Part of the garden at Hazelhurst

Part of the garden at Hazelhurst. In the foreground is the small creek.

Looking towards the Hazelhurst Cafe

Looking towards the Hazelhurst Cafe

Sutherland Shire Council excels when it comes to free public gardens that offer food & family-friendly things to do while you visit.  We recently visited the EG Waterhouse National Camellia Garden in Caringbah (see – http://bit.ly/13Xb2qF ) & after I posted about this, many people asked whether I had visited Hazelhurst.  I had not, so with some friends headed down to Gymea in the Sutherland Shire to see the place.  I’m glad I did.

The land that comprises Hazelhurst is a 1.4 hectare property that was donated to Sutherland Shire Council by Ben & Hazel Broadhurst who purchased the land in 1945.  Sutherland Shire Council opened Hazelhurst as a regional gallery, community gallery, arts centre, cafe & garden in 2000. The house of Ben & Hazel Broadhurst is now the home of the artist-in-residence.

From Sutherland Shire Council’s website – “The Broadhursts loved gardening & practised recycling & organic farming. They kept goats, horses, a cow & 200 chooks. They also had a mini dairy making cheeses & butter & an orchard of pears, peaches, apples & strawberries. Apart from their farming interests, the Broadhursts were successful business people, managing a shirt-making factory in Rockdale for more than 40 years. On retiring, Ben & Hazel gave their time to charities & worthy causes & became more involved with their interests in spiritualism. They had a fascination with numerology, astrology, extra-sensory perception & other psychic phenomena. Ben was president of the Sydney Centre for Psychic Research for some time in the 1950s.”

The first thing that stuck me when we drove into the car park was the wall of trees & a Fig tree that was the tallest I have ever seen.   Some of the trees must be more than 100-years-old.   If you like very tall trees with massive trunks, you will like the gardens at Hazelhurst.

Darnell Collection exhibition

Darnell Collection exhibition

Inside it was filled with people.  There were two art exhibitions happening – one a group exhibition of works in wire of dogs & painting & drawings of trees.  The other was ‘After Five: Fashion from the Darnell Collection.’  This was an exhibition of exquisite hand-made couture dresses & hats from the 1920s onwards.  It was of the quality that you find in the Powerhouse Museum & such an unexpected bonus.  Because it is a local high quality gallery, many in the community visit to see the exhibitions.  150,000 people visited in 2011.

Under a roof of opened shutters & a large outdoor patio with a large Golden Robinia cascading & creating dappled shade was a large crowd eating all-day breakfast & lunch or high tea in the Hazelhurst Cafe.  Many like us, returned for afternoon tea.  The food was great & the service excellent.

The gardens were what I wanted to see & it is lovely.  It is very different from the Camelia Gardens in that there is a lot of open space.  Children were tossing sand out of the sandpit, playing games on the lawn or exploring the pockets of the garden.  It was a perfect place for kids to experience nature while remaining safe. Because the garden is contained, they can run free.  There were artworks scattered throughout the garden that the children could touch adding an extra dimension to their play.

The old gate

The old gate

Everywhere was gorgeous dappled shade from the massive trees as well as lots of birds, especially Ravens who have obviously made their home here.  A waterfall & a shallow man-made creek filled with golf fish runs through the garden & is great for wildlife.

Did I like Hazelhurst?  Yes, very much so.  If I were local I would come here often to eat, see an exhibition & wander the garden.  I might come only just to lie on the lawn in the shade of the trees to read a book.  Hazelhurst is like this.  It’s not a restaurant with a garden, it’s the garden & you can take part in other activities if you like.  Lots of older people had gathered to sit on comfy lounges inside with a view over the gardens so I imagine it is a popular venue for this age group too.

Hazelhurst also has seven studio rooms for all kinds of community art workshops & they have a school holiday program.   There is also a film club as well as public talks.  I think it must be a community hub as it offers so much.

I love that Sutherland Shire Council did not sell off the land when it was bequeathed to them, but made it into something that offers great benefit to the local community as well as others like us from outside the LGA.  Ben & Hazel Broadhurst would be very happy that their generosity has culminated in something that benefits all ages, as well as wildlife.  I loved the place & everything about it.  You should go one day.

Located at 782 Kingsway, Gymea about a 40-minute drive from Sydney’s CBD.  Admission is free.  The Gallery is open from 10am – 5pm.  The Cafe is open 7 days a week from 9am – 4pm.  The Arts Centre is open Monday to Thursday 9am – 9:30pm & on Friday to Sunday 9am – 5pm.   Closed New Years Day, Good Friday, Christmas & Boxing Day.

http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Arts_Entertainment/Hazelhurst/

The waterfall

The waterfall

Sculpture in the garden

Sculpture in the garden

Another section of this beautiful garden

Another section of this beautiful garden

The wall of trees & the massive Fig tree that is the first thing you see from the car park

The wall of trees & the massive Fig tree that is the first thing you see from the car park

 

 

 

 

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