The Glade Of Shimla
Annandale, just 2-km below the Ridge in Shimla , offers a picturesque piece of ground, charmingly adapted for recreation in the days of the Raj. Today it affords a pleasant change from the perpetual slopes above.
It was a focal point of Shimla's society in the early 20th century and a great venue for gymkhana races, cricket, polo and picnics. Every recreation season in Shimla at that time started with a gymkhana or two at Annandale. In the old days Annandale was to the Gymkhana Club what the Gaiety Theatre was to A.D.C.
Approached by a sharp descent, Annandale is the largest stretch of level ground in Shimla even today. Once frequented only by Shimla's elite, it has now become popular after helicopters and small planes started landing here. It is the only helped in town, with lading facilities available only for defence personnel and VVIP choppers. For commercial aircraft there is a separate airport in Jubbarhatti a few kms out of town.
This beautiful glade surrounded by thick deodars was used for activities like fairs, gymkhanas and other sports before the Indian army took it over from the state government in the 1950s.
Lord Curzon and Francis Younghusband hatched the scheme of the Tibet expedition and A.O. Hume mooted the idea of the Indian National Congress while watching the gymkhanas here.
The name Annandale may have come from the valley with the same name in Dumfrieshire, Scotland or as Lieutenant White reported in 1838, "during the sojourn of Lady Barnes and Brynt, a fancy fair was held in a romantic glen, named Aannabdale, from the lady who first graced its solitude".
Lord William Beresford, Military Secretary to Lord Dufferein, had a keen interest in racing and was most instrumental in forming the Annandale Club. He improved the racecourse. The clubhouse had a library and sitting, dining and dressing rooms. There was a tennis court, a nine-hole golf course, a shooting range and a cricket pitch.
Lady Dufferein made some interesting discriptions of the events at Annandale in the 1880's Shimla weekly, a magazine of the time also gave detailed Gymkhana reports. Some old residents of the town still remember the horse races at Annabdale.
Glen and Chadwick Falls are some of the popular picnic spots on the way to Annandale. These spots are beautifully described in Thacker's Guide of 1902 which still holds true, "A long picturesquely wooded ravine, with delightful grassy slopes. A rivulet flows through and is fringed down to the very edge with magnificent trees, which afford shelter from the rays of the sun".
Annandale was once a very thick fir grove, where no sunlight could penetrate. It still continues to be surrounded by thick forests. Presently maintained by the Indian Army, it still reminds one of its historical significance. A short walk down the hill is very refreshing and the lush green gigantic grounds give an immense sense of space. The present Annandale ground is now surrounded by a township.
Road: There is a regular bus service to the spot every hour from ISBT, Shimla .