The people of Perth (and in fact Western Australia in general, namely because about 80% of the population happen to live in Perth) are pretty proud of their inner city park. In fact they will regularly remind you that it happens to be the biggest inner city park in the entire world (much bigger than Central Park, which from what I could see is quite bigger than it actually appears). Hyde Park in London is also pretty huge, and bigger if you include St James gardens, however Kings Park, once again, apparently outstrips that.
The other thing with Kings Park is that unlike most innercity parks, which seem to be little more than sculptured gardens, is that it tries to retain it’s natural, Western Australian, character. Okay, parts of the park do have their fair share of European plants, including two rows of trees that follow one of the roads into the park (which happens to be the one that comes in from the city). However, once you head deeper into its foilage you will encounter the Western Australian Botanical Gardens, which happen to be an extravaganza of Western Australian flora.
Apparently, at least according to Bill Bryson, if you go wandering through the park you may even encounter a monotreme crossing your path, at least in the form of an Echidna. Unfortunately, the only Australian animals I have ever seen in the wild, living at least, happen to be kangaroos, emus, and wedge tailed eagles (actually, you can throw kookaburras and koalas into that mix as well). Then again, considering how nasty us humans can be at times I’m not surprised that these animals tend to stay out of our way, unless you are a roo (which can deliver a pretty painful kick), or an emu (which happens to be immune to machine guns).
One thing I did notice when I wrote my spiel on Perth is that I sort of forgot to mention Kings Park. I guess I will through this place into the mix, alongside some of the other places that I paid a visit to on my little trek to the West.
The funny things about maps is that no matter how accurate they try to be there is always something that they aren’t telling, such that Kings Park happens to be at the top of a hill. Mind you, getting there was a challenge in itself, particularly since my brother insisted on taking a detour through a Lego Exhibition at the Exhibition Centre (and that it turned out that there wasn’t actually a short cut through the centre either). However, if it is wasn’t for a kindly man who gave us directions, we probably would have landed up somewhere where we really didn’t want to land up, unless of course it was the former Swan Brewery, and then that wouldn’t have been a problem because there happens to be a craft beer bar down there – though it wouldn’t have helped us in our goal of visiting the park, and the art gallery, all in one day.
The thing with Kings Park is that it sits on top of a hill, and a pretty steep one at that. My original plan was to wander along the river and enter that way, though it turned out that not only is there a freeway in the way, but that you have to scale a pretty steep cliff. Look, you could probably get up to the top, but I suspect that my brother wouldn’t have been all that keen on following me and would have simply stayed down at the bottom forcing me to come back down again and finding a simpler way to the top.
It turned out that there was, a series of steps known as Jacobs Ladder (and ironically there is also one in Brisbane). I find that rather interesting, a steep, and quite long, flight of steps up a cliff face being called Jacob’s Ladder – maybe the idea is that if you get to the top then you will find God – I didn’t I just found more appartment blocks, and a water fountain, along with a lot of tired people. That was another thing I noticed – tired people. For some reason, as a form of exercise, people run up and down these steps. In fact people run up and down the fire escape at work (and I happen to work in fifty story building). Personally, I preferred the advice of the good doctor:
Into the Park
Well, after leaving the exhausted joggers behind me, we wandered into the park and were immediately met with a view over the Swan River, the city, and South Perth. Of course, that view was immediately captured on film and then posted on Facebook, The thing with the entry is that, as I mentioned, there a tree lined road (an avenue if you will), of trees that were all planted in 1929. The significance of that year is that it was 100 years since the founding of the Swan River Colony, and the people of Perth no doubt wanted to celebrate it by beautifying their favourite park.
After taking in the view we wandered along the path that meandered along the edge of the cliff, and the main reason was because there was an Aboriginal Art Gallery further down the track. Of course, we encountered the ubiquitous statue of Queen Victoria that seems to grace the cities of the commonwealth, and this one was flanked by four 19th Century Canons. Actually, I’m not entirely sure if I saw one in Brisbane, but I suspect if I look hard enough I’ll find it – she happens to be everywhere, at least in the Commonwealth Countries.
Further along there was another lookout point, where I managed to get a couple of videos of trains crossing the Narrows Bridge (so called because it crosses the narrowest part of the Swan River, at least in that part of the city), as well as entering and leaving the subway. Underneath was the art gallery, which was actually more of a shop than an art gallery, though you are more than welcome to come in and wander around, however they would much prefer that you buy something. I should mentioned that you aren’t actually allowed to take photos in there (and the signs are pretty clear on that point).
Further along you come across the state war memorial, which once again is perched at the top of the cliff. Being one of the least populous states the memorial isn’t that big, but it is big enough to spend some time reflecting. This, however, is where you also find the main facilities, including a cafe and restaurant, carpark, bus stop, and if you happen to be lucky, a taxi. You will also find the floral clock here, something that I had known about since I was a kid, and in part always wanted to see. Unfortunately, it turned out that it wasn’t working.
However, what came next was a sight to behold.
The Botanic Gardens
Many of the Botanical Gardens that I have visited tend to have a variety of plants from around the world, however this isn’t the case with Perth. The thing is that Perth’s climate, or at least that of Western Australia, happens to be a very dry and arid, and while we might expect that in such a climate the number of flora would be small, that actually isn’t the case – as it turns out, the flora of the state is so diverse that pretty much the entire gardens are taken up with Western Australian plants. The other reason is that the state is so large, and there are so many different areas, that the number of plants that can be found here is immense. I should add that have been found because since the state is also mostly empty, and very few people have ventured into the interior, that no doubt there are plants, and animals, that are still to be discovered, that is if they haven’t been destroyed by the mining companies yet.
The first stop in the gardens is the Boab tree. This trees are quite large, and are distinctive because of their bulging, and hollow, trunk. In fact the tree is so large that a person could actually sit inside the trunk. I even heard a rumour when I was much younger that they used these trees as temporary prisons (though considering how remote the area is, all you need to do is to handcuff somebody to a tree and it is unlikely that they will be able to cause any trouble – in fact they might never even be found, even though they are, say, a hundred metres from the highway).
This Boab Tree has a an interesting story as they actually transported it all the way from the Kimberly region, where they tend to be found. I suspect it was because it happened to be sick and they wanted to attempt to nurse it back to life, though it has also been put on display in the gardens. Interestingly, it looks like the treatment is ongoing, though considering that some trees live for an incredibly long time, so long that it makes our lives seem to be a moment to them, this could be something that will take quite a while. Then again, it could simply be that they brought it down here to put it on display.
As we headed further into the gardens we suddenly discovered that we were on a walkway and the ground was falling away from us. Actually, I wanted to see a Jarrah tree, which is prized for its wood. In fact Bill Bryson mentioned that when they started mining in Western Australia they would cut down all the Jarrah trees and sell the wood for a huge profit, thus really getting a return on their investment. The problem is that, like most trees, they do take quite a while to grow, so it looks as if successive governments have put their foot down in that regards. I still remember years back that there were huge protests over a company’s decision to clear cut old growth forests. Ironically, even though the government ended up doing squat, the forests ended up being saved, and the company behind it ended up collapsing in a pile of debt.
So, as I was mentioning before I got sidetrackled once again, the ground started to fall away and we found ourselves wandering through a treetop canopy. Apparently there is a similar walk on the south coast at a place known as the Valley of the Giants, though that is far more authentic that what they have here, though you wouldn’t know it from just wandering through here (since I haven’t been to the Valley of the Giants). It was at this time that a whole group of people came barreling past, and in a sense they looked like miners on leave from up north – they sort of had that rough and tumble feel about them.
After leaving the canopy walk, which was incredibly impressive mind you and made me a little more relaxed about not having enough time to go to the Valley of the Giants (though it makes me want to check it out so much more), and seeing the Jarrah trees, it was time to head back. Mind you, back meant that we wandered past the fountain pond, which a part of me thought was Chinese, until I got there to see that it is basically purely Western Australian.
The Rest of the Park
Actually, I probably should mention the Banksia’s before I continue because they are one of the most prominent trees that you see here in Australia – in fact I had one in the backyard at my parent’s house. For a tree that is just so dominant I am somewhat surprised that it is the wattle that is Australia’s national plant and not the banksia. Anyway, what is surprising is that there isn’t just one variety of banksia, there are thousands – so many that they actually have an entire garden here dedicated to this one plant. The plant itself was named after Joseph Banks, the botanist that came over to Australia with Captain Cook. Actually, it is hard to travel around Australia and not find something of Joseph Bank’s legacy here, even if it happens to be a tree that was named after him.
Then we come to the rest of the park, which I unfortunately didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked. However, the interesting this is that Kings Park actually isn’t as manicured as I originally thought it was – if you have a look at Google Streetview you will discover that a bulk of the park is a lot more natural – in fact it feels as if you are wandering through a national park. In a way this also makes it quiet unique since a lot of the parks that you find in the centre of the city are pretty manicured (though there are parts of inner Sydney that are still very much bushland),
In a way I would love to come back and just spend some more time here, but unfortunately due to the distance, and other commitments, it may not be for some time yet.
A Park of Kings by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.
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