Open 7 Days 9:30am - 5pm

Last Entry: 4:15pm

(02) 6230 2273

What's On

Celebrating 43 years

Cockington Green - November 1, 2022

Thursday, 3rd November 2022 will celebrate the 43rd birthday for Cockington Green Gardens after opening on Saturday, 3rd November 1979.

In recognizing this special event, a couple of excerpts have been included below from an article on the history of Cockington Green Gardens prepared as part of the attraction’s 40th birthday.

“It was 10 o’clock on Saturday morning November 3, 1979.  For the Sarah family of Canberra, this was no ordinary Saturday morning – it was life changing.  The extent of that change was unknown.  It was unknown as to the success or otherwise of the new venture they were just about to embark upon.

In some ways, the change began as far back as 1972.   This was when Doug and Brenda Sarah and their three young children, Mark, Sally-Anne and Melinda had set off on an extended holiday to the United Kingdom.  Brenda was born in England some 30 years earlier.   This trip was a long-awaited return to her country of birth after arriving in Australia with her mother, father and sister in the early 1950s.

During their UK odyssey, Doug and Brenda visited many places.   One of those places was Babbacombe, near Torquay in the south-western English county of Devon.   Babbacombe was home to a model village established by Tom Dobbins in 1963.   With a building background and an eye for detail, Doug was immediately impressed by what he saw.   He and Brenda also had a strong interest in gardens, a major feature of Babbacombe Model Village.

“The inspiration for Cockington Green all comes back to Babbacombe.  It was that visit and Brenda’s ties back to England that got us thinking and working out whether I could do it.  I didn’t have a job to come back to in Canberra, so I was looking for something to do,” said Doug.

“We didn’t do any real business plans or a lot of the other studies that everyone seems to want to do today.   We used the War Memorial as the basis for our market research.   Back then they were getting around 600,000 visitors a year.   We figured that if we could get around 10 percent of that, we could make it work having done our sums.”

In doing the sums of 10 percent of 600,000 per year over 40 years, you get close to two and half million visitors.   Whilst the numbers have moved a lot over the years, and the business does not publish its visitor numbers, it would seem that millions of people have been through the doors of this landmark attraction.   Not bad for something that wasn’t expected to succeed.”

The period between the attraction’s 40th birthday and its 43rd birthday has been tumultuous. At the beginning of 2020, smoke and fires forced the closure of the attraction for five days from 1-5 January. The only days the attraction had ever closed previously were the scheduled Christmas Day and Boxing Day shutdowns. Then from March 2020 until November 2021, the attraction was closed for 173 days as a result of Coronavirus.

It is with great pride, much perseverance, cooperation with staff, and much-needed Territory and Commonwealth support during COVID, that the attraction remains open today and gets to enjoy another birthday with lots of plans afoot ahead of a landmark 50th birthday not too far away.