Hartvale: a country garden in the Blue Mountains

stunning views of Mt Clarence.

This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)

That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.

Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.

The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!

The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!

The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.

The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.

The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..

Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!

Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!

The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..

I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.

It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!

Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.

Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…

Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.

We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.

Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….

Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.

While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…

It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;

my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”

It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.

Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Sydney harbour and Barangaroo Reserve

Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?

Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.

Paul and I sat on a bench eating our lunch looking at this view…..

It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.

The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.

One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.

Views of the harbour, on this glorious winter’s day.

Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.

Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.

The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!

The Rainbow Lorikeets feeding from the Banksia bushes

Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.

Happy memories!

As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.

Buildings around the harbour with the distinctive Crown Sydney Casino looking very like The Shard in London.

The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.

We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.

Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

newcastleherald.com.au

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by portmacquarieinfo.com.au

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.