Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Alfred Nicholas was a lucky man to have called these wonderful gardens home. Now, thanks to his generosity, we can all take pleasure in wandering through these stunning gardens any day of the week as if they were our own.
You will find the Alfred Nicholas Gardens in Sherbrooke, which is in the Dandenong Ranges near Kallista, about an hour's drive from Melbourne. The garden is large, covering a massive 13 hectares of varied plantings including 40% Australian native plants, There are many deciduous trees offering amazing colour in autumn, bulbs, shrubs and so on, but what stands out most are the water features.
At the top of the garden you will find moss-covered ponds with bridges crossing over them, much to the delight of our children trying to find secret places to hide. Venturing further into the garden brings you to some sculptures and a rotunda which is very popular for weddings and wedding photography. The view from this spot looking down into the valley is lovely, and is a great photo opportunity, but it was popular at the time we visited so I haven't captured it, unfortunately.
Towards the bottom is where you will find the ornamental lake with a small boathouse that reflects on the lake. Walking paths and bridges criss cross to give you a view from all angles. Surprisingly, there are over 3km of paths within the garden to discover. The waterfall is very peaceful and just to the right of it you will notice a stone wall that's actually a hidden small path that goes to a secret cellar (or something less exciting).
Interesting history of the gardens: As the name suggests the 1930s Art Deco mansion and surrounding garden was owned by Alfred Nicholas (1881-1937), a philanthropist who, along with his brother George (1884-1960), a pharmacist, made the first Australian aspirin and named it 'Aspro'. The property was named Burnham Beeches after the estate in Slough, England and the original mansion is still called Burnham Beeches and remains privately owned today.
In 1929 Mr Nicholas hired 60 workers to clear the land and set off to Chelsea flower show in search of plants to fill his garden. There he met Percival, the man who went on to become his head gardener. 150 trees were shipped from England to Melbourne and then on to Burnham Beeches.
Unfortunately Alfred passed away in 1933 after the gardens were established, leaving his wife Isobel, who stayed on the property on and off until 1954. The mansion was also used as a children's hospital during World War 2. In 1954 the house and property were handed over to their company and converted into a research lab. In 1965 the Nicholas Institute donated the gardens to the public whilst Burnham Beeches remains privately owned. For more information on Alfred and George Nicholas click here.
Burnham Beeches went on to become luxury accommodation that opened in 2009, yet looking at it today you would never have thought that it was in a usable state just a short time ago. You can find some photos and information about the hotel and history by downloading a PDF of Select Hotels Burnham Beeches, unfortunately I couldn't link it in.
Something exciting for Burnham Beeches: The 1930s mansion built for the Nicholases looks a little sad at the moment with the weather deteriorating the empty building and a half fallen down cyclone fence surrounding it to keep people out. I couldn't help but wonder who owns this building and why it is kept in such a run-down state given its heritage listing and long history?
In my research I noticed Burnham Beeches' new owners are Shannon Bennett, chef - restauranter of the famous Vue de Monde restaurant and property developer Adam Garrison, who hope to turn Burnham Beeches into a premier food and accommodation destination by the end of 2015. To find out more click here.
The sheer size of Burnham Beeches mansion needs to be seen to be appreciated and whilst I don't like the style of the building it's difficult not to admire the amount of work gone into it, especially considering it was built in the 1930s. I hope the mansion is restored to its former glory and is accessible to all.
Alfred Nicholas Gardens are open every day from 10am to 5pm except Christmas Day. Entry is free and car parking is available directly opposite the garden entrance. Parking can fill up quickly so alternatively you could visit the the George Tindale Gardens just up the road until parking frees up or stroll down to the Alfred Nicholas Gardens from there. Park notes and map of the gardens can be found here.
Thanks for reminding me of Burnham Beeches. I just wanted to correct something in your article. It was actually a hotel in the late 80's through to 1991. I know because I had the pleasure of staying there a couple of times. It was a truly unique and beautiful place. Like nothing else here in Melbourne that's for sure. The disrepaired state is apparently because there was a failed renovation attempt between 2005 and 2008.
I really hope Shannon and Co get it up and running soon. It is too beautiful to be unused.