You would be hard pressed to find a season more emotionally fraught than last summer. First came the drought, and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden's horticulturists did all we could to meet our living collections’ water requirements in the blazing heat.
Then the bushland surrounding the Garden became tinder dry and we watched as the Gosper’s Mountain fire approached, its pall of smoke ominously visible for weeks. The fires arrived, and in the blink of an eye Mount Tomah and part of the Garden were tatters.
The whole summer, one vital thing was missing: water. Water to ease the drought. Water to replenish the plants. Water to douse the fires. And water to once again gush through the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden’s iconic Cascade.
While the Garden aspect is stunning, and its cool climate plant collection expansive, it is The Cascade that is referred to as the “heartbeat of the garden”. Unfortunately, due to a leak and intermittent water restrictions, The Cascade had been out of action for three long years.
The construction of The Cascade began in 1986 as part of a larger project using basalt mined from the mountain, and limestone, to build retaining walls, paths and ponds. The vision for The Cascade was that it would be heard before it was seen; the sound of water tempting you around corners and through hedge avenues into different garden “rooms”.
Beginning below the Visitor Centre, The Cascade’s water sheets into a trough of waterlilies, then barrels down a stone watercourse, snaking its way around limestone and basalt boulders and feeding into various unique, water dependent gardens, including The Bog and The Beach.
When asking visitors what their most memorable experiences of the Garden are, more often than not they mention The Cascade; its sound, its beauty and its calming presence. And it is no wonder The Cascade sticks in visitors’ memories as psychologically water is thought to have a profound effect on humans.
The sound of water is believed to be calming as it can affect the rhythm of your brain waves, it acts as white noise, and is thought to be hard-wired into humans as a positive and “safe” sound, with our more primitive counterparts finding both hydration and food when they found water.
Due to its position at the centre of the Garden (both physically and metaphorically), the restarting of The Cascade has felt like the life blood returning to the garden and has been a big step towards recovery in what has been one of the more trying times the Garden has faced. The return of The Cascade has felt as though, after sitting still with bated breath, the Garden has let out a sigh and begun breathing again.
Visit Mount Tomah
There is plenty to see and do at the Garden and along the Bells Line of Road. Open every day and free to enter, the Garden is a must-see and a great way to enjoy the peaceful surrounds of nature. Plan your visit.