When I recently met with friend Wendy for an impromptu picnic lunch in Roseau’s Botanical Gardens, I realized that too much time had passed since my previous rendez-vous in this lush locale. While it’s only a short walk (and even shorter drive) from the city’s core, its gorgeous greenery, tall trees and somewhat secluded setting provide the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle nearby.
At the bottom of the historic “35 steps” of the “Jack’s Walk” trail, Wendy and I casually sat and chatted as we ate our snacks while accompanied by bird
songs and the caress of gentle breezes blowing down from the mountains above the Roseau Valley.
Although we were in a relaxed mode on this particular Friday afternoon, we expressed our enjoyment of the exercise work-out that “Jack’s” short but steep “Walk” can offer. In fact, I highly recommend it for anyone who has not been hiking recently and needs to prepare for one of Dominica’s longer treks. Admittedly, it’s a bit isolated and the terrain could be a bit tricky: in fact, it can be slippery on the loose soil near the top. The ground is uneven and the steps (beyond the first 35!) are of varying heights. It can take a work-out warrior 10 – 15 minutes to reach its high endpoint – where the reward is a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Roseau and the Caribbean Sea, with the prominent Morne Bruce Cross and the distant peaks of the Roseau Valley at one’s back. After a few rounds on this rugged little route, I daresay one is ready for Dominica’s big trails!
These lovely gardens have been appreciated by residents and visitors alike for more than a century. Even HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip have twice graced these gorgeous grounds with their presence. At one time, there were about 500 species of plants and trees. However, Hurricane David, a Category 4 cyclone which pounded the island
until it was a veritable wasteland in August 1979 put an end to the proliferation of greenery. After that devastation, the Gardens’ exhibits were reduced to smaller numbers. Nonetheless, there are at least 50 different types of plants today (both indigenous and exotic), many of which are ornamental and flower at different times of the year. With its large shade trees, it’s an ideal place for a stroll, a work-out, a meditation, a snack or a little break from the intense heat of Roseau.
As well as being a much appreciated ‘green space’, the ‘Gardens’ have always functioned as a research base for both plants and animals. It forms part of the Government of Dominica’s Forestry and Wildlife Division. Active stations on the site include the study of Dominica’s two rare endemic parrots, the Sisserou and the Jaco. As well, there is a facility for the ongoing examination of the critically endangered crapaud (mountain chicken) frog.
This 40 acre ‘Garden’ is also well-known for hosting lively outdoor events such as local cricket matches, the annual Creole in the Park festivities in late October and other celebratory occasions, including weddings!
No matter what is going on, it’s always possible to find a quiet spot, if one so desires. There are also picnic tables and benches scattered throughout. Roseau’s Botanical Gardens offer natural beauty and moments of tranquility near the big city. It should not be overlooked when taking in the diversity of sites on the Nature Isle. I absolutely love to spend some time in this beautiful place. It’s the perfect urban escape!