Photo: the first picture I’ve received of the opening – thanks Ian McLachlan!
Yesterday, the Governor (Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir), with the Deputy Premier (The Honorable Carmel Tebbutt), opened the Lady Fairfax Walk at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. The walk through warm temperate rainforest is the first part of ‘The Jungle’ to be reopened to the public.
The Jungle was originally a 280 hectare property, first opened 80 years ago by the then Governor, Admiral Sir Dudley DeChair. Dedicated to the memory of Sir James Fairfax K.B.E. by his friends, it was hoped the Jungle would become Sydney’s first National Park in the west. The national park never eventuated and during the Great Depression the land was passed back to the previous owners, the Charley family.
Last year, 33 hectares of the original Jungle was purchased from the Grewcoe family by the Botanic Gardens Trust, with the generous financial support of John and Libby Fairfax, supplemented by the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust. So yesterday we opened the rainforest walk, again, and this time the walk and the Jungle will remain in public hands.
There were many friends and colleagues present for the opening, and amongst the dignitaries Sir Nicholas Shehadie, John and Libby Fairfax with other members of the Fairfax family, Uncle Jeff Cooper welcoming us to Country, Clive Austin, Chair of the Foundation, and two of our Trustees, Vanessa Priest and Tom Pinzone.
There were three parts to the opening: unveiling of a sign at the start of the restored Jungle walk, cutting of the ribbon to officially open the walk, and then 100 metres down the track, the unveiling of a special cairn commemorating the original walk and Lady Fairfax.
The date of 23 March 2009 was chosen deliberately, as 80 years to the day since the original walk was opened. The Governor again opened the walk. The Deputy Premier (and Minister for Climate Change and the Environment) spoke as well and together they cut the ribbon at the beautiful new Gates – designed by staff member Michael Carle and fabricated in Kurrajong by Paul Burkitt (the design was inspired by the basalt prisms used to make stone walls at Tomah, and the spore clusters on tree ferns – Tomah is reputedly the Darug word for Tree Fern).
Down at the cairn, I talked briefly about our impending bicentenary (13 June 2016) and Clive Austin spoke about the Foundation, then introduced John Fairfax. John spoke movingly about the walk and his mother Lady Fairfax. In the stillness of the forest, it was a fitting culmination to the opening.
For those able to stay for lunch, Rob Smith, Assistant Director of Mount Tomah Botanic Garden, proposed a toast to the Fairfax family, to The Jungle and to the start of our bicentenary program.
After a lovely sunny morning for the launch, I’m told a hail storm passed through after I’d headed down to the city. Typical mountain weather and part of what makes the forest what it is.