It seems like some of Australia’s most enduring and most beautiful spaces and places were built off the back of a competition. Take Sydney Opera House for example, and Jorn Utzon’s competition-winning design. Ballarat is also home to a competition legacy – the local Botanical Gardens.
Once gold was discovered in the area, Ballarat’s destiny was sealed. It quickly transformed from what was essentially a squatter settlement into an incredibly rich town. So wealthy, in fact, that Ballarat was at one stage the richest urban area in the world. Not bad.
So what comes with all this wealth? Well, a large portion of Ballarat’s gentry was of course from England, and they were missing their beautifully manicured parks and gardens. In 1858 a motion was moved to transform a local police horse paddock into a botanical garden. A competition was launched and a whopping ten pounds was granted to Mr. Wright and Mr. Armstrong for their winning design.
So winning, in fact, that it largely remains to this day. Of course flora is replaced as it naturally comes to the end of its life cycle, but by and large the 40-hectare space remains true to its original design.
Terry from Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens (who, by the way, holds guided walks and tours leaving in front of the Conservatory) was good enough to take us around and show us some of the plants, trees, statues and features of this most beautiful, serene place.