Garden Road Trip: Rydal
Hosts of golden daffodils dance in the wind when the tiny village of Rydal, just east of Lithgow, celebrates the Daffodils at Rydal festival.
Robin Powell takes us there for the height of spring
Words and pictures: Robin Powell
Dafodills and snow bells at their peak in Rydal. Photo - Robin Powell
The rugged beauty of the western edge of the Great Dividing Range reminded George Gipps of the poetry of William Wordsworth. Gipps was Govenor of NSW at the time, so he marked his poetic response to the landscape by renaming the village of Solitary Creek after Wordsworth’s home, Rydal Mount. Each year Rydal celebrates the Wordsworthian connection in the Daffodils at Rydal festival, honouring the poet’s famous ode to the daff, I wandered lonely as a cloud. The hard-working festival committee has planted thousands of bulbs along the paths and in the parks, and many private gardens have also joined in so that the whole village glows gold in spring. The Festival runs over two weekends, 10-11 and 17-18 September.
Jo and Michael Maxwell have created nine acres of park-like gardens on this historic property, with thousands of daffodils of many different varieties as an early spring feature. The gorgeousness starts at the gate where cherries line the drive leading up to the grey and white house. At the back, bulbs fringe a big dam, created when the artist John Olsen lived here. Mature trees coming into leaf are mirrored in the still water. As well as the bulbs, blossoms and buds, hunt out the beautiful hellebores.
Willows coming into leaf at the fringe of the dam. Photo - Robin Powell
Laurie and Lindsay Green have hosts of golden daffodils surrounding their cottage on the mountain ridge just out of town. One glimpse takes in more than ten thousand bulbs. Fortunately, the Greens realised that an old plough dug a hole just the right depth for daffodil bulbs so those thousands weren’t planted by back-breaking hand. The whole lot are left to die back naturally and are mowed to the ground a week before Christmas. The low-maintenance schedule suits, and they form a brilliant picture.
Literally thousands of bulbs planted by hand. Photo - Robin Powell
Daffodils bloom under the gentle rain of white blossom falling from Manchurian pears in the tiny main street. Grab a brochure at the Information Centre and buy a $10 ticket to visit some of the private gardens open in and around the town. Also explore some of the historic buildings. Rydal’s heyday was when it was the terminus for the Western Railway and many of the heritage buildings remain, including the 1899 Union Church which features an unusual World War I honour board, with names and photos.
Rydal's historic buildings are the perfect backdrop. Photo - Robin Powell
Greg Featherstone Park hosts an all-day sausage and steak sizzle, and there are snacking opportunities at Chapel House and Bark Ridge. Picnickers are also welcome at both properties and in the parks in town.
Everglades tea room
For those who can’t drive past an opportunity for scones and cream, indulge in morning tea on the way to Rydal at the art deco tearooms at Everglades, the National Trust, Paul Sorensen-designed garden in Leura.
Secret Creek Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary established more than a decade ago to save the Eastern quoll. Now home to pure-bred dingo, long-nosed potoroo, rufous bettong, spotted-tail quoll and more, it also does a popular vegan brunch, lunch and afternoon tea on weekends. You’ll need to book, 02 6352 1133.
White daffodils in Rydal. Photo - Robin Powell
The Owl Pen at Chapel house
Perfect for a couple or two, this two-bedroom cottage was originally built in the 1830s as the kitchen for the Queen Victoria Inn. There are now two luxuriously decorated queen bedrooms, two bathrooms, one with a spa bath, kitchen and lounge with a wood-burning stove. Wake up to the garden as the early sun flickers on the lake and lights up the daffodils. Find out more at chapelhouse.com.au
Rydal residents get into the spirit of things at springtime. Photo - Robin Powell
The Railway Station at Rydal
Most of this three-bedroom house is the former Stationmaster’s Residence. It’s a neat Gothic-styled red brick building with sandstone trim. There’s one bathroom, a kitchen and living/dining room. Visitors report that the trains that pass regularly through the night, but don’t stop, don’t wake them. Find out more at www.rydalrailwaycottage.com.au