Mara Ponds Retreat

mud brick cottage

North East Tasmania Garden Lovers Trail

Mara Ponds by Liz Francis:

On arriving at the Mara Ponds property at Branxholm the visitor has no idea of what to expect. A neat and well kept driveway with its post and rail fence gives no indication whatsoever of the fabulous garden that lies in the valley between the house and the forest of huge eucalypts which form a powerfully impressive grey green backdrop.

A huge lake at the top of the garden is complete with a jetty and ladder, ideal for family swimming or just relaxing with a cool drink and enjoying the view. The lake flows into two smaller ponds on its way down the hillside. Sloping banks are filled with a wide variety of shrubs and flowers and lots of structural plants including corylines, flaxes and ornamental grasses. There are manferns and huge gunneras, as well as mulched beds with rock edges and pathways encircling the whole garden. Rustic seats are in just the right places under shady trees and close to the trickling water, bits of whimsy hang from trees, and in the sunny centre of it all is a lovely big grassed area.

All the garden beds are full with masses of different plants, many of which self seed, tumbling over the rock edges and giving a wonderful effect. Lots of the plants have been chosen for their autumn colour and a smoke bush (cotinus) is doing well even though it gets touched by frost each year. There is a brilliant balance of sunlight and shade, and with filtered light the shade loving plants thrive, and long shadows are cast over the centre lawn as the sun dips.

Owners Ann and John (Beggs) were living in Ireland when they heard that John’s father was willing to sell his property. They hurried back, bought it in 2001, and set about building their own piece of paradise. Ann had visited many gardens in the United Kingdom, and had always yearned for a garden with running water as a feature. Sometimes the water rushes through rather more energetically than usual—when there is heavy rain the top lake can overflow into the ponds below and the water roars through the garden, soaking the gunnera—which loves it—and immersing other plants which pop back happily when the torrent subsides to its normal benign flow.

This garden is both exciting and challenging. Challenging because severe frosts can last until mid-afternoon and by contrast in summer the little valley can become extremely hot because of the natural windbreak of the huge surrounding trees. In the past the wildlife helped themselves far too often to the fresh and tempting plants but as the garden matures and with a judicious choice of plants, a balance is being brought about.

It is an exciting place because of the sheer pleasure of seeing the success which has been achieved, and simply by being so close to the huge open sky and the constant movement and sound of the water. Mara Ponds, so named because of the old local Golden Mara gold mine and the garden’s deep connection with water, is a beautiful and unexpected oasis in the middle of prime agricultural country and is a garden which has been developed with a huge amount of hard work, a vision, and a lot of love.

From the book, Gorgeous Gardens of Tasmania . . . an island odyssey by Liz Francis, Forty South Publishing Pty Ltd, Hobart, Tasmania, 2013. To order a copy, contact lizfrancis61(at) Back to the photo gallery

Phone: +61 3 6354 6133| Mara Ponds 1366 Warrentinna Rd Branxholm TAS 7261|  rodandtracywright(at)| Website designed by Christine Booth © 2014