Duck­ing out for a pic­nic in the park

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

How blessed are Syd­neysiders to have ac­cess to the green oa­sis of Cen­ten­nial Park with its plen­ti­ful pic­nic spots, broad av­enues lined with Port Jack­son figs and Nor­folk pines, bi­cy­cle and horserid­ing lanes, and ponds filled with (seem­ingly) con­tented ducks and geese. I used to take my two sons there when they were about five and six to see the mal­lards. “Why is Mrs Duck so plain?” asked the older boy one day as we ob­served the male’s jaunty mark­ings. “I think she is very pretty,” added his brother, sens­ing I prob­a­bly didn’t have an an­swer to the umpteenth ques­tion of the day. I thought of those once-lit­tle lads last week­end while at­tend­ing a get-to­gether in the park with grand­chil­dren Katie and Jasper and a stack of fam­ily and friends. The park didn’t seem all that dif­fer­ent, aside from the qual­ity of pro­vi­sion­ing by to­day’s pic­nick­ers We didn’t have haloumi cheese back then or laven­der-flavoured cup­cakes. I re­call I made cheese sand­wiches and we filled plas­tic bot­tles with di­luted acid-green GI cor­dial. You could pick up free slices of stale bread from the kiosk and feed the ducks, which we did with gusto, although I sus­pect that is frowned upon these days. The 189ha park­land was opened in 1888 by NSW premier Sir Henry Parkes who de­clared it to be “the peo­ple’s park”. Syd­neysiders were en­cour­aged to “drive their car­riages” and “take the air”. You’d think by now, in de­vel­op­ment-hun­gry Syd­ney, it would have been eaten into for hous­ing and leisure cen­tres, so its sur­vival rates as a mir­a­cle. Fields and groves can be hired for con­certs and wed­dings. Jasper’s par­ents were mar­ried here two years ago un­der the shel­ter of old trees. At Pa­per­bark Grove (pic­tured) pic­nics can be booked for up to 100 peo­ple and its BYO bar­be­cue (to grill that haloumi, of course, as well as the snags), fold­ing ta­bles and chairs and pop-up shel­ters (“weighted, not pegged” as no dam­age to that lovely green turf, please). Just as I re­call from three decades ago, kids scam­per about, with lots of chas­ing, squeal­ing and rolling on the ground. And I checked on a Mrs Duck or two, who are still look­ing plain but they were quack­ing crankily at their dan­di­fied Mis­ters, which pleased me no end.

Fol­low on In­sta­gram: su­sankuro­sawa

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