The story of Mrs. York's Garden - Labour of love is a legacy being preserved

Updated: Apr 11

Mrs. York’s Garden official opening on a Tuesday afternoon in May, 1968 by the then Mayor, Ald. C. C. Adams, following the garden being blessed by Archdeacon A. E. Warr, was in recognition of Amy Bertha York’s labour of love.

Told five years prior that nothing could be done with the headlands due to the north-east winds, she set about, at great personal effort and expense, to prove the pessimists wrong.

She thought the mass of weeds across the road from her home at the corner of Stewart and Grant Street, was an ugly blight on such a beautiful piece of coastline.

From Allman Hill to Goal Point, Mrs York transformed the area into a beautiful "Floral Reserve", admired by people from all over Australia and creating a major tourist attraction for Port Macquarie.

Photo credit: Port Macquarie News – Thursday 16 May 1968

At the opening ceremony Mrs. York thanked everyone for their praise, and told them she had as much pleasure in establishing the garden as townspeople and visitors had in enjoying its beauty. She said it made her very happy when sick or troubled people gained solace in her garden, or when garden lovers came to see what can grow on the foreshores.

At the time, the land was held by the Department of Lands. Following a request by Mrs.York, with the support of the local Municipal Council, the area was gazetted as a Floral Reserve.

From then on Mrs.York took over the beautification of the Reserve contributing almost all of the finance necessary to establish the lovely garden for the benefit of the community as a whole.

A small grant was secured to establish a fence and kerb and gutter from the Department of Public Works and the Council contributed on a dollar for dollar basis.

In October 1968 the Australian Women's Weekly published a two-page article featuring the garden. Late 1970, due to declining health, the garden came under the care of the then Municipal Council.

Over time the garden fell into disrepair and remained that way until October 2014 when the “Friends of Mrs York's Garden” was formed

The formation of the group was a result of older local citizens commenting on the Facebook site “You're From Port Macquarie If You Remember”. They began restoring the area in February 2015, replanting it with littoral rainforest plants, the endemic plant species for the East Coast of Australia.

The Friends of Mrs.York's Garden is a volunteer, non-profit community group that originally formed under the Port Macquarie Hastings Council “Shaping Our Place program”.

Comprising over 40 active or supportive members, including Glenys Pearson, a granddaughter of Mrs York and experienced Horticulturalist, the group also has members who have valuable experience with Landcare, Business Studies, Engineering and Project Management, Finance, Marketing and Plumbing.

Committed to the long term improvement and maintenance of the area, they are unfunded and have achieved work to date through volunteer labour, donated materials their own fundraising and Local and State Government Grants.

President, Dianne Davison told us, “We have developed a Master Plan with Port Macquarie Hastings Council (PMHC) for future projects. In addition we need to maintain the existing plantings including weed removal and regular mulching.”

The Friends of Mrs.York's Garden are seeking Grant Funding and sponsors to enable the project to continue into the future.

Achievements so far

A lot has been accomplished by the group including site preparation, planting of approximately 6000 endemic littoral rainforest and coastal headland plants and mulching, weed management and watering to the bank below the Grant Street car park, along Stewart Street, the Clarence Street waterfall bank, rainforest gully and the bushland corridor to Town Beach.

They are regenerating a critically endangered ecosystem and connecting a corridor between the North Shore and the Sea Acres Heritage Listed Gondwana pockets of rainforest.

Contributions of over $500,000 in voluntary labour, placement of interpretation signage and plant identification signs throughout the garden, restoration of the Quota seat that was originally located in the Windmill/ Waterfall Garden, the list goes on.

Further works completed are an all abilities path to the garden, two boat themed shelters and picnic settings, steps, log seating, boardwalks, steps for Mrs York’s Walk from Allman Hill, through a bushland track, to connect with the Coastal Walk at the skatepark and the restoration of the waterfall, originally constructed in 1970.

Funding from a State Government SCCF grant in 2020, allowed the completion of a stunning viewing platform off the Grant Street carpark, with magnificent views of the river, coastline and the garden.

Recognition of Community Support

The community has shown great support for the project, with over 7,000 Facebook supporters, some from overseas, that post hundreds of comments of support on their page. Frequent positive comments of passersby are received, in kind and financial support of local residents, Councillors, Council staff, businesses, other community groups and family members of Mrs York are greatly appreciated.

Local school students have participated in planting and are committed to a continuing involvement which stands the garden in good stead for future years.

“ We have had five high profile opening events attended by the Mayor and local MP’s, the NSW Governor (April 2021) and have had media exposure through a number of outlets,” Dianne told us. “We were nominated in the Community Group of the year awards in 2016, won the award in 2018 and received a major Keep Australia Beautiful award in 2019."

Objectives of “The Friends of Mrs. York’s Garden”

The main aim for the group is to retain th