Although it’s hardly a secret location, Merthyr Park is easily missed as simply a ribbon of green en route to its more famous relative, nearby New Farm Park.
The name is Welsh, and comes from Merthyr Tydvil, the birthplace of Sir Samuel Griffith (the main author of the Australian Constitution, a Queensland Premier and Chief Justice of the High Court and all-round big wig whose name is perpetuated in roads, streets, a university and a Canberra suburb).
Sitting on the bend of the river, which the early settlers who came down to fish or for a swim and a game of cricket beside the river called Kinellan Point, Merthyr Park is a long, narrow strip of land between houses and the river.
It’s really not particularly wide so it is quite literally a green belt.
It can be accessed by one of the pretty little lanes that lead down from Oxlade Drive or, even better, take the free CityHopper (or the CityCat) to the Sydney Street terminal which is right where you need to be to start the pleasant walk down the river.
It’s also popular with cyclists, which is how I discovered it in the first place while making my way from Eagle St to Newstead.
The park is dotted with big old poincianas, figs and frangipani trees and there’s often the scent of orange blossom and jasmine wafting in from nearby gardens.
There are exercise stations, a barbecue, picnic tables, bubblers, seats to watch the river traffic and a cool breeze.
As the tide goes out, a small section of sandy beach emerges, bookended by mangroves.
The path continues beside the river to the old Riverside ballroom and the Merthyr Bowls Club and exits only a short walk from New Farm Park.
There are a few stands of logs, placed upright, some with framed art panels, along the way. I have no idea of their significance, despite my best efforts, so imagine it is simply park art added in one of the more recent renovations.
The New Farm riverfront was first frequented by Aboriginal groups for turtle hunting and fishing expeditions. This is acknowledged in a brightly coloured ceramic mosaic which was added to Merthyr Park in 2003.
After European settlement, the area was known as Kinellan, for the nearby estate of Sir Robert McKenzie, who was Queensland premier in 1867-68. Then along came Griffith who built his big house overlooking the Brisbane River in 1881 and called it Merthyr, which then gave the name to the locality within New Farm.
Griffith died in 1920, his property was subdivided in 1929 and the house demolished in 1963 when it became too expensive to maintain. Such a shame.
Brisbane City Council had acquired a section of the river frontage in 1926 and made further purchases of land for the park in the mid 1930s, 1955 and 1971. In 1936, it was given the name Merthyr. The beach was added in 1987.
The shoreline was inundated in the 1893 flood and half the park also disappeared in the 2011 floods.
As it’s hidden from the traffic, Merthyr Park is generally a bit quieter and a perfect spot to arrive by river and while away the hours.