PHOTOS: SHEILA KUMAR
Sheila Kumar shines a spotlight on a
special park up in the Nilgiris.
Coonoor’s Sim’s Park redefines the concept
of a conventional park, with as many as 1,000 species of trees contained within
a sprawl of 12.14 hectares parkland. Trees as old as eternity, or almost. Trees
with gnarled, split trunks that hold inside them wondrous tales. Trees that
stand up arrow straight, trees that curve low, branching out in a manner that
would make a little boy’s mouth water. Trees that are so leafy in foliage that
even dappled sunshine cannot get through. Trees with obscenely fat trunks,
through the holey middles of which you expect an owl to peep out.
This magnificent treasure trove was laid
out in seemingly careless precision during the Raj, way back in 1874, and is named for
Mr. J D Sim, Secretary of the Madras Club at the time. A look at the tree register
reveals a veritable treasure: Burma teaks, jacarandas, the bead (rudraksh)
tree, cinnamon, phoenix, magnolias, turpentine, wattle, yew, honeysuckle, durmast
oak, camphor, persimmon, cedar, rain trees, Spanish cherry, myrtle, bottle
brush, peppermint gums, birch, blueberry, alders, mahogany, maple, the beach,
lily trees, silver oaks. The trees have been brought in from places like
Australia, the Philippines, Bhutan, Nepal, Columbia, Brazil, the Canary Isles,
South America, Chile, Mexico, Patagonia, Cape of Good Hope, Madiera, Africa,
West Indies, China, Venezuela.
Planted in random fashion, the tress stand
by paths, near the pond, jostle and crowd one another in
a ‘shola’, the gallery forest particular to the Nilgiris. In every shade of
green: mint, pond, emerald, olive, with autumn’s fingers painting leaves
yellow, auburn, russet, they are a commanding presence. Greedy creepers and
vines appropriate some of the trunks, resulting in startling splashes of
colour, the vivid violet of a clump of morning glory here, the scarlet of a
rhododendron there, amidst the calming green. The oldest tree in the park is a
venerable Myrtacea, brought from Australia and dating back to 1869, with a
girth of 152 feet, drawing the eye higher and higher as one attempts to scale
its length visually.
Gazebos, vine-laden pergolas, a lily pond,
a glass house, stone bridges, a nursery, even a temple are to be found in the
environs. The evergreen lawns are beautifully maintained as are the ornamental
hedges and borders. Rockeries look like they have quite naturally sprung up
besides the brook that gurgles rather loudly in the stillness of the park.
There is a lone conifer, the Aracauria Excelsia from the Norfolk Islands, in the
rose garden. Here and there, tress stumps serve as seats. As many as three to
five lakh tourists wander into the park every year, sit on the picturesque
benches, dig into their ubiquitous packets of wafers, slurp their colas.
Hopefully a good number of them cast an appreciative eye at the trees that loom
over them, all over Sim’s Park. Not that the silent sentinels care. They have
been here long before the tourists came, they will be there long after the
Labels: Coonoor, Sim`s Park, the Nilgiris, Travel, trees