When you are a very small village, and you have lost all your facilities, there is no longer a shop, a post office, a school, the life of the village loses its focus and as there is little money coming in to look after the place, people try and look for solutions.
Rydal NSW was just such a village, settled in 1832 in a picturesque location at 1000 metres above sea level and surrounded by hills and farming country and named for Rydal in England by Governor Gipps. The village reached its height of activity when the main western train line from Sydney terminated at Rydal in 1870. Everything was downloaded and then went by horse, cart or carriage to points further west.
The extension of the train line in 1876 meant the busy days for Rydal were over. Even so the village for a long time had a school, a post office, a police station and more than one hotel. Today all that remains of these facilities is one hotel and of course the heritage listed railway station.
With a current population of only 80, the people of Rydal looked at what assets it had… it had a beautiful location and, because time had stood still for many years, it still had many of its early buildings and was a compact unit, without fast food take away cafes or unsightly signs. In 2002 there was someone with the driving force in the village who had the vision to try and rectify the situation. Over the years, daffodils had been grown in gardens in the district, and a couple of gardens outside of the village had opened for visitors, but it was not till 2002 that the Rydal Village Association (RVA) began the promotion of Daffodils at Rydal.
It was a unifying force, bringing people together at a time when the village seemed to have little purpose other than as a dormitory town with no particular identity of its own, even though it did have a proud history of its past.
Since 2002, a major effort by the community to upgrade the village parks and the decision of several residents of Rydal to open their gardens meant that the village had something to offer visitors. Four big country gardens near the village were invited to join.
The festival has been successful for several reasons. There has been a big community involvement; the focus has been to bring people into the village. While there are plenty of other flowers and shrubs in the gardens, having a mass of one kind of flower that comes out at a particular time has given Rydal a theme. Daffodils like the cold and a lot of areas in Australia are not suitable. People love to see something that for them is exotic.
The funds raised from garden entry support charities in the surrounding Lithgow district, which is appreciated by visitors. Funds raised from catering and the ‘pop up shop’ with home-made goodies have gone back into the village, which is very much appreciated by locals. They can feel that a lot of effort goes into the garden festival and can feel disappointed/disillusioned if the village does not get a direct return on the efforts.
Over the years these funds have meant that the Rydal Village Association had turned what was once waste railway land into a beautiful park with picnic tables. The village has been able to finance the building of a stylish gazebo and the bus shelter which doubles as information centre that is in keeping with the architecture of the 1869 Railway Station. Not only have daffodil bulbs been planted but also exotic trees to add autumn colour. Funds buy more bulbs to plant in the parks, and in patches along the road as you come into the village. Bulbs are bought wholesale for public planting and residents who wish to plant bulbs can then purchase them wholesale.
Funds have then been available to help with the upkeep of the two historic churches and finance our celebration of Australia Day. The village now has its own supply of marquees, tables, chairs, catering equipment and gardening equipment.
We have had help from the work for the dole scheme who helped make a path around another waste area of Crown Land which is now known as Pioneers Park. Day release prisoners help with mowing. We have applied for funds from the Commonwealth Government for small equipment grants for Volunteer organisations. We have been helped with our promotion by the Lithgow Tourist bureau.
We have our own web site funded by local B & B accommodators. The web site gives details about Daffodils at Rydal as well as the village, accommodation, other events held during the year and village history. We have a stylish and colourful brochure which is distributed widely and can be downloaded. Lithgow City Council gives a small donation towards our printing expenses; otherwise the whole enterprise is self-funded by the activities of the Rydal Village Association through Daffodils at Rydal. We have a Facebook page as well.
We have had enormous help from the Horticultural Media Association whose members have been generous with their help and advice and promoted our event on their programs, their web sites or their publications.
Daffodils at Rydal is obviously the big event of the year but we have tried to create year-round interest. While we have a small museum located in the Rydal Railway Station we have created a heritage walk with a brochure to go with it which is also available on the village web site. This means the whole village is really an outdoor museum.
We have about ten private gardens involved and over the years some of these have changed as people move on. This is why we have thought it important to put a lot of effort into improving the village parks as these will always be available. In the process we have made a beautiful village. The community involvement is essential and while there could always be more help during the year, when it comes to opening for Daffodils just about the entire village is there, not just garden owners but everyone else helping with the catering, helping show people around, helping with the parking or minding the churches.
So what does the future hold? The emphasis has been to try and build up the village so that it can stand in its own right whether it opens for Daffodils or not. It has taken a number of years but people now come just to see the village, even when the daffodils are not out. The last few properties to change hands have been because of the daffodils, people have seen it as an attractive place to live.
Even if the festival closes when those who have been the force behind it, have moved on the daffodils will still be there. The RVA now has funds to continue to make some improvements that would be done by paid labour, not just volunteer labour. The parks have been created and the facilities improved. It has not been in vain.
People are now proud to say they come from Rydal. We have put Rydal on the map. Please visit the Rydal Village website or our Daffodils at Rydal Facebook page, and come and see for yourself how a garden festival has brought life back to a beautiful small village.