You know that feeling of being watched? I was noseying around Mitre 10 Mega’s garden centre the other day and I just knew someone – or something – had their eyes fixed on me. Turned out it was this sweet shaggy dog. What soulful eyes – really made me want to take him home.
Nearby was a cute wooly sheep, and when the cyclamen come out it’s a sure sign that winter is on the way.
Other delightful garden decor included these artfully rusted pigs. I don’t think much of the plastic flamingoes, although more thought to displaying them might have made them a lot more attractive.
When I got home from this trip to Mitre 10 I took another look, in a new light, at a pair of garden gnomes that were my brother’s and my pride and joy when we were younger – maybe 50 years ago. Lance’s one has the dog and mine is playing the tin whistle. Like many a Roman statue they have lost much of their colour, but are none the less attractive for that. And unlike most Roman statues, they’ve kept the brilliant blue in their eyes. Their beards were originally black but have over the years turned snowy white.
They don’t live in the garden anymore – in fact I have them next to me on my desk. Some years ago Dad decided to paint them – I particularly love this blue “by moonlight” one.
Are they the most painted garden gnomes in Auckland?
Racecourses are essentially vast open spaces, but when I think of Ellerslie Racecourse, much more than the race track itself – I’m not a race goer – I think of the magnificent trees and shaded walks that make it Auckland’s garden racecourse. This park-like setting dates back to the mid-1800s: Scotsman Robert Graham named his estate in the area Elderslie after his home in Larnarkshire. This name soon mutated to Ellerslie and was applied as well to the settlement that formed near Graham’s property. When the railway heading south from Auckland reached Ellerslie in the early1870s Graham developed part of his land as gardens and even a small zoo which he hoped would attract visitors to the area. At the same time a racecourse was inaugurated in adjoining fields – the first race was held there in January 1874 – and when Graham’s farm was sub-divided in 1889 the landscaped part of it was incorporated in the grounds of the racecourse.
The grandstands have been enlarged over the decades but the racecourse, its outbuildings and its carefully tended gardens have changed very little since I used to love playing here with my cousins when we were children and lived nearby.
Two of the original buildings in the Auckland Racing Club’s colours.
Sir Edwin Mitchelson, pioneering timber and kauri gum merchant and politician was president of the Auckland Racing Club from 1905 to 1932. Both during this period and in earlier years when he was mayor of Auckland, he was passionate about landscaping and the creation of parks and reserves throughout the city. It is largely thanks to him that Robert Graham’s gardens were shaped into the beautiful place they are today. this monument to him – the sculpture is by Bertram Mackennal – is backed by a benchseat flanked by a pair of winged horses.
Palm trees add a tropical, riviera-like touch to the gardens. In the right the new Events centre. the racecourse’s heyday has long since passed – nowadays the gardens are a backdrop to social events and there is even a golf driving range infield and a dog and owner training school in part of the stables.
the racetrack with the golf range infield behind finishing post
Hard to see the logic in this – how can horses make a building hazardous? Another opportunity for a proofreader’s red pen!!!
The finishing post.
Race day traffic uses this entrance while pedestrians use the shaded central pathway.
The racecourse gardens are open to the public except on racedays and a used car market is held in the carpark on Sundays. To check out the dress code for race days, see http://www.ellerslie.co.nz