Gurney House, Jim Corbett’s home at Nainital, Kumaon Himalaya Photo Journal
Road map to Gurney House, Nainital
Jim Corbett’s home in Nainital, Gurney House is a 10 minute walk up the hillside from The Naini Retreat (Ayarpatta Slopes, Mallital, Nainital). Unlike his winter home at Kaldhungi which is now a well preserved museum and managed by the government, Gurney House has a lived-in feel even now. The house was sold to the present owner Dalmias’ granparents (Mrs and Mr SP Verma) when Corbett moved to Kenya. The Dalmias live in Delhi and visit their heritage property.
I visited Gurney House on a rainy day in July. It was still drizzling, but the caretaker Ganesh Joshi was all smiles. He showed us around the property, including the private museum that showcases the life and times of Jim Corbett and his sister Maggi Corbett. This house has a different feel from the Jim Corbett Museum at Kaladhungi, just 37 km downhill from Gurney House. It is not as huge as the Kaladhungi home, but the natural surroundings are amazing. As I unlatched the gate to Gurney House, the garden in full bloom, against a setting of rhododendrom (Buranaz in Kumaoni dialect), Angu, Tilaunj/Kharsu trees got me spellbound. I walked in with not a soul in sight. I even spotted a leech before the caretaker, Ganesh Joshi appeared to familiarize me with the place.
Bicchu booti (left) and Hara patta (right)
When I told him about my brush with the Bicchu booti (a wild plant that stings when touched) last evening, he showed me the antidote, ‘Hara patta’ which is invariably found growing next to a clump of Bicchu booti. Wherever the Bicchu booti has stung, a leaf of Hara patta can be crushed and rubbed to take away the sting immediately.
Trees of Ayarpatta slopes, Nainital
He showed me a rhododendron tree with late blooms on the hillside overlooking the Naini lake. We were 3.5 km away from the main city and the lake. Naini lake looked a wisp of glassy green, veiled by clouds and framed by Buranz (Rhododendrons or Rhododendron arboreum), Chir (Pine or Pinus), Baanj (Quercus incana, Q. leucotrichophora) and Tilaunj or Kharsu oak, Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodora), Angu (Ash tree or Fraxinus miscrantha), Pangar (Horse chestnut or Aesculus indica), Surai (Cupressus torulosa or Himalayan cypress), Haldu (Adina cordifolia) and so many trees that I still cannot name :-(
Pointing to an Angu tree growing by the gate Ganesh Joshi informed that it was used for furniture and construction purposes, while Baanj and Kharsu were mainly useful as fuel. Rhododendrons paint the hillside red in flowering season (February-April). Rhododendron flowers are used to make a local squash, which is not only delicious but comes at a reasonable price of Rs 60 per litre. Fruitage is a local company that sells this in a shop by the lake on the way to Naina Devi temple.
Black-faced Langoor monkeys abound on Aryapatta hillside in Nainital. They seem happy on trees.
Aalu bel growing on the boundary wall of Gurney House, Jim Corbett's home in Nainital
Ganesh Joshi said this was a wild climber. It look ethereal at Gurney House as well as The Naini Retreat.
Travel guide: Gurney House, Nainital
Location: Gurney House, Jim Corbett's home in Nainital, (road turns left from the High Court)
How to reach: 30 km drive up the hills from Kathgodam's railway station
Places to see: Naina Devi temple, Gurudwara, Nainital Zoo, Observatory, China Peak, Boat Club, Mall Road, Bhutia market, Thandi Sadak
Where to stay: The Naini Retreat, Aryapatta slopes, Mallital (on the road that turns left from the High Court)
Local food: rhododendron squash, apricot jam, plum jam, apple jam, bhutta (fresh corn toasted over a coal/wood fire)
Festivals: Navratri celebration twice a year at Naina Devi temple
Where to shop: Mall Road, Bhutia market, Fruitage, Atul Candles