It’s hard to believe, but day 4, the final day of my Go Natural, Go Dunedin Garden Tour hosted by none other than Mr Jamie Durie came to an end today in a flurry of hugs and goodbyes at Dunedin International Airport.
Before the curtain came down on one of the more enjoyable weekend getaways I’ve had in quite a while, our tour group of roughly 35 still had a few of Dunedin’s gems to check out. After having sampled so many wonderful gardens and natural wonders over the past three days already, ticking off a few more boxes today almost felt greedy. However, for the very few among us who hadn’t already committed to a repeat visit in the near future (possibly the Spring/Summer), this was going to potentially be their last time being down this way for a while, so it made sense to cram in as much as we could before jetting back to Australia.
Kicking things off this morning, following yet another great buffet brekky at the “Scenic Hotel”, we checked out of our rooms, filled the underbelly of the coach with all of our luggage and headed off for the first stop of the day – Baldwin Street.
Touted as the “Steepest Street in the World” by Dunedin’s residents and our coach driver, Brad, alike, Baldwin Street is a 350m stretch of road about 3.5kms from the city centre which rises up Signal Hill from around 30m (98 ft) above sea-level at its intersection with North Road, to around 100m (330 ft).
From where we were released from the coach for some souvenir shots at the North Road end of Baldwin Street, it really doesn’t look that bad with the asphalted section (see below) consisting of a pretty gentle slope upwards. It’s once you hit the concrete section of the street, however, that the “world’s steepest” title is earned.
At its steepest point, about 70.6m from the top, a 19 degree or 35% gradient is experienced. That is, for every 2.86m travelled, you gain 1m in elevation. That’s pretty steep by anyone’s standards.
With a distinct lack of time at our disposal, any thoughts of ripping on up the hill on foot were quickly dispelled and we instead followed our “pocket rocket” guide Midge back on board the coach ready to take off for our next destination.
132 North Taieri Road, Abbotsford, Dunedin, New Zealand.
I think I have reiterated in nearly every daily tour post prior to this one so far that I’m not exactly what anyone could feasibly consider a “green thumb”. The extent of my gardening prowess up until this point is… well… so non-existent it’s not even worth considering in this space.
While I should leave judgements like I’m about to make up to the experts like Jamie, I’d like to throw it out there that Fran and Mike Rawling’s gorgeous “Wylde Willow” garden was probably the most enjoyable garden for me over the course of the entire weekend.
Located in the suburb of Abbotsford, just south of central Dunedin, Wylde Willow is a peaceful 1 hectare of former waste land which has been beautifully converted into a large country garden which begs to be explored. The tranquil Abbots Creek winds its way through the property for over half a kilometre, criss-crossed by a number of quaint bridges and lined by 100 year-old willows.
Beneath these giant softwoods a series of pathways lead you from the house through a forest featuring a variety of rhododendrons, small shrubs and woodland perennials.
The property also features a lovely orchard guarded by a number of very healthy looking sheep which appeared to be happy enough being hand-fed the odd apple, and a park land setting with marginal plantings surrounding a reflective pond which is frequented by ducks and geese.
A couple of the stand out attractions to be found throughout “Wylde Willow” for me, were firstly the good old “Hills Hoist” (below) which has been crafted into a brilliant vine-draped piece of botanical art.
Secondly, as you make your way to the far end of the property near the reflective ponds you stumble upon a cute “Hobbit Hole” which was built as a play area for kids. I guess you can consider me a “big kid”, because I LOVED it and had fun opening the small wooden doors to reveal the over-sized spider and web on the inside.
A huge congratulations to Fran and Mike for all the hard work they have put into “Wylde Willow”. If you’re ever down in the Dunedin area of New Zealand’s South Island, make sure you drop on by and check out the garden for yourself!
95 Currie Road, Maungatuas, Outram, New Zealand.
By a little after 11am, we found ourselves led up a steep driveway to the immaculately manicured “Northview Garden”. Spread over something like 5 acres, Northview presented our tour coach of keen gardeners with the opportunity to wander across lawns bordered by roses and rhododendrons, around a couple of beautiful ponds, amongst various sculptures and to enjoy sweeping views of the valley to the rear of the modern, main residence.
The return journey to the coach, after having explored the grounds for a good 45 minutes, was via a winding, sloping path which wound its way through hundreds of rhododendrons and blooming, colourful hydrangeas.
Everyone seemed to be very impressed by the massive waterfall construction that is underway at the front of the property on the hill leading up to the main house. When it’s done, it is no doubt going to be quite spectacular and will become a major attraction.
Northview Gardens sadly was the last of the feature gardens on our Go Natural, Go Dunedin Garden Tour which, I have to say, has been awesome. What a great way to explore this gorgeous part of New Zealand. But our tour wasn’t over just yet. Oh no. The fun was only just beginning as we made our way to “Grandview Gardens” for a unique lunch experience.
A favoured venue for weddings and private functions in the Otago region, “Grandview Gardens” features two acres of gardens including ponds, water features, large oaks and a collection of fantastic rustic details.
With a full morning of garden exploring under our belts already, however, the main priority for the tour group seemed to be to enter the large, modern, 100-seat reception hall where we found an open bar (uh oh!) serving up pre-lunch beer and wine. As I approached the bar myself, the unmistakable label design of “Emerson’s London Porter” stuck out in the beer fridge behind the bar attendants, and I knew right then that this was going to be a great way to cap off a fun weekend. Check out the Day 2 post to find out about the start of my love-affair with this award-winning brew.
No sooner had everyone sorted out table placements and drinks were flowing, the sound of bagpipes fired up and a few tour members selected as volunteers upon our earlier arrival at Grandview filed into the hall behind a piper, carrying whiskey, a haggis and a huge Scottish broadsword respectively.
Over the next 20 minutes or so we were thoroughly entertained by a heart-felt and often hilarious (see the signature kilt photo below) “Ceremony of the Haggis” presented by one of Grandviews Scottish staff members as he recited Robert Burns’ famous “Address to a Haggis” with admirable passion and expertise. For those of you who don’t know it, it goes a little something like this:
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An cut you up wi ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like onie ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sicht,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that ower his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
Upon completion of the entertaining Haggis Ceremony, lunch was served and we all took our turns in lining up at the buffet tables ready to load up a plate with a huge selection of yummy offerings. As this was going on, the now sliced up haggis was doing the rounds of the room giving those who had never tried it before, the opportunity to give it a go. I personally love the stuff after having tried it while travelling through Scotland a few years ago, so I was more than happy to dig in.
Inevitably, Midge and Brad got the ball rolling on the closing speeches thanking all those in attendance for making their way over to New Zealand to sample all that the city of Dunedin has to offer. They also continued their now familiar cheekiness by presenting a couple of hilarious hand-made posters to Jamie while thanking him for being such a fantastic host over the past 4 days.
All that was left to do then was continue to drink the bar dry (haha!) and grab a few photo opportunities with Jamie. I have to say, considering I watched a number of ladies finally get their long-anticipated opportunity to throw themselves at him (some literally into his lap!), Jamie’s a damn good sport – plain and simple.
Up until this point, I hadn’t had much of a chance to explore Grandview, so I took the opportunity to scoot out into the grounds and grab a few shots of the type of rustic charm that I LOVE about places like that. While doing so, however, it suddenly went quiet back around near where the coach was parked. I was wondering if everyone had suddenly boarded without me so I ran back around to see what was going on, only to find everyone lined up for the big group shot (see below).
The only thing left to do following our lovely lunch date at Grandview was to head back out to Dunedin airport, check in with the good folk at “Pacific Blue”, madly start exchanging email addresses and prepare for our flight home to Australia.
For me, it was the last opportunity I had to sit and have a chat with some of the great friends I had made on this little journey, like Eliza, Jamie and Joy (Jamie’s Mum). By publishing these 4 blog entries covering our adventures over the past weekend I hope that we’ll all have something to look back on fondly in the future. The people and the city of Dunedin were so fantastic to us all with their beautiful natural wonders, and their warm and friendly hospitality. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to find down in this part of the world, but I can happily recommend anyone reading this blog to get over there and check it out.
Time to say thanks!
In closing, I have a long thank you list that I need to get out there. First and foremost to Hamish Saxton and the team at Tourism Dunedin for extending the invitation to attend the “Go Natural, Go Dunedin Garden Tour”. I had a ball and have full intentions of returning to Dunedin and the Otago region as soon as possible!
To Midge, Brad and the team at Citibus – Thank you, thank you, thank you! Midge, you’re truly one of a kind and it’s hard to see how anyone could walk away from ANY of your guided tours without a huge smile on their face. And Brad… you’re a talented man. Most women argue that men can’t do two things at once. You successfully, safely and consistently transported us from point A to point B while educating us on the city you clearly love, making us laugh, and deflecting all of Midge’s good-humoured ribbing along the way. I salute you on a job well done my friend.
To Jamie, thanks so much for your expert guidance and entertainment all weekend long. You were clearly the ideal choice for this kind of journey and I KNOW that a lot of the tour group will take away an immense amount of added knowledge and enthusiasm for gardening because of your involvement. You’re a top bloke and a good sport, so thank you and all the best for all of the amazing projects you have coming up!
And last but not least, to all of my fellow coach passengers and now, new friends. These kinds of tours are only ever as good as the people you are lucky enough to share them with. Knowing how good a time we all had over the past few days, it only makes sense that you all give yourselves a pat on the back too! Here’s hoping the “powers that be” take note of all the positive feedback they have received from us, and look seriously at organising a Spring/Summer tour which I know many of you will jump on board without hesitation!
Until we meet again, HAPPY GARDENING!!