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Life Can Be A Walk in the Park!

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” ― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for dropping by.  I hope you can spare a little time to come for a walk in the park with me.  It is a bright and invigorating day and so I am bringing my camera along to capture some of the winter beauty…

“After a day’s walk everything has twice its usual value.”   ~George Macauley Trevelyan

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Our small city of St. John’s, Newfoundland of about 100,000 people is touted to be the oldest city in North America (I’m not sure how factual the claim because I once visited St. Augustine, Florida and I believe this, too, is their claim).  I do know that St. John’s is steeped in history with a colourful culture and a warm, fun-loving people.  Here’s an introduction to some of the flavour of our city:

 COLOURFUL ST. JOHN’S

Bowring Park is a well-loved destination here and is synonymous with the beloved literary figure Peter Pan! Are you curious to know more while we walk? It’s a bit of a story…

P1050697The Bowring family has had a long history with Newfoundland since the early 1800’s when first Benjamin Bowring came from England with his family to set up shop as a watchmaker and jeweller.  His wife later set up a small dry goods shop which evolved into a general department store. Five generations of the Bowring family would branch out, very successfully, and build a global empire of trade and shipping including oil tankers, cargo fleets, passenger liners as well as a coastal mail service.  In 1911, to commemorate their 100 years of successful business in Newfoundland, the Bowring family dedicated 50 acres of parkland to the City; today Bowring Park encompasses over 200 acres.

Two world wars wiped out much of the Bowring fleet.  Following the Second World War, the main business of the company in Newfoundland became retailing.  For many years, the company operated its famous department store on Water Street in St. John’s (I remember it well – my husband and I still have many of the Christmas ornaments we bought there when we were first married).  The stylish downtown store was later expanded into a chain of “little shops”.  These were the basis for the nation-wide chain of 50 plus beautiful Bowring stores that exist today.  Interestingly, the company logo “Terra Nova” was a Bowring ship that was chartered by the British Navy for Admiral Scott’s famous journey to the Antarctic in 1911, although the stores are no longer  connected with the Bowring family. The chain is currently celebrating 200 years of business in Newfoundland and Bowring remains one my favourite places to shop. 

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In summer, Bowring Park is popular for its splash pad, playgrounds, day camps, tennis courts, skate parks, soccer, swimming, picnics, beautiful trees and plant conservatory, concerts in the outdoor ampitheatre, weddings and even lawn bowling!  In wintertime, citizens enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and, on occasion, horse-drawn sleigh rides. For over a decade, the Annual Festival of Christmas Music and Lights has been attended by thousands. Many residents have fond memories of their childhood and family outings in Bowring Park. Does anyone recall learning to skate on Fountain Pond? 
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My favourite feature of the park, apart from the majestic swans and rustic fencing and benches, is a playful statue of Peter Pan – the boy who never grew up.  He can be seen from the entrance to the park, near the main gates, and stands confidently high atop a bronze tree-trunk, beckoning believers…You can almost hear the playful notes of his pipe as he charms the faeries and woodland animals to him. He is, undoubtedly, one of the park’s most enchanting centerpieces. The park belongs to Peter Pan, the idea of magic, the young and the forever young-at-heart.
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Although Peter Pan symbolizes the innocence, wonder and joy of eternal youth, how the statue came to be in our park is especially sad. Look closely and you will see the inscription:
“Presented to the Children of Newfoundland by Sir Edgar R. Bowring
in Memory of a Dear Little Girl Who Loved The Park..”
 A second inscription on the opposite side of the statue reads simply:
“Betty Munn”.  
All who are familiar with the park perhaps know from their parents or teachers, the story of Betty Munn …
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Sir Edgar Bowring was a partner in the thriving family business, Bowring Brothers.  He was also a politician and philanthropist.  Betty was Sir Edgar’s granddaughter. On February 23, 1918, Betty and her father, John Munn (also a managing director of Bowring Brothers), boarded a Bowring-owned vessel S.S. Florizel bound for Nova Scotia and New York.  They were to meet Betty’s grandmother, Mrs. Munn, in Halifax and all three were to head south where they would spend the winter months due to Mrs. Munn’s ill health. Tragically, their voyage would be cut short.  Later that same night during a fierce winter storm, the Florizel crashed into rocks off the coast of Newfoundland.  Sorrowfully, of the 138 passengers, 94 perished in the icy Atlantic Ocean.  Among them was young Betty who was nearly 4 years of age.  Sir Edgar’s sweet grandchild would never have the chance to grow up…In loving memory of little Betty, Sir Edgar commissioned leading British sculptor Sir George Frampton to create a likeness of his original Peter Pan statue located in London’s Kensington Gardens to stand in beloved Bowring Park.
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Delicate faeries dance around the middle of the tree trunk on their climb to the top.
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Peter Pan has stood nobly in Bowring Park, fuelling imaginations, since he was first gifted to us on August 29, 1925 as part of a dedicated “Children’s Day”.  It was reported that several thousand children were present for the much-anticipated unveiling of Peter Pan and the festivities that would follow the ceremony. The Mayor of the day, Tasker Cook, encouraged the children to “learn to know him and love him with all your hearts…”  Frampton, too, attended the ceremony and noted to the crowds  that “... the animals and fairies on the statue are listening to the pipes of Pan, one of the mice is completing his toilet before going up to listen to the music, (and) the squirrel is discussing political matters with two of the fairies”. 

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Replicas of Frampton’s Peter Pan statue, cast from the original mold, can be found around the world including: Liverpool’s Sefton Park, the Gardens of Egmont Palace in Brussels, Toronto’s Glenn Gould Park, Queen’s Gardens in Perth, Australia and Rutgers University’s Johnson Park in Camden, New Jersey.  Frampton commented that his Bowring Park version of Peter was superior in location to his statue in London’s Kensington Gardens due to “the wholly natural surroundings and flowing river being more in keeping with the spirit of Peter and particularly animals and faeries…”   If you have seen the other statues of Peter Pan, I would love for you to share them with us…

The enormous resplendent linden tree located in the park near Peter Pan fell during Hurricane Igor on September 21, 2010.  It had been planted nearly a century earlier by England’s Duke of Connaught when Bowring Park was opened on July 15, 1914.  Since Igor, a class of local elementary school students helped our Mayor plant a new linden tree in its place.

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The Peter Pan Festival, with the focus on children and the wonderment of childhood, was a magical time in Bowring Park: music and children’s performers, skateboard demonstrations, inflatable rides, sport challenges, car shows, multicultural concerts, fun food, bingo and more.  The Peter Pan soapbox races were a highlight, “… open exclusively to drivers with valid Bowring Park drivers licenses, which are issued only to people between the ages of 7 and 14…”
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Paul Russellafter having visited Bowring Park in 2005, described his Peter Pan festival experience in the British newspaper The Telegraph“One thing I have noticed since moving to Newfoundland, two years ago, is the focus on the family. Everything here is geared towards the family. Newfoundlanders possess an immense love for the family, and their children are very precious to them. All activities are family-oriented, and children are the focus of most of those activities. Here the children come first, something that appears to be less and less the case in this day and age.”  
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The Peter Pan festival began in August 29, 2000 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Sir Edgar’s gift to the park. Sadly, the much-loved festival is no longer active for reasons I don’t know.  
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Russell further wrote, “Pan, the boy who never grew up, could be used as a metaphor for the people of Newfoundland.  They are, in the best possible way, an innocent people.  Newfoundlanders have a reputation the world over for their warmth and friendliness…” I love this!

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How blessed we are to have been graced with this beautiful park and its charming statuary.  Peter Pan is, indeed, magical. P1050711

DID YOU KNOW?  Sir Edgar Frampton’s original sculpture of Peter Pan ‘magically appeared’ in London’s Kensington Gardens on May 1, 1912. The statue was erected in secret overnight at the expense of J. M. Barrie, the author and creator of Peter Pan. The next day, an advert by Barrie appeared in the British newspaper The Times: “There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning.  Down by the little bay on the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine, they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around…”  

Barrie chose the exact location of the statue in Kensington Gardens.  It was lovingly placed there because Peter made his first appearance in literature in Barrie’s novel “The Little White Bird” which is set in Kensington Gardens. It was also in the Gardens where Barrie spent cherished time with the children who inspired his creation of Peter Pan.

P1050702A peace dove tucks itself in under a crevice in the bronze tree trunk. Did you spot the inscription to the right?

The network of serene walking trails and attractive bridges feature magnificent views complete with flower beds, a rose garden, waterfalls, duck families and graceful swans.  Indeed, countless children have had their picture taken by the Duck Pond feeding the ducks.  Through the years, the park as become deeply rooted in the lives of those who live here.

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I hope you enjoy seeing the details of the statue.  A collection of faeries, mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, frogs and salamanders climb their way up the tree trunk to Peter Pan listening to the notes of his magical flute…

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DID YOU KNOW?  It is recommended that you not feed bread to the ducks and birds.  Bread has little nutritional value and its high salt content dehydrates the birds.  It also promotes bacterial growth in the ponds and rivers.  By purchasing healthy duck food, you will be doing the birds and their environment a favour.  Duck food is available at various Marie’s MinMarts around the city for just $1.00 a bag; 100% of the proceeds from the feed sales is forwarded to the Bowring Park Foundation in support of the park. 🙂

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DID YOU KNOW? The statue of Peter Pan is probably about 10-feet high. The widespread popular appeal of his Peter Pan statue led Frampton to produce a 18.5″ bronze reduction of the main figure expected to bring at auction £50kBowring Park will proudly celebrate its centennial birthday next year. Wouldn’t you love to have your very own miniature of Peter Pan to commemorate the anniversary? Hmmm….Special celebrations are being planned by the Bowring Park Foundation for the park and its patrons.  We will all look forward to the party!

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Bowring Park is a gift to all who visit, the crown jewel of our city.  If you live near a beautiful park, I hope you will enjoy a walk there very soon. Oh, and remember to bring your camera and share the beauty…

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An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.  ~Henry David Thoreau.

Wasn’t that a beautiful walk?  Shall we go inside where it’s cozy?  I hope you have a little more time to join me in a hot cuppa.  I am using some of my prized teacups in your honour today. This stunning tea set was a ‘surprise gift’ to me by a dear friend.  I’d be delighted to share that story with you on another day, if you wish…Now, how would you like your tea?

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I am thrilled to be sharing at Mop It Up Monday, Tea Time Tuesday, Teacup Tuesday, Tuesday Cuppa Tea, What’s It Wednesday,  What We Accomplished Wednesday, Wow Us Wednesday, Pearls and Lace ThursdayTreasure Hunt ThursdayFeathered Nest Friday, Fabulously Creative Friday, Show and Tell Friday, Saturday Show Off, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Sunny Simple Sunday, Seasonal Sunday,  Sunlit Sunday, Home Sweet Home, Open House,  Be Inspired, You’re Going to Love It!

Sources: Bowring Park Foundation, Newfoundland Tourism, The Telegraph, Bowring.com

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