Experience the beauty and history of Castleton Botanical Gardens
Jamaica has a very rich history, from being colonised and fought over until the day the country was called a free nation. This has lead to the resilience of Jamaicans, whose history has also led to the added benefit of the different cultures represented by the motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’. This same history and, believe it or not, cultural mix, can be found in the Castleton Botanical Gardens in St Mary.
Driving through Stony Hill, St Andrew, and the adjoining communities that follow, less than 10 minutes after crossing the bridge at the border of St Andrew and St Mary, there is a welcome sign to St Mary, where the garden is located.
The Castleton Botanical Gardens’ sign is clearly marked on either sides of the road, and parking is a few metres down, where there are board shops with vendors offering food for sale. There are two entrances. We started with the one on the right, where we were met with a sign telling the garden’s story. This story also includes bits of Jamaica’s history, describing how those who were enslaved by the Spaniards escaped to the mountains and became Maroons, some of whom still settle in the Castleton area.
The garden was established on November 29, 1862, when Colonel Castle donated 30 acres of his sugar plantation to the Jamaican Government. It is now a national heritage site that is open for viewing and relaxation each day of the week from 5:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The peacefulness of the garden can be felt as soon as you enter. The trees and plants are unbothered, only disturbed by the occasional bird call or passing vehicle. The stone pathway travels all over the garden showing various species of plants, and take you to different sections, such as the Palmetum where a variety of palm trees are accurately labelled – giving their scientific name and where they originated from. There is also a lily pond with different species of the plant, along with a housing for fish and frogs.
PERFECT GARDEN SETTING
The garden is perfect for a stroll, or a picnic on the grass, under the cover of very cool shade. It is perfect for the book lover who loves being surrounded by nature; and when you get tired and want to take a load off, cross the road to the other side of the Castleton Botanical Gardens.
Upon entering, to the left, is a fish pond with a few species of fish, including the Black Perch. Following the stone path, it leads you to a picnic spot and other seating areas, and the Wag Water River, which is towards the back of the property. According to its information card, the river is there for recreational and domestic uses. It also feeds the plants in the garden, and is also a great chill spot for friends, especially with the water levels so low at the moment.
The Castleton Botanical Gardens also hosts weddings, which is not surprising as it is a beautiful piece of Jamaica’s heritage.
If you decide to visit Castleton, take note of the following:
• Driving from Kingston, the road becomes winding as you approach your destination, so care is needed.
• Wear flat shoes, especially if you plan to walk the entire garden.
• Bring mosquito repellent.
• If you plan to visit the river, sunscreen is necessary.