Spending time in gardens is good for our souls but sleeping overnight within them takes the experience to another level.
Such an opportunity can be enjoyed at Mayfield Garden, Australia's largest privately-owned, cool climate garden. One of the most beautiful and grandiose gardens in the nation, the 65-hectare property recently added glamping to the mix.
Bonding time with nature and each other
Arrayed in their own designated area, about ten minutes walk (or a two minute drive) from the garden's main entry, the tents glow surrounded by trees and paddocks.
My daughter, who is thirteen (we're enjoying some mother and daughter bonding time alone) has already unlocked the tent and is giving an ecstatic appraisal of the interior.
Today's erratic weather brings rain bearing down upon us. Rivulets of brown water are trickling everywhere creating mini streams, the green fields blurred with rain and chorusing with thousands of joyful frogs. Spending time in mother nature means embracing her many moods.
Drinks by the fire
After dropping off our things, we return (somewhat damp) to the cafe area to sip drinks on comfy, cushioned lounges in the garden room, and dry off. In September, this outdoor space glances out on the garden, onto rows of showy white plumes of flowering May bushes and rhododendrons studded with gauzy balls of red and cream. A carpet of grape hyacinth spreads beneath in a dazzling blue that continually draws my eye.
Sweetened with spring blooms, the air is further spiced by the smoky aroma of an open-air fire pit. And, as the light outside dims, appropriately located lighting in the garden outside begins to glow.
Dining in the garden room
A three-course meal is included in the glamping package. We're offered a selection of three different options for our entrée and main and two choices for dessert. There's also a children's menu.
Starting with a sweet yet spicy Pumpkin Soup, a series of delicious dishes punctuate our chit-chat, courtesy of new chef, Ben McRae.
My main, an Eggplant Parmigiana, arrives served with a spring garden salad. I learn that fresh produce, grown in the Kitchen Garden, supplements the ingredients used in the food - these are largely sourced from local producers in and around Oberon. There are also several hen houses at Mayfield Garden that contribute eggs.
I trade some of my Miso Apple Crumble (with macadamia crumble) for some of my daughter's Churro's dipped in a divine caramel sauce. The tasty food manages to be wholesome yet classy at the same time. More than satiated, we retire to our tents.
Decorated with a natural fibre Turkish style rug, ottomans, a comfy queen-sized bed and fairy lights entwined around the central pole, the chamber has a cosy feel. While the air is chilly, we're warm beneath the thick doona and take advantage of the additional blankets provided for guests.
Outside, the crunching footsteps of other glamping guests walking to and from the toilet block or talking in their tents, reminds me of a past camping trip. It's a communal experience at variance with staying in the silent, sealed walls of a hotel. Fortunately, the camp quickly falls into silence overpowered by the jungle-like symphony of frogs and other unseen creatures of the night.
In the middle of the night a brief rain pounds the tent. Hours later, hundreds of birds and the bleating of sheep greets the lightening of the sky outside.
Outdoor showering, lux-style
I grab one of the provided towels and shower gels and walk over to the shower cubicle. Unexpectedly, this turns out to be my favourite part of the experience. Housed in solid wood cubicles open to the sky, the freshness of the spring air invigorates my skin and contrasts deliciously with the steaming water.
The showerheads are large and the water falling along my body, voluptuous and comforting. It's like standing under a warm shower of rain and highly meditative. I study the branches of trees and the heads of conifers serrating the pearly sky. I watch the passage of clouds and the sky opening up to the sun.
Breakfast packages (not included in the package but an optional extra) are delivered to the tents at 8am. Inside the bag I find juice, muesli, yoghurt bowls and sweet pastries.
After so many treats and a sleep, jaunting through the garden, some movement and exercise, feels well-timed. The glamping experience allows visitors exclusive late-night and early morning access to the garden – so we're able to make an early start and beat the crowds.
Conveniently located near the beginning of the Water Garden, behind Mayfield's Obelisk Pond, departing the Glamping site we're soon immersed in seas of azaleas and fragrant paths of golden daffodils, jonquils, hyacinths and other bulbs.
A flowering cherry that forms an enormous cloud of pink reminds me that there is literally heaven on earth. An inspirational treat, Mayfield Garden presents new vistas of beauty and creative genius at every twist and turn of the path. We encounter streams, gushing waterfalls, reflective ponds and lakes ornamented beautifully with stone, blooms, grottos, buildings, arches and bridges.
The opportunity to row on the lake (included in garden entry) is eagerly taken up by my daughter. A pair of black swans with their new fluffy babies glide upon the smooth mirrored surface, just some of the many birds that populate the lake and its tiny islands.
As we row back to shore, we discover a small frog passenger in the boat with us.
A stunning, living legacy of the Hawkins family, inspired by the best gardens of Europe, Mayfield garden is a piece of heaven on earth.
Glamping is available at the garden during Mayfield Garden's seasonal festivals. See the spring dates below. During the festival periods, visitors including day visitors, are also able to experience the full 65 hectares of the garden including the Hawkin's family's private 50-hectare section. The private garden features the country's largest English Box Hedge Maze, Cascade and Temple, Amphitheatre, Mayfield Chapel, Walled Kitchen Garden and Glasshouse.
24 September to 22 October 2022
Children aged under 16 can share the tent for an additional cost of $105 per child - which includes their accommodation, garden entry and a two-course dinner.
Standard opening hours for Mayfield Garden are 9.00am to 4.30pm, with final entry at 3.00pm.
Along with your camera, bring warm clothes including a raincoat and umbrella, good walking shoes and (if glamping) warm PJs and dressing gown.
Located 15 minutes from Oberon, the 65-hectare garden is a two-and-a-half-hour to three hour drive from Sydney and a 75 to 90 minute drive from Katoomba through the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. The journey there takes you through two of the most scenic, green drives of the area: along Jenolan Caves Road and Duckmaloi Road.