Celebrating the Daffodil festival at Rydal, New South Wales
The Seasons are for the world, my friend –
For the sun, the snow and showers;
But spring is for the homecoming
To the innocence of the flowers
The beauty of spring is best reminded by flowers. The weather becomes pleasantly mild balanced beautifully between the shivering cold and the sweaty sun. That summer is at the doorstep and the mercury will rise sharply further often catalyses me to become outsdoorsy. Last weekend was no exception – we chose a small village close to Sydney and nestled below the famed Blue Mountains of Australia – the beautiful village of Rydal. Once known as the Solitary Creek, it was renamed after its counterpart in the British Isles where Wordsworth romanticised his words in the later stages of his life. As if in apt recognition of one of his most popular poems of the Romantic Age, this tiny hamlet ushers spring with a Daffodil Festival. The villagers lovingly plant large swathes of their gardens and pathway flanks with myriads of daffodils. Who could pass down this opportunity to gaze upon these golden yellow blooms on a spring filled balmy day?
Rydal is situated 150 kms west of Sydney – the road meanders through the Blue Mountains interspersed with large barns and ranches, presenting the perfect picture of a bucolic life far from the madding crowds. Throw in a big blue lake (lake Lyell in this case), sprawling golden fields speckled with hay-rolls and windmills, a few gambolling kangaroos and you cannot ask for any more from a long Saturday drive.
But the moment you land in Rydal, you can feel transported to a different world, or rather a different time.
A century and a half back, this village served as the last terminal for the Western railways. It wouldn’t take a lot of imagination to picture a large steam engine chugging lazily into the platform to connect a handful of houses to civilization, an old station master ambling indolently while a bunch of farmers went about their daily farmland chores serving in the peaceful frontiers of an English world. Not much seemed to have changed – there was a strong old worldly smell in the air, the cottages seemed antiquated and the most happening place in the village seemed to be a quaint pub that seemed somnolent at best. Add to this a few jalopies from the late 60s and an interesting gentleman riding a Penny Farthing, and you would feel that time has stopped at Rydal long ago.
Coming back to the floral part of the trip, much needs to be said of the geriatric populace of Rydal who lovingly grows daffodils all about their village in vibrant shades of yellow, white, and orange. The simple folks throw open their farms and gardens to the passer-by, to stop on his tracks and waft in the colors of the blooms. Magnanimously, they have also donated over $130,000 since 2002 in charity, based on the funds collected during the Daffodil festival. You can catch a lovely conversation with anyone of them, and hear them regaling about their village – of a 120 year old church, of the galah parrots lurking nearby, how it snows unbelievably in this warm low lying place in winter et al. I even happened to catch up with my cyclist friend (on the Penny Farthing) in impeccable old English attire, who happily enlightened me to his wonder world of bicycles (and tricycles) – which varied from the operation of brake shoes to the actual names of these archaic models (none of which I remember) to even a Farthing so high that he cannot mount or ride!
The best lot of daffodils were found in the Chapel House – a quaint hacienda from the late 1800s situated at one end of the village. It was replete with its own horse ranch, sprawling orchards and garden and a beautiful emerald pond, made picture postcard-ish with its sownder of swans, large brooding willow trees and a wooden deck with chairs on the pond side that makes you lethargic at first sight. Sitting amidst those daffodils there, lulled by the buzzing of the bees and the chirping of the birds, it was getting difficult to imagine this life in the twenty-first century. My imagination tried to conjure up Wordsworth in a similar setting a very long time back, frenzied by the colors of spring, fuelling enough inspiration to pen lines of romanticism that would soon become immortal in the world of poetry…
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
- Rydal makes for a beautiful day trip from Sydney (There are stay options as well in this quaint hamlet if you want to spend a weekend in peaceful bliss). It takes about 3 – 4 hours to drive down to Rydal. Alternately there’s a rail service as well, but plan your trip before coming as there are a handful of these in a day
- The Daffodil festival takes place in Spring in September and has an entry fee of $10. For more details, check their website: http://www.rydal.com.au/events.php
- There are small and temporary eating arrangements during the festival – also, don’t forget to check the old churches and a quaint bar in the middle of the village
- You can drop by at Katoomba or Lithgow as well which are interesting tourist destinations nearby in the blue mountains