As I said before, the garden around Norman Lindsay Gallery was not a masterpiece. To complement the experience we headed to another National Trust property – Everglades – which was all about landscape art.
Everglades appeared to be a large park with numerous terraces built on a rather steep slope ending with a spectacular drop. It was commissioned by a Feltex carpet merchant and cost him, in modern money, 25 million dollars. I wonder if it was an attempt to buy a piece of happiness, because he didn’t seem to have a blissful family life. When he died in 1962 his will revealed that the park was left to National Trust, not to his wife.
Everglades is a kind of park that requires exploration and there is more than one way to do it. A friendly Trust official (or volunteer) drew a line on the map showing the preferred route and off we went.
The first stop on the journey was an ornamental purple crab. Beautifully spread over the wall, it should present a magnificent sight when in bloom. That’s the catch of visiting gardens – there is no one season when you can fully appreciate their beauty and you are compelled to return again.
One of the terraces ended with a window offering a spectacular view of the bushland. A table and chairs were provided for convenience of the visitors and I wished I could have a cup of tea there, but unfortunately the café was on another terrace. It’s moments like this that make one realise why people are ready to pay extra buck for a property with a good view.
While the main inhabitants of the garden were plants it was also home to butterflies, dragon-flies, ducks and lizards. It was the first time I saw a lizard carrying a smaller one in jaws. At first I thought it was a young lizard carefully transported by its mother, but lizards are not famous for being affectionate parents, so more likely it was unfortunate prey dragged to an eating place.
One dragon-fly flew in circles around me and I thought it might have been interested in making an acquaintance. I remembered how dragon-flies at Volga liked to sit on reeds and sometimes could be lured to land on a finger. So I stretched my hand, pointed up a finger (a decent one) and pretended to be a harmless plant… for a minute or two. The dragon-fly was not impressed, but I succeeded in attracting attention of the Trust official. To mitigate my embarrassment I fed him a line about Volga dragon-flies which he listened to with an expression of profound disbelief, but, having had no experience in befriending those insects, did not dare to contest.
The next destination was a grotto with a waterfall. The grotto was natural and had proper echo – I thoroughly tested it by clapping and shouting. However, the waterfall, as explained by the same Trust official, was man-made but they tried hard to make it look natural, and so it did. The grotto and the pond were surrounded by tall trees which didn’t let direct light through. Nevertheless, each time a sun ray managed to squeeze between leaves, it reflected from the pool surface disturbed by the falling water and drew beautiful arabesques on the rocky walls. I felt I could spend hours looking at the dancing highlights… if only there was a bench. It is quite incredible that the first property owner did not have something comfortable to sit on in such a splendid place. Now I think that there was a bench but it was removed by the Trust to encourage visitor rotation; otherwise people would sit there all day in enchanted meditation.
The artificial waterfall was fed by no more natural but no less artful watercourse. Its banks were formed by fancy stones which provided a reliable hiding place for another lizard. The best viewing point is the upper end of the stream from which it looks like an almost ready illustration for a fairy-tale – just add sprites.
On our way out we visited an unavoidable gift shop. Having previously bought a tea mug and a tea towel it made perfect sense to stock up on sweets. We bought two jars of local marmalade and honey. Seville Orange was proudly advertised as “original bitter marmalade”. It was bitter and this is probably all I can say about it. Honey was generously flavoured with cinnamon; so generously, in fact, that I would rather call it honey-flavoured cinnamon spread.
Just before leaving I noticed a beautiful piece of ironwork – a door lattice depicting Adam and Eve near the apple-tree. An uncanny feeling came over me as I realised how the timing of this discovery, right before quitting the garden, subtly alluded to the biblical legend. I found comfort in the thought that I would be allowed to return.