Blog based on Facebook posts made by Alex Reid during a trip to Bridgetown to visit the Festival of Country Gardens, Nov-2023.

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Friday, 3-Nov-23:

Festival of Country Gardens #1: Here we are, down in Bridgetown, staying at Tweed Valley Lodge just above the Blackwood River, on the outskirts of town. Lovely views (and some fauna) from our room.

Festival of Country Gardens #2: Our visit to Bridgetown was to enjoy the Festival of Country Gardens (and to visit Helen's cousin, Barbara). Here are some views of the first garden we visited - Oak Tree Lane (on Friday afternoon).

Festival of Country Gardens #3: In Bridgetown, we visited Helen's cousin, Barbara. She has a lovely garden (see a few pics below), but not open to the public! I think you have to eliminate every weed before you're allowed to join the "Festival"! Which is quite a tall order!

Saturday, 4-Nov-23:

Festival of Country Gardens #4: our second day in Bridgetown (Saturday, 4-Nov) saw us driving off to a place near Manjimup, Hillview Gardens, which once had just been a field in the middle of many other fields (started 34 years ago, by folk who run a nursery in Bridgetown). The only remaining feature was a tall gum tree (in one of the photos). It is now a remarkable oasis of flowers, shrubs, trees, water features, etc. A wonderful transformation.

Festival of Country Gardens #5: on our way back to Bridgetown from Hillview Gardens, we passed King Jarrah, so had to stop & check it out. Remarkable how it survived: the woodsmen had knocked off for the day and retired to the pub, and someone mentioned about this big Jarrah they were to fell the next day; a government official overhead and raced off to find it and inscribed it with a big Arrow - denoting it as government property. So the next day when the woodsmen returned their prize had been taken! It's estimated to be 500 years old, height of 45m, girth of 26m.

Festival of Country Gardens #6: after returning on Saturday from Hillview Gardens near Manjimup (where we indulged in tea/coffee and cake!), we visited Holst Garden, on the outskirts of Bridgetown. Smaller than Hillview, but also with vistas that took in surrounding rolling hills, and again huge numbers of roses! Originally designed on the concept of "rooms", it has morphed into a very pleasant varied garden.

Festival of Country Gardens #7: still on last Saturday, after viewing 2 gardens, I went on my own to view a third - Elysian Fields, on the outskirts of Bridgetown. A relatively new garden, it has been transformed from an expanse of blue gums and blackberries into lovely sloping lawns down to the lily-filled spring-fed creek, and various other "pockets" of garden... Along with numerous metal sculpture animals.

Sunday, 5-Nov-23:

Festival of Country Gardens #8: On Sunday last, we finished our trip to Bridgetown to enjoy the gardens. Before viewing our last garden, we visited the Jigsaw Gallery in the centre of town (at the Information Centre). This has the largest collection of jigsaws in the Southern Hemisphere (one other has the Guinness Book record, but might well have been overtaken by this one by now). It started as a private collection by Jessie Brierley when she arrived in town in 1940, but has been extensively grown since then, with many gifts and loans, now occupying two large rooms. Its smallest is the smallest wooden puzzle in the world, and its largest is the 40,000-piece Disney puzzle.

Festival of Country Gardens #9: our final garden to visit was "Cottonwood" on the edge of town, a sweeping parkland-style garden, with several lakes stocked with marron (and even a zipline).

Festival of Country Gardens #10: many of the gardens featured roses, which were at their best right now. These weren't limited to the open gardens, with many houses having beautiful rose displays. Even the main street of Bridgetown.

Festival of Country Gardens epilogue: Last weekend, we drove down to Bridgetown, mainly to enjoy the country gardens on display. Lovely! On the way home, we stopped at Greenbushes to check out the open-cut mine there - originally started in 1988 as a tin mine, it has had quite a chequered history. Recently, lithium has been the mineral they have extracted, and this has given it a new lease on life. We then stopped to view the Balingup Golden Valley Tree Park, which looks quite wonderful; sadly, we missed the turn off the side road and missed it - but I now know how to find it, so maybe "next time!". The photo is not of the tree park, but of a private plantation nearby! I won't comment on the two contrasting ways of "managing" our natural environment!

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Alex Reid