One of Goulburn’s heritage gems is Riversdale, with a dedicated band of volunteers who keep this gorgeous Georgian homestead looking its best.
The drought of last decade took its toll on the garden, but over the past seven years the volunteers have been applying tender loving care to it and finding absolute treasures in the process of peeling away the weeds.
Such treasures include finding apple trees that were planted in the 1860s as well as hidden garden paths.
“There are English Elms and two Holm Oaks here that were planted in the 1850s and also a series of ancient rose bushes that were planted by the Twynams, who lived at Riversdale from 1872 to the 1960s,” Riversdale volunteer Ros Loftus said.
”We also have a Honey Locust Tree outside the stable that we believe was planted at the same time the stables were built in 1833.”
The gardeners come once a week, but it could be full-time, with all of the weeding that needs to be done.
“We have people coming from as far as the Southern Highlands and Gundaroo to help out,” Ms Loftus said.
Working at Riversdale is a labour of love, but there is always room for more helpers, says volunteer Dawn Giles.
“At the moment there are about 15 volunteers at the homestead,” Mrs Giles said.
“They help in the gardens as well as in the house with preparing exhibitions of the historic collections.
“We research the history of the place, put together exhibitions and assist with guided tours. We are also the caterers for Devonshire Teas and weddings.
“We had 200 people out here for the [Our] Living History weekend. We were flat out.”
Mrs Giles, Marie Kennedy and Julie Elliot are also researching and writing a book about Riversdale’s colourful history.
“The house was built in 1840 by Matthew Healy and it was a coach house and in until John Fuljames purchased it in 1860 and turned it into his family home,” Ms Kennedy said.
“He improved the garden and planted a lot of fruit trees.
“At one point he advertised in the Goulburn Herald that he had 6000 dozen apples for sale.”
The place was then leased for some years until the Twynams purchased it and lived there from 1872 to 1967. Edward Twynam later became acting Surveyor General of NSW and his wife Emily was a clever botanic artist and craftswoman.
Many years after that, the National Trust purchased it.
“In its time Riversdale has been an Inn, a boys’ grammar school, a boarding house and a private residence. It has a colourful history,” Ms Kennedy said.
Riversdale is open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays (from 10-2pm) and Sundays from 10 to 3pm.
- To volunteer at Riversdale, telephone 4821 4741 or 0409 953 859