Sandi PullmanPunting on the lake

It was my cousin’s birthday and what do you buy someone who has everything? I know …a punt on the Melbourne Botanic Gardens Ornamental Lake. This is a new gig introduced in January by the new Chief Executive Tim Entwisle. I thought how wonderful and what a brilliant use of the lake, so I booked a tour. The day I booked turned out to be a Melbourne gem, as it was a beautiful sunny day.

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View of Floating Island

Water bird on the lake's edge

Water bird on the lake’s edge

I first heard about this fabulous idea when I read an article in a Melbourne’s Saturday Age where Tim Entwisle was being punted around the Lake. I decided to book rather latish in the day because I thought we might see more bird life and catch the beautiful late afternoon light. We jumped in (not really) – it was very civilised, there were steps down into the punt and the staff offered a helping hand in. There were no slippery slimy boards and we didn’t have to carry the boat into the water like the crew had to when I was a rowing cox. As we sat down the staff offered to take a picture of us (I had bought my camera). We joked we should have bought parasols, but we didn’t need to, they were provided and handy they were because there was sunshine and in our eyes.

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Another punt passing by

Now this is a gentle cruise; slowly and silently we slipped away from the landing and very gently started going around the lake. It was brilliant! We were peeking into people’s picnics and seeing the gardens from a completely new angle. There was barely any noise as we glided around the lake. Our oarsman pointed out interesting points.

Punting on Ornamental Lake 2014 039The punts are handmade in New Zealand and constructed from jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and Victorian ash which is either Eucalyptus regnans, Eucalyptus obliqua or Eucalyptus delegatensis. They are built on the classic Cambridge design. They seat up to eight people and are very comfortable because of the red cushions on the seats. As we glided by I was asked what was the rhubarb looking plant was and as usual if you don’t ‘use it you lose it’ when remembering plant names. Of course it was one of the Gunnera species.

The Governor was 'in'

The Governor was ‘in’

The wedding harpist

The wedding harpist

The skyline of the gardens and the variety of different colours of greens was stunning. The tall dark green conifers were even more impressive by the late afternoon light. As we punted silently past Government House, we saw that the governor was home as his flag was flying and, as we were coming back to the landing, we noticed a wedding was about to commence and they had a harpist playing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear it.

Guilfoyle's rocks

Guilfoyle’s rocks

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Looking towards the cafe area

Impressive dark conifers at the lake's edge

Impressive dark conifers at the lake’s edge

We also passed a group of rocks that I had never seen before and you wouldn’t unless you were on the lake. Apparently, our oarsman told us, William Guilfoyle who designed the Botanic Gardens (1873-1909) built them and they are made out of concrete. Guilfoyle liked to create points of interest and dotted quite a few structures around the gardens and these rocks are part of this picturesque charm. They reminded me of some follies the English designers used to use in their 18th century gardens such as the garden Stourhead in Wiltshire, England.

Next time you visit the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, you must take a punt, it is so much fun. If you would like more information contact Punt Tours Melbourne.

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Sandi Pullman

About Sandi Pullman

Sandi was a horticultural advisor to ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has 21 years experience. She is a regular contributor to Vasili’s Good Gardening and Your Vegie Patch. She has also contributed to the Gardening section of The Age and to the Australian Garden History Society journal over the years. She is a founding member of the Friends of Burnley Gardens and now is volunteer garden co-ordinator for the Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage and is researching what plants were available from 1800 to 1854 to recreate an authentic garden of early Melbourne.

One thought on “Punting on the lake

  1. This is a fabulous idea. Next time I’m in Melbourne it will be top of the list,

    Peta Trahar

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