In the heart of the Kyneton Botanic Gardens, a giant Californian Redwood towers over a lawn dotted with meadow daisies. Beyond that are holm oaks, their gnarled limbs sprawling over bluestone terracing. One hundred and sixty-one years ago, around 10ha of land was set aside by the banks of the Campaspe river in the then-booming gold rush township, a short walk to its brand-new train station.

Back then, locals sourced their trees from Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Today some of those trees planted by the colonists form a lush canopy shading sweeping lawns and sheltering a historic rotunda and weatherboard gardeners’ cottage.  Next to the Kyneton Botanic Gardens, is a new addition, the Kyneton Community Garden, designed by Andrew Laidlaw. They are a magnificent place for picnics, BBQs and to bring children to play in the water garden and climb over the old tractors. The gardens fall away towards the Campaspe River, a low hawthorn hedge separating the two. Here the rich golden light of late afternoon streams through the trees, dragonflies dart about the surface of the river, and ducklings chase bugs among the reeds.

Water forms the backdrop to the Malmsbury Botanic Gardens. The Coliban River forms the western boundary of these 6ha historic gardens with a former billabong built into a lake ringed with bluestone from an old mill that stood nearby. There are impressive trees such as the Lombardy Poplar avenue and towering Californian Redwood and Giant Redwood as well as a collection of arbutus, or strawberry, trees. There is a family of resident geese who seem to have successfully raised a few goslings this season. The dominant feature, however, is the Malmsbury railway viaduct. Built of bluestone in 1859, its five arches stand 25 metres above the river and span over 100 metres and is an imposing structure. For many years this has been the place to enjoy tea and scones purchased at the nearby Malmsbury Bakery.

The Wombat Botanic Gardens are an enduring favourite for Daylesford locals and visitors. Perched on the summit of Wombat Hill, an extinct volcano whose summit is close to 700m above sea level. The gardens cover 10ha, encircled by a carriage drive running under an avenue of elms, part of the original 1880s design. At the top of the hill, Daylesford’s water supply sits in a covered reservoir, the overflow from the original water still designed to flow through a lush fern garden. In spring, carpets of bluebells cover the lawns under the cedars and elms. The glasshouse contains a much-coveted begonia collection that flowers later in summer and autumn. Nearby, in a 1940s house, is Wombat Hill House Café, scion of the iconic Lake House, offering excellent tea, coffee, and light meals. The pinnacle of the gardens is Pioneer Memorial Tower, a 1930s concrete tower that soars high above the trees and offers superb views of the surrounding forest, and the town of Daylesford itself.

@foodcornish

Kyneton Botanic Gardens, Kyneton 200m from Kyneton V/Line Station

Malmsbury Bakery, Malmsbury malmsburybakery.com.au

Malmsbury Botanic Gardens, Malmsbury 600m from Malmsbury V/Line station

Wombat Hill House Café, Daylesford wombathillhouse.com.au

Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, Daylesford wombathill.org.au

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Cornish Richard
Richard Cornish
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Melbourne based food writer, author and events host.