My mother’s side of the family came together today in a grand family reunion for June Byles’ eightieth birthday, and we made a crazy four-hour drive from south of Sydney to reach the location in time. The “Big Byles Bash” has been on our calendar for most of the year, but it wasn’t until this morning that I was certain we would actually make it!

Many other people travelled across distances to make the day memorable and honour the matriarch of the Byles family. We ended up with a decent crowd of maybe thirty adults.

We met at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, a facility just to the north of Newcastle that is run by volunteers and funded by donations. The grounds cover 140 hectares, but we only explored a small portion of it.

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, November 2011
The Hunter Region Botanic Gardens are a great location for a family reunion.

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, November 2011
This Red Ash carving depicts the people and totems of the local Indigenous people of the area. Various other statues and artworks are dotted around the garden.

Big Byles bash at Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, November 2011
Members of the Byles' family came together for a picnic in the shade of some big trees in the gardens.

Linda Byles, June Byles and Sylvia Byles, November 2011
We all congregated in honour of June Byles' (in centre) eightieth birthday.

Stephanie Bissett, November 2011
It's been lovely to see my mother again.

Byles famly, November 2011
The six children of David and Babette Byles: Stephen, Margaret, Brian, Ralph, June and Stephanie.

Aunty June and her cake, November 2011
The requisite birthday cake was served up, much to the delight of our girls.

Stephanie Bissett, Ralph Byles and June Byles, November 2011
Everyone sat around in chairs in the shade and chatted — quite a tame, dignified affair.

Brian Byle and Stephen Byles, November 2011
Two brothers catch up on their lives.

Linda Byles and Margie Thirlwell, November 2011
As do the sisters-in law.

Jill with Sylvia Byles, November 2011
Even June Byles' cousins came.

Stephanie Bissett, Delenn Croaker and Ralph Byles
My mother flew over from Western Australia for the occasion. She enjoys catching up with her siblings (and her grandchildren).

The Thirlwells, November 2011
June's sister — Margie Thirlwell and her husband Phillip live locally.

Bowen Croaker and June Byles, November 2011
After Bowen captured a video of a goanna walking around the Botanic Gardens, he was able to immediately show it to Aunty June.

Bowen Croaker fliming a wallaby, followed by Brioni and Delaney, November 2011
Later, Bowen used his new video camera to stalk and film a pretty wallaby.

Delaney playing with a fountain, November 2011
Although bikes and ballgames are forbidden in the park, the kids loved playing with this easily-accessible water fountain.

Delenn and Bowen Croaker, November 2011
We gave Aisha the camera to take some candid photos, and her cousin Delenn loves posing for her as much as Calista does!

Lauren chatting with Andy Croaker, November 2011
I love seeing the Croakers again after our great time together in Tamworth.

Lauren with Carla and Elora Croaker, November 2011
My sister Carla and I brought along enough grandchildren to effectively represent the third generation of Byles' descendants.

We’re not overly familiar with many of the Byles relatives, so the highlights for us were catching up with those we’ve visited recently, including the de Beuzevilles from Clarence House and my sister’s family from Tamworth. We’re hopeful that renewing acquantaince with other relatives will lead to more meaningful contacts in the future!