Established in 1779, the rural community of Bath in Saint Thomas is home to Jamaica’s oldest and the Caribbean’s second oldest botanical garden. Two and a half centuries later Bath Botanical Garden may not be as well-kept as it once was but it’s certainly a beautiful national treasure worth visiting. Many foreign plants which we have since made our own were first planted here. These include flowers like the croton, jacaranda and bougainvillea and foodstuff like cinnamon, ackee, otaheite apples, jackfruit and breadfruit– the delicious Jamaican staple which I couldn’t imagine our cuisine without!
Jamaica has four public botanical gardens which are sadly all clustered in one end of the island. However, I’m from that side of the island yet I still haven’t explored all four! Last year I visited Hope Gardens’ newest addition of the Harmonious Enjoyment Garden twice and also explored Castleton Botanical Gardens, Jamaica’s second oldest. Thus, Cinchona Botanical Gardens up in the hills of St. Andrew is the only one left. As an avid nature and history lover, my first visit to Bath Botanical was thus highly warranted.
Starting from Half-Way-Tree in St. Andrew, my journey took me down Half-Way-Tree Road, Oxford Road in New Kingston, Camp then South Camp Roads, along the Manley Boulevard then the A4 Highway. The A4 highway is one straight road into Harbour View, Bull Bay then St. Thomas. From here the road will wind a bit but it’s perfectly navigable for the inexperienced driver. Keep going past the capital Morant Bay until you’re in Leith Hall then Land Top, at which time you should look out for the fork in the road next to a RUBiS gas station where you’re going left. From this point the road quality begins to decline and buildings will grow even sparser. You’ll have another 20 minutes to go so continue along the widest strip of road. The last community you’ll traverse before Bath is Airy Castle and then the botanical garden will be on your left across from the Bath Methodist Church. In keeping with my love for old churches (and everything old architecture for that matter), I made sure to capture these two historic churches. The Christian Church has played a vital role in empowering rural communities and Blacks in the post-slavery era so I can only imagine how revered these churches are to the community, in particular the Methodist one.
Admission to the garden is free and they’re open every day of the week from 5:30am to 6pm. The restrooms were unfortunately out of use and look as if they’ve been that way for several years. A few benches are scattered throughout the property but in way of covered shelter for rain, only one gazebo is available. I didn’t notice any shops around the place either but since the garden is pretty popular in the community, I’m sure most of the residents milling around will be able to assist if you need to find anything.
Bath Botanical Garden is much smaller than the others to which I’ve been and since it’s right next to the community’s main road, it felt very open. The effects of time have had their way on the garden and it’s obvious the maintenance budget for Bath is smaller than that of the other gardens. Nonetheless, I’m not displeased by what I saw. The garden is still lovingly tended by its caretaker(s) as it was green, lush and inviting. By the looks of it, I’m pretty sure the gargantuan trees and palms scattered throughout the property have been around since the days of slavery. Given my love for history, I felt at home here. The few other patrons were residents of the community and it was obvious they were happy to have visitors oohing and aahing over one of their district’s pride and joy.
I would have loved to picnic outdoors in the tranquil environment but rain forced us inside. Once the weather is lovely though, do have lunch in the garden. Enjoy the few other treasures I discovered while strolling through the garden below:
I’m pleased to have kickstarted my first 2018 adventure with the community of Bath, St. Thomas. Next week I’ll share part 2 of this adventure, Bath Mineral Spring/ Sulphur River, although technically that should’ve been part 1 since I went there first. Anyway, for what it’s worth I rate Bath Botanical Garden three stars, ☆☆☆. It certainly is beautiful but only worth stopping by once you’re from Bath, surrounding communities or en route to and from the mineral spring. This trip leaves me with 1 of 8 places down from 2018’s list and of course, I ended the day at the picturesque Lyssons Beach on the way back. Here’s to more good times with friends post-exams and more road trips this year. 🥂
Read about the other two botanical gardens I’ve explored here:
- Harmonious Enjoyment Garden or ‘Chinese Garden’ as it’s often called, a subset of the larger and just as beautiful Hope Gardens in St. Andrew
- Castleton Botanical Gardens in St. Mary.
‘Til next time. ✌🏽