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Monday, 09 October 2017 04:04

WNPS Day Excursion Report Seethawaka Wet Zone Botanical Gardens, Sri Lanka Saturday 26th August 2017 - Sri Srikumar

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Seethawaka WZBG – a view from the entrance area, the green conical roof of the Summer Hut, half-way up the hillock is
visible a bit right from the centre

Participants
A total of 31 members accompanied by two WNPS Committee Members set out on this journey to visit the Seethawaka WZBG in the Avissawella area. Professor Siril Wijesundara, our expert resource person, joined us at the gardens.

Travel Route
WNPS Head Office at Battramulla – Pita Kotte – Nugegoda – Pannipitiya - Maharagama – Homagama – Kosgama - Puwakpitiya – Seethawaka WZBG.

Theme
The main theme of the visit was to view the various species of trees and plants in their natural habitat at the Wet Zone Botanical Gardens at Seethawaka.

Saturday 26 th August 2017
1008 02Most of us rendezvoused at the Head Office of the WNPS at Rajamalwatte Road, Battaramulla and we started off at 0700 hours. A few joined us, on the way, at Nugegoda and we journeyed on in a spacious and comfortable AC bus with room to spare. The rustling of bags and the aroma of food indicated that breakfast was being enjoyed whilst we were on the move.

1008 03We arrived at the Seethawaka WZBG around 0900 hours and parked at the spacious vehicle park in front of its entrance. We looked around the area near the restaurant while we waited for the arrival of Prof. Siril W from his residence in Kandy. Upon his arrival we gathered around him and listened to the evolution of Botanical gardens in general and the history behind the development of the Seethawaka garden in which he played a major role. A Botanical Garden was explained as being ‘a scientific institution holding a collection of living plants cultivated in a horticultural environment for scientific study and conservation’.

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 Seethawaka Gardens - the layout map
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the hand planted lawn, with a grove of Kumbuk
trees in the background

In a Botanical Garden the plants were conserved outside their natural habitat and they serve as an important repository for specimens of plants, some of which may have become extinct in their natural habitat or are threatened or endangered. The Seethawaka gardens of approx. 300 acres was cultivated with plants from the Wet Zone and contained many specimens of plants found in the Sinharaja region. The land had been obtained from the Land Reform Commission and was a marshy land with many invasive species such as Diya Para, which is an indicator species for the presence of ground water. The land was contoured, a lake excavated, the invasive plants removed and carefully chosen plant specimens of the Wet Zone were planted. Even the grass on the wide lawns surrounding the lake was hand
planted. All these efforts have certainly borne fruit and we are now able to behold a beautiful Botanical gardens which is so very pleasing to the eye and a blessing to us all.

Prof. Siril W, further explained the benefit of ‘forest bathing’ a practice being advocated in Japan for well being, ridding oneself of stress and reducing the harmful effects of many diseases. The healing effects are attributed to the many volatile compounds emanating from trees and plants. A study was being carried out to identify these compounds and their beneficial effects on health. One is reminded of a similar claim being made by the Buddhist Priest, acknowledged for having secured the Pink Quartz mountain near Dambulla, on the health benefits of walking through the ‘Na’ (ironwood) forest at the base of the pink quartz mountain. Many CEO’s and other mercantile executives are known to make a periodic sojourn to the jungles of Sri Lanka to destress themselves from the hectic activity of their corporate lives and to re-charge their batteries, so to speak. A walk through a forest, at least once a month, was advocated for maintaining good health and general well being.

We commenced walking along the paved path beside the lake whilst Prof. Siril W pointed out trees and told us interesting ‘stories’ on the special characteristics of the trees and their uses. A gentle gradient took us up along the winding path to the viewing point located about half-way up the hillock which overlooked the lake. Seniors had the convenience of keeping up with us by riding in the electric car whilst we walked along.

Many more informative knick knacks about the trees and plants held our sustained interest as we traversed higher up the gentle slope and reached the top of the hillock near the rose garden. We walked along the path leading to the land area acquired subsequently which was yet to be developed. This area was now engulfed by the thick growth of many invasives including the very leafy ‘Goda para’ and ‘Bu kenda’ and the tall ‘Haveri nuga’ trees.

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the seniors in their electric car learned discourse in the garden forest
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looking out from the viewing point

1008 09Discussions continued whilst we walked on along the paved path and descended the hillock on its other side. The scene was one of the ‘teacher’ surrounded by his eager ‘pupils’, listening to every bit of information and avidly absorbing its content. What better way of ‘forest bathing’ than to understand the uniqueness and admire the beauty of our bountiful forest friends which were endowing us with wellness whilst we simply walked by.

We were back the base of the hillock in the Kumbuk plantation near the lake and we observed the many other visitors to this forest paradise – families with their children, young boys and girls and young couples almost all of them with happy smiley faces no doubt unknowingly being blessed by the bounty of the trees and plants around them. The beauty of the natural surroundings was also not lost on photographers, with many photo shoots of newly married couples and even a model shoot by members of a photographic society, from Colombo. 

We gathered around by the lake near the restaurant area for a final discussion with Prof. Siril W, whose knowledge and experience we were greatly privileged to hear. We thanked him and wished him goodbye since he was leaving urgently for another discussion elsewhere. Thereafter we got back eagerly into our ‘cool’ AC bus to rest our tired feet and cool off. Drinking water was available to re-fill our now empty water bottles and this was much appreciated after the long walk in the hot afternoon sun.

We left from Seethawaka at about 1230 hours and drove along the narrow approach road towards Avissawella and disembarked at the Freshway Restaurant. We enjoyed lunch; a rice and curry buffet with a choice of chicken or fish curry followed by yogurt for dessert. After lunch we drove back, re-tracing our steps along the High Level road to the WNPS Head Office at Battaramulla, reaching it around 1530 hours. So ended our sojourn to the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Seethawaka.

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IN GENERAL
The weather was hot and sunny and the occasional wind kept us cool and comfortable. We were afforded the opportunity to view at first hand the many varied plants, trees and other vegetation at close quarters. The presence of Prof. Siril Wijesundara, with his expert knowledge and skills, made this experience very interesting and educative. Our primary focus on trees and plants and the hot time of day made it unsuitable for observing birds and butterflies during the three hours that we spent in the gardens of Seethawaka. A number of birds were seen and many bird calls heard but none were recorded. Most of the trees were labeled and anyone desiring to study them could do so by walking around the gardens armed with a suitable guide book; the presence of a living guide would render this an unforgettable and rewarding experience.

Our appreciation to :-
• Mr. Spencer Manuelpillai (Hon. General Secretary, WNPS) and Ms. Ayanthi Samarajeewa (Committee Member, WNPS) the WNPS Committee and staff for the time and effort spent in organizing the trip and the flawless logistical arrangements
• Prof. Siril Wijesundara for sharing his valuable knowledge on the unique trees and plant species which was very interesting and educative
• The Bus driver for his careful driving and bringing us back safe and sound
• All our participants for their pleasant friendly companionship and camaraderie which added greatly to an enjoyable and educative excursion.

This excursion report was compiled by Sri with photographs by Sri. The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the WNPS. 

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Last modified on Wednesday, 18 October 2017 04:00