I had two reasons for coming to Hamilton and Hobbiton was not one of them.
The main reason for visiting? Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you how it goes.
The second reason for visiting was to visit the gardens, but before I did that, I needed lunch.
Hamilton is a small town but it does seem to have a wide range of coffeeshops and cafes. I found myself being led down side streets as I followed street art and murals to De Stylez.
If it has street art, that’s a good sign.
I wandered in and ordered nachos and a cappuccino.
I don’t think the presentation was the strongest aspect but my word… the flavour. And let’s face it, a tasty meal beats beautiful but bland presentation any time.
The nachos were topped with chillied beef, cheese and sour cream with additional chilli sauce. They were good.
The building was a mix of recording studio, cafe and gallery. I was intrigued and Denise who was managing the cafe told me all about it.
De Stylez opened two years ago and the owners, Jack and Edwina are keen to promote community creativity, whether that be recording music or poetry.
The cafe also displays paintings by local people with live music on Wednesday evenings. The idea behind it was a love of music and art, mixing it up with coffee.
It’s great to see businesses that are really focused on creating community space.
I can’t think of many better ways to pass the time. It was a really nice spot and at 16NZD, not a bad price for a filling lunch.
From there I headed to the Hamilton Gardens… which are ot your average botanic gardens. Actually, they aren’t botanic gardens.
They are a collection of different styles of gardens, summarising the history and purpose of different types: for example, the Renaissance Garden, Tudor and many others.
For me, it was an opportunity to learn about different gardens from around the world and the colours in the gardens were spectacular.
What is remarkable about the Hamilton Gardens is that entry is free and this is no small site, having 21 gardens with more under development.
Sadly for me, Surrealist Garden doesn’t open until 2020.
The history of the Gardens is also interesting.
Before the Europeans settled here, the land held Maori gardens and this is reflected on the site. It then became a sand quarry, obliterating all traces of previous settlement and was later in the 1950s and 60s used as a rubbish dump.
The land was gifted as a public garden and the first substantial development, the Rogers Rose Garden, was opened in 1971 in an attempt to block highway development over the site.
In the late 1970s, the concept for Hamilton Gardens was developed, focusing on garden design, rather than on botanical science.
This concept was developed in three stages through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to form five garden collections. The first of the Paradise Gardens were opened in 1992.
It’s a beautiful site, combining the weird and wonderful to great effect. To have free access to such a beautiful green space (when we know the benefits for mental wellbeing) is superb.
I spent a thoroughly peaceful afternoon there, even having a dip in one of the exhibits.
Well, the kids were, and it looked like fun.