Small town in the heart of a famous apple growing area.
Bilpin, the name is synonymous with apples in the mind of most residents of New South Wales, is a small town on Bell's Line of Road 93 km west of Sydney. For most travellers Bilpin is the place where, having driven from Richmond up to Kurrajong, gazed over the vast Sydney basin, they stop at the Fruit Bowl and buy some apples or some apple juice.
Although it may not sound like it, Bilpin is another place named after Archibald Bell, Jr. who also gave his name to Mount Bell, Bell Range, the town of Bell, Bell's Line of Road and Bilpin which was originally named 'Belpin'. The reason for this enthusiastic desire to enshrine Bell's name in just about everything is because, in 1823, Archibald Bell, Jr, when he was only nineteen, crossed the mountains along what was to become Bell's Line of Road. This was not a solitary achievement. Sensibly he used the knowledge of the local Aborigines who had been crossing the mountains for tens of thousands of years. Although the mountains has been crossed at Katoomba a decade earlier, there was still no satisfactory route through the mountains from Richmond at this time. Bell reached Mount Tomah on his first attempt but could not find a way across the mountains. On his second attempt he followed the ridge across to the present site of Bell and from there made his way down into Hartley Vale where he joined up with Cox's road.
In his diary Archibald Bell recalls that, upon his return to Sydney, he reported the richness of the soil in the Bilpin area (which inevitably led to the arrival of settlers eager to grow fruit trees in the area) and the rainforest and huge tree ferns around Mount Tomah.
It is no accident that the two major attractions on the Bells Line of Road in the Bilpin district are gardens which capitalise on the cool climate and the good soil of the area. Both gardens are the work of passionate gardeners who gave their work to the nation.
Waratah Native Garden
The Waratah Native Garden, located 5 kilometres west of Warawaralong (follow the signs off Bells Line of Road), is the result of the work of Frank Stone who, apart from planting numerous native shrubs, was particularly interested in growing waratahs from seed. In 1967 he gave his garden to the Blue Mountains National Park authority. When the native plants are in bloom the garden offers a rare opportunity to experience the beauty of the Australian bush. It also has a delightful bush walk through gullies to a waterfall and waterhole.
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden
The Mount Tomah Botanic Garden (now a Blue Mountains section of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens) is based on a geological platform of 15-million-year-old basaltic lava. The first European to tread upon the mountain, which was then Daruk land, was George Caley in 1804. The first land grant was issued in 1830 and the land was purchased in 1934 by the French horticulturist Alfred Brunet. Brunet developed the area as a cut flower farm then offered it to the Royal Botanic Gardens in the 1970s.
In 1988, as part of the Bicentennial year, considerable work was undertaken. The result is a beautiful 28-hectare site which features an excellent collection of cool climate plants from around the world, notably rhododendrons and conifers.
The Rock Garden features plants from rocky communities in a setting which includes ponds and waterfalls. The traditional, European-style Formal Garden is laid out in three terraces with herbs and rose gardens. The 17th-century style Lawn Terrace is characterised by manicured lawns and hedges and the Pergola Terrace is based on 19th-century herbaceous borders. The Residence Garden highlights modern, domestic-scale landscaping while the Brunet Garden has developed from the Brunets own personal formal garden with a grassypark-like glade which is ideal for a picnic and mature trees and shrubs. There is a superb residence and a visitors' centre which offers information, displays, a theatrette, a shop, toilets, books, gifts, souvenirs and wheelchair access.
The balcony of the visitors' centre affords one of the most spectacular views in New South Wales. It would be easy to spend a day at these gardens. There are picnic and barbecue facilities and the gardens are open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., with hours extended to 5.00 p.m. during the daylight savings of summer, which is the best time to visit. It is located 105 km west of Sydney and 12 km from Bilpin. To book guided ecotours or to make arrangements for school or university visits, contact (02) 4567 2154.
Bilpin Leisure Resort Motel
68 Powells Rd
Bilpin NSW 2758
Telephone: (02) 4567 2117
Cut Rock Cottage
(Dog Friendly) 1516 Bells Line of Road
Bilpin NSW 2758
Telephone: (02) 4567 8224
Facsimile: (02) 4567 8224
Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens Restaurant
Bells Line of Rd Mt Tomah
Bilpin NSW 2758
Telephone: (02) 4567 2060