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Published October 3rd 2016
Print out the map & take a walk through history
The Old Parliament House Gardens Walk is an enjoyable way to spend an hour in the Parliamentary Triangle - basking in the sun and taking in the sights and smells of flowers in bloom. This walk is a printable brochure, provided by the National Capital Authority, which guides you through the gardens, explaining in detail the history of this iconic property. The walk is only 1.1km long and is suitable for wheelchairs and prams, so everyone can reach out and inhale the perfume of these spectacular floral blooms. Take a wander through these historic gardens, learn about the plantings and stand under arbours where thousands of couples have been married under the vines.
Wedding arbours in the House of Representatives' Gardens
Firstly, some background information about how these gardens began. When Members and Senators first arrived at the newly built Parliament House in 1927 (now known as Old Parliament House or the Australian Museum of Democracy), they were greeted with bare dirt and not a rose in sight. It took several years before any gardens were formed, however once the project began the planners received rose bushes donated by rose societies, companies, individuals and Parliament House staff. Although it was the Depression era, Robert Broinowski (who was the Secretary of the Joint House Department) finished the gardens by the mid to late 1930's and they were utilised by Members, Senators and staff only up until 1989. After a landscape makeover, the gardens were then opened to the public in 2004 for all to enjoy.
Start the walk on the steps of Old Parliement House
The start of the walk begins on the steps of Old Parliament House, looking towards Lake Burley Griffin and across to the Australian War Memorial. Turn left and walk along the front of the building to the Broinowski Gate to the Senate Gardens, which is surrounded by box hedging. This side of the Old Parliament House Gardens has the Broinowski Rose Gardens, pergolas with wisteria, tennis courts for hire, flat paths to walk on and a grassy area that used to be a cricket pitch - used frequently by previous Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke. Although on our visit in September the roses were not in bloom, there were a host of other Springtime plants and blossoming trees in flower. This is a quiet place to take a break, watch the horticulturists manicure the garden and take some quiet solitude in the busy Parliamentary Triangle.
After finishing exploring this side of the Old Parliament House Gardens, walk back to the front of the House and then continue to walk into the other garden on the other side, known as the House of Representatives' Gardens. I must admit, this side of the gardens is much more impressive, with a series of pergolas, rose gardens, artwork, fountain, more tennis courts, bowling green and expanse of grass. There is a lot to see here and walk through in these gardens, even when the flowers are not in bloom. This garden in particular, is a scenic area to visit all year around.
The walk takes you past the Macarthur Rose Garden, Ladies Rose Garden and even a grassed bowling green that was established in 1937. This side of the gardens has more areas to sit and enjoy the floral displays, tree plantings and overall tranquillity of the gardens. It isn't hard to imagine the whole area full of wedding guests and a bride and groom having a ceremony under the arbours. With the scent of roses in the air during the ceremony, it is a romantic and iconic venue that would certainly be remembered.
At the end of the walk is the Centenary of Australian Women's Suffrage Commemorative Artwork and Fountain. After 1902 women were allowed to vote and in 1903, stand for government. There is a mosaic timeline along the ground which signifies these important milestones in history, starting at these dates and remembering all the firsts in female history. The last plaque was in 2010 when Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister and previous to this was in 2008, when Quentin Bryce was chosen to be Governor General.
If you would like a guided tour of the gardens to learn more, contact the National Capital Authority website to book a spot.
If you happen to visit Canberra or Old Parliament House when the roses have unfurled and are displayed in all their glory, take a walk across the road to admire the National Rose Gardens on show. It is here that you can take a picnic and sit in the gardens, or enjoy a coffee overlooking them at Pork Barrel Café. The grounds of Old Parliament House are a fascinating walk back through history, where you can imagine previous Prime Ministers playing cricket or having a hit of tennis in the gardens. If you are happy to meander the gardens on your own, just allow plenty of time to take a seat and enjoy the tranquillity of the gardens...