Hayley Luke, Christchurch, New Zealand
With an extensive network of parks, rivers and streams spanning from the freshwater Travis Wetlands to the undulating reserves of the Port Hills, Christchurch and its prolific green space has justly earned the title of ‘the Garden City’. Even with over 1,000 parks to share among the 375,000 residents, there is one that stands out as iconic in culture, history and size – Hagley Park and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
The lungs of Christchurch, Hagley Park stretches over 165 hectares (400 acres). In pre-European times, Māori would camp and fish around the swampy plain that was to be converted into park land by early European settlers.
Officially named in 1855, Hagley Park is bordered by the Avon/Otakaro River and adjacent to the cultural precinct, which is rejuvenating after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. This district houses museums, heritage architecture, galleries and eateries. Those looking for a break from the bustle of city life will find that the sights, smells and sounds of modernity melt away amid the 3,000 trees and numerous wide open spaces.
If Hagley Park is the city’s lungs then the Botanic Gardens is the heart. The tranquil atmosphere combined with an overflow of colour, texture, form, and scent pumps life into all who pass through the gates. In 1863 the Gardens started with the planting of a single oak tree and now includes 21 hectares (52 acres) of native and exotic collections, a formal rose garden, a pinetum, herbaceous borders, rock gardens and conservatories. Each season transforms the Botanic Gardens; spring drifts of daffodils and bluebells, summer blooms of fragrant roses, autumn piles of crispy golden leaves, and winter mists alluring and mysterious.
As the great heart of the city, Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens receive a combined visitor total of over 1.5 million annually and both venues are host to a diverse range of events including circuses, plays, cultural festivals and community days.
International sporting tournaments are often held in the Hagley Oval cricket ground and the park’s sports facilities and shared use walkways are popular with residents and local schools. Occupying a unique space in both the heart of the city and its residents, Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens have become intrinsically linked to the city’s growth and identity.