Bathurst Spring Gardens: Welcome to old Mill Cottage

Spring has arrived in Australia, and for the first time in almost three long Covid years, we are able to visit open gardens all over the southern states.

Last weekend, the country town of Bathurst, New South Wales, held its Spring Festival.

We don’t live far from Bathurst and Paul and I met at College in Bathurst many years ago, so we have great affection and memories of this town.

Machattie Park in the centre of Bathurst.

There were many open gardens to visit, both in Bathurst, and around the district. We spent so long looking at some of the country properties and gardens that we will have to come back next year for the rest!

Mill Cottage in O’Connell

The owners of the gardens often provide ”a story” about their garden, and this is the beginning of the story of Mill Cottage, in O’Connell near Bathurst.

We bought Mill Cottage, also known as the Garden House, attracted by the historic house, the old garden, and orchard and the lovely setting beside the Fish River.

The original 100 acre farm was taken up by Daniel Roberts in about 1829. Daniel Roberts was born in Wales in 1800 and arrived in the colony in 1826. The 1828 census lists Daniel as being a free settler, a carpenter, aged 28.

Daniel met Catherine Spinks about 1828. She had arrived in the colony in 1820 when she was only 13 years old, with her convict mother, Anne. Daniel and Catherine were married in Parramatta in 1828. They left on horseback after their wedding and arrived in O’Connell, where they settled.

A very long way to travel by horseback…they were tough in those days!

The present owners know there was the stone and brick house here by 1837, called the Garden House. This assumes there was a notable garden from the beginning, maybe tended by the two convicts allocated to the Roberts family.

The orchard

Daniel built a water mill, located about 200 metres upstream from the house in 1833. He saw the need for a place to mill the wheat that the early settlers were busy growing. Local farmers brought their wheat, it was ground into flour, and a sack cost them one penny!

Daniel became a prosperous local businessman and over time the property was sold, and the land around was subdivided.

Here is the impressive rhubarb patch and many other vegetables, well mulched and fertilized.

The present owners have extended and expanded the garden over the previous ten years .

The garden has mainly cool climate plants, bulbs, roses, salvias, hellebores and many other perennials, with a wonderful shady Box elder (maple) tree in the centre of the garden near the house.

We were lucky to have a lovely sunny day to visit Bathurst and surrounds, however, like much of the Eastern states of Australia, Bathurst has experienced heavy rains this year, and the Fish river, (seen in the photo below) was rising.

All parts of the garden have attractive borders of plants, and this gave us a chance to wander through the garden and take time to look at all the flowering spring shrubs.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owners of the property, but I did wonder if kangaroos hopped over the fence/gate to eat the abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

We had a wonderful time wandering through this garden and it was a delight to be out and about amongst fellow gardeners. Many thanks to the owners of the property, as it must take an enormous effort to get ready for an Open Garden weekend.

For those who are interested in learning more about the house, Lee Steele’s Volume Two of “Heritage Homes of Bathurst and District” describes this house in more detail.

I have photos for at least one or two more gardens, so I hope you can look out for them.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

19 Replies to “Bathurst Spring Gardens: Welcome to old Mill Cottage”

  1. Beautiful, beautiful gardens. The history, especially the mention of convicts, was interesting. So glad the gardens are open again. And just as I was thinking that those gardens didn’t look very different from gardens in Maine, I came to the part about kangaroos. No kangaroos in Maine. 😉

    1. No kangaroos for sure in Maine! Kangaroos, wallabies and possums can do some damage to gardens, that is for sure. Regarding convicts, it was a terrible time when people could be labelled convicts for stealing a loaf of bread to fed a starving family. However, many made a good life in Australia.

  2. It was fortunate that you got such a good day for your visit. The garden looks well worth spending time in. It is very good to be getting out and about again after so much confinement.

  3. What a beautiful garden, a pleasure to ‘walk’ around it with you. The Fish River is very close. I hope the garden didn’t flood after the recent lot of rain.
    I’m reminded that you visited gardens around Hartley a few years ago. It’s lovely to be able to do that kind of thing again.

    1. Yes, there was more rain after we left Bathurst, and some roads closed. We were very lucky to have that weekend. Yes, I noticed the Blue Mountains had some of those lovely gardens open last weekend. All gardens are looking green and wonderful after the rain…. but not during the rain!

  4. It’s a joy to visit gardens again, isn’t it? How pretty these are, and a whole new garden season lies before you just as our US gardens are going to sleep.

    1. Yes, it is lovely to feel the warmth in the air, and the sheer delight of new growth everywhere. Your US autumn is magnificent, spring and autumn are my favourite seasons.

  5. Such a lovely garden to visit on a beautiful day, Gerrie. The rhubarb really does look healthy and made my mouth water thinking of my mom’s rhubarb pie with custard. A great childhood memory. I did enjoy all your photos and reading about the history too. I was wondering whether the two convicts actually lived on the property whilst they were working there.

    1. Yes, I think the working convicts did live in this house because there was a back entrance to another part of the house.
      By the way, I absolutely love rhubarb pie with custard too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.