The Secret Garden- Australian Gothic, Part One.

by Lori Dwyer on September 19, 2012 · 3 comments

“She spread herself wide open to let the insects in
She leaves a trail of honey to show me where she’s been
She has the blood of reptile just underneath her skin
Seeds from a thousand others drip down from within”
Reptile, Nine Inch Nails

The Secret Garden

Occasionally I witness my soul grow restless.

It’s comfort to know that it happens less frequently than it once did; and that when it does happen I can, if I choose, harness it safely. I’ve give the rampant promiscuity a wide berth until I can be bothered putting in that kind of concentrated effort again.

And I haven’t been exploring for a while now.

I don’t really mean to be exploring, the afternoon I find this bizarrely eerie property not far from TinyTrainTown. There is maybe two hours of start–of–spring sunshine still to be enjoyed, and a solid hour before I am due to lug and tangle my children home from their daycare. And I am restless… my feet are itchy to wander and walk, to pick unevenly over unfamiliar ground.

I’m driving aimlessly along rural back roads that should be promising and provide nothing. There’s a abundance of newly built houses worth four times as much mine with smooth oceans of manicured lawns that leave a tangy distaste in my mouth when I’m looking for the exact opposite. Rust and termites and decay and age… it feels like reality, unfiltered, compared to houses huge and cold.

Knowing my own tendency to procrastinate and lose track of time, I’ve developed a system of discipline for when I’m exploring. Three more minutes, the sensible side of myself tells the wide eyed five year old who’s just about doing cartwheels with freedom. Three more minutes along this road and if we find nothing thing, we three-point turn and head back home.

The Secret Garden
I’ve almost given up. I hadn’t expected much from this short deviation from normal life. It was a whim, a simple matter of putting off going home. Driving that bit too fast, with bad music a bit too loud, my eyes aching with wanderlust at every downtrodden wool shed I pass. The urge to eat up this rare spare hour of solitude and sunlight is irresistible and an end to it’s own means- the simple act of searching is respite and recreation in itself.

I miss the main building with it’s overgrown garden nursery the first time I pass it. It’s only after I turn around to head back that’s see it. It’s the overgrowth of the carpark and the sprawling graffiti across the front doors that show me the universe is, once again, giggling gently with me– it seems I’ve found just what I was looking for.

Only not exactly.

At first inspection, still behind the wheel of my car mouthing the lyrics as basslines pump the windows in the way only a white chick’s can, this place doesn’t seem abandoned… just empty. It’s not old enough to count, traditionally, as an ‘abandoned’ anything, surely. This building is relatively new…

Expect the grass has grown in five foot snarls across the footpath, reaching rude impertinent green fingers to the doorway of this main building marked ‘Administration.’ The expensive looking floodlights are sagging and weather beaten, gigantic heavy headed daisies in a garden mulched with car park gravel.

And screw it, I still have an hour, at least. Maybe a bit more.

The Secret Garden

A lesson I’ve learnt while urban exploring… just because a door appears locked never means it is. Even when, from a distance, you can clearly see the splintered end of a gum tree stick some bright spark has snapped off in the front door,trying to jimmy the lock open… it may have been left there for show, so anyone with other things on their mind would think just that. And there may be a few heavy chunks of bush rock pushed up against that same front door to stop it swinging open again, bearing it’s secrets to any occasional passerby who happened that glance that way.

My conscience plays tag with my curiosity. Just because someone else has already been here doesn’t mean you should too, it intones solemnly.

But Curiosity is already scuffing away the rocks and opening the front door. I have my eye on a blue cherry security light fixed to the awning– Conscience is waiting for a pealing, squealing sound of electronic indignation to start bleating as a pulsing blue light paints us with guilt. Curiosity takes this concept, examines it… then rolls her eyes, blows a bubble with her gum, pulls open the front door and stomps on through in her knee high lace up Doc Martens anyway.

The Secret Garden
I never like to feel as though I’m trespassing- I like to think I’m respectful. Despite the building I’m now inside appearing so very modern; it has a tired, familiar drone to it. It’s the same sound as almost every place I’ve been exploring. Sometimes I think it’s the sound of secrets sighing into the dust, of lives lived here, the matter of their memories now ingrained into the very structure of the buildings… sighing because they know, the same way we we all do, that no one’s secrets are really that fabulous, none so interesting we haven’t heard them before in one incarnation or another. Whether we be alive or dead.

This place was a wedding reception centre, once upon a time… or maybe just the beginning of one. This first building appears to actually be a newly constructed, modern barn. It’s open and airy, a roof of high exposed beams that still smell faintly of pine and wood sap. The back door leading out into the grounds and garden no longer existed as such, being a shatter of glass shards and splintered wooden frames laying over the threshold. Through that non-door was, so far as I could tell, the only entrance to the grounds. A black iron fence topped with ferocious looking spikes clung tight to either side of the barn and stretched off into the scrubland in one direction while courting the dilapidated building to the left of the barn whose still intact sign declared it the ‘Garden Shed’ in the other.

The Secret Garden

I pick over the shattered glass, tiny sightless eyes reflecting a sky gloaming with no real colour at all, my eyes sweeping my surroundings for things that might be interesting, feet pumping to the rhythm of ‘havetopickmykidsupsoon, havetopickmykidsupsoon’. The paths are covered in leaf litter. The plants here are vivid, wild and vibrant. Ornamental lilies appear jurassic, fluffy yellow wattle loads the air with a cloying scent like butter about to turn. Trails of ornamental ivy so exquisitely perfect they almost appear fake have taken heady run of their freedom and lay lazily as they please, snaking and sleazing onto pathways set of modern brick.

Slabs of sandstone bush rock line the walkways and fill the gardens and giant tablets of bush granite lay skewed against one another. The thick black pipes that are visible between them startle me for a moment, Conscience tutting ‘Yu’uh, that’s what we get…’ while Curiosity blusters something about surely it still being too cold for snakes at this time of the year?! It’s not a snake, coiled and shiny and black amongst the rocks… it’s the remains of a dried up, desiccated rock waterfall; black pipes probably so sun damaged they would be finger-sticky to the touch with rot.

I’m not sure what I’m expecting to find… maybe nothing. A picnic area perhaps, a large grassy clearing in amongst the winding paths and lush, ferocious gardens.

The path winding itself into a clearing set with an aisle and wedding altar was a bit of a shock. Certainly unexpected.

Fucking creepy, actually, in that gloaming-Australian-gully-gothic-romantic kind of way.

And truly, some of the best urbexing photos I think I’m ever going to get. Or at least they would have been, had I actually had a real camera with me… instead of just my iPhone.

The Secret Garden

Whatever. The view from the pergola is breathtaking, especially on sunset. The land drops away grade by grade, sandstone and lichen and gum tree greens and slated grey-brown barks rolling into each other to create a giant, craggy fold in the ground– earth and growth and mineral sloping and bowing to the tiniest trickle of a river that runs past all them, indifferent, at the very bottom of the gully. There’s that to be said for rural living, at the very least… you don’t generally just stumble across these kinds of million-year-old, I-am-a-tiny-speck-of-nothing-in-the-grand-universe views in suburbia.

But this set up, rows of solid wooden bench seats and a table and chairs in the pergola… it wouldn’t have lasted long in the suburbs, either. It’s only that it’s out here, tucked away very close to the dead centre of nowhere, that anything remains at all. People have been here, obviously, people other than me; but the damage and vandalism they’ve left behind is surprisingly minimal. This garden is so out of the way, to get here you would need to come by car– and simply having access to a vehicle makes you less likely to wantonly destruct property. You have other, more interesting things to do.

And so things have been left intact and untouched. As if it’s waiting for some kind of finality, some absolution, some ceremonious event… something that may never even happen at all.

To be continued….
post signature

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ahmad Abdullah November 4, 2012 at 1:27 am

This was a good suggestion that you put up here…dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

Solid Wood Doors

Reply September 19, 2012 at 11:27 am

I always love your exploration posts – you are braver than me! I am always struck by some deep-buried fear of getting in trouble for doing something I shouldn't be doing.

Also, Lori, you have excellent taste in music.


Anonymous September 19, 2012 at 9:03 am

I remember this place. We had a lot of birthday parties here, and it's where my cousin got married.


Previous post:

Next post: