For a long time, Perth was home.
We arrived by ship, docking in Fremantle just over 40 years ago – family of four, Brian, myself and our two daughters of 18 months and 3 years. We had no money, just a burning ambition to make a new life. And we succeeded, building businesses and careers and our daughters grew up. But in the late 90’s, for one reason or another, we left for the Eastern States of Australia, all of us leaving a part of ourselves behind.
So, I was delighted when I had to visit Perth, almost 40 years to the day we first arrived. So much had changed and yet so much was the same. It was a weird trip.
Probably the highlight for me was Kings Park. If only because of the magical changes that have taken place in the way it presents itself to its users.
I used to walk through Kings Park on my way to work so I knew it well. An evening walk was just what my heart needed.
Overlooking Perth City, this huge park has a mix of natural bushland and cultivated areas in its 4 square kilometers. The parkland holds the Western Australian Herbarium, the Botanic Gardens and acres of natural bushland as well as walking and cycling trails and picnic spots. It has always been well used by locals and visitors alike. It has always been the centre of flora research in WA.
But King’s Park used to be a traditional parkland. The Botanic Gardens especially featured plants from other lands with similar climates – South Africa, Mexico, the Mediterranean – and its picnic spots were just that, grassy areas with barbecues.
Botanic Gardens of Western Australia
Today, the section which housed the traditional Botanic Gardens has been renamed the Botanic Gardens of Western Australia and the exotic plantings have largely been replaced by plants featuring the amazing flora of Western Australia.
This really showcases the change in focus from the Victorian idea of bringing the world to local citizens to one which shows off local history, people and nature for locals and visitors alike.
The previously internationally themed gardens now feature some of the local plant communities such as the Dessert Region, Swan River Coastal Plain vegetation and flora of the Stirling Ranges on the south coast.
Other areas focus on different plant groups which are peculiarly Australian and popular with visitors – Kangaroo Paws, Everlasting Daisies, Hakea, the beautiful flowering Eucalypts.
Western Australia is known for its wildflowers, people visit from all over the world to see the amazing fields of blossom each spring.
Not much was in flower as we walked through on a May evening (winter in Perth) but I can imagine that the amazing spring wildflower season will bring this area alive with colour and fascinating plants.
It’s worth a visit at any time of the year.
Celebrating Gondwana and the Dinosaurs
A separate section of the park has been developed as an education centre, especially for children, celebrating the amazing geological history of the region. The focus is especially on the Jurassic and the dinosaurs all part of Australia’s separation from South Africa and South America as we split from Gondwanaland and slid to the south east. The latest scientific research shows that our dinosaurs have more in common with those from southern continents than those in the northern hemisphere. Just like our plants. Think about the relationship between Mimosa in South Africa and our Acacias and the Proteas of South Africa and our Banksias.
I bet this bit of the park will be very busy each weekend with families barbecuing and through the week with groups brought in by schools.
Beautiful sculptures of giant, ground dwelling birds greet you as you come into the park – tempting to climb and ride. And an introduction to the theme found here.
There are grassy places to run, sit and picnic And lake with an island sits directly in front of these birds.
A bridge leads to the lake which takes you through the plants of the Jurassic. Cycads and Wollemi Pines showcase dinosaur food.
Surrounding the island are concrete stepping stones imitating the Hamelin Pool stromatolites. Also referred to as ‘living fossils’, stromatolites are living representatives of life over 3500 million years ago when there was no other complex life on Earth.
I’m not sure these really should be used as stepping stones though…but I expect adventurous kids will not be held back…
And beyond the lake are dinosaurs and giant eggs…
And if you are looking for a climbing frame, look for bridges through time with the threat of pterodactyl attack.
Throughout there is plenty of information, taking everyone through different geological eras. It can only be fun for young and old.
So bravo Western Australia for updating and refreshing Kings Park, one of the biggest inner city parks in the world.