History of ArbourVilla
Arbour Villa property is a part of Florence Division, Marieland Estate, Thawalantenna (Via Wattegama) which was taken over by the Government in the early 70's. The whole Estate including the then operating Factory/Office Complex, Line Rooms, Internal Roads etc were thoroughly neglected for more than a decade. Most of the damages were extensive. The LRC divided the land by the blocking out plan No.LRC Maha/1152 and 50 acre blocks were distributed among the co-owners. Gamini Bandaranayake's vision was to develop a property not less than 10 acres for the family, to be cultivated with spices, fruits and to produce an arboretum with rare trees especially those at the risk of extinction from the soils of mother Lanka. Having being informed about this property, Gamini & Indra Bandaranayake travelled via Panwila along the winding road with an uneven surface. The first breathtaking encounter was Huluganga Water Fall flowing full. The bewitching panoramic view of cloud caparisoned hill tops of the silhouette of Dumbara Valley through a thin veil of mist was fascinating. It was love at first sight. It was the early part of the year 1983. A 25 acre block covered with grass and virtually without any trees was bought. It was planned to develop the land as said. On clearing the land it was found that there were neglected over grown tea bushes at intervals. With no knowledge of tea planting, 400lbs of green leaf was harvested. This triggered the thirst in Tea Planting. Much commitment on this matter by Gamini Bandaranayake in gaining knowledge in this field led to commencement of a Tea Plant Nursery.
The assistance of the staff of Botany Dept of University of Peradeniya and the Tea Research Institute of Hantana, to obtain invaluable knowledge was commendable. Volumes of literature on the subject was gone through. The Project was remote controlled as Gamini Bandaranayake was then a transferable Public Servant. Sincere gratitude to the Supervisory staff and the labour gang for the tremendous support extended under trying conditions. Yeoman's services rendered with commitment by Indra Bandaranayake throughout the development was an important part of the success story. With an idea of kindling interests of the land owners of this area the Nursery was converted to a Commercial Nursery which produced approximately 100,000 plants per annum. The result was fabulous. Today almost all of Marieland Estate block owners and Beddegama villagers have become very productive tea small holders. The family firmly developed a commitment to be followed in any Project commenced thereafter to contribute a valuable part to the society. No sooner than the land was purchased, much expenditure was borne in opening up the road network within the former Marieland Estate connecting to public roads. The roads were covered with shrubs, grass and slipped earth. Dressed stone masonry culverts of the colonial era were fully blocked. The surface at many sections eroded and not motorable. Within a very short period the roads were made operational.
The maintenance of this network was shouldered by the family and continued to date. In later years, a 5 acre block was bought in close proximity to the first 25 acre block. Then late Mr. Dilshan Bandaranayake, son of Gamini and Indra acquired under Shan Trading (Pvt) Ltd a property 28 acres in extent between the two earlier blocks. 20 acres of this property had been subjected to frequent willful damage by fire and was almost barren and the soil health had to be improved prior to planting of tea, spices and forest.
Today the small Estate is 59 acres with a well planted and maintained VP tea of extent 35 acres. The love for nature instigated the family to venture into forestry and to develop an Arboretum. Today the property is partly covered with man made jungle and an arboretum with more than 200 species of trees collected from all over Sri Lanka. The family considers this as a commitment to generations to come, to develop their interests in eco â€“friendliness and to trigger a liking to nature. A very small building which housed a very small family with a few goats and poultry was converted to a dwelling house. The line rooms and office building which was in a dilapidated state was converted to be habitable to house 15 labour families and a few middle and lower management staff. A 100 year old abandoned Hindu 'Paththini' Kovil was re-opened and handed over to the community to perform their religious rituals. Annual 'Theru' festival is celebrated since then.
The idea to make affordable lodging facilities to people who are interested in Eco - friendly environment was nurtured in the minds of the family members. Slowly but steadily these ideas were implemented at various stages to end up with the present grandeur of the whole property.
All this consumed a time period of tireless 25 years over which the dedication and commitment would be difficult to match. Contribution to the upliftment of the resources in a minute part of the earth's crust is achieved. A home for many birds and animals to breed in the area was created. The family's extreme happiness is to see various sectors of the people such as nature lovers, researchers, students, writers, photographers, hikers, cyclists and travellers enjoy the Holiday Home.
Providing an affordable centre for exploration to biologists and scientists researching on biodiversity in the Western slopes of Knuckles range in Sri Lanka, an exquisite environment for authors, readers, painters & photographers, an arbour for nature lovers from all over the world, a resort to holiday makers and hikers, a peaceful hideout with mind stimulant memories for honeymooners, a rest house sans hustle and bustle far from metropolis to seek a rest, a serene meditation den for the people seeking solace in life and a salubrious place within the best climatic belt, to feel the warmth of Sri Lanka at least once in a life time.
'Mensana in corporsano'