Friday, January 27, 2006

Sims Park, Coonoor

Sims Park, Coonoor

Parks are my favourite landscapes in cities and towns. Having lived in Bangalore for 4 years, I can say that a city or town without a park is no civilization at all. However, I cringed at the state of Lalbagh the last time I visited it ( almost an year ago after I moved to Chennai). There are in my opinion, two parks...recreational and botanical. Both the Cubbon and Lalbagh parks are botanical first ands recreational next.

A giant Fir tree

I was looking forward to the botanical gardens at Ooty during my vacation at the end of 2005. I was not expecting much from the lake, though water bodies surrounded by vegetation happen to be my most favourite landscapes. For some reason, I could not make it to the Ooty botanical garden. The Nilagiri Mountain Railway occupied most of my time and mindspace. At Coonoor, I suddenly found that I had 3 hours to spare before I could catch the next shuttle train back to Ooty. With time to kill, I explored all options at Coonoor for sight-seeing in the guide book. Sims Park was described as a garden in a ravine...mmmm sounds interesting. I decided to check it out. The auto drivers insisted that I take a more well trodden option: Dolphin's nose, tea gardens et....but my mind was set on the park. I was not disappointed.

Long and winding pathways.

Sims Park is the best reason to visit Coonoor. It was built over 130 years ago, and covers about 12 hectares of land. The park is situated in a deep ravine on the north side of Coonoor Railway Station. Set in a natural forest on the slopes of the ravine with winding footpaths all over, the park is a home to a wide variety of trees, brought here from all parts of the world. The grass is always green and fresh and in winter, the mist mingles freely with the trees giving you that romantic atmosphere seen only in movies. This park is more compact and definitely much prettier than the botanical gardens at Ooty.

Little pond at the bottom of the ravine

The USP of this park is the collection of trees and plants it hosts. It is divided into eight major sections and contains over 1,000 species of plants from the Himalayas, Australia, Africa, China, Europe, Brazil and other places. It is this painstaking 100 year old collection of trees that should be the ideal interest for any nature lover visiting Coonoor. There is a representative of almost all genera in the plant kingdom here. This is also the home of the Himalayan holy Rudrakhsa and even the Australian Monkey Puzzle.

Set in a natural forest

Pines and Firs of all kinds adorn this garden. There is even a separate rose garden within the park. The park is ideal for a long and idle walk through nature. An enviable factory of fresh oxygen, the park is carpeted with some fine grassy lawns and winding pathways that lead to the bottom of the ravine where a small man made pond with an island adds to the landscape.

Mist and light mingle with the fresh greenery

Tourists prefer to cover as much as possible in a single day and therefore do not enjoy the park much. The best way to visit this park is to give it at least half a day. I have two interests in Ooty now...The Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Sims Park and looks like my day will be well spent divided between the two. :)

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