Monthly Archives: April 2016

An autumn walk around Old Parliament House in Canberra

This building, affectionately known as ”The Wedding Cake” is Old Parliament House, first opened in 1927.  It is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy.

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Paul worked in this elegant old building when we first came to Canberra, in 1983. The building, and surrounding gardens hold many memories for Paul and our family…especially the children’s party held in the gardens every Christmas.

Today we are taking advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to walk around the building and then down to Lake Burley Griffin for coffee.

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The Oak trees on the right of the building are just turning into autumn splendour and,

….where there is an acorn, not far away are the cockatoos.

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This is a common sight on the lawns around the Parliamentary buildings

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This monument celebrates the important role of the 13th Century English Magna Carta.

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The monument is sited close to Parliament House and the High Court because the Magna Carta established the framework for the Australian legal system, Constitution and Parliament.

We walked around the building and came to the statue of two Prime Ministers who were also good friends. John Curtin (PM from 1941-1945) on the left, and Ben Chifley (PM from 1945-1949) on the right.

IMG_1894 (995x1024)I have read that Ben Chifley, in the early days of his campaigning, did so on a shoe string. He travelled by train whenever he could, and when he couldn’t, he drove himself. His wife Liz always packed him a lunchbox and he also took his billy to make some tea along the way. He loved stopping by the wayside, gathering a few twigs, and boiling his billy at any time of the day.

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During Parliamentary sitting times the two men lodged in a small hotel nearby, called the Kurrajong, not far from Parliament House, and often walked this path together.

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When Ben Chifley died there was a wonderful quote attributed to Oliver Hogue:

”He understood the human heart, the ideals, the ambitions, the follies, the passion of men and women. Chifley put tolerance amongst the highest virtues, and had it in large measure himself.”

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Walking along the paths of the Parliamentary Triangle on such a fine day, it is particularly special to see the variety of trees…the Eucalypts look very striking amongst the contrasting colours of other species.

The galahs are having an autumn feast amongst the leaves.

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Further down the path towards Lake Burley Griffin are the beautiful Claret Ash trees….and Black Mountain Tower in the distance.

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The autumn days are warm and sunny and there is usually no wind, most people are out and about as much as possible. (and yes, I know, winter cometh…)

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The Manchurian Pear trees along the edge of Lake Burley Griffin are a much loved sight in autumn.

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About a month ago we took a boat ride around the lake, unfortunately the weather was hazy and cloudy that day. However, Paul took this great photo,  of the National Library…this is undoubtedly my favourite building..

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and looking back on it, we were surprised to see that the Claret Ashes were turning red, even in mid March.

As it is time to head homeward, we walk back to the car..

…well hello, you are never alone near an Oak tree…

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I wonder if he is searching for something to eat, or, merely breaking off a few branches… just for fun….?

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Happy weekend everyone!

Gardens and sculptures at the National Gallery of Australia

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The gardens of the National Gallery of Australia are some of Canberra’s best kept secrets.

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The National Gallery is designed to have outdoor ‘rooms’, all with Australian native plants. The soft greys, blues and greens blend together to make tranquil settings such as this.

Water, our most precious resource, features throughout the gardens.

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These grounds are perfect settings for sculptures.  This is Gaston Lachaise’s Floating Figure…. could there be a better backdrop for this lovely sculpture?

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A fog sculpture, created by Fujiko Nakaya from Japan is rising up from a pond of water…this is a wonderfully cool and shady spot, very popular for summer weddings.

The Cones Sculptures designed by Bert Flugelman are shining through the trees.

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This sculpture, The Angel of the North, has, over time, become my favourite. It is a maquette produced from the original Angel of the North by Antony Gormley in Britain.

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Quite by chance we had seen one of Antony Gormley’s sculptures in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral in England, this one is called simply Sound 11…a mysterious life-sized statue of a man contemplating the water held in his cupped hands.

I like his sculptures and I was pleased to know that we had one in Canberra.

Antony Gormley had the north of England firmly in mind when he created The Angel of the North, and he is quoted as saying that people interpret the statue in their own way, and take ownership of it.

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I think the Australian Angel of the North is perfectly placed at the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of the Australian bush capital.

She seems to be watching over the city in a quiet, protective way.

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Autumn.. and I’ve got the empty bird bath blues

As soon as spring arrives, our garden becomes a playground for families of birds.IMG_8097 (1024x650)On this cold spring day the Cockatoos have perhaps given up on flying lessons for this big family……far too cold ….

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But on a brighter day, the babies are growing up…….. parents of all persuasions  are a pretty tolerant bunch.

This sweet looking Crimson Rosella, no doubt a parent, is watching on from the Japanese Maple, while the young ones enjoy the birdbath, and even better……..

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………a sprinkler shower as well!

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This little one is a Juvenile Crimson Rosella, and she is moulting and changing from green to red. At the moment she has nice red pantaloons, but is looking a bit awkward…just as most teenagers feel at times..

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This one is also changing colour, but she is a real water baby and spends all her time happily in the birdbath..

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The young Wattlebird is as hyperactive as her parents, and the mere thought of the water is sending her into a spin!

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Kookaburras are not that common in our area, but this young one has, perhaps, come down from Mt Taylor in search of water.

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She turned her head to give me her best side as if to say……”‘you’ll catch me soon @kooka.burra’

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Galahs are always found in family groups, but this little one has found his way here to our Bottlebrush bush on a very hot day…but waiting politely for his turn in the birdbath..

These young Eastern Rosellas are blending in nicely to the Japanese Maple

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Lovely to see these colours on a hot day..

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But the regulars in our garden are the Magpies, and this year a pair arrived with these three babies. Very soon it is obvious there are two fast learners…..

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and one High Maintenance Baby

 

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It was a long spring and summer with HM following Mum around plaintively calling for food, every morning and every evening. Mum seems young and anxious, and she gives in every time…

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One day, just for a little break, the whole family left HM up on the carport roof (plenty of grubs and fruit up there)

”I know you are down there!” she is calling

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Mum is just enjoying some peace and quiet in the veggie patch

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Dad’s having a bath…he’s had enough, he wants this baby off the payroll..

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As we drive away for our summer break, I wonder if HM is going to make it…she has to learn to feed herself…as Garrison Keiller says about difficult kids ”Just send money and pray”

 

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When we return from our summer holiday, the Magpies have gone…..in fact all the young birds have grown up and flown away…it’s very quiet here …I realise I’ve got the empty bird bath blues..

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Then, just as I write this, the three young Magpies come back for a visit….they poke around the lawn looking  for some worms, have a drink in the birdbath, and stay a while as we do some gardening..

HM Baby is turning her head to show she is listening for beetles, worms and grubs in the ground…she can feed herself!

IMG_1556 (1024x882)Just look at them!  So confident, these city slickers in their sharp Armani suits…all grown up and ready to go….when did that happen?

 

May they have a happy autumn and winter before their hectic turn at parenting begins..

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Wollemi Pine, eucalypts.. and green spaces in the city

Canberra, as with many young cities, is growing rapidly, and sometimes the rush to build overtakes the need to plan long term….so thank goodness the National Botanic Gardens were planned and planted in the 1960s and it is now in the heart of the city.

 

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During summer I joined a walking group to re-discover some of the joys of the National Botanic Gardens. I have written a few posts on some of the diverse parts of the gardens, The Red Centre Garden, and the Rainforest Gully.

The walks are coming to an end this week, so here is a last snapshot of some of the plants and places we have passed by.. …

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This is the Wollemi Pine, one of the world’s rarest and most ancient tree species.

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The Wollemi Pine belongs to the 200 million year old Araucariaceae family. It was, until 1994,  believed to be extinct. David Noble, a National Parks and Wildlife Officer was bushwalking and abseiling in 1994, and came across an unusual plant in a National Park close to Sydney.

Scientists and Horticulturalists were amazed, as is the general public…because the Wollemi Pine comes from the age of dinosaurs…there are very few left in the wild..

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Palaeontologists say it is likely that the dinosaur crossed paths with the Wollemi Pine and may have eaten Wollemi leaves….amazing!

There are a small amount of Wollemi Pines still in the wild, and they are protected, both from human intervention and from fire, to ensure their survival.

However, people can now buy and grow a Wollemi Pine (if you have a very large garden!) and become part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.

www.WollemiPine.com

The trees that do dominate the landscape of the Gardens are the Eucalypts.

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In summer visitors enjoy concerts under the trees, children come for ”Eucalyptus by Gum” educational adventure, couples get married, groups meet to have picnics.

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There are more than one hundred species to be seen if you wander across the Eucalypt lawn.

As we’ve walked around the gardens we were amazed at the colour and texture of bark on the Eucalypt trees……

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The tree below is called a Smooth-barked Apple…it is eye catching and smooth as silk to feel..

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It was one of the earliest Eucalypts collected by Europeans, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander who travelled with Captain Cook in 1770. It is quite easy to see why they wanted to take a sample home.

The Gardens are also the perfect place for photography enthusiasts …..

…where else would you see King Parrots looking so beguiling….

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This shy New Holland Honey Eater is darting between the banksias….hard to catch..

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 And here is another well known Aussie, a Galah, perched on top of the highest point of the highest tree… oh to be a bird…..

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Autumn is a wonderful season in Canberra, and I hope to write a few more posts about my home town before winter begins!

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.