Rosalind Park, listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, is truly stamped with the signature of Bendigo, a modern vibrant regional city, rich in the colourful goldfield’s history of Australia and the visual arts.
The park is of historic, archaeological, aesthetic, scientific (botanical) and architectural significance to the State of Victoria for a number of reasons. Mainly that it stands on the site of one of the largest of the government camps, which acted as a lookout and supported its gold mining activities.
It was the Gold Commissioner Joseph Panton in 1856, who suggested transforming the camp of makeshift buildings and reserve into a park. By 1861 fifty-nine acres of land had been handed over to the Sandhurst Borough Council, with George Brown appointed curator a year later.
Today Rosalind Park is a fine example of a large, late 19th century recreation reserve. It’s situated at the heart of the city on the corner of View Street, a food and wine destination in itself with Pall Mall at the edge of the CBD.
Richard William Larritt, then Town Planner and a Shakespearean devotee, named the park after the divine Rosalind, an independent empowered woman from the English bard’s As You Like it.
Taking a stroll through this elegant and grand park was delightful for the pleasure, relaxation, discoveries and diversity it offered.
Statues, sculptures, waterfalls, fountains, children’s playground, rotunda, trees, plants and the conservatory all enchanted the senses.
The ornate conservatory building erected in 1897 is the only surviving example of a nineteenth century conservatory in a public park in Victoria.
The conservatory showcases a range of floral exhibitions throughout the year.
On a recent visit it was brimming with varying shades of blue, pink and white hydrangeas peeping from the curved garden beds that rested so gracefully in this charming setting.
Listening to the tolling of bells from the nearby church and the bubbling trickling and gurgling of water from the indoor urn, transported me to the stillness and tranquility of contemplation.
As I ambled along towards the Bendigo Creek I was captivated by the variety of birds squawking and chattering and the fragrance of old fashioned roses wafting in the air. Three iron bridges cross the creek which in the past was widened lined with flagstones and walled with sandstone capped granite.
The creek is fringed by a dark green hedged garden that contrasted strikingly with the tiered red foliage higher up.
A granite gateway led me to the Fernery where its luxuriant character was revealed.
The shapes of crisp lime green palms, elongated drooping leaves and exotic bird’s nest ferns were shaded by a canopy of tree tops carpeted with the azure blue of the spacious sky above.
Dappled light filtered through the mature trees protecting the more tender ferns and delivered a respite from the heat for park enthusiasts.
Walking under a very long wisteria covered bower also offered shade and created a cool ambience for reflection.
This Arbour Avenue led me past Bendigo High School and Camp Hill Primary School. An artist stood painting at his easel depicting the beauty of the park and working in the open to observe the effects of light on the landscape.
Majestic trees stood as landmarks of the horticultural heritage within Rosalind Park.
Many of the trees date back to the 1880’s and the integrity of the park is maintained by planting new ones each year as replacements.
Throughout the park the most significant species included: Elms, Oaks, African Yellowwood, Canary Island Pine, Australian Teak, Bunya-Bunya Pine, Hoop Pine and Queensland Kauri.
The winding path continued towards the Bendigo Art Gallery recognised as one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional galleries.
Since my day spent in this lovely place, an eight-metre tall, 15 tonne sculpture by American artist Seward Johnson of the lady who left an indelible impression on Hollywood and the world, has been erected in Rosalind Park’s piazza.
Bendigo Gallery Café offers a tranquil setting where a different view of Rosalind Park can be observed while savouring the delicious seasonal menu.
When I reached Poppet Head Lookout Tower erected in 1931 determination set me on the steep climb, 124 steps to the top.
The reward was a spectacular 360 degree panoramic vista across the city of Bendigo and the only way to achieve a complete view of the Cascades.
The Cascades had come into ill repair and were partially restored in 1997.
They typified nineteenth century gardens where fountains and statues were highly featured.
At the base of the tower was the Bendigo Heritage Mosaic designed by mosaic artist Maery Gabriel, which was completed in 1967 by hundreds of volunteers from within the Bendigo community.
One section of the mosaic depicts the Bendigo Goldfields where white quartz was used to represent the saddle reefs for which Bendigo was famous.
The second section featured artistic interpretations inspired by gold its structure and the quartz veins containing gold that flowed through the earth.
Following the route I arrived at the granite gates and iron fencing built in1878 that is the View Street entrance and regarded as the main entrance to Rosalind Park.
From this vantage point the imposing Dutch Elm avenues and the general layout of the park is visible and very striking.
Sited directly opposite the gates is the Alexandra Fountain, a Bendigo landmark that rears stately on the most prominent street intersection in the city.
It is a very significant example of late Victorian ornamental public art that was influenced by classical models.
For Bendigo it is also an historical symbol of the enormous financial success of the goldfields and the subsequent prosperity they produced as Bendigo was one of the largest gold mining centres in the state of Victoria.
It was serendipity that later whilst visiting the Bendigo Art Gallery I was fortunate to discover an artwork of Alexandra Fountain, Bendigo painted by Margaret Preston in 1948.
Sauntering through the gardens I caught a glimpse of the Queen Victoria statue.
It rested majestically amid triangular mass sowed beds of glorious petunias red, mauve, pink and purple.
These splendid blooms were defined by short buxus hedges and a white circular stone path completed the picture.
Rosalind Park is an ideal backdrop for a discovery walk that is integrated with historical and horticultural heritage so significant to the city of Bendigo. Can’t wait to visit again, especially in autumn when the trees resemble the gold the city became so famous for.
Rose Niland, Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
*Majority of Images captured by Rose Niland on her discovery walk.