' Wendy said. ``I have an obsessive personality which can be good or bad, depending where you direct you obsession.
"The garden is like I would do a drawing or anything else. It's like I need some big leaves here because these other ones are all scritchy and scratchy you know, and these things will flower so you will get a bit of colour but this won't.
"I used to read the labels (on the plants) and it said this plant needs sun so don't put it under the coral tree because it will die.''
I plan to revisit in a couple of months for a spring update; in the meantime, put this on your list of things to do in Sydney.
Sydney, obviously due to its location, has harbour walks. Fortunately, Australia tends towards being public spirited and so it is that the tourist (as well as many locals) get to enjoy Sydney Harbour's finest viewing points for free. Okay, so you do have to walk a bit but soft exercise never killed anyone.
This is the site for your map: http://www.wildwalks.com/bushwalking-and-hiking-in-nsw/sydney-harbour-national-park/taronga-zoo-to-balmoral-beach.html
Fondest memory: If you're doing this walk in its entirety you should allow 3 hours. Fast walkers without stops could possibly do it in two but then you would miss the point of the walk which is to soak up the views and natural scenery in my opinion.
It's 6.8 kms long and there's 328 metres of climbing in total. That's one way. When you reach Balmoral there's a bus stop and you can get one back to the ferry terminal at Taronga.
So, I've done quite a few walks around the foreshores and the Taronga Park to Balmoral is arguably the finest of them all. You can reach the start point by ferry (as I did) or bus. When you alight from the ferry you'll almost immediately see the signs indicating you should head off to the right towards Bradleys Head.
There are eating and drinking places along the way but you'll have to make sure your wallet is handy. One advertises afternoon tea for $40!
You'll see some homes, pic 4, with views to envy (pic 2), secluded coves (pics 1 & 4) and lots of nature.
As with all bushwalking in Australia, I recommend you take a biden or some such water container with you, especially if the weather is warm to hot. You'll need it.
(continued next tip)
This is a gem. Around Sydney there are places like it but invariably they are known to the locals and the general tourist population passes them by. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I'd been meaning to visit this place for a couple of years and finally had the time and the inclination when I went down to trial for a TV show and had a few hours to spare.
This place has a history and that makes it even more fascinating.
It is linked to the late artist Brett Whiteley who achieved considerable fame not only in Australia but overseas until his drug fuelled demise.
He had a few women in his life but Wendy is the one to whom we owe a debt for this piece of Australiana.
I got off the ferry at McMahons Point and immediately asked a local where the garden was. She didn't know but had always meant to visit it. I walked on further, up and down stairs (pic 2), along streets with fleeting glimpses of the harbour (pic 3).
Another lady came pushing a pram up a steep incline and I asked her where the Brett Whiteley garden was. "Who's Brett Whiteley?", she asked in a pronounced English accent. It wasn't going well but I figured I had to be in the right area.
Fondest memory: Eventually I found myself beside the railway at Lavender Bay, still without any idea where the garden was so I decided I'd go to the club I had to attend later and get some directions.
Around me were historical remnants of early Sydney. Old slipways, ship repair places and a water board building (4).
Favorite thing: One of the many things I love about Sydney is the trees. There are trees of every shape, size and variety. Wandering through the Botanical Gardens and the Domain or through the many parks of Sydney, I always find a new or interesting tree to admire.
The trees, oh the glorious trees!! I love nature and trees in particular, especially trees with thick trunks, many branches and plenty of shade. I love the way the trees look and the peace and serenity I feel when I am around these magnificient living things .
These particular trees where found on the grounds of Botanic Gardens and Domain. Many of the trees are protected by some barriers, while others weren't.
Fondest memory: Enjoying a walk among these magnificient living things was a big hilight for me.
As we were strolling around the Botanic Gardens/Domain we came across what I thought was a very interesting statue. Turns out this is a silt-drum used in the island of Ambrym Vanatu for what is said to be for "creating rythms for dance, summoning villagers for meetings and transmitting messages".
As you can read on one of the pics, it was presented by the Australia Friends of Vanatu.
Fondest memory: I had a good time behaving like a child hiding behind the drum and being photographed.
The Bigger Picture Exhibition was an exhibition of 29 photographs on display in Sydney's Hyde Park at the time of my visit in April 2006.
I have built this as a "General" tip rather than a "Things To Do" tip, since the exhibition was only a temporary one, running from 8th - 24th April 2006. However, it is likely that other exhibitions will be displayed in the park in future.
This selection of spectacular images was displayed in two rows along the central path of Hyde Park, between the War Memorial and the Archibald Fountain.
I spent an afternoon reading the accompanying text explaining the significance of each photograph. Many of the photographs were of events in Australia, though a few of them were of international events.
The impressive shots included:
- cricketers continuing their game against the backdrop of raging bush fires;
- trams in Sydney's Railway Square in 1935;
- a high diver in the 1938 Empire games (a forerunner to the Commonwealth Games) against a backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge;
- a couple of African meerkats warming themselves up by a heatlamp (giving artificial sunlight) at Sydney's Taronga Zoo;
- kangaroos escaping from an approaching bush fire;
- a lone voter at a remote polling station in the Outback.
You can tell which side of the political spectrum the locals here are on by the namimg of this park after one of the more controversial Prime Ministers Australia has had. His parliamentary rhetoric was legendary for, at times, being somewhat "earthy" and he pulled no punches with some of his criticisms.
This is located on The Mall, just by Chapel Road in Bankstown.
At the main entrance to Bankstown City Council is a striking fountain to commemorate the renowned botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, whose efforts to note the flora of Australia opened the eyes of the Old World to some of the wonders downunder.
Though rather obviously not a likeness of the famous man it more reflects Mother Nature and plantlife.
His fame will live on in other ways, after all, you don't have to be a genius to work out where the town got its name from.
We enjoy gardens. We enjoy greenery and we enjoy nature. More than your average tourist, we take pleasure in learning about the plant life of foreign lands.
Sydney is a great place for such individuals to spend some time. The Botanic Gardens are a treasure trove of unknown and unfamiliar plants and animals. I'll admit that if I lived in Sydney, I'd probably walk through the gardens every single day. Some people like to party in beer joints...... me, I like enjoying the outdoors. ; )
Fondest memory: Being from north Florida, we have a particular affinity for old and very large trees. Our hometown (Tallahassee) has many huge live oaks within her midst. There's something so noble about an old tree. People in California know what I'm saying, after an afternoon in Muir Woods, right??
Anyway, Sydney's got some very big and beautiful trees as well. We particular liked the giant ficus trees resident in the Botanic Garden, Domain and MacQuarie's Point areas of the city.
One of the best things I did in Sydney so far is feeding the birds in the Royal Botanic Gardens. I did this on two occassions and one was quite unexpected. The first time we saw all these cockatoos eating the grass. So when we approached them to make a picture they just didn't move or fly away. They didn't seem afraid at all of humans. When we got closer and closer they still didn't seem to mind us at all, we thought it would be cool if they would eat from our hands and as we tried to feed them some of the grass they just ate it from our hands. Be careful though, or they eat your fingers too, as we found out ;))
On the second occasion we were just walking around the park again and we saw this man feeding some of the Rainbow Lorikeets. There were about three of these birds, just sitting on his shoulders and head and fingers. He asked us if we wanted to feed them too and so we did. So cool to have a wild animal (even though it was just a bird) sitting on your finger and eating bread from your hands. That would never happen at home.
Fondest memory: Coming from a tropical country, i never quite fully understand the Westerner's love to expose themselves to a scorching sun until one afternoon on this trip, a freezing cold-to-the-bones struck me on my way back to my hostel. Even the hottest coffee at hand never soothed my trembling until i laid myself in one of the benches directly exposed under the heat of the sun at Hyde Park - oh what a relief! The funny effect though was while the their cheeks turned more rosy red, mine turned unproportionately more tanned than the rest of my skin! LOL!
Only once a year, during the Sydney Festival in summer, the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra (or similar) does a big performance in the Domain. In 2003, there were 100,000 people in the park. Fantastic.
Fondest memory: One of the fondest memory: picknick with friends during the beautiful concert.
There are many great walks close to the city and there is probably no better way to get a feel for Sydney than to stroll the harbour foreshore on a sunny afternoon. See my walks travelogue for details of specific walks.
Fondest memory: One of my favourite things to do is to grab the weekend papers and a picnic lunch and head to the Botanic Gardens for a few hours relaxing in the sun.
Or catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Cremorne Point then wander the edges of the harbour to Mosman rowers club for a bbq lunch, nice cold drink and the last ferry home!
Favorite thing: One of the things I love most about Sydney is getting lunch and sit down in a park and enjoy the sun an watch people. My favourite is the little park at Circular Quay that has a Bridge and Opera House view. Marvelous!