TRAVEL: SOVEREIGN MAGAZINE/SIM`S PARK, COONOOR

Silent Sentinels



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 tourists go.


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