Today’s drive was one without agenda and any particular notion of where to go. All we really wanted was a little something nice for lunch and then to head home for a post-lunch siesta, yet today’s Sunday drive exceeded all expectations.
We must have driven past the Diggers Club sign hundreds of times. In my mind I’d conjured up an image of an RSL-type clubhouse and perhaps not much else. A quick Google of the sign as we drove past revealed something quite different, so we detoured and ventured forward. Heronswood House and Gardens is home to the Diggers Club and was truly an unexpected delight.
Upon arriving, it’s hard not to take a moment to enjoy the stunning views of Port Phillip Bay from the carpark. There’s plenty more of these views to be had from inside the gardens. After entering through the modest gates, you’ll immediately see the beautiful gardens, grounds and Heronswood House.
The Diggers Club
It’s a short stroll to the Retail Shop and indoor/ outdoor nursery which is bursting with seedlings, bulbs, plants of every maturity and beautiful art pieces for the garden. We were on a mission to eat, so didn’t take as long to explore the Diggers Club as much as we wanted. Though, what we saw was enough for me to put this on the list for the next visit.
Hersonwood and St Erth (near Daylesford) were the first organically-certified gardens in Australia to be opened to the public and were both gifted to the Diggers Garden and Environment Trust in 2011.
There’s a number of different memberships available to the Diggers Club. Each category offers various benefits – from simply accessing the grounds, to magazines, classes and seedlings to help bring out the green thumb in you.
Garden visitors and Diggers Club memberships help sustain the conversation and preservation of the grounds. Garden entry is $10 and members and children under 16 are free. Entry fees can be redeemed on exit if you join as a member.
Heronswood House and Gardens Gallery
It’s decision time as soon as you enter the grounds. Even though we were on a mission for food, we did need to kill a smidge more time before the restaurant opened. So, off the to the gallery we went.
The gallery building is a slab cottage built in 1864 and listed on the Register of the National Estate. As are the grounds around it.
Inside the gallery building is well, what we found to be kind of a weird exhibit. If you’re into the exhibit and educational side of fruit and veg, there’s some lovely window seats and rooms to take it all in. We had a few giggles inside the gallery, took a moment to enjoy some ocean views then pressed forward to the main event: lunch.
Heronswood House and Gardens Restaurant
We backtracked along the path, onwards to our quest for food. After reading this snippet from the car, I was eager to get to eating:
Celebrate the best of the Heronswood’s homegrown, heirloom produce with platters featuring seasonal produce fresh from our heirloom garden, homemade cordials, local beer, wine and cider.
As tantalised as we were by the promise of such deliciousness, we again found ourselves distracted from Mission: Eat by the beautiful grounds. We decided to work on that appetite a little more and walk the perimeter of Hersonswood House. The building is just beautiful from every angle and we could imagine the gardens surrounding it changing with the seasons.
All this adventuring on a very (very, very) cold, windy and wintry Melbourne day was fuelling Mission: Eat. It was well and truly time to head inside and warm our cold bones.
The staff at the restaurant were friendly and obliging. On the day we attended, I’d give five from five stars for customer service. It really added to our experience. A big pot of tea warmed the bones (but really didn’t do anything to settle my hair) while we looked over the menu.
The local bread and dips spoke to our vegan hearts. At first glance, the bread looked like a heavy sourdough but it was the lightest, crispiest most delicious bread imaginable. It was served with olives, hummus and a beetroot dip which we just didn’t want to end. D-i-v-i-n-e.
A quick trip to the loo, which is noteworthy because it amused and surprised us. The toilets are located in a building at the rear of the house. The building is probably an original heritage building but stepping inside was not too dissimilar from the newly opened RACV we’d just visited at Cape Schanck. It could not have been more modern!
The first gardens were planted in the 1870s and remnants of these plantings are still living today. The size of some of the trees are just breathtaking. These trees have seen season after season and their weathered boughs wore their maturity with peace and beauty.
Expansive gardens with names such as the Climber Walk, White Garden, Ficus Walk, Duck Pond and The Tile Garden all beckoned to be explored. There are sixteen gardens on the property with expansive lawns as intersections.
A map is provided for the gardens and a dappled pathway marks the route from the entry to the Diggers Club, the perimeter of Hersonswood House and entry points to sections of the gardens. We didn’t pay too much attention to the map and roamed freely, enjoying the various signs and information points along the way.
Heronswood Kitchen Gardens
Before we headed home, I wanted to take a look at the three vegetable gardens in the grounds.
The Mini Plot shows how to grow a year’s supply of vegetables for two in just 20 square meters. The garden is configured using Digger’s best yielding varieties in a matrix planting system, instead of rows.
The Vegetable Parterre is inspired by French potager gardens (vegetable gardens) using heirloom vegetables in decorative patterns. Never have vegetables looked so beautiful and this style of planting has definitely inspired me.
Finally, we visited the Kitchen Garden, set up high behind the Diggers Club retail store. The garden is quite vast and literally gives a birds-eye view of the bay to one direction. And, to the other direction, you’ll see the Arthurs Seat Eagle gondolas gliding up and down the hillside.
One of the things we’ve learned about living on the Mornington Peninsula is to never underestimate how often we’ll be surprised and delighted. After visiting Heronswood House and Gardens, we easily imagine returning throughout the seasons. After just a couple of hours in the gardens we felt refreshed and relaxed, something that’s often difficult to achieve in the fast paced world we live in.
It’s probably easy to see there’s no fancy editing of any of the images in this post. No filters, no image manipulation. These photos are straight out of my average-ish camera phone. Yet, the beauty of the property truly shines through.
Do you like to visit public gardens and estates?
If you have one to recommend in Victoria, please let me know – we’d love to pop it on our list.