666 Majors Creek Rd, Jembaicumbene
Past the neighbour’s alpaca flock and down the track flanked by gangly spring calves sits 1830s historic cottage Durham Hall.
Set on 760 acres of prime grazing land, the property at Jembaicumbene – pronounced locally as “Jimmy-cum-been” – is framed by Braidwood’s Mount Gillamatong and the blue-hued Great Dividing Range in the distance.
A sprawling lawn, mature shade trees and an old tennis court provide a glimpse of what life would have been like in early Victorian times. It’s not hard to imagine horse-drawn carts approaching the stone steps along the now waist-high box hedges that line the looped carriageway that these days acts as a maze for the daughters of the owners James and Belinda Royds.
Last opened to the public two years ago, the garden was first established by Anne Badgery, wife of William Henry Roberts, in the 1840s. Their daughter married Thomas Molyneux Royds, who bred racehorses on the property.
The property and gardens have been under the custodianship of the Royds family for five generations. James and Belinda say maintaining such an historic garden is a responsibility they don’t take lightly.
One of the first gardens to be mapped and surveyed by the Australian Garden History Society, it has been recognised for its heritage significance and has been listed on the Register of the National Estate.
The centrepiece of the garden is hard to miss. Standing magestically at the northern side is a massive Atlantic cedar, its branches reaching up 30 metres.
“People often say that I must’ve loved climbing it as a kid, but look at it, I’d need a ladder to get to the first branch,” James laughs.
One of the grand features of the garden is the enormous wisteria which graces the garden’s entrance. From the gnarled trunk it spreads its ancient limbs across garages and sheds and climbs into the upper branches of a venerable pine.
While these days it has fewer flowers, James says there are photographs of it in its glory, draping the entire scene in purple.
Other plants of interest, dating from the 1880s, are the Osage orange, or bow wood tree, and the rare Desmodium amethystinum, a Chinese shrub with sprays of pale blue flowers in autumn. Old roses include Fortunes Double Yellow, Mrs Dudley Cross, gallicas and Pink Radiance.