Milton Park

 

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The sweeping driveway at Milton Park, Bowral.

Sweeping up the curve of Milton Park’s driveway and through the parkland doesn’t prepare first-time visitors for the grandeur of the Federation mansion and its English style gardens.

It is quite simply, huge. However, the grand style is certainly not overwhelming. In fact Milton Park nestles comfortably amongst its extensive collection of mature trees, something that only time provides. Perhaps it’s the scale of the house. Being so large you don’t see the whole of it and therefore at ground level the protruding porches and large windows beckon you to follow, step around the corner and discover what is beyond. The garden nooks and little stone paths bordering the house beckon in the same way. And like the escarpment, photos don’t give a true indication of the scale of Milton Park. You have to experience the place, not just the house but the gardens where everything surrounds you and you are embedded in the landscape. The grand urns and lawn, the soaring trees, affect the play of light and shade, while the vistas and garden rooms draw your feet hither, and all is juxtaposed against the expanse of winter sky and the minutiae; little wrens flitting through the bare branches, a shrivelled leaf, the blue of forget-me-nots, and the narcissus bulbs pushing through the garden beds.

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Milton Park: The Federation style house from the front lawn.

 

Inside is another matter. The house is imposing and you feel the grandeur of scale in the width of the hallways, the rambling rooms with their huge windows and soaring ceilings. The rooms are punctuated rather than overwhelmed with antiques, comfortable chairs and sofas. There are some original artworks (mostly realist) although I was disappointed to find a lack of artist signatures on the ones I looked at. The pervading atmosphere of the hotel is elite and expensive noticeable through the quiet, pleasant, discreet service. You get the impression that no-one at Milton Park would ever raise their voices.

The style of the house is predominantly Federation with some eclectic with influences from earlier French and Villa styles evident in the numerous classical pillars, marble fireplaces and marble balustrades around the porches.

We arrived late morning and booked a table for lunch at Horderns Restaurant. With time to wander through the gardens and the public areas of the house before the restaurant opened. Deciding to tackle the garden after lunch we chose to relax in one of the smaller lounges with views through the huge windows into the garden and sundrenched porch.

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The porch and marble balustrade to the right of Milton Park’s main entrance entices the visitor to explore.

 

Dining is not a rushed affair at Milton.

The ethos of the hotel is relaxation after all.

Allow two hours to enjoy the experience. We began with scallops and charcuterie selection. I ordered a glass of NV Moet & Chandon which wasn’t available so was offered the NV Veuve Clicquot instead which was lovely. My brother and his wife chose the craft beer and daughter Sheridan doesn’t drink so chose water. For our main course Sandie and I shared the charcuterie for two and Rohan had the scallops. For mains he and Sandie ordered the angel hair pasta with seafood, Sheridan the venison and mushroom pie with beet salad, and I chose the pot au feu chicken and we shared a side of greens which included zucchini, broccolini, and asparagus.

We chose the 2016 Far Ago Hills Pinot Gris to accompany our main course. This pinot gris, is gorgeous with lovely colour and perfume and it suited the chicken and pasta beautifully. Thumbs up for the seafood pasta which Rohan and Sandie said was nicely sauced but light which was a lovely change as most seafood pasta sauces they’ve tasted tended to be too heavy. Sheridan thought the pie very nice except for the pastry pie filling ratio (too much pastry for the amount of filling). She thought the baby beet salad was nicely cooked, combining some lovely textures and flavours.

For dessert both Sandie and I chose the tonka bean pannacotta with strawberry sherbet. The sherbet was a dusting over the plate so I didn’t pick up the sherbet fizz which I’d been expecting. However, the panna cotta was beautifully silky and soft and the strawberry sorbet was full of strawberry flavour that cleansed and brightened the palate with an additional little sharp sour note that makes the insides of your cheeks zing.

Sheridan ordered the café au lait crème brule with homemade chocolate sorbet and biscotti. Rohan had the French banana tart with homemade vanilla ice-cream, strawberries and toffee caramel sauce which won his verdict of the best banana dessert he’d ever tasted. The after-lunch coffee was rich, strong and smooth without any bitterness; definitely something you wanted more of. A thoroughly delightful meal, beautifully cooked and presented, served by attentive but unobtrusive, pleasant and quietly-spoken staff.

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The large ornate urn on the central lawn draws the eye to the horizon and the beautiful trees at Milton Park.

After lunch we ventured into the garden. As it was July the deciduous trees and shrubs had shed their leaves but any gardener worthy of the name won’t be put off by this. Winter is an opportunity to marvel at the beauty of bark, limb, and lacework of twig set against the pale blue of the winter sky, to admire rock walls and stone paths, the bare bones of a garden with moss and hidden little gems pushing bravely through the carpet of leaves. I was reminded of Edna Walling’s gardens and those of the English Landscape School. Milton Park’s history page states that the garden is in fact, the only surviving example of this style in Australia.

Of course, Milton Park’s gardens have a great deal to offer, Bowral’s tulip festival, Tulip Time being one of the garden’s long standing calendar events. The hotel provides visitors with a booklet outlining the history and includes a map of the walks and garden rooms. Green grass, the soaring majesty of mature trees, urns, stone walls, bulbs, parterres, reflected water, and birds provide their own charms to a winter garden. I was drawn to the various maples and the beautiful way they’d been pruned to reveal the contorted branches.

Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed our day, and all I can do is repeat myself and affirm that Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa is something you just want more of.

Hmm! Now let’s take a look at their special package deals.

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Narcisuss and forget-me-nots in a garden bed at Milton Park

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Wild Swans Glide Through Morning Mist at Lakes Entrance

Awake at 6:30 the lake was silver with a light mist just beginning to descend. At least 8 black swans glided past looking like little ‘nessies’ as the mist closed in.

 

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Swans on the lake – Lakes Entrance

I’m not sure I can add anything about Lakes Entrance on the South East coast of Victoria that hasn’t already been said or written. This is a great little seaside town and for us it’s the perfect stop over on the long trek from home to Melbourne and then along the Princes Hwy to Eden our final destination. Lakes Entrance is part of our family tradition, the place Dad would pull into late at night or early in the morning with the caravan in tow. We’d wake up to our first real view of the sea, smell the salt and watch the numerous birds as the sun rose. Although the town has grown that moment of joy remains as you descend into the town. This was my first visit in fourteen years. The town has grown but the Esplanade and wharf are much the same; there is usually at least one trawler moored at the wharf. And there are plenty of walks along the inlet.

We stayed at The Lakes Water Front Motel and Cottages, a small motel on the eastern edge of the town that is big on hospitality. I booked unit 8 a twin share Cottage with views over the lake frontage. It has two decent sized bedrooms separated by bathroom, kitchen, and eating area. The veranda has perfect views of the garden and the lake which teems with wild birds. The feeling is casual, private, and relaxing. The cottage is an older building with a homey beach-house feel to it; the sort of place that is easy to unwind in. The beds, one king and one double, are firm which I was concerned about at first as I’m used to a pillow top mattress with memory foam and the arthritic knees and aching muscles didn’t bode well for sleep. However, all was good and the cotton sheets were soft and inviting. Everything was spotlessly clean.

When we arrived I asked about places to eat. Our host Gillian suggested two eateries but once we’d seen the gardens and the lake we opted for fish and chips from Fish Affaire which we brought back to the cabin and we sat on the garden seat overlooking the lake and watched swans, gulls, and pelicans, herons and other species.

Awake at 6:30 the lake was silver with a light mist just beginning to descend. At least 8 black swans glided past looking like little ‘nessies’ as the mist closed in. Ten minutes later the sun set everything golden and the mist lifted again. With our very generous breakfast on the veranda, blue skies and birdlife, we didn’t want to leave.

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Lakes Waterfront Cabins (No 8 on left) and the garden on an early morning in July

$134 for twin share cabin. Breakfast is extra.

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Breakfast is a treat

 

We opted for cooked eggs, bacon, and tomatoes with toast and an egg and bacon sandwich (which is large) with cappuccino; all delicious and well worth the money. Just look at the pics. Veranda closed in for protection but windows open to let cool breeze and nature sounds in. It’s the small things that often make the difference. The hard core of my tomato had been removed – big points for that one.

We recently returned for a two night stay. The garden simply beckons you to slow down, take a chair onto the grass and enjoy your surroundings, the green foliage, flowers, the tranquil waters of the lake, and the birds. It was the beginning of July and too cold to eat on the patio but our breakfasts were just as delicious as we remembered. We cooked our food on our second stay but opted one night for fish and chips, once again from Fish Affaire. They have a sign in the shop that says they cook fresh food not fast food. What they cook is superb.

Because we had more time on our second trip we visited a few of the shops. The knitting and craft shop is great, the pie shop and bakery had nice food and coffee and we happened to catch the weekend of the market. It was the beginning of the school holidays and I thought there would be more people about but apparently most people visit the snowfields during their winter breaks. So, we were blessed with peace and quiet, the birds and amazing sunrises and sunsets with the colours changing minute by minute. Inspiring for me as a poet, writer and artist.

It was cold (there was frost on the grass one morning) but the heater in the cabin worked well. There is also a heater for the bathroom which I used to keep the temperature even in my room as I was recovering from a virus.

Gillian and Peter are friendly and obliging hosts.We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of both our stays. We also booked a night for our return trip. Returning guests receive a discount.

What’s best about Lakes Waterfront Motel & Cottages:

Cabins serviced daily

Breakfast

Value for money

In the warmer months you can open the windows and hear the sea

The lake is tranquil, lovely colours in the morning, lots of birdlife

A place you can put your feet up and relax or use as a comfortable, no fuss or frills base to explore the lakes region

Highly recommended

magpies

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By jjron, (edited by Noodle snacks) (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

As all Australians know, magpies can be vicious during the nesting season. However, we have never had an attack. I suppose because they know we are part of the landscape. Nesting season has now finished but the magpies are busy raising their chicks. I hear them in the surrounding bushland. Today one adult is warbling softly, sitting on a dead limb across the drive.

Suddenly, I realise it is warbling to me.

I’ve warbled to magpies since my teenage years when my brother raised injured youngsters and they would become honorary  family members until they were ready to leave us. I know I have a distinct and unmelodic call, petering out somewhat at the end. It took me years to realise that the large home-group of magpies who live in the surrounding bush, (and the garden), have actually adapted their song when they call to me. They use this call when they want my attention.

One day my daughter and I were outside enjoying a tea-break when they began warbling. There were four or five magpies walking across the grass hunting for grubs and worms. My daughter poked her head from around her notebook screen.

‘They’re calling to you, you know that?’

Feeling pleased with myself, I answered their call.

‘Rank amateur,’ she said, emerging once more from behind the screen and grinning.

I stuck my nose in the air. ‘They understand me!’

Apparently, they did. One large bird answered my call exactly – using all my imperfections and intonations. They also mimic my call when they want to talk to me. It’s become a bit of a family joke now.

The magpies sing at several different times during the day. Predictably they sing at dawn and evening. They will warble lazily during the day and most annoyingly at around two in the afternoon on a summer’s day. Of course, there’s a special spot for that – just outside my bedroom window. And yes, I am fond of an afternoon nap in the summer, what with late nights and very early rising. They warble at night during the week of the full moon. This can be frustrating in summer with the combination of heat and moonlight and broken sleep.

They also get together in a large group, usually on the north side of my house where the laneway is. They gather a few times every year to sing and squawk with raised wings and hunched backs as if they are sorting out their differences in a magpie council.

writings from the patio – mid-spring

It’s late morning in early October, almost mid-way through spring, and I am sitting outside on the patio with a cup of tea and my laptop computer. Before I begin writing, I take the time to look about me. The sun is riding high in a blue sky. After a cold and very prolonged winter, the heat is building quickly. A shift of air brings a waft of coolness to the patio. Dragonflies are darting through the garden, their wings flashing in the sunshine.

I have two dogs, Chloe and Craig. As usual, Chloe is sleeping close by. She doesn’t like vehicles and eyes me suspiciously whenever I walk towards the car. She suffers from motion sickness, which is probably why she avoids moving as much as possible. Craig, my other dog, is hunting for little brown lizards in the sunny parts of the garden. There are bees, both European and native bees working busily on the flowers. There are also hover-flies who also seek nectar from the flowers. An occasional fly buzzes lazily by. In the background I can hear the chatter of parrots in the bush and in one of the large eucalyptus trees, a magpie is warbling softly.

The patio is partially enclosed by potted citrus trees and other plants, including flowers and bulbs and herbs; thyme, lemon thyme, oreganos, lavender, sage, mint and rosemary. Now that spring has finally arrived the patio has become my favourite place to write.

As I finish my tea and settle to the task of writing a light breeze a light breeze springs up; I watch the tops of the trees moving and then my gaze shifts. The long grasses, running now to seed are moving to and fro in slow, rolling waves. The perfumed ruffle of a breeze caresses my skin. It carries the scent of nemesia, the ornamental cherry Mt Fuji, and the warm, earthy scent of green grass; all redolent of spring.

Nemesia brings a burst of colour to the patio. Copyright J Bayliss 2015

Nemesia brings a burst of colour to the patio. Copyright J Bayliss 2015

The potted herbs are beginning to put forth new shoots but the mint which was well protected from frost damage throughout the long winter months is now bounding ahead. Each morning it appears to have grown two or three centimetres overnight. Now the warmer weather is here, the lush green shoots remind me of a simple potato salad made with chat potatoes and chopped mint.

Simple Potato Salad

12 new season chat potatoes or other potatoes of your choice.

Pinch of salt for seasoning the water

1 spring onion

1 tbsp good quantity egg mayonnaise

1 tbsp Greek yoghurt (light if you wish)

2 rashers of bacon or four short pieces if you don’t like bacon fat

3-4 sprigs of mint – chopped very fine.

I use home-grown mint, and usually only pick the tips. If the shoots are soft, take some of the mature leaves as well. It all depends on your own taste, but I don’t like course mint leaves.

Cut potatoes into the size you want. I favour larger pieces and I generally leave the skin on. Boil in salted water until they are cooked through; just when they lose that firmness but before soft and mushy. Stop the cooking process if necessary by putting them into cold water.

When the potatoes have cooled, add finely chopped spring onions, and chopped mint leaves. The common garden mint is spearmint. You can add crisped bacon pieces if you want to, I often do, but this recipe is for a simple potato salad. The emphasis is on the potatoes and the mint. I generally use a good quality egg mayonnaise with greek yoghurt or sour cream added. I experiment with dressings but I like a hint of mustard or lemon, so they are usually a given. You decide what the star of the dish is.

A riot of spearmint.

A riot of spearmint.

writings from the patio – journeys through landscape and life

Introduction:

Journeys occur in many different forms; the most important of course being that of life itself – our own, and the lives of our loved ones and friends.

Writing from the patio is an ongoing project of stories and memoir vignettes of significant journeys in my life, physical, emotional and psychological. They are entwined within a loose seasonal diary posts and musings of the garden, which has provided me with inspiration for learning, creating, healing and personal development. Along the way, I will also share poems, art, wisdom and, every now and then, a recipe.