On the Swan River there is a natural bay, Matilda Bay which is believed to have been named after Matilda, the wife of John Septimus Roe. He was, in the 1800s, the first Surveyor-General of Western Australia and was, for a number of years, a member of Western Australia’s legislative and executive councils.
Whats so interesting about Matilda Bay you may ask.
Nothing, I might have responded, if I hadn’t be commuting along the Mounts Bay Road, every day Monday thru Friday for the last couple of months. Due these regular trips I became aware of two features of the Matilda Bay shore line.
The first being a bronze statue, of a woman preparing to dive, mounted on a pedestal some meters offshore. Eliza is located at the site of the former Crawley Baths.
Apparently, when they opened in 1914, the baths were the largest enclosed body of water in the southern hemisphere. They were demolished in 1964.
Although Eliza was just dressed in seagull poo yesterday, during my many passes she has been adorned with all manner of clothing, banners and balloons. No one is sure who dresses Eliza but past costumes have included a Santa Claus outfit with beard and coincident with the Melbourne Cup, a frock and champagne flute.
Many years ago, nearly 30 I think. During my first ever visit to Perth, in actual fact my first trip to Australia, my daughter took us up to Kings Park.
At that time, as I recall there wasn’t much in the way of commercialism. Just a small kiosk where you could get a drink and a hot pie. Mrs Macs I believe.
But we weren’t there for the pies, we were there for the view. Unfortunately, I don’t have a digitised photo from that time.
Around 15 years ago we once again visited Kings Park. The view was still there but a new adventure was in store for us. Not long opened was the new Federation Walkway with its elevated section and glass bridge.
And so, here we are once again, back in Oz and I felt it was time to revisit Kings Park and take another high level look at the city ……
The views from the park are, as ever, amazing. Not just the city but the great expanse of water which is the Swan River and Matilda Bay, with a shore line that seems to extend for ever.
The city still rises like an island from the sprawling suburbs which are spreading further and further towards the horizon in all directions. In my mind I often parallel my view of Perth with the conceptual city in Stargate Atlantis. Although high rises are, more recently, springing up further away from the city centre.
However, the most noticeable thing, is how dense the high rises have become within the city centre. New buildings are seemingly filling every gap and are now spilling onto the foreshore.
In a previous post I mentioned what the city planners had allowed to happen to the Bell Tower, calling it architectural vandalism. Built in 2000 the bell tower stood proud as a Perth icon. It seems the vandals are still at work. What was once a clean, fresh looking city skyline is now becoming a jumbled mess. A couple of years ago Elizabeth Quay opened with great fanfare and celebrations. Since then the tower developments have continued. Having swallowed the bell tower, they also oppressively overlook Elizabeth Quay.
I have to say that, from Kings Park, it looks a mess. Nothing stands out. The only way to see Elizabeth Quay is from one of the river cruise boats.
So, in my opinion Perth is in danger of becoming a smudge on the horizon. Meanwhile Kings Park is a gem. A place where folks can escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Where they can get back to nature, either making use of the various lawns and park benches, or walking the forest ways.
From that humble kiosk, dispensing Mrs Macs pies, Kings Park now boasts a gallery, a large eatery and visitor centre. Here we partook of toasted sandwiches and cold drinks.
Kings Park is also home to various war memorials and artworks …..
Visiting Kings Park should be on every Perth visitors todo list. The views are gorgeous and the surroundings peaceful. The park and river are the lungs of the city.
Come and enjoy.
P.S. And if the city planners are listening. Please do not spoil this fabulous view by allowing a cable car attraction to be built between Kings Park and Elizabeth Quay. The additional traffic would also spoil the tranquility.