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.
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…
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!
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.
All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.
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.
Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.
Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.
However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.
So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.
Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….
“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…“
Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.
The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.
The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.
Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.
This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!
I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..
I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.
When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.
One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.
This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.
In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.
During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.
I could believe it!
Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.
The very pleasant part of living in Canberra is that the city is designed within a landscape, and even the heart of the city is surrounded by space and bush land.
Today we are off to the National Library of Australia, my favourite building in Canberra, surrounded by trees, greenery and the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin.
Developers are eyeing off other parts of the lake for a hotel and blocks of apartments, so what better time to appreciate what we do have and can never be changed.
To add to the mix, we are taking our old car for a drive into the city. It has been neglected lately and we know our 25 year old car needs regular drives to keep it going…(it has been largely replaced by our newer car…but not a word to Bessie).
So here goes, may this be the first of weekly drives, in our dear old Magna, and perhaps inspiration for a few blog posts as well.
In 1927 the National Library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.
Canberra, as a new, planned city, was not entirely welcomed by the bigger established cities in Australia, until Robert Menzies became Prime Minister in 1939. He gave Canberra his complete support, and also took a great interest in the building of the National Library of Australia.
Planning for the building of the library began in 1961, and there were many differences of opinion: position, finances, compromises…
Harold White, the first National Librarian threatened to ‘‘throw in the towel” if a purpose built National Library was not built.
Finally, an Act of Parliament in 1960 formally separated the National Library from the Parliamentary Library and a new building for the National Library’s growing collections and services was opened on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in 1968.
An emotional Harold White said at the opening of the National Library ‘‘after 40 years in thewilderness, the Library had finally reached ”The Promised Land”
Oh such passion for a building!
Would we have this today?
The National Library of Australia was designed by the architecture firm, Bunning and Madden, with associate Tom O’Mahony. Noel Potter was appointed as the Library architect by Robert Menzies.
The principal architect Walter Bunning considered the library to be his most important project (his ashes would be scattered in the sight of the Library in Lake Burley Griffin following his death in 1977.)
He described the building as being ”a contemporary building in the spirit of classical design.”
There is something very calm and welcoming about the Library, perhaps it is the cool marble floors in the foyer, the space, the quiet environment.
In a previous blog post I have used a quote by Minnie Aumonier about a garden, but perhaps if I could change garden to the National Library
”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the National Library.”
The foyer has a lovely bookshop on the left, and a cosy popular cafe called Bookplate on the right. Each of these has the stunning multicoloured stained glass Leonard French windows.
Although we arrived early, it is late summer, and the sun is streaming through the building and across the stained glass windows. Lovely to look at, but hard to photograph..
Our family, over many years, have enjoyed the National Library’s many tours, exhibitions, book launches, discussions. My daughter reminded me that she and friends studied here while at University. Paul is a regular visitor here while doing his PhD, and we often meet friends and family there for coffee/lunch and walks.
No wonder the writer Marian Halligan said she could never leave Canberra because she could never leave the National Library!
Not far from the National Library along the water’s edge, is a long row of mature Manchurian Pears, a master stroke of landscape planning. They provide shade in summer, colour in autumn and spring, and beauty all year round.
For many Canberrans these trees mark the changing of seasons every year..
In his speech at the opening of the National Library, PM Robert Menzies said
“despite the beauty of the building, the grandeur and classical dimensions, the true quality and international stature (of this building) lies in the collections contained within the building. These are the ‘‘great interpreters of the past to the present, the present to the present, and the present to the future”
Many thanks to the former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, to the architects, and to Harold White, and most of all to Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion, without whom Canberra would not be the garden city we have today.
Hope springs eternal that communal land will remain for everyone.
Thanks for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces, and we hope to have many more (slow) drives around Canberra this year.
Canberra has a crisp blue-sky beauty in winter…..and for those of us who live in leafy suburbs, it is all about the birds that visit our gardens, and brighten a cold day.
Winter is the time for King Parrots in our garden…. and this year they are searching, in particular, for fresh water. Almost every morning they check the gutters of our cabin for frosty water pools warmed by the morning sun.
Although King Parrots are relatively large, they are sweet, shy birds, always in pairs, and easily frightened away..
Once they have had a drink, they often fly to the Japanese Maple, right near the sunroom window…
Look at the beautiful red and dark green markings on the tail and underbelly of this bird, as David Attenborough says, the natural world is so full of beauty…
Our regular Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are also looking for water..
…and, rather like school inspectors, they investigate the garden thoroughly
and we are found wanting …….
Where are the bird baths?
What happened to all the almonds?
I have the feeling we are getting zero out of tenfor this old bird bath..
Hardly any water, shabby looking, almost toppling over..
The only reason we are here is because your neighbours are neglecting theirs…
The birds are great fun to watch while I am resting and waiting for my wrist to mend. Many thanks for all the well wishes, my wrist is now almost back to normal, and all is well.
Apart from watching birds from the sunroom window, I have been catching up on some reading,
This book, called ”The Good, the Bad, and the Unlikely” is a very short history of Australian Prime Ministers.
It is written by the irreverent and humorous journalist Mungo Maccallum.
Inspired by my reading, I wanted to take a photo of the statue of Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia. His statue is appropriately in the suburb of Barton, and we decided to incorporate a walk around Commonwealth Park, near the centre of the city, before taking the photo.
Despite being a clear winter’s day, there was a biting cold wind, and all walkers and cyclists have long abandoned the Lake and are warming up in coffee shops all over Canberra.
The Captain James Cook Memorial is combination of the water jet, and a terrestrial globe, and commemorates the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The three routes of Cook’s voyages, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.
The stunning jet of water always attracts the eyes of tourists, especially children. Many years ago, as a young teacher in Canberra, I met up with friends and we hired a little boat, and rowed around the fountain.
We were thrilled to get thoroughly wet by the jet spray……they seem such innocent times now!
The above photo was taken in winter a few years ago…the photo below was July 2018, absolutely freezing…..even the resident pelican looked downcast.
However, a pair of Crimson Rosellas were steadily eating their way through some scattered seeds from overhanging trees.
Across the lake from Commonwealth Park there is a view of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Democracy) and behind it, Parliament House today (under repair as the roof has been leaking).
Here is another, much closer, photo of Parliament House. Much clearer without the repair work tent over the roof!
And here is the handsome statue of Edmund Barton….
According to Mungo Maccallum, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had one unique quality…he managed to unite a fractious group of politicians and colonies into creating a federation… in Mungo’s words..
Like most of their descendants, this motley bunch (the politicians at the time) were driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, and getting them to agree on anything substantial was like herding a football team into a temperance meeting room.
Politicians all over Australia, agreed to become… as Barton says,
”a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation
What a talent! I wonder how successful he would be if he tried that today!
Here is another sculpture of Edmund Barton, which is in The Prime Ministers’ Avenue, set in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens in Ballarat. Well worth a visit, in every season.
I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live in the world….each season has a beauty of its own.
This is Tom Maloney, and his faithful horse Dobbin, whose job it was to collect leaves around the streets of Canberra. He and another man called ”Old Sox” worked for the Department of Interior on parks and gardens, also using a horse and dray. Maloney did this job until the early 1970s!
Younger members of the family remember that Tom even made time after work to take the local kids at Marymead School in O’Connor for a ride on the horse and cart.
How slow and innocent the times were…
…can’t you just imagine old Tom and Dobbin clip clopping up this street? It must have taken a long time to clear the leaves in one street.
When Old Parliament House was built, it was surrounded by dusty paddocks, used for grazing sheep…
Politicians of the day, were not happy about moving from the developed city of Melbourne to the windy plains of Canberra. However, in time, trees and shrubs were planted to build gardens around Old Parliament House and surrounding buildings.
Canberra now has a mixture of mature native and deciduous trees, and it gives the city a real sense of space and parkland.
On this lovely autumn Sunday we are taking a walk from Old Parliament House to the lake, to look at the autumn colour before it disappears.
Old Tom Maloney would have needed more than one horse and cart to gather leaves these days…
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos love the oak trees, and spend the autumn days dedicated to eating….
…a very sensible idea with the coming cold Canberra winter..
The male and female Red-rumped parrots are blending into the grass and leaves, while a Galah is feeding around them. Galahs are one of Canberra’s most familiar cockatoos.
These young Australian King Parrots are well camouflaged in the grass, but once they reach adulthood they will be bright orange and green.
Down at the lake’s edge, autumn is the perfect time for a fishing competition….on this slow warm Sunday.
We finish our walk with a cup of coffee looking out on these beautiful Manchurian Pear trees along the edge of the lake…..I think they are my favourites…for today anyway.
Do you have a favourite tree in your garden, town or city?
Does your heart sink when you see those autumn leaves falling…do you need a leaf blower, or even Old Tom and a horse called Dobbin?
Season’s greeting from the bush capital of Australia.
I began blogging about 18 months ago, to write a low key kind of diary about our garden.
Before long I realised that the blog was really about my place in the world: Canberra, the bush capital of Australia.
The word Canberrais often used to explain the workings of government….”Canberra raisedtaxes this year…”
But of course, behind the workings of Parliament there is a city of people who call Canberra home.
Since I began blogging about green spaces in Canberra, I have met many gardeners, volunteers and ordinary Canberrans who are very knowledgeable and proud of their place in the world.
The gods were smiling on this lovely part of the world when Chicagoan Walter Burley Griffin won the competition to design Canberra, and his wife Marion Mahony created the beautiful drawings of his design.
He dreamed of a city in green spaces, and that is what we have today… a city in a big bush garden.
The land around the lake is reserved for all people to enjoy..
This kangaroo was photographed five minutes away from our house, on the edge of Mt Taylor. Not long after we moved to Canberra, 30 years ago, a kangaroo from Mt Taylor hopped down our suburban road. A great introduction to life in Canberra for our family!
I’ve shared the blog with some big personalities
and some colourful ones ….
and some that are just plain cute.
I’ve had the pleasure of following many blogs, in UK, US, Canada, Italy, France and of course, Australia and New Zealand. The Northern Hemisphere seasons, especially the autumn and spring are a delight to see. As an armchair traveller, I also enjoy the breath-taking snowy winter photos….happy in the knowledge that I won’t have to go and shovel snow at any time!
Thank you very much to the all the people who have visited and followed Canberra’s Green Spaces, over the past 18 months, I appreciate every visit, and every comment.
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.
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.
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.
This is a common sight on the lawns around the Parliamentary buildings
This monument celebrates the important role of the 13th Century English Magna Carta.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Further down the path towards Lake Burley Griffin are the beautiful Claret Ash trees….and Black Mountain Tower in the distance.
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…)
The Manchurian Pear trees along the edge of Lake Burley Griffin are a much loved sight in autumn.
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..
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…
I wonder if he is searching for something to eat, or, merely breaking off a few branches… just for fun….?
Canberra is 103 years old in March 2016 ….a young city just finding its place in the world.
There are many birthday celebrations through the month of March, and one of the biggest events is ”Balloons Afloat”
Here we are at dawn waiting for the giant balloons to fill with air and be fired up into the sky..
Some balloons are taking off without any trouble, but there is not much wind this morning…
….and some of the cuter ones are having trouble floating off.
and some stayed up just long enough to give the kids a thrill…
Looking at all the families around enjoying this early morning start to Canberra day I can’t help thinking of all the turmoil in the world at the moment, and yet, how much ordinary people all over the world really just want to be able to live peacefully with their families and communities.
The dawn on the lake is very gentle this morning, as the poet Mary Oliver says ” softest of mornings, hello.”
We are off to our favourite little café in the city for breakfast. This café has a healthy herb garden and even a pumpkin vine heading out and over to the road. You can’t trust a pumpkin to behave well in a garden bed, never mind a city bed!
I think the Chicago planners, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony would have been happy to see a garden in the city, that was part of their dream.
What great good fortune to live in a peaceful city.
Recently the National Arboretum of Canberra opened new walking tracks and these have already become very popular with walkers in Canberra.
The Arboretum has more than 48 000 trees in 100 forests, and has been under development since 2003.
We started at a midpoint along the track…..at the top of Dairy Farmer Hill….seen in the distance in this photo. The Village Centre is on the right, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre for concerts in the centre.
Standing at the top of Dairy Farmers Hill is a sculpture called Nest III, welded from discarded steel objects, mostly abandoned farm machinery found on farms around the region. The artist is Richard Moffatt.
While we were there a magpie was feeding her chick perched on the nest alongside that formidable looking eagle. Nice to see.
This is a view of three of the forests below our path, leading down to the Village Centre.
Here is the purple-leaved Smokebush. Jackie French, a well known gardener and writer in Canberra once said that the Smokebush in her garden was the most asked about plant in her extensive garden!
The Smokebush is a garden hybrid and is widely used in parks and gardens, particularly for colour contrast.
In spring, fruits begin to form, hidden amongst a network of fine fluffy stems, giving the effect of clouds of coral pink smoke, hence the name Smokebush. During November the ”smoke” will turn dark red, and the stems will loose their fluffiness as the tiny dark red fruits appear.
As we walk down the hill we come to the Saharan cypress, considered to be endangered, with only 230 naturally occurring trees known to exist. In the Sahara, nomads shelter under the trees and their herds eat fallen cones, which in turn leads to fewer cypress trees growing.
The guide with me was pleased to see cones appearing on one of the trees, a sure sign they have adapted to life in Canberra!
Just before we reach the Village Centre we come to a forest where the trees are commonly called Judas Trees, or European Red Bud. This species grows in the Middle East and southern Europe, in woodlands, on stony arid slopes, and along banks of rivers. Here they are surviving well on a sloping part of the hill.
There is a long standing belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one of these trees, thus the name, but it could also have come from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the ”tree of Judea” referring to the hilly regions of the country where it is most common.
As we arrive at of the Village Centre, I took a photo of the beautiful stone walls with Acacias and grasses growing happily in the front. Very low maintenance!
There is an lookout right next to the Village Centre and these two beautiful trees were planted nearby.
I was not surprised to see they were the oldest Japanese black pines grown in Australia from imported seeds, and styled as Niwika, similar to Bonsai.
Meanwhile, on this sunny spring day, a family is already taking advantage of the grassy amphitheatre to fly a kite.