A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
It’s bloomin’ spectacular
Autumn in New South Wales is the perfect time for a road trip, not too hot in the car, and one of the most beautiful times to visit an array of spectacular gardens. Venture west this April, past the Blue Mountains to Oberon, for the Mayfield Garden Autumn Festival where you'll find one of the largest gardens around.
The weather is cooling and the morning air crisp, great for a walk, discovering nooks and crannies as you go. There is plenty of beauty to stumble upon, from ponds to waterfalls, quaint bridges and wildflowers, abounding amongst towering trees and low-lying shrubs. It is one of the most picturesque places I've visited and well worth the 3-hour drive from Sydney.
Two gardens make up a total of 65 hectares. The water garden is open all year round (except Christmas & Boxing Days) and, during the seasonal festivals, the Hawkins' private family garden opens. Without the map, it is hard to tell where one garden ends and the other begins. They sit side by side awaiting your exploration of features that also include a bluestone chapel, a cascading temple, a grotto, an aviary and an amphitheatre.
Our visit, on an overcast day, saw us arriving early and having breakfast in the cafe onsite. A hearty meal of bacon and eggs on sourdough and the all-important coffee to go with it prepared us for the walking, a lot of it, that we undertook.
The Mayfield Cafe also serves up gingerbread waffles with parfait and bruschetta with fried pork, eggs and goats fetta, as well as lunch items that include salads, a grazing plate, lamb rump, roast chicken supreme, trout and Mexican wraps. Desserts, a children's menu, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available. The menu is seasonal with most of the produce sourced from their garden and farm. Jams, chutneys and oils, along with other local merchandise, are sold so that you may take a piece of Mayfield home with you.
A complimentary shuttle bus and garden tour operates continuously throughout the days of the festival, doing a loop of the garden with several pick-up and drop-off points along the way. We decided to get the bus to the top of the garden, disembark and meander our way slowly back down to the entrance, stopping to take many a photo whilst in awe of the beauty around every corner.
Golden leaves, blankets of colour, unusual plants and views as far as the eye can see were first to capture our attention. Walking downhill, we came to one of the ponds that is part of The Valley of the Five Ponds. Each pond is connected via a stone water trough that weaves its way through the valley and this one is surrounded by magnificent trees that include deciduous oaks, maples, birch and beech in glorious autumn colours. The next pond down is surrounded by trees and shrubs and equally impressive with a small waterfall, one of many you'll find around these gardens.
Backtracking a little, we decided to check out the rose garden with its blooms of various colours and varieties that include old world roses, hybrid tea roses, carpet roses and David Austin roses. They were very healthy looking, obviously well cared for, the owners' pride and joy. Other flowering plants you'll find throughout the gardens include wisteria, camellias, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and water lilies. In spring, you can see many a flowering bulb, such as tulips and daffodils. In summer, the perfume from the flowering French lavender rouses the senses. These are just some of what you will find. There are many, many more to discover.
Adjoining the rose garden is the sculptured hedge of Thuja (evergreen trees), looking very formal. From here, we tried following the map but admit we did get lost due to the many different paths you can take. However, that was part of the fun not knowing what surprise awaited us next.
The Thuja hedge - part of the Hawkins' family garden
Our feet in our lost world wandered into the rainforest and continued through a pine forest before we spotted a Chinese pavilion in the distance, through an opening in the trees. On closer inspection, we saw that it jutted out over the lake via its bridge. One of many perfect places for wedding photos here.
Making our way back to the main path, we continued through another change of scenery that saw us surrounded by a gallery of sandstone blocks and rocks with a waterfall and open views of the lake. This is one of the things that I find amazing with these gardens. There are so many changing landscapes to enjoy and they all fit together like pieces in a puzzle.
Next, it was to the beautiful bluestone bridge and its cascading waterfall flowing below it into the water garden. This is one of the prettiest areas with its Japanese-inspired design and red wooden bridge.
It was a wonderful day and we certainly slept well that night. There are parts we missed, like most of the edible gardens, which consist of a fruit orchard and an apple arbour, a nuttery, a glasshouse and a brick-walled vegetable garden. It is just that huge and they are continually developing.
Since our visit last year, an English box hedge maze has popped up. It's the second largest of its kind in Australia at 1.4kms long and is still growing in height with the final peak to be 1.8metres in 2020. The goal of getting to the central crows nest, and climbing to the top to ring the bell, will certainly keep the kids busy. A mobility-friendly Camellia Walk is now open too, allowing you to avoid the stairs.
The website advises to allow at least 4hrs but I say you need a lot longer. Other interests onsite include giant interactive garden games, music and entertainment, and rowboats on the lake (free to use during the festival). A nursery next to the cafe has plants for sale for all the green thumbs.
The gardens (address below) are open from 9am-4.30pm, with last entry at 3pm. Tickets during the festival are $35 per adult, $30 for concession and $15 per school-aged child. Not in school yet, you're free.
There is ample free parking for both cars and coaches. Facilities are good with Eftpos available in the cafe and at the information/ticket desk, and restrooms conveniently located in a few places throughout the gardens.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take a bottle of water with you as you walk around. You'll be glad you did.