Topping the list of allegations levelled against the British Empire by the third world countries is the accusation that the British rulers exploited their resources. This accusation seems to be correct to some extent. However, there are many things that we are endowed with due to their occupation in Sri Lanka. Railways, road network, hospitals and the parliamentary system of Government are some of them.
The Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya that has been established by the Governor West Ridgeway is such an asset that it displays their necessity of protecting the environment.
The Victoria Park that was built by the Englishmen, covering an extent of about 27 acres at the bottom of Pidurutalagala Mountain, completes 110 years in existence. This park was built to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in Britain. This facility was initiated when the daughter of the then Governor of Ceylon, Joseph West Ridgeway, planted an oak plant. The park has ever since been the cynosure of all eyes in Nuwara Eliya and remained as a place of attraction for both local and foreign tourists.
This park, located close to the town, adds beauty to the whole of Nuwara Eliya. The administrative affairs of the park have been handled by the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council to date. We can see many eye-catching things in this park. A unique tree that can be seen among the vegetation is the one that was planted by the wife of the Assistant Government Agent of Nuwara Eliya, lady M.M.Wedabon, on 17th July 1919. It’s known as the Peace Tree. It was planted by her one year after World War 1, wishing peace to the world. A memorial plaque, that had been marked and placed close to the tree, had got buried. This writer unearthed it and got it re-established through the authorities.
In addition, another tree that has significance is the one planted by T.W. Mackel on 6th April 1935. This was to mark the Silver Jubilee of king George V. Another tree that catches attention is the one planted by R.M.Davies on 12th May 1937 to mark king George VI’s ascendancy to the Throne.
A tree had been planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 when she arrived in Sri Lanka. But that tree was stolen. A plant of a similar tree had been planted there itself on the advice of former Mayor of Nuwara Eliya K. Wijayarathnasinham. The source for this tale is another former Mayor of Nuwara Eliya, Bunty Pelpola. However, the park lost this tree when arrangements were made to expand the Nuwara Eliya bus stand, recently. It’s remarkable to observe that ladies have planted a large amount of trees to beautify the park.
This park has become a unique place for the local and foreign tourists. It is a paradise for the migrant birds as well. Among the many features at the part is a date tree, which is in full bloom these days. In addition to this some of the other features that catch the eye are the Medicinal Plant Park, Victoria Museum, the Children’s Park and Rose Garden. The hut used during the British period, for the observation of the climatic conditions, is also treated as important. Many sections of the park have been rented out for various business ventures.
Environmentalists have expressed their concerns regarding these activities. There are about 40 employees engaged in the maintenance work of the park. This park generates income for the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council. It is the duty of all concerned to conserve this facility for the future generation.
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