Tag Archives: Ripponlea

City Oasis

RIPPONLEA GARDENS

The Ripponlea Estate was named after the wife of a local politician Sir Frederick Thomas Sargood. It provided a social setting for his influential guests and bountiful garden for his nine children yet despite the opulent setting that he placed himself within, he supported the factory worker by shortening their day and imposing wage awards.

In the pleasure garden the Sargood era is evoked by the staging of a range of performing arts events including opera, theatre, chamber music and outdoor activities. Culture Victoria

Today within the urban tangle of the traffic riddled roads that engulf the Elsternwick area there is a sanctuary where you can withdraw from the chaos and stroll down the paths of a botanical paradise.  The garden explores the traditions of European landscaping with areas of French aristocratic order, Italian features and the avant-guard bend toward naturalism that softened the rigidity of control.

Sargood worked with his head gardener Adam Anderson to create a space rich with imported plants, an orchid and vegetable produce. William Sangster a landscape designer, that would create the Victorian Gardens, added his vision to the project, which included sweeping areas of lawn, a lake and an entry path lined with Oaks.

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The fashion of the garden that was inspired by the movements of the time and morphed with each new owner is a gem of landscape history that has survived, despite the encroaching suburban sprawl and government acquisitions. What separates it from other public areas is that it was designed to be private and therefore there is an intimacy and charm that is unique.

The predominate aspect at the lake is a small bridge across the water, underlie with lily ponds, brush grass, towering vegetation and flowers it is as picturesque as Monet’s garden. There is also a cave under the waterfall, a small pergola on the waters edge and meandering paths , it re-creates the romantic inclinations of the Pre-Raphaelite movement that were blossoming in England during the 1880’s.

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In 1910, Benjamin Nathan who established Maples, the furniture stores, took over the property, he introduced more native plants into the area, displaying a discernment  to the Australian environment that his predecessors had ignored. When he died, his daughter Louisa (Lulu) took over in the 30’s.

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Art-Deco hedonism that was in full swing, when Lulu took control of the property and brought in some modern appliances and ideals. Featuring a tennis court, swimming pool, boats and a stable of horses on the grounds, the parties of young heiresses would not have been lacking friends.

The grounds attract an assortment of birdlife and the duck society is in full force, providing endless entertainment, there is a resident kookaburra and in its ‘hey-day’ peacocks graced the lawns. People come to the property sporadically and blend into the environment, it invites the quiet visitor.

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Currently the property is in the safe arm of the National Trust with the park open to the public for a small entry fee, the pool side party room is available for hire and hosts local weddings.There is a tea-room with an open fire on cold days and a small nursery to buy some of the specimen’s offshoot’s, including the apple trees. It’s the go-to place for escaping the city drone and being an heiress (heir) for the day.

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Melbourne Tourist tips

Waking up on the Summer morning ,sipping coffee as the birds dart in and out of the garden, is bliss, even if the rest of the day will be spent in an office.

For warm weather the best time to come to Melbourne is between November and April. Australia is not built for cold weather, it is a beach culture, we endure July in houses that are poorly insulated. During Winter, the southerly winds off the South Pole shred through thin walls and coats, but in Summer it’s a cool change that swings a scorching heat into an icy gail. Melbournians wear layers because random weather changes are expected.

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Summer, long weekends and Easter

When the sun is out the locals are basking. There is a mass exodus to the coast in January, Easter and Public Holidays, if your planning an Ocean Road tour during these times book early. Bayside beaches fill up and most Tourists head for St Kilda but South Melbourne and Brighton Beaches are more relaxing.

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Inner city Melbournians, get up early on Saturdays and have breakfast together in Cafes, the best places fill up quickly. On a hot afternoon, the South Melbourne market has  great outdoor seating under a large golden canopy, enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and a glass of wine. Expect to eat dishes from all over the world, each new flood of settlers has brought their food culture with them and each gets its day in the spotlight. Currently everything is ‘infused’ with something Asian.

If the weather turns foul, which means the ‘cool’ (freezing) change came early, head to the NGV Gallery at Federation Square and take in some Australian Art. The City is proud of its Artists but Sport is given most sponsorship. The Art is world-class but under promoted.

The Docklands is a relatively new development with ‘state of the art’ architecture, just behind the Southern Cross Station on Spencer St. It has a futuristic opulence , a skating rink and the Southern Star.

Trains and trams are the main form of transport and very well mapped, it’s easy to follow.The MYKI card works for locals but is not visitor friendly as you have to buy it to get around. Transport inspectors can be a bit intimidating so it’s important to get one. Currently the City has all night transport on Friday and Saturday nights.

Great places for dinner are Smith, Gertrude and Brunswick Streets in Fitzroy. It’s a fabulous block of ambitious ambiance. A historical area where hustlers and artists have had ‘their day’. but currently it is urban cool.

Melbourne has great theatre but if you want to catch a local act for under $30, after dinner there are some quaint venues; The Butterfly Club, La Mama, The Owl and Cat and The Meatworks, (just to name a few) are close to town and have their own character.

Bars are numerous and many are tucked into the lane network that are the life beat of the town, most often decorated with great Street Art. Roof top bars are great on hot nights but most places have outdoor heating when it’s not great.

The highlight of Summer is the Australian Open and the best place to watch it is at Federation Square in a sun-chair. Despite Australian pride of designer beer and class wine most public places are dry. On New Years Eve drinking is banned on public Bayside beaches so cancel the beach party.

Melbourne was once called the ‘Garden State’ as we like our trees. When its too hot for the beach there are great Botanical gardens and the Ripponlea Estate offers shade and a cafe. The changeable weather has created a fashion consious culture and there are plenty of shopping strips and malls to cater for discerning tastes or a bargin.

Summer essentials are thongs and light coat. We all talk about the weather; we complain when it’s hot and when it’s cold.