Willow Makes Landfall At A Cottage Garden

When I look around the backyard of our little cottage it’s not hard to imagine a time when it was a flourishing cottage garden. Bouquets of marigolds, pockets of peony and foxglove, and deep scented red roses. All arranged around meandering garden paths that lead to the back of the block and a view of the Georgian cottage afore.

So glorious was this cottage garden that it was featured in a 1993 edition of Classic & Country Decorating magazine.

As Willow and I sit on the sandstone seat I think that, although it doesn’t quite stand up to its former glory, how lucky we are to be able to enjoy a place like this in the sleepy town of Richmond.

When Steph, Willow, and I sailed back to Tasmania with the campervan in March I knew we had some career building to do as we entered this next stage of our lives. Steph found her IT skills were in high demand and quickly found work while I discovered a job in the marketing team of a cat shelter.

The only problem was that Hobart had changed in those 6 years we were away. Booming outer suburbs and an undeveloped traffic network were making the tiny capital city of just 250k a peak hour congestion nightmare. Along with skyrocketing rental prices and interstate migration, the laidback, liveable city was now no longer laidback or liveable.

I had grown up in the inner suburbs of Hobart and it was hard to imagine living anywhere else in the city, but the reality was that we were now priced out of my home town.

We browsed the rental listings for weeks before we spotted a cute little Georgian cottage in the town of Richmond, just 27km out of Hobart. It was utterly adorable and came fully furnished. We snapped it up.

Here is the ridiculous thing. It takes us less time to drive that 27km home from work than it does to drive 7km across the city to the suburbs we were originally looking at – and plus the rent is cheap!

So there we found ourselves, in our little Georgian cottage in Richmond.

Richmond is a historic village of 808 people surrounded by sheep grazing and vineyards. On the weekends the town comes alive with tourists and day trippers from Hobart browsing antiques in the sandstone shops and dining in the cafes. I used to do the same many years ago, although it was the ice cream shop that got my attention. As the evening comes around the town empties as the people return home and main street is quiet once again.

Our cottage was built circa 1846 not long after the town was settled. Although I don’t know much about its early history, the cottage had laid derelict for many years until a woman named Eileen purchased it in 1976. She had been running the general store until her husband Johnny’s sudden passing 5 years earlier.

She moved into a caravan on the block and got to work restoring the cottage to its former glory, the labour and skills of her own hands and learning. She established the garden and rockery, an orchard out the back, and a bush garden with Tasmanian Bluegums.

Rumour has it that the garden’s prosperity was owed to the fact that the previous owner, who operated the town’s dunny run, deposited the daily outgoings in the back garden.

Eileen named the property Landfall Cottage after her and Johnny’s cottage in England which they inhabited after living in a small houseboat. The garden flourished until the late 2000s when a broken hip brought her into care. In 2016, she passed away peacefully at age 99. She was farewelled by many a friend and was laid to rest next to her husband in the Richmond Anglican Church Cemetery.

As the story goes the property was split and sold, with the orchard out the back bulldozed to make way for some units, with those garden paths cut short. The cottage and garden abridged became an AirBnB and stayed that way until the pandemic crashed the short-stay market and the new owners were prompted to rent it out long term – to us!

Over those years the garden didn’t receive the same attention it had under Eileen’s care, as you could imagine, but her mark on this property will be everlasting through trees she established – yet it will never quite be the same.

Willow jumps off the sandstone seat and walks by the hedge. I stand close to her just in case she decides she wants to explore next door!

The garden was a little overgrown when we arrived in June. I got to work cutting back the hedges, pruning the roses, and pulling out the weeds. In the evening I could stand at the french doors and be proud of the mowed lawn, and the weeds I’d plucked out. The roses are out now and they smell wonderful.

Willow jumps back onto the sandstone seat which was once shaded by a glorious almond tree. It’s nearly her dinner time and she’ll be wanting to go in soon.

While we are here I will do my best for the garden, though as I walk up the path that abruptly ends at a brand new fence, I wonder if anyone will ever love this place as much as Eileen did.

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