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Published: March 26th 2015
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
The Robert Clark Conservatory
Our overnight sailing back to Melbourne proved to be uneventful arriving at 6.30am in the dark.How we ever managed without GPS I don't know, navigating out of the docklands and onto the freeway would have been a nightmare without mine.We are headed for Ballarat a former gold town with a very important place in Australian history.The 1800's saw a gold rush in Ballarat and surrounds bringing in thousands of would be gold diggers from all over the world with a significant Chinese contingent.The second largest gold nugget in the world was found here. Ballarat is also where the Eureka Rebellion took place and the birthplace of our current day Democracy. An exhibition reconstructs the Eureka Stockade and tells the story behind those dark days that gave us democracy. On proud display is the original flag flown at the stockade, we didn't visit this time having been there last time we were here. Today Ballarat is a thriving country town where arts,culture,gardens backed up by a rich history make this a must visit town with something for everyone.
We were visitors here not so long ago but weather deterred us from enjoying some of the attractions that Ballarat has to offer.This
time we are blessed with fine weather and once settled in to our caravan park we head off out.Our first stop the botanical gardens a 40 hectares cool climate collection of plants,shrubs and trees.Although we didn't see all 40 hectors we did manage to take in some of the significant displays.A week earlier the annual Begonia show was held in the the Robert Clarke Conservatory and remains on display until the blooms begin to fade.They were still in full bloom when we arrived and what a display,with all the colours of the rainbow on show this was a presentation to take your breath away with so many vibrant arrangements from static to hanging baskets. Just outside the conservatory lies the start of the Prime Ministers Avenue a horsechestnut tree lined avenue with bronze busts of all past Prime Ministers starting with Sir Edmund Bartons dating to 1901. Walking down this avenue is a reminder of past political history and not so long ago political infighting. A sensory garden is close by and is a favorite for weddings and other functions , built around a fountain it contains plants that appeal to all the senses, a relaxing place to stop for
awhile.A historic tramway runs along the foreshore of Lake Wendouree which is opposite the gardens and is available for public rides and makes for an interesting sight.These gardens and surrounding area are full of interesting and sometimes poignant attractions including the Australian EX Prisoners of War Memorial, a 130 metre polished black granite wall engraved with all the names of all Australian Prisoners of War and including the names of the countries that they where held in. These gardens are a great place to wander at your leisure and take in the sights and smells together with the history all around you, as is said, stop and smell the roses and be in the moment.
Sovereign Hill is a recreation of the first ten years of Ballarat following the discovery of gold in 1851 is a living theatre of what life was like during those years. As we wander around this magnificent site the life of people drawn to these parts unfolds before us.Chinese immigrants formed a good proportion of the workforce seeking out their fortune and fleeing from poverty in their own country only to find it was not much better here,living in tents and working long hours
alongside other migrants for little reward which eventually led to the Eureka uprising. A town grew up with shops and all the infrastructure to support this gold boom,a mine was sunk here with all the support needed to sustain such a project.All this is recreated here at Sovereign Hill and attention to detail has been very carefully researched. Take a horse ride in an carriage around the town,watch gold being smelted,take a underground mine excursion,watch a blacksmith at work,pan for gold and so much more on offer.Staff dressed in period costume walk the streets,working demonstrations at given times and the atmosphere is created to take you back in time.Spread over several acres this site takes several hours to enjoy and should not be rushed.
Included in the admission price is entry to the Gold Museum which is adjacent to Sovereign Hill. A Museum dedicated to the history of Gold from all over world.A modern museum using the latest form of technology to portray the history of gold dating back to the time of the Pharaohs but also the history of gold here in Ballarat. Some of the exhibits are stunning and worth a lot of money while others are
recreations and very realistic.Of course there is a gift shop where gifts made of gold can be bought, we didn't.
Leaving Ballarat we move on to Halls Gap a small village at the foot of the Grampians our intention is to try some of the walking tracks to be found here and visit some of the small towns and villages around this area.
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