A dawn walk at the National Arboretum and a stirring to my heart..

We have had some hot humid days in late January and February….and some nights are warm and uncomfortable.

The best part of the day is early morning…and here we are, off to the National Arboretum to watch the sun rise.  I took a photo of the view as we left home, the cloud was just rising across the Brindabella Mountains..

The Arboretum is beautiful in the early morning and the light was shining right across the trees and rolling hills.

As we walked down the path from Dairy Farm Hill we could see the dome of the Village Centre.

The sun came out as we walked slowly down the mountain.

Along the wider paths below there were a few groups of cheerful early morning cyclists, unfortunately they had disappeared, before I had a chance to take a photo..

The photo below was taken at another day and time, but shows Lake Burley Griffin and parts of the city..

As we walked towards the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion (where our daughter recently got married) we came across three magpies, singing to their heart’s delight. Magpies have a lovely melodious song, and even more so when there are three of them in tune.

Two of them became a bit bashful, and left it to the youngest one to continue the song by herself…..very brave for such a young one! She did a good job too.

My father, who is Scottish, always said that listening to the Welsh or Scottish rugby teams singing the anthem before a game , “brought a stirring to his heart

Well, I feel that about Magpies, singing away in the early morning….. it brings a stirring to my heart.

Once the Magpie had finished we walked along the pretty Crepe Myrtle pathway, back to the carpark….

A happy start to the day, and it turned into a sunny but mild day… my favourite! 

Best wishes to everyone, thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.

Another favourite of mine is the Desiderata poem:

“With all its sham and drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Canberra: A spring morning walk after a wedding…

September has been a very busy month, as we had a wedding in the family!

Our daughter Jess and her lovely husband Mike got married in the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion, a beautiful venue built up high on the hills around the National Arboretum.

Margaret Whitlam Pavilion

My apologies for using the above photo in my last post, however, it shows the height of the building and the views. This photo was taken a while ago and the trees around it have grown.

September is the beginning of our spring, and a festive time in Canberra. The biggest event is Floriade, a month long event in the Commonwealth Park, with huge garden beds exploding with colourful spring flowers. (the planning and planting for this festival goes on all year.) Tulip Tops is a smaller, but equally pretty display for spring, and the photo below shows some tulips called The American Dream.

Canberra is well known for its very cold winters (by Australian standards) and so we tend to celebrate spring as if we were in the Northern Hemisphere! We all long for warmth and sunshine by September, and even more so with a wedding coming up. Fortunately the stars were aligned and delivered a warm day with continual sunshine. The winds were blowing, but that was better than rain!

It was a lovely happy wedding with everyone in a festive mood. The gods were smiling on us. I hope to have some photos soon.

All good things must come to an end, and we enjoyed our time with family and friends. Our older daughter Rebecca lives in Melbourne and she and her family came to stay for a few extra days, which was an added bonus.

Needless to say, when everyone left, we missed the patter of little feet, and the early morning chatter of our grandchildren….not to mention our children and close relatives!

The Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House) looks down on the The Australian War Memorial and Anzac Parade

However, the weather was still warm and sunny and we decided to take a walk around Lake Burley Griffin. As Floriade was in full in swing we had to park near “Old Parliament House”.

Once we parked the car, we went to the gardens of Old Parliament House to see the lovely wisteria decorating some of the elegant buildings outside Old Parliament House (now known as the Museum of Australian Democracy.)

We were too late to see the white wisteria on the right hand side, and now looks as if it needs a trim.

Beyond the bench is a Bowling Green and an accompanying cottage.

Paul worked in Old Parliament House for a while and enjoyed the quiet elegance of the building and the gardens.

Beyond the gardens we found new statues of two important women in our history, both looking very elegant wearing their hats and holding their handbags. There was a plaque for both which told how much they had achieved…

Dame Dorothy Tangney and Dame Enid Lyons

Dame Dorothy Tangney (1907 – 1985) was elected to the Senate and was the first female member of the Labor Party to be elected to the Federal Parliament.

Dame Enid Lyons (1897-1981) was the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and the first female member to be appointed to Federal Cabinet. She married Joseph Lyons who became Prime Minister. She supported him greatly, and they had eleven children and the 12th child died in infancy. What tough lives they had!

We walked down to the lake, but unfortunately we had missed the white blossoms of the Manchurian Pear trees. Fortunately I had a photo from 2019 which showed the lovely blossoms and life before Covid!

We walked along the pathway and all the trees were looking very green and fresh. On the right there are Manchurian Pear trees and on the left there are Claret Ashes. Needless to say this avenue of trees looks glorious in the autumn.

Many thanks for spending some time to read my blog post, and may your gardens be flourishing regardless of the weather!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Happy Wattle Day, National Arboretum Canberra, and a wedding

Wattle day is the beginning of spring in Australia, and Canberra is just exploding with lovely soft yellow wattle flowers and colourful birds

This was one of the first photos I took when I began my blog in 2014, and I chose the National Arboretum in Canberra at dawn.

The proposal for the site was to have 100 Forests 100 gardens…and this began to be implemented in 2005.

The building in the distance is the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion and when I took this photo, I never dreamt that one day the younger of our two daughters would be getting married in this Pavilion, and in this beautiful setting.

The wedding is planned for spring time, and we are hoping for a sunny day, but we will enjoy the day regardless of weather.

The grassy rolling hills next to the Pavilion always seem to be a big attraction for children.

There will be children at the wedding and I’m sure they will enjoy a run and play after the wedding.

The Village Centre is not far from the Pavilion, and has an Information Centre, a café, a restaurant and a gift shop.

The photos in this post were taken between 2014 to 2020, and since that time we have had some good years of rain, and the trees are flourishing. The National Arboretum has become a wonderful place of recreation for Canberrans and visitors alike.

Needless to say, for our family, this will be an extra special place in our hearts.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope your gardens are flourishing regardless of rain, hail or snow!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Kangaroos, Koalas and the Brushed Tailed Rock Wallaby Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Yesterday Paul and I intended going out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, until the weather took a turn for the worse, cold and windy and miserable. So, it was definitely a ”stay at home” kind of day.

However I had many photos from previous visits, quite often through winter, so I’ve used these photos and regular readers (over years) will recognise a few.

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a much loved place, very close to Canberra, with walks and views of animals, all living in their natural habitat. The Reserve also has much needed threatened species breeding programs, and conservation of flora and fauna.

More than anything it gives us all the ability to connect in with nature and conservation.

Considering these photos were taken in winter the kangaroos and koalas are looking very healthy. The joey seems to be quite relaxed in his pouch.

The mother of this joey, instinctively protecting her joey before she continues to graze.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby amongst the burnt trees

In 2003 we had terrible fires in this region, and also in Canberra. The photo above was taken well after the fires, but still the remnants of the fire remain.

This photo was seen in many parts of the world at that time. Humans and animals desperately trying to survive during this exhausting and fearful time.

Lucky was the only koala to survive the 2003 fires in this region. Unfortunately the only photo of Lucky I could find was one taken just after he was rescued from the fire…all too dreadful to see, but he did survive and thrive until July 2008, and he died of old age.

For five years there were no koalas at Tidbinbilla. In 2013, some koalas were relocated from New South Wales to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. These koalas have been part of special breeding program and have thrived since this time.

Koalas eat a range of Eucalyptus leaves. .

The Rangers at Tidbinbilla created a special free-range enclosure which enabled adults and children to see the koalas eating, sleeping, and climbing branches without disturbing them.

This adult koala is tolerantly taking this almost fully grown youngster for a ride.

Brushed-tailed Rock Wallaby.

The brushed-tailed rock wallaby is another animal that survives well in Tidbinbilla. In the mid 1990s there were fewer than 40 southern brush-tailed rock wallabies in the wild and in this area.

In days well past, they were hunted for many years, then lost habitat to feral foxes and feral goats. Tidbinbilla joined the fight to save the brush-tailed wallaby. These days Tidbinbilla has about 70 per cent of the southern Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby’s captive breeding population in Australia.

In the words of Brett McNamara, the Regional Manager ACT Parks and Conservation Service.(2019)

Next time you visit Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, keep an eye out for the elusive shadow as it takes a giant leap forward, back from the edge of extinction.

Congratulation to all the Rangers and volunteers who work at Tidbinbilla, their dedication over the years has made Tidbinbilla a wonderful place to visit.

Best wishes to all readers and may your days be sunny and mild..

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved .

Canberra’s winter: birds, kangaroos and walking tracks..

Canberrans often complain about our winters, which are generally colder than coastal areas nearby. However, when I looked through my photos of winter in Canberra I decided to look on the bright side.

canoeing on Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra in late autumn, early winter can be beautiful, and for many people it is a time for rowing, cycling, running and walking and taking photos.

One of my favourite occupations is looking out the window into our back garden and taking photos of the birds we often see in winter.

Here are a family of King Parrots who fly in to drink melted water from the gutter of our cabin in the garden. I love watching these beautiful birds because they are very cautious and shy and we hardly ever see them during other seasons.

The male Australian King Parrot has a completely red head, and the females are similar to the males except that they have a completely green head and breast…easier to distinguish in the photo below.

In winter we often go to the Australian Botanic Gardens, there are always a few colourful native plants and an abundance of birds ….especially early in the morning.

Canberra is a planned city with many parks and bushland. We often go for winter walks along Coolaman Ridge Nature Track, which has a winding track around a mountain ridge. Quite often in winter the kangaroos are slow to start the day and you can see a little Joey still half asleep enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on the rocks.

The photo below shows the kangaroos in languish mode, along a track near Mount Taylor, near where we live. This photo was taken a while ago (in winter) and since then this area has become very popular as a walking track, and a place to take dogs for a walk. Fortunately there is a fence between the walking track and the kangaroos, who spend time on the other side of the mountain.

We saw these kangaroos at Weston park, and although they are watchful, they are used to people strolling by and taking photos occasionally.

As the winter sun sets, the view from our street is of the Brindabella Mountains…the colours change from hour to hour. The currawongs call is a familar sound in the evening, time to close the curtains, turn the heater up, and be very, very thankful we live in a peaceful part of the world.

Best wishes to everyone, and I hope you are enjoying your patch of sunshine where ever it may be…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra in autumn, down memory lane ..

Canberra is the capital of Australia, a planned city, with many parks, bush trails, green spaces and lakes. However as with many capital cities, Canberra is often seen as short hand for federal government rather than a landscape where people live. One quote I’ve read is “”Canberra has too many politicians, too many roundabouts and too much cold weather!”

When I retired from teaching in 2013, I decided to write a blog about Canberra, the beauty of the mountains and the lakes, and also the every day life of people living in Canberra.

Paul and I took a cruise along the lake, stopping at the Governor General’s House and beautiful garden.

Many of the photos of Canberra in this post were taken between 2014 and 2017, when I began blogging, and regular readers may recognise some of the photos…

The Governor General’s House

Canberra in autumn is usually sunny, warm and pleasant, the best season of the year for planning gardens, going for walks, runs and rides, and taking photos!

Lake Burley Griffin in autumn, gorgeous Manchurian Pears and Black Mountain Tower in the distance.
National Library of Australia, a Tourist boat and the Manchurian Pears in full bloom.

Spring in Canberra can be windy and chilly, but the beautiful Manchurian Pears are out in bloom, which lifts the spirits. The National Library of Australia is one of my favourite buildings, often seen in my blog, I know! The small rather quaint tourist boat has, for many years, taken tourists who prefer a gentle slow tour of the lake.

In our early days of retirement, I was so keen to take photos that I dragged Paul out before dawn to walk around Lake Burley Griffin…. always worth it.

Canberra is full of early morning rowers, riders and walkers.

We often walk around the Parliamentary Triangle, and I love this Federal Government building…amongst others.

The Cockatoos under the Oak trees.

All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.

The Cockatoos tend to eat with their left claw, uninterrupted by pesty photographers.
Galahs often feed close to Cockatoos, but today this Galah is with two small Red Rumped Parrots
Australian King Parrots deep in leaves!
A young cockatoo attacking the last of the tomatoes.

During summer and autumn we eat breakfast on our deck, overlooking our garden.

At the risk of getting indigestion we often have an interrupted breakfast to chase big and little birds out of the veggie patch..

Thank you for taking the time to read my post today, and may your autumn or spring gardens be full of colour and joy.

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

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.

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

Anzac Day, the 7th Light Horse Harden Brigade, and Anzac biscuits in Jugiong

Australia and New Zealand have a national day of remembrance for the first landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli and it is also a day to remember all those who served and died in all wars.

Traditionally Anzac Day begins with a dawn service and then a commemorative march through cities, country towns and villages, in both Australia and New Zealand.

In Canberra people gather for the dawn service along Anzac Parade, looking up towards the War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial looks across Anzac Parade to Parliament House

This year, there were record numbers of crowds at the dawn services and marches all over the country, perhaps as there have been no services in the last two years as a result of Covid.

However, more likely, the graphic and desperate war inflicted on the Ukraine has been a salutary reminder of the horrors of war, the effect on ordinary people, and the fragility of democracy.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canberra

Paul and I often walk past the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and see the many tributes and flowers offered to the Ukraine people. Some of the posters and art work from the local schools are extremely moving.

For many people Anzac Day is a once in year event when they can enjoy time with colleagues, friends and families. Not far from Canberra in the country town called Harden, the first Light Horse Brigade was formed over a century ago. (This Brigade was one of the founding units which made up the Australian Light Horse when all mounted troops were amalgamated in 1903 as a result of Federation)

The 7th Light Horse Harden Brigade Photo: Aussie Towns.

Although we have not yet seen the Harden-Murrumburah march, Paul and I know this area well because we often travel along the Hume highway on our way to Melbourne to visit our daughter and family.

The village of Jugiong is nestled in amongst the Poplar trees. Photo: Aussie Towns.

We always break our journey at one of the nearby villages called Jugiong. This is farming area, with plenty of history, a stopping place for farmers, and families who are camping along the Murrumbidgee River.

cattle being herded through Jugiong Photo: visit nsw.com

We have never seen cattle being herded through the town, but you never know what you are going to find in a country town..

However, we stop off in Jugiong, like many others, to visit the unassuming looking Long Track Pantry.

Long Track Pantry in Jugiong Photo: visitnsw.com

Juliet and Huw Robb, owners of Long Track Pantry combine their interest and knowledge of food, recipes, and cooking with local produce to make delicious light meals, homemade cakes, biscuits and scones, lovely frozen meals…the list goes on.

Juliet Robbs, owner of Long Track Pantry

They also have Jules Leneham, a Cordon Bleu trained private caterer who runs cooking classes every Tuesday. Needless to say, we always organise our travelling to avoid Tuesday as the café is closed for the classes.

However, we always choose some of their lovely frozen meals to take with us to Melbourne (and on the return trip home…their soups are delicious in winter after a long drive) Occasionally we have their well known, simple, but tasty Anzac biscuits, with our coffee. This year I noticed they are doing a very special recipe, and calling it, Golden Syrup Anzac Cheesecake….it looks good!

Autumn is upon us here in Canberra, and we are having some lovely mild sunny days, almost time to visit Long Track Pantry again!

Best wishes, enjoy your spring or autumn plans, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved