Every Thursday morning a group of garden lovers gathers in the beautiful grounds of Lindesay in Darling Point and gets to work. Here Robin Powell talks to the group about their passionate connection to this historic house and garden
An interview with, and images by Robin Powell
Lindesay was built in 1834 in Gothic revival style as a harbourside villa for Campbell Riddell and his young wife Caroline. How did it become a National Trust property?
Ros Sweetapple: Lindesay has had quite a few owners and Walter Pye lived here through much of the 20th century. When he died in 1966 he willed the property to the Women’s Committee of the National Trust. The garden’s been managed by volunteers since then. There’s a group of about 10 of us now, and every week a different number of people come. We also have a professional gardener, Nicholas Ball of Avant Design, who comes here while we’re here and does the heavy work.
What inspired you to be a volunteer gardener here?
Ros: I started here back in the 1960s when I was a young breast-feeding mother. I haven’t been here all that time – I had a garden in
the southern highlands for 20 years with a wonderful collection of hydrangeas – but I’m back now.
Robin Hodgson: I lived in New Guinea for 34 years and had a garden of frangipani and bougainvillea and hibiscus. I only have a windy balcony now and I
missed my garden.
Beverly Reed: I had a house on the northern beaches and started a garden there from scratch. I live in a flat now nearby and responded to a letter drop
about seven or eight years ago. I enjoy it immensely. We all just lose ourselves in the garden.
Does everyone have a special job?
Robin: Not really. We take direction from the experts and talk a bit over a cup of tea but we’ve been coming for long enough we can see what’s needed. Having said that, Bev is the greatest waterer. She is patient and willing to give everything a good long soak.
Ros: And Robin is our carpet sweeper. We have a machine that lifts off the leaves and the bits that fall from the hoop pine.
Dana Mellis: That hoop pine is always dropping, it’s such a pain in the neck. Lucky it’s such a lovely-looking tree.
Arnold Vink: It’s the trees in McKell Park that need to go. There are a lillpypilly and tuckeroo there that are reducing the views of the harbour from Lindesay, and the views of Lindesay to the harbour, that are so important to the history here. So far the council is not paying much attention.
What do you get out of it?
Robin: The social side of it means a lot to me.
Beverly: I just love it.
Historic Lindesay at Darling Point will host its 16th Annual Christmas Gift Fair on 16th, 17th and 18th November this year. There will be over 60 stalls in various rooms through the house and under the marquee erected on the lawn overlooking Sydney Harbour. Lindesay is open on the first Thursday of each month, except January. Call: 02 9363 2401. Check the Lindesay Facebook page for details. Contact National Trust in your state or territory to investigate volunteer options in your area.
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