Canberra in summer: gardens, sunshine and life with cockatoos

Canberra’s usual spring planting was lost to rainy weather. Finally, close to December, the rain stopped falling and the sun came out, but most of us were still struggling with Hayfever, after months of long grasses growing in between suburbs and on verges of gardens.

The rain prevented the lawns and pathways from being mowed.

Once the rain stopped and the sunshine came through, it was lovely to walk through the garden and see it blossoming for summer.

We’ve never tried growing Lupins before, but during Covid we ordered three Lupin plants online, and this was the only one of three that survived, and thrived! The bees loved it.

The Salvias have also attracted the bees, and although I was tempted to trim this red Salvia as it spread, I took my cue from the bees buzzing around me!

When we visited the UK I was amazed to see hedges of fuchsias growing like weeds. They are tricky to grow in this part of Australia, but these two seem hale and hearty.

Hydrangea

This hydrangea is loving its place under the plum tree and this year it has the right amount of water and sunshine.

Paul has grown an impressive crop of garlic this year, and to think he was worried that our continual rain in November, might affect the crop. Once the crop has dried out, (in our garden shed) Paul will keep the garlic under the house, in a cool dark shelf.

Buddleia /Buddleja (not sure of the spelling here)

I have included this lovely plant although it grows in Melbourne, near the home of our daughter and family. Our granddaughter, aged five, said she watched a cartoon about bees, and when they saw tempting flowers, they said to each other “Let’s have a party!”

This gorgeous blue flower is always full of bees having a party, and if we ever have a space in our garden, we’ll try to grow it.

Canberra has many paths between suburbs and plenty of choice of walks. During the summer months Paul and I walk almost every day. One of our favourite walks is near “Five Ways” otherwise known as Ken’s garden, which I featured last year.

We live on the side of Mount Taylor and so we walk up a path called Heartbreak Hill (named by one of our neighbours) and along to Ken’s garden and then back home.

Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus

Ken began by planting some Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus on the verge of his house and garden, and then gradually extended the garden.

It is a wonderful social space where people tend to linger on a summer day, chatting to Ken, his wife, or other passers-by. It is very much valued by the community.

Not to mention birds, and Wattle Birds in particular, as you can see.

Wattle bird feeding on Red Hot Pokers.

The birds in Canberra have never had such a feast of grasses, flowers, seeds and berries. As a result we now have far more big birds than usual, many living on Mount Taylor near us. (Currawongs, Ravens and Cockatoos)

When it comes to Cockatoos, the War of the Roses has nothing on the Wars for space in the best Eucalyptus trees. We live opposite two mature Eucalyptus trees, and this summer, there has been constant screeching and chasing each other in and out of the trees. Their wingspan is incredible and their screeches can be ear-splitting.

When they are in the trees, they often peel the bark and drop it, or they shred flowering trees, (or our Almond tree.)

Mercifully they all seem to fly off to the mountains once their young are mature enough to be self-sufficient.

Paul found this wonderful card in the National Library, and it just sums up cockatoos perfectly……

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may you be happy and healthy in 2023.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Christmas in Canberra: birds, books, bloggers and flowers

Christmas is such a busy time that I’m going to keep this post, short and sweet.

The first sweet item is a book that I ordered online, through Booktopia. It has arrived in time for Christmas! This book is part of a series, written by Laurie Graves. Laurie lives in Maine, USA and I live in Canberra, Australia, so we couldn’t be further apart, but the wonderful part of blogging is getting to know and enjoy fellow bloggers. I have been reading Laurie’s blog posts for a few years now, and I know just how much time and effort she has put into this series.

We are a family who love stories and reading and we’ll enjoy this book. Many thanks Laurie!

Rainbow Lorikeets

My granddaughter pointed out these Rainbow Lorikeets in the playground, completely oblivious of children playing around them.

This Crimson Rosella has spent some time in our garden this year, without a partner….very unusual, hopefully the new year brings a partner.

Another Crimson Rosella, this time at the coast. He or she is navigating the spiky bush very well considering she has a beak full of food!

We recently bought a Hibiscus shrub to put on our deck, and this is the reward, a regular supply of beautiful flowers.

Another Rainbow Lorikeet swaying in the breeze…

A flashback to winter. Every year we get a visit from a pair of Kookaburras, and this year they had two juvenile Kookaburras with them.

There is something endearing about Kookaburras, and perhaps it is their early morning call, one of the unique sounds of the bush in Australia.

We walk past this plant in a neighbour’s garden almost every day in spring. I don’t know the name of this wonderful plant but it lights up the garden in the early morning.

It looks like Waratah flower with the leaves of a Woolly bush.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today, and may you all have a peaceful Christmas where ever you are in the world.

PS the header photo is a red flowering Eucalyptus …it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Lake Burley Griffin morning walk: Japanese garden, a Peace Bell, and a special Ginkgo tree

Last week we had almost perfect summer weather. After months of rain, everything was looking green and calm.

The sun shone softly in the early morning, and we decided to walk around Lake Burley Griffin, rather than our usual suburban pathways.

Only the keen cyclists, rowers, those with canoes, and joggers are out and about at this time in the morning.

Along the way we looked back at Canberra’s skyline and watched six ducks deciding which one would jump first.

It was very tricky taking a photo….. which one would jump first? .. and next …

Only one duck left, thank goodness she eventually jumped too!

We walked through the Canberra Nara Peace park, which features a small Japanese themed garden.

This park has an annual Canberra Nara Candle Festival, held in October….weather permitting…this year it was flooded out until early December.

We have missed this festival every year, including this one!

Photo: Canberra Times

However, from photos I have seen, the lighted candles resting on cobbled stones in the Japanese garden look wonderful at night.

We went past the World Peace Bell, rung on World Peace Day on the third Tuesday in September each year.

As I looked through the news and information on the Peace Bell it was heartening to see so many people, from the very young to the very old attend this festival every year.

Canberra’s Peace bell is 350 kilograms and is the 23rd in the world and the second in Australia.

The wonderful part of living in a capital city, is that we see, first hand, some of the positive events happening between countries.

This amazing sapling, descendant of the Ginkgo tree in Hiroshima, only arrived in Canberra on the 6th May 2022.

It was gifted to the ACT government, by The Green Legacy Hiroshima, and it is a wonderful symbol of hope and peace.

We enjoyed our walk, even more so for seeing such symbols of hope on this very peaceful morning.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog today, and I hope you are enjoying your day, regardless of winter or summer, in your part of the world.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Bondi: Sculpture by the Sea

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog, will know that I occasionally write about places and events in Sydney as we are frequent visitors to this beautiful city, and have many family members living in Sydney.

I have written about my brother’s daily walks and swims at Bondi beach, with a group of friends. Amongst the group is photographer Tim Read, who takes wonderful photos, and has been featured in my blog posts occasionally.

This year he has some splendid photos of an annual event in Sydney called Sculpture by the Sea.

Every year (except during the pandemic) artists from all over the world enter their work to be chosen to exhibit along the Bondi to Tamarama Beach coastal walk.

Artist: Joel Adler Sculpture: Lens

Sculpture at the Sea runs for three weeks, and during that time it features more than one hundred sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.

Artist: April Pine Sculpture: Tidal Body

I don’t have the name of the wooden sculpture, however the sculpture in the distance is called “Folly Interstice” by Tony Davis.

Artist: Tom Buckland Sculpture: Bruce The Lobster.
Artist: Paul Caporn: Sculpture “Heads It is”
Artist: Merle Davis ”Sea Anomalies 3″

Unfortunately I don’t have the name of two of the photos below, but each sculpture tells a story..

Artist: Keizo Ushio Sculpture: Infinity.

This sculpture was described as “two rings of Spanish black granite with different surfaces and are twisted five times to form one large ring.”

Artist: Bruno Catalano “Benoit” Sculpture: The Crossroads of different temporal moments

Congratulations to the artist Bruno Catalano who received the prize for the People’s Choice Award. I’m not surprised it is so popular, as it is eye catching!

Artist: Tony Davis Sculpture: Folly Interstice

Congratulations to Tony Davis who received the Aqualand Sculpture Award for his sculpture called “Folly Interstice” This is a difficult sculpture to describe as it needs to be experienced. Here is a link to Tony’s explanation of the sculpture…a short but very interesting insight into his sculpture.

https://sculpturebythesea.com/interview-aqualand-award-recipient-tony-davis

Artist: Nikita Zigura Climate change

These two cherries have the countries of the globe sketched onto them. As the exhibition was packing up, Tim took one last photo of this sculpture and wrote that, according to the program, the red spots on the cherries represent the areas of the globe where global warming is more prominent.

He said, “the accompanying sunrise made it hard to resist”

Many thanks to Tim Read for his generosity in sharing his photos. The sculptures, the blue skies and the light at dawn… a wonderful peaceful experience during these turbulent times.

Photo Copyright Tim Read: All Rights Reserved.

Bathurst Spring Gardens: Welcome to old Mill Cottage

Spring has arrived in Australia, and for the first time in almost three long Covid years, we are able to visit open gardens all over the southern states.

Last weekend, the country town of Bathurst, New South Wales, held its Spring Festival.

We don’t live far from Bathurst and Paul and I met at College in Bathurst many years ago, so we have great affection and memories of this town.

Machattie Park in the centre of Bathurst.

There were many open gardens to visit, both in Bathurst, and around the district. We spent so long looking at some of the country properties and gardens that we will have to come back next year for the rest!

Mill Cottage in O’Connell

The owners of the gardens often provide ”a story” about their garden, and this is the beginning of the story of Mill Cottage, in O’Connell near Bathurst.

We bought Mill Cottage, also known as the Garden House, attracted by the historic house, the old garden, and orchard and the lovely setting beside the Fish River.

The original 100 acre farm was taken up by Daniel Roberts in about 1829. Daniel Roberts was born in Wales in 1800 and arrived in the colony in 1826. The 1828 census lists Daniel as being a free settler, a carpenter, aged 28.

Daniel met Catherine Spinks about 1828. She had arrived in the colony in 1820 when she was only 13 years old, with her convict mother, Anne. Daniel and Catherine were married in Parramatta in 1828. They left on horseback after their wedding and arrived in O’Connell, where they settled.

A very long way to travel by horseback…they were tough in those days!

The present owners know there was the stone and brick house here by 1837, called the Garden House. This assumes there was a notable garden from the beginning, maybe tended by the two convicts allocated to the Roberts family.

The orchard

Daniel built a water mill, located about 200 metres upstream from the house in 1833. He saw the need for a place to mill the wheat that the early settlers were busy growing. Local farmers brought their wheat, it was ground into flour, and a sack cost them one penny!

Daniel became a prosperous local businessman and over time the property was sold, and the land around was subdivided.

Here is the impressive rhubarb patch and many other vegetables, well mulched and fertilized.

The present owners have extended and expanded the garden over the previous ten years .

The garden has mainly cool climate plants, bulbs, roses, salvias, hellebores and many other perennials, with a wonderful shady Box elder (maple) tree in the centre of the garden near the house.

We were lucky to have a lovely sunny day to visit Bathurst and surrounds, however, like much of the Eastern states of Australia, Bathurst has experienced heavy rains this year, and the Fish river, (seen in the photo below) was rising.

All parts of the garden have attractive borders of plants, and this gave us a chance to wander through the garden and take time to look at all the flowering spring shrubs.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owners of the property, but I did wonder if kangaroos hopped over the fence/gate to eat the abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

We had a wonderful time wandering through this garden and it was a delight to be out and about amongst fellow gardeners. Many thanks to the owners of the property, as it must take an enormous effort to get ready for an Open Garden weekend.

For those who are interested in learning more about the house, Lee Steele’s Volume Two of “Heritage Homes of Bathurst and District” describes this house in more detail.

I have photos for at least one or two more gardens, so I hope you can look out for them.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Spring flowers at Tulip Top Garden and flooding in Victoria

After a long and isolated two years of Covid, everyone I know is cautiously enjoying a normal life again. However, another hurdle for some states in Australia is the excessive rain we have had this year, and in the last three years.

Every year Canberra has a spring festival called Floriade in September to October. (except for the last two Covid years.)

I wondered if the rain would ever stop long enough for all the bulbs to grow, and the potted flower displays to survive.

Unfortunately Paul and I missed Floriade, but we visited another wonderful flower display, on the outskirts of Canberra called Tulip Top Garden.

The weather was warm, bright and sunny! Oh the joy of it all…

It seemed hard to believe, but for a week or two in early spring we had sunny days and no rain!

We arrived very early and avoided some of the crowds.

As I have often mentioned, Paul and I frequently drive to Melbourne to visit our daughter and the family. In September we planned a trip to Victoria to see them.

The drive from Canberra to Melbourne takes about 8 hours, so we always plan a few stops along the way. Our first coffee break is usually at a Victorian country town called Benalla.

The Art Gallery and café have table and chairs on the deck, to sit and look over the lake. On warm mornings, it is a wonderful spot for coffee, and sometimes scones and cream.

Wrapped around the Art Gallery is a lovely park, and during Covid we sat in the park with our flask of coffee and a sandwich and enjoyed the greenery.

Benalla is the kind of town where the cars wait for a Draught wagon with patience.

One summer as we parked the car near the Gallery and we saw a lovely old fashioned horse drawn draught wagon. The wagon was advertising beer, but the handsome looking Clydesdales stole the show.

We made our trip to Melbourne, and it rained all the way. It was lovely to see our family, and we were able to do all the things we planned, but as the week went by, the rain continued and there was some flooding in Melbourne’s lower lying suburbs.

With so much rain in Victoria last year, all the catchments were completely soaked. Rivers were flooding and lower lying country towns around Victoria began to flood. Many of the farms around these areas lost all their spring crops.

We delayed our trip home, and fortunately the highway re-opened at the end of the weekend. We were able to drive home, but we could not stop at either of our favourite towns, Benalla and our lunchtime stop, Seymour. This is another friendly Victorian town, where the café menus are varied and the food is delicious.

Still smiling: Owners Ray & Freya Grant cleaning up Café 96 Seymour. Photo by Wayne Herring.
Seymour Rotary along with other services, organisations, volunteering at the emergency relief centre. Food is cooked for all who had to evacuate.

This is an aerial photo of Seymour before the flooding, and after ..

An aerial view of Seymour’s oval and surrounds before the floods
An aerial view of Seymour after the floods. Photos by Near Map.

I must add that many parts of New South Wales and Queensland have suffered severe floods during 2022 and all the states affected are struggling to get back to normal.

photo by Jason Edwards (Sun Herald)

Best wishes to all the families who are experiencing flooding this year, and especially to those having to evacuate their homes.

During a few short weeks we went from Tulip Top gardens to serious flooding…. Australia’s weather is either a feast or a famine, and add that to climate change!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post today and may your weather be settled where ever you are in the world.!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra to Jindera Pioneer Museum: off the beaten track

Spring is on its way in Australia, and the rolling fields around Canberra are full of bright yellow Canola (rapeseed) crops and soft green grass …..wonderful to see.

On our recent trip from Canberra to Melbourne, we decided to go off the beaten track and enjoy the scenery. As good luck would have it, we also found a fascinating pioneer museum in a small town called Jindera. (not far from Albury)

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area around Jindera was inhabited by the Wiradjuri people.

The explorer Hamilton Hume came to the Jindera area in 1824, but it was another 40 years before the first German settlers arrived, having trekked from Adelaide to Jindera in horse drawn wagons.

These settlers were fleeing religious persecution in Germany, and the land around Jindera offered fertile soil and a regular water supply.

We regularly drive from Canberra to Melbourne, and the journey takes about 8 hours, with a break for coffee, and another break for a tasty country lunch.

Just imagine those poor German settlers trekking from Adelaide (in the state of South Australia) to Jindera (on the New South Wales border with Victoria) in horse drawn wagons!

In 1874 Johann Rosler and Peter Wagner built a store and a three-roomed residence known far and wide as the Wagner’s Store. Nearly a century later, with the strength of the local community, the Wagner store and residences were restored and made into a museum.

The volunteers in the community range in ages from 65 to 93, and over one-third of them have been here since the early days. The museum recreates the culture of the early German settlers, and is much loved by all historic groups and school children and tourists. Not to mention their famous Tea Room, which I believe is open every Sunday for Devonshire tea with a variety of sweet and savouries. (I bet all is homemade!)

The rooms of the museum are full of photos, clothing, furniture, needlework and much loved personal artefacts donated by the families of early settlers.

It is astonishing to think that women sewed such elegant clothes, despite the rough living conditions, and the heat, dust and rain!

The museum has a pretty garden and is surrounded by museum sheds. A very popular part of the museum is the Machine Working Shed, largely donated by the well-known former Member of Parliament Tim Fischer.

The Working Machine Shed is the far building painted red.
The historic post office would be an eye opener for children!

We spent some time in the the Cottage Gallery, which features an extensive collection of paintings with direct connection with the district. One of the volunteers told us that the well-known Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, lived in this area for some time, and had donated a number of paintings and sketches to the Cottage Gallery, and was a patron of the gallery.

Unfortunately the strong sunlight in the room prevented me from taking many photos so I settled for one sketch by Russell Drysdale and one painting by a local artist.

A country Squire by Russell Drysdale.
Jindera Gap by Beth Kilings

In bygone days, the town had many churches, and this pretty Anglican church is the closest to the museum. Further along the avenue is a thriving Lutheran school and church.

We visited the museum twice, and each time my eye caught the photo of this wonderful woman, Margary Clara Wehner….doesn’t she just seem to have character and style?

Margary Clara Wehner, dedicated to the village of Jindera.

I know blog readers are generally very busy people, but if you have time to read her story it is a very interesting account of her life, and that of her husband, Ernest, known as Frosty, who was the local Blacksmith.

The Blacksmith’s shed is still standing!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post this week, and three cheers for those volunteers and people in small communities who come together to help and share their stories and their time.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Maleny a warm friendly country town in Queensland

Many years ago, escaping the winter in Canberra, Paul and I stopped off at a small town in Queensland, called Maleny.

Maleny is two hours drive from the city of Brisbane

Our memory of this pretty country town was that it had three bookshops, and a huge expanse of land which was about to be developed into Maleny Botanic gardens. The setting was half way up a mountain, and my memory is that we stood looking at the carved out land, and said to each other….this is going to make a wonderful Botanic garden.

This is a photo taken by the Maleny Botanic Gardens

This year, we decided to make a trip to Maleny again, and the town and surroundings are as beautiful as ever. However, as with the best laid schemes, things did not go according to plan. First of all I left the battery for the camera at home. As everyone would know it is very hard to track down a specific camera battery unless in the city or online.

A wonderfully helpful young man in a Pharmacy cheerfully said that he could provide me with Hearing Aid batteries, but definitely no camera batteries.

So almost all the photos of this holiday are taken from my phone or Paul’s (many thanks to Paul)

The Botanic Gardens covers a large and hilly area and has many paths and transport vehicles to get around.

Our second setback was much bigger. Recently there had been severe rainfall and flooding around parts of Maleny, and many of the mature Botanic Garden trees and shrubs and small bridges were destroyed.

Very sad to see, and very costly to start again in some areas. However, we walked through the parts of the Botanic Garden which had survived.

We could see the Volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains in the distance
This photo shows how damage had been done, not only to the plants, but to the beautiful variety of waterfalls and ponds.
Fortunately, many of the lovely tree ferns stayed intact .
This photo shows the layers of colourful plants which had survived.

For anyone who is interested the website for the Maleny Botanic Gardens is very comprehensive, and the photos are gorgeous. (https://www.malenybotanicgardens.com.au/).

The website mentions the extensive aviary and colourful birds to see, however, we did not have time for this part of the gardens.

The town of Maleny still has three bookshops and we spent the afternoon in Rosetta Books which had a varied collection, from poetry to children’s books and many genres in between. The owner of the bookshop told us that Maleny has many book clubs and active readers, and some authors too. The local library is also known in the district to be very popular.

We had booked into AirBnB just a short drive out of Maleny. Here is the cabin we rented for four days. (apologies for the sun shadow across the photo)

Way up on the side of the mountain, the ever changing views of the mountains and valley below were wonderful. I did wish I had my camera, (and a long lens, which I don’t have)

Early morning view …no birds in sight, but we heard many of them…

The generous owners of the cabin had provided us with local milk, yoghurt, butter and fresh fruit. Looking in the fridge, I was reminded of a quote by a fellow blogger, Laurie Graves “Notes from the Hinterland” who wrote that Mainers have a saying,

‘when we go to town, bang goes the butter money”‘

Well, I have to say, ”when we went to Maleny bang went the low cholesterol diet!

The shadows come across every afternoon…

The day we left the mist was rising and it looked as if rain was coming, so we were very very lucky.

As we waved goodbye to the curious cattle, we also saw a few distinctive and interesting Queensland houses along this stretch of road. Characteristically Queensland houses are made of timber and raised off the ground, built on stilts or stumps for the sub-tropical climate. This is to counteract the extreme temperatures, flooding and to avoid termites and pests.

A sad goodbye to this dairy farming mountain and picturesque Queensland farm houses…including our lovely cabin.

Thanks for taking time to read my post, and as they say in Zimbabwe… go well…during these unsettling times.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Winter in Canberra: walks in Haig Park, birds, and a Book Barn when you need it..

Winter arrived in Canberra on 1st June with snow falling on the Brindabella Mountains

The first day of Winter: Photo: Canberra Times

During autumn we had seemingly non-stop rain and so the occasional wintery, but sunny day was welcome. The storm water drains around the inner city were flowing steadily with water, hard to believe after so many years of drought, not so long ago.

We have taken to walking our daughter’s dog Charlie once a week, which is very good exercise and we visit parts of the city with good walking/cycling tracks.

One of my favourite walks is through Haig Park. This park reminds me of parks in Europe, perhaps as so many of the mature trees are European, and as in Europe, people stroll through the park all week and all through winter.

The park was planned and trees planted in about 1921, as a wind break shelter within the city. 7000 trees were planted, mostly exotic evergreen and deciduous trees.

Since that time the park has had times of neglect, but is now a wonderful addition to inner city living.

However, in contrast to European parks we have possums rather than squirrels and many different colourful birds..

Despite the regular walkers, and a very popular, busy market in the park on the weekend, there are plenty of birds to be seen everywhere.

Eastern Rosellas are very shy parrots, so I was happy to get a photo of these two Rosellas.

Needless to say the cockatoos are everywhere..

Last week we went to Sydney to visit Paul’s mother, and on the way home we stopped off at one of our favourite bookshops Berkelouw Book Barn.

This inviting Book Barn has a roaring fire in winter, and is a wonderful place to browse for books, (second-hand and new ones) at any season of the year. We always have coffee and sometimes cake, which provides the fuel needed to hunt out new books and second-hand books. We came away with an interesting pile of books, as always..

Berkelouw Book Barn Bookshop Photo: Trip Advisor.

Nowadays the Book Barn is also a restaurant and a wedding venue as well. However, these don’t start until midday, so the very best times to visit are the mornings and week days if possible.

Lastly, a flashback to autumn when we visited our family in Melbourne. We always stop about half way, at a small town in the Alpine region called Myrtleford. Next door to our Air BnB is a vacant block of land, which is used as a wildlife sanctuary.

This family of Kangaroos always come down cautiously to see us…no feeding required, .. they are just curious, or as the Aussie expression would have it, they are Sticky beaks!

Finally, my favourite photo of the year so far, a young kookaburra in our garden. Every winter about this time a family of kookaburras come to our garden. I’m sure the family love the fact that we have many birdbaths filled with water for them, and many worms in our vegetable garden..(Paul doesn’t love that side of things)

However, I like to think, and I’m sticking to my story, that they also come back to show us their latest very cute offspring.

Best wishes to everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

We are living in a turbulent world these days, and during times like this I remember my mother, who concentrated always on the small, simple and pleasant parts of life, to help get through the difficult parts, and her favourite quote, as I have mentioned before:

When the world wearies and society does not satisfy…. there is always the garden.” by Minnie Aumonier

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Melbourne….. a gift for the future

Urban green spaces are the markers of what we value in our land. They are our commitment to history and our gift to the future. Alisa Piper.

The evening light across the water from our accommodation

As regular readers will know, we frequently visit our daughter and family, who live in Melbourne. During our visit in May we stayed in accommodation close to our daughter’s suburb, but in a new area for us to explore; Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown North, (named Jawbone because the shape of the sanctuaries are roughly the shape of a human jaw.)

We drove south from Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) to Melbourne and Jawbone Sanctuary is on the Port Phillip Bay.

We arrived in the late afternoon, and as good fortune would have it, our apartment had views across the Sanctuary to the sea.

When we looked out of the apartment window in the morning, I felt as if I was back in my childhood home in Africa.

The grasses, the colours, the still water…. I almost expected to see a hippo coming up out of the water!

Barely ten kilometres from the heart of Melbourne, two coastal havens, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, and Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, provide a peaceful stretch of nature reserves, in what was an industrial area (and in some parts still is..).

Years ago this particular area was a rifle range, (once famous for target practice leading up to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.)The range only closed in 1990 as surrounding housing was developing.

This reserve land, with uninterrupted views of the sea could easily have been swallowed up by developers, however, finally, it was decided that the reserve should be set aside for conservation.

Fortunately the local community formed what is now known as The Friends of Williamstown Wetlands. This wonderful community group have worked tirelessly ever since to ensure the reserve continues to be well protected.

Salt water plants such as Samphire and Glasswort grow and can change colours with the seasons, and at the end of autumn there is a wonderful mix of colour to see.

The mangrove amongst the basalt rocks, along with saltmarsh mudflats and seagrass beds, provide an important habitat for many species of seabirds and shorebirds.

On our first morning walk we could see the long landscape of land and sea, and the big skies…

This photo was taken on my iPhone, and somehow seems to make the sky endless!

In the distance the tankers and ocean liners are sailing by…

The houses built along the edges of the reserve all have enormous wide windows, and ever -changing views of the weather on the reserve and out into the sea.

Bird watching is very popular in this area, and more than 160 bird species have previously been recorded at the Reserve. Migratory seabirds and shorebirds can be seen among the mangroves, mudflats and saltmarshes.

This was just one of the colourful signs showing some of the birds sighted in this area. The Royal Spoonbill looked quite regal I thought.

Our grandchildren enjoyed seeing a Purple Swamp Hen (with unbelievable claws) and her chick coming very close to the window of our apartment every morning. Our granddaughter’s favourite was the black swan and her signet.

This peaceful sanctuary protects 30 hectares of coastal waters and fishing, netting, spearing or taking marine life is prohibited.

The Reserves are now well known, and enjoyed by all for diving, snorkelling, walking, jogging, bird watching, photography….and I was very pleased to read the Sanctuary is also well know for sunset watching… here are two of the sunsets we saw….

The water near us turned golden one evening as the birds settle down for the night.

A lovely memory on our last evening at Jawbone sanctuary.

Many thanks to the The Friends of Williamstown Wetlands and, indeed, to volunteers and community groups all over the world who give up so much of their own time to maintain public places for us all to enjoy.

Just a week later and here we are back home, looking out over the almost constant rain, wind and freezing cold weather……..winter has arrived with a vengeance.

Paul and our daughter’s dog Charlie are bravely walking around our garden in this wet windy weather…Paul is checking on our veggie crop and Charlie thinks he can smell possums (and he is right!)

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog today, and may the sun shine even in winter!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved