There is always that one place that you hold near and dear to you. The place you go to when all else fails, the place you go to because it makes you happy. There could be many places that spark the joy within you, that give you your best ideas and allow you to seek the freedom you desire. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is my place. Whatever day, whichever season, it’s the one place that is guaranteed to make me happy.
Every time I go for a wander down the stone-covered paths I am entrapped by the beauty surrounding it. Each step provides a different motive to keep going forward, and even when you think you have seen it all, a new path will pop up, one that you haven’t explored yet. While most of the tracks are pretty straightforward, there are some that cross over and leave you slightly lost. Though that is half the beauty of the place.
The best thing about this area is that it’s a stone’s throw away from some of the city’s biggest attractions, so even if it’s not in the itinerary of visitors, it can still be appreciated by them. The tram and the Christchurch City Cathedral are only a 7-minute walk away, the museum is located at the fountain entrance, the art gallery is across the road and some of the more historic features and buildings that Christchurch has to offer are conveniently located on the surrounding streets.
My favourite entrance is ironically through the noisiest one—by the playground—because this gives me the longest route of walking to get to the best destination. The walk starts off at the beginning of the street; if you drive in, it’ll start at the car park, but then you’ll miss half the beauty. The street entrance takes you down a man-made path along the Avon River. Big trees encase you onto the track, and if you’re lucky enough to go in autumn, the colours are an outstanding shade of orange and rust, helping to make the river look so delicate under the sun’s lighting. As you crunch your way to the park’s official entrance there is nothing but silence, punctuated by the occasional runner, transporting you from the hustle and bustle of the CBD to the makeshift forest’s quiet, where it seems sound has been forbidden. It’s a welcome change that allows even city dwellers to enjoy peace.
The maze of the garden trails is a juxtaposition of the straight, flat roads that make up the city. The park is very open, almost as if it was designed for fresh air and foot traffic. While the entrances provide most of the population of the park, during your stay, it’s almost as if you could have the whole park to yourself. The locals are extremely friendly, which makes the place feel even more spectacular. With every passing person, a simple smile or a cheerful ‘good morning’ will be experienced, nothing more than that needs to be said in order for you to feel like the place is homely.
The rose garden sits in the centre of the park and is host to many a rose bush, but the unique thing about this particular part of the botanics is that it’s closed off to the rest of the greenery. The wooden arches create an almost door-like entry to the bushes. A garden inside a garden, with the only difference being the colours it has to offer. Walking through the middle of the rose garden is as symbolic as releasing doves at a wedding, the colours of pink, red, yellow and orange pushing the serenity of the peaceful place. There are four entrances into this area of the gardens, and right in the centre lies a beautiful fountain. Which brings comfort to both the foreigners and the locals.
The one focus point that brings me back time and time again lives past the duckpond, right at the beginning of the car park entrance. Its flowers attract the attention of many, and there is no way that if you were to visit the gardens, you would miss it. The spring season is when it is in its prime. This cherry blossom tree is a single reminder of the beautiful world we live in. It is beautiful from any angle so everyone can appreciate it without the need to wait until other people move out of the way. With the changing seasons, the beauty of this tree changes, and at each visit you will be treated to this difference. Autumn is one of the better seasons, when the leaves are dying and falling, but the tree always remains ever so elegant.
The paths are made up of different terrain, with each step being a welcome reminder that you are no longer in the city, almost as if you have been transported to another world entirely. The water fountain that sits at the museum entrance is the only indication that time is still moving.
There are many secret spots in the gardens where you can fully isolate yourself from the outside world. I have enjoyed many summer and autumn days sitting in this garden, reflecting on life and writing some of my best poetry. Something about the open freshness of the place inspires me to get into my artistic groove. If art isn’t your thing, there are so many other things that you can be inspired to do. People watching is an excellent example. Since the garden is a main tourist attraction, you come across a variety of different people, making scenarios is never a dull moment with the international scene that is offered.
While the pathways symbolise freedom and difference, it is also a great place for downtime, exploring, and having some fresh air, and above all it provides an amazing opportunity to get fit and be in touch with nature—something we often took for granted pre-COVID times but now cherish.