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Published September 8th 2021
Reminiscence of the past
Bowen Park is a heritage-listed park located between O'Connell Terrace and Bowen Bridge Road in Bowen Hills, Brisbane.
Bowen Park was built from 1863 to the 1950s, it was also known as the Acclimatization Society Gardens. The Gardens were named after George Bowen, the Governor of Queensland. Today, only a few hectares of land dedicated to gardens have survived years of urbanisation pressure. The gardens offer the possibility to have a stroll in a tranquil place, to view plants and flowers and some wildlife.
Starting from 1862, Bowen Park was very important as a garden for introducing, testing and propagating new plants. In particular, it was important from a commercial point of view for the introduction of many crops, including mango trees, ginger plants, sugar cane, olive trees and choko vines.
Bowen Park was a place for educating the public about the many species of plants, as well as a place for recreation.
The entry to Bowen Park in O'Connell Terrace. Photo by Author.
Today Bowen Park is an oasis of green in a very busy part of the Northside of Brisbane. Just opposite the park is the bustling traffic artery that connects the Bruce Hwy with Brisbane City and the massive construction of the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
There are many plants in the gardens. Photo by Author.
When I visited the garden in the mid-afternoon, the park was tranquil in stark contrast with the noise and the people coming from the road. Just a few steps away from the road and I was inside the park walking on the soft grass and admiring all the different flowers.
Inside the park, the noise from the traffic is buffered by the trees and plants. The gardens offer a respite from the busy road and hospital.
The park has a remarkable green manicured lawn and shade from huge old trees. The trees work as a trainer for many climbers like the vine with large green and yellow leaves. There are a variety of flowers and a few well-maintained concrete paths connecting entries and exits of the park. Large patches of Monstera plants occupy a few areas of the park.
Continuing walking, I came across a lovely bandstand, which was constructed in 1914. It stands on bricks, it has a red roof and a white balustrade.
A few pedestrians seemed to use the park as a way of connecting Fortitude Valley with the north side of Brisbane. The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital has a big bus station with buses covering different routes, so many people would catch the bus there.
The park is an area where it is possible to spot birds, since the small patch of green must capture the attention of a few of them. I could see the birds inspecting the plane flying above. The flowers attract bees, making this park important as an ecological area.
The main entry is just off Bowen Bridge Road. The decorative iron arch contains the words Bowen Park. Near the entry is the toilet block, a small building in brick structure with a tiled roof that was built in 1915.
On the south side of the park are the gates of the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA) Showgrounds, hosting more than 250 events each year. The place is famous for hosting every year the iconic Ekka, short for Exhibition.
Bowen Park was chosen in January 1876 as the site for the first Royal Queensland Show. A public holiday was declared and it was a massive success. Every year, the Ekka attract thousands of people to enjoy the many attractions, food and exhibitions.
Ekka has been held every year with only four exceptions: in 1919 due to the Spanish Flu epidemic, in 1942 when the grounds were used as a World War II staging depot, in 2020 and 2021 due the the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.