National Parks / Reserves, Canberra

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  • Hanging Rock walk through the eucalypt forest
    Hanging Rock walk through the eucalypt...
    by wabat
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    Hanging Rock - overhang
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    Emu in the picnic area
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    Camel’s Hump Walk – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Written Oct 27, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Camel's Hump
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    The Camel’s Hump walk is the longest and overall the hardest (though the Nils Desperandum walk , for instance, has harder sections) of the marked walks within the Reserve. There are two suggested ways of getting there with one departing from the Visitors Centre (19kms return) and the other leaving from the Mountain Creek car park (11.6kms return). Both walks are classified as hard with a recommended duration of 8hrs and 6hrs respectively.

    A look at the Reserve's brochure will indicate that there are various other walking options for getting to Camel’s Hump with different tracks converging for the last 3 or more kms.

    This review is based on the walk from the Mountain Creek car-park.

    To avoid the heat, especially if you are walking in summer, set out as early as possible. Having an annual pass for the Reserve I was walking by 8am (gates open 7.30am) and was in fact back in the car park by around 12.30 somewhat earlier than expected so I managed to fit in the Cascades and Lyrebird Trails (both of which start at the Mountain Creek park also) before a hearty late lunch at the Tidbinbilla Café in the Visitors Centre.

    All of the Camel's Hump walk, apart from the final 500m is along a fire trail. Fire trails, for those who don’t know, are tracks though forest areas with the dual purpose of permitting access to fire trucks in the event of a fire and creating breaks in the forest itself in the, often vain, hope that escaped fires will stop and burn out when they hit a trail and not “jump” the trail.

    The first 1.8km of this walk are the most strenuous as you make your way up the steep fire trail to one of the highest ridges in the ACT. The trail then meanders, though also continues to rise at a more gentle pace, along the ridge/valley side to the base of Camel's Hump at Camel Back which is very clearly marked with a large sign. While there is lots of vegetation as you look back into the valley the walk still affords some fantastic views. If you have done the Gibraltar Peak walk you will very easily recognise it across the valley as you walk along the ridge.The curious Kangaroo in picture three accompanied me (staying about 50m ahead) for a good 2kms along the middle section of the walk.

    As you approach, having skirted around John’s Peak to your right, Camel’s Back, where you branch of the fire trail for the final 500m ascent to the top of Camel’s Hump the views get even better.

    The final ascent to Camel's Hump (at 1,400m altitude – with the car park being at around 900m) is unmarked though there are number of reasonably obvious paths you can take – with varying amounts of scrambling across rocks as you ascend. When you reach the top, add a rock to the cairn.

    Do stop and admire the spectacular views into the Tidbinbilla Valley, back along the Tidbinbilla Range to Johns Peak, Tidbinbilla Peak and Tidbinbilla Mountain as you slowly make your way to the summit. Be careful if it is windy, icy or wet (or all three!) Views from the summit itself are a bit obscured though you can easily spot the satellite dishes of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complexand Black Mountain Tower in Canberra. If you are not inclined to scramble right to the top then when you return to the Camel’s Back sign continue along the fire trail a few hundred metres for views towards Canberra.

    You return to the car park via the trail you came up.

    While a bit of a hike to get up here, its well worth the effort and highly recommended.

    This is walk 21 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Lyrebird Trail - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Written Oct 27, 2013

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    Lyrebird Trail
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    Spot a Lyrebird

    The Lyrebird Trail a short 2 kilometre walk from the Mountain Creek car park.

    I did this walk in late October (mid spring) and did not sight a lyrebird. They are more likely to be seen in the winder months and if you are especially fortunate you might find a male lyrebird on one of his many dancing mounds as he throws his tail over his head like a shimmering silver veil and puts on a dancing display as part of his courtship performance while all the time mimicking the sounds of numerous other birds. Lyrebirds are also known to mimic cars and chainsaws though I don’t know if these sounds often form part of the courtship repertory.

    I think I heard a lyrebird rehearsing for next winter but not being a twitcher or having a finely tuned ear I cannot be sure.

    The dancing display is not in itself intended to woo a female but rather send the message that the male is a survivor having lived long enough to learn to calls of other birds and, as such, is a worthy partner should the listening female desire a strong successful chick.

    Once mating has been complete the male moves on and takes no part in building the large stick nest or the raising of the chick (only a single fertilised egg is laid).

    The walk is graded moderate though I feel it is at the easier end of moderate. It is, lyrebirds aside, a pleasant walk though fern filled gullies and more open forest with reasonable mountain views. One of those walks you meander along chatting to a friend on -not to say that's not possible on any walk! That said I thoroughly recommend you combine this walk with the adjacent Cascades Trail making a combined walk of just over three kilometres. Then a pleasant stroll becomes a much more interesting and in fact great walk. If doing both walks, start with the Cascades Trail and then merge into the Lyrebird Trail. See my separate review of the Cascades Trail

    This is walk 14 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

    Picture 5 depicts a Superb Lyrebird dancing on courtship mound. Dandenong Ranges National Park - Photo from Wikipedia with attribution to Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

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    Cascades Trail – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 27, 2013

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    Cascades Trail - Cascades
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    This is an absolute gem of a walk and quite a contract to other walks in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

    It starts from the Mountain Creek car-park (as do the Camel’s Hump and Lyrebird walks) and very quickly you are under a cool canopy of trees and bush as you make you way upwards along a bubbling stream towards the cascades though you don’t get to see much of the stream on the way up.

    Based on the path and the stone steps of a type not seen elsewhere in the Reserve this must be one of the older walks in the Reserve. I wouldn’t surprise me (and I might be entirely wrong) if the walk was laid down in the late 1800s and was a popular escape and Sunday promenade for the ladies (and indeed gentlemen) who resided in the Tidbinbilla Valley at the time. The drop in temperature along this walk would have been a very welcome relief from the searing summer temperatures in days when people didn’t have air conditioning. Today it provides the same relief but for visitors who might just have completed other walks or indeed the rather more arduous Camel’s Hump walk.

    It’s a short walk of only 1.8kms, though unless you are pressed for time, I cannot see why you wouldn’t combine it with the Lyrebird walk making the total walk just over 3kms.

    The Cascades Trail while classified a moderate walk, is not difficult though the path does have steps and you need to mind your step as I does get wet and slippery.

    About 300-400 metres in from the car-park will come across an intersection. If you are doing this and the Lyrebird walk proceed to the Cascade Trail first otherwise you loose all economies of the combination.

    Having selected the Cascades branch you will quickly move into a cool, moist rainforest type environment which continues to the end of the walk (about 1.5kms).

    The cascades themselves are small - maybe 4-5 metres, don’t be expecting Iguaçu Falls, and indeed unless you venture out slightly onto a rock away from the edge of the stream you won’t see them at all. Small they may be but beautiful they are set in lush rainforest filled with wonderful ferns and moss covered rocks. As you make your down from the cascade along the stream you will see lots of giant ferns which, themselves, create a canopy for the mountain stream.

    This is a beautiful walk in perfect tranquility where all you will hear is the sound of gurgling water and the birds. It is almost as if this little oasis in the Reserve were man made given how it contrasts with the remainder of the Reserve.

    Once you leave the stream behind you will come across an intersection – one way takes you back to the car-park the other takes you along the Lyrebird Trail.

    This is walk 13 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 15, 2013

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    Entrance
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    Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve was established in 1971 and affords Canberra residents and tourists alike a fantastic opportunity to explore and enjoy the native flora and fauna of this beautiful natural valley framed by granite topped hills just a short drive from Canberra.

    The name Tidbinbilla is derived from the aboriginal Ngunnawal word 'Jedbinbilla' - a place where boys were made men. There is evidence that Aboriginal people have lived in the Canberra region for at least 21,000 years. Their descendants still live in the region today and Aboriginal Ranger guided walks in the Reserve are available – check at the visitors centre.

    Europeans settled in the area in the 1800s. For over a hundred years farms, bougainvillea plantations and eucalyptus oil distilleries operated in the ranges. There remain a few rammed earth cottages dating back over 100 years in the Reserve including one at Nil Desperadum which can be rented (A$130 per night – sleeps 6).

    In addition to the natural beauty of the area, part of the Australian Alps encompassing wetlands, grasslands, wet and dry forests and woodlands the Reserve is home to kangaroos (thousands), emus, lyrebirds, platypus’, wombats, koalas and other native animals. The Reserve also hosts the endangered species breeding program for the rare Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby and Northern Corroboree Frog.

    To get the most from your visit to the Reserve I recommend that get out and enjoy one or preferably a lot more of the 20 or so well marked walks. The walks range from short wheelchair accessible ones to an 8 hours slog with everything in between. A list of current walks can be viewed at
    http://www.tidbinbilla.com.au/experience/wildlife/walkingtrails/. I have prepared separate tips on some of the walks (more to be added over time). Follow the links here noting that numbers refer to walk numbers on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve:

    2 Birrigai Time Trail
    6 Church Rock Heritage Loop
    9 The Sanctuary Loop Walk
    10 Hanging Rock Walk
    11 & 12 Koala Path and Peppermint Trail
    18 Gibraltar Peak Walk
    19 Nil Desperandum

    Also in the Reserve you will find two former European homesteads constructed in the 1890s:

    Nil Desperandum Homestead
    5 Rock Valley Homestead

    For those with kids or just wishing to relax, do a short walk, enjoy a picnic and visit the fully equipped kids playground area. In fact lots of families come just for the slides and climbing frames in the playground area and a picnic. The visitors centre at the park entrance is also well worth a stop for good local advice, your free reserve map and a small gift shop. It also hosts a small café - Cafe Tidbinbilla - of reasonable credentials if you don’t take a picnic.

    Tidbinbilla is located to the south of Canberra. While it is only a 40 minute drive from the city centre please be careful as it is along a very winding road which is very popular with cyclists.

    Location:
    Paddy's River Road, via Cotter Road (Weston Creek) – On Tourist Route 5.

    Opening hours:

    Visitor Centre (where you acquire entrance ticket unless you have an annual pass)
    Winter: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
    Summer: Weekdays - 9:00 am to 5.30pm
    Summer: Weekends, public holidays and school holidays - 9:00 am to 5.30pm

    Reserve Gates:
    Open 7.30 am to 8:00 pm in summer and 6:00 pm in winter. Tidbinbilla is closed on Christmas Day, and may also be closed on days of total fire ban, high winds or for management requirements.

    Cafe Tidbinbilla
    Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 3pm during winter and 10am to 4pm during summer.

    Entrance Fee:

    Annual Pass private vehicle (up to 8 seats) - $30.00
    Day Pass private vehicle (up to 8 seats) - $10.00
    (various concessions and other options available –see website)

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    Nil Desperandum Walk - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 15, 2013

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    Nil Desperandum - Homestead
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    Nil Desperandum or in its longer form, Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo roughly means “Don't Despair, Trust in God”. Please remember this motto as you tackle the gravel path up to the ridge at about the half way mark heading in towards what is in fact an 1890s homestead call Nil Desperandum.

    This walk is an 8-9 kms walk depending on where you start from. It is classified hard with an estimated completion time of 4 hours. I completed the walk in around 3 hours which included total breaks of around 30 minutes.

    Yes, there are a couple of hard sections on the walk – about 500m metres or a little more on the way in and around half that amount on the way out – but the remainder of the walk is not that bad though it is 8-9 kms long. Allow yourself sufficient time and take care not to slip on the loose gravel.

    You can start the walk from the visitors centre (9 kms from here) or drive into the Reserve to Webbs car-park (turning off the main road at the sign for the picnic/bbq /play area. As far as I could see, Webbs is not marked on the main road).

    I suggest you start from Webbs as the first part of the walk from the visitors centre is over terrain similar to that found elsewhere on this walk and on other walks. That said, finding the starting point for the walk at Webbs is a little tricky. It’s is just a small metal marker pole (as used along most of the walks in the park) with a very small walks listing and arrows – look down towards the river and toward the toilet block at the adjacent Greens car park. You start out heading left along the river looking down from the car-park.

    Having got yourself onto the walking track you have used all the orienteering skills you’ll need as the track is well marked for its duration. The first km of the walk is a loop along and across the gurgling Tidbinbilla River through lush (for Australia at any rate) eucalyptus forest and other native vegetation (picture 2). The next section of the walk very slowly climbs though an open grassland area – lots of kangaroos and a few wallabies from here on. Once you hit the reserve boundary fence you make a sharp left hand turn and proceed up a mostly gravel fire trail. At this point you should recall the name of the walk and soldier on!

    Were it not for the fact that, if of similar fitness to me, you will stop numerous times before getting to the top of the ridge I would advise you to do so anyway. Turn around and look back – the views into the valley, out towards Canberra and across to Gibraltar Peak (picture 3) are breathtaking. Don’t despair as you walk slowly up to the ridge top – alas, given the lay of the land you will think you are almost there a number of times before you hit a large green area signifying that you are in fact at the top of the ridge. It’s about a good hours walk from Webbs to this point which is actually a pleasant, sheltered spot for morning tea. As I started out at 8am on this walk I did stop here for morning tea but on my way back out. I strongly recommend you make an early start on this walk and avoid the heat of the day given that most of the trail is very exposed.

    Back to the walk. I must admit when I got this far I assumed that the remaining 30 minutes or so of the walk would be a nice stroll across the top of the ridge to the homestead. Continuing on I was rather dismayed that I appeared to be loosing altitude at a rather alarming rate. Alarming, in the sense that I knew I would have to climb back up here again! Recalling the walk’s name I carried on and realised that you only loose about half the altitude you gained on the other side. Walking along this side of the ridge again affords you fantastic views of various mountain peaks (picture 4) – including Camels Hump (picture 5), the longest of the marked walks in the Reserve. (Review coming soon – I have to do the walk first! – the things I do for VT!!). It really is a most amazing feeling to be able to walk in the hills like this on beautiful spring day.

    Depending on what stops you make, within 2 hrs of heading off from Webbs you reach the Nil Desperandum homestead (picture 1) ( see my separate tip). Having had a look around here turnaround and return via the same route you came in – unless having got back to the top of the ridge you are tempted by the sign for Camels Hump.

    While not easy, this is a great walk and well worth the effort. Take as long as you like and enjoy.

    When I'd finished this walk and another couple of short walks in the Reserve I called into the Tidbinbilla Cafe in the visitors centre for lunch. What else could I have other than the Nil Desperandum open burger and salad. It was delicious and a great way to end a long morning's walking.

    This is walk 19 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Rock Valley Homestead – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 15, 2013

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    Rock Valley Homestead
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    There are only two significant remaining examples of European tenancy of the Reserve - Nil Desperandum and Rock Valley homesteads, both pise ( rammed earth ) buildings built in the 1890s by George Green and George Hatcliff. Green and Hatcliff had learned this building technique from a couple of Chileans working in the area.

    The house was built for, and became home to, the Green family right up to 1968 when for a short time, prior to being acquired by the ACT government in 1969 is was owned by a Mrs Newsome of Norfolk Island. The property was used as park ranger accommodation in the 1970s and classified by the National Trust in 1987.

    While the house is fairly basic by today’s standards it was bordering on luxurious in earlier times and indeed by the 1950s even had its own tennis court. The outhouses included a granary constructed in 1915 and a large woolshed used by the Greens but also a place where neighbouring farmers brought their sheep for shearing. The woolshed was also used as a dance venue. I imagine this is were the all night dances referred to by Mrs Phylis Morton in my Church Rock Walk review were held.

    Like all other houses of the time this one had an extensive orchard and vegetable gardens – somewhat of a necessity given that the nearest shopping was a six hour round trip away.

    The two prominent chimneys you can see (picture 3) are part of the kitchen area of the house which was a fibro and tin extension built much later than the pise part of the building. This extension, bar the stone chimneys was completely destroyed in the 2003 bushfires. The remainder of the house was severely damaged in the same fires. All the outbuilding had been demolished by the ACT government when it took the property over in 1969.

    The house, dilapidated though it is, is a tribute to the pioneering farmers who braved harsh conditions to eke out a living in the Tidbinbilla Valley and encapsulates Canberra’s mountain heritage.

    Do take a few minutes to drop in and imagine what life was like here over 100 years ago.

    Rock Valley homestead is readily accessible by car being about 50 metres of the main road through the Reserve and is clearly marked on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    I have prepared a separate review of Nil Desperandum, also severely damaged in the 2003 bushfires but since restored to its 1895 layout. Nil Desperandum homestead can only be accessed by a “hard” four hour return walk from the Reserve’s visitor centre. I have prepared a separate review on the Nil Desperandum walk which is very much worth the effort.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Nil Desperandum homestead and the Irish connection

    by wabat Updated Oct 12, 2013

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    Nil Desperandum
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    Archeological excavations at Birrigai Rock Shelter have confirmed the existence of Aboriginal habitation in the Tidbinbilla Valley going back some 21,000 years.

    The first European to settle in the valley was George Webb who squatted here in1832, prior to obtaining formal government approval, in the 1860s. There is some debate as to when the original homestead was constructed here by English settlers George Green and George Hatcliff, who built many properties in the area. Best available evidence suggest that it was built in 1895 for Henry Ffrench Gillman, an Irish poet and grazier who christened it Nil Desperandum, the name it retains today. Regular readers will know that if there is an Irish connection with anything I visit I like to find it... I was surprised with this one!

    Nil Desperandum or in its longer form Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo roughly means “Don't Despair, Trust in God” or in the Australan vernacular – “give it a go”.

    Why Gillman christened it so not clear but by settling in the area at that time he was certainly “giving it a go” and needed all the help from above that he could muster.

    On Nil Desperandum, Gillman wrote:
    “…….
    Tho’ many cities I have seen, now I dwell neath the blue gum tree
    Nor change would I for palace walls my home in forest free.
    Nil Desperandum is its motto – always mine in days that’s past
    I’ve graved it on my homestead flag, and nailed it to the mast.”

    Post Gillman, the cottage was occupied by the Blewitt (1931-1950) and Gilmour families (1950-1994) though the Government acquired the property in 1988. Gillman returned to Ireland and died in 1835 so contrary to what you might hear or imagine he had no part in the Eucalypt Distillery which existed here in the 1940s. This particular one, and there were many in the region, was the work of three Czechoslovakians. Apparently the aroma of steaming eucalypt/peppermint could be smelt throughout the valley when distilling was underway.

    The original four room rammed clay cottage did change a bit over the years (the bathroom - now gone – was painted a deep purple in 1975!) and was ruined and indeed almost obliterated in 2003 when bushfires raged through Tidbinbilla and made it into the southern suburbs of Canberra (picture 3 -courtesy Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve literature). The cottage was reconstructed and its current layout is as it was when built in 1895.

    Around the cottage you can find traces of the former distillery and old rusty beds etc – reminders of the 2003 bush fire.

    Down from the cottage is a nice lake (picture 4) – used for water and irrigation purposes in days gone by. The gardens and surrounding area are both well maintained and the current cottage can be rented out (contact the visitors centre) for around $130 for up to six people. Be aware – the cottage is basic and abolition facilities are outside. My final attached picture is of the kitchen / dining room as it stands – Oct 2013.

    The cottage is accessed via the Nil Desperandum Walk (separate tip) - a 3-4 hour hard walk from the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s visitor centre. As far as I know there is no access for non park vehicles – check with the visitors centre if you are seeking to stay here.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Namadji National Park - Yankee Hat Paintings

    by wabat Updated Oct 12, 2013

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    Namadji National Park - Yankee Hat Paintings
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    The only currently known aboriginal rock art in the ACT is the Yankee Hat paintings in the Gudgenby Valley within Namadgi National Park and about 90 minutes drive from the centre of Canberra. Carbon dating of deposits in the Yankee Hat rock shelter date the site at over 800 yrs old and possibly up to 3700 years old.

    The artwork is protected by a high roof overhang. The white paint is clay while the red paint is based on iron oxide or ochre (possibly from Michelago or Gungalin both some kilometres away).

    As you can see from the attached photos the paintings are well preserved and represent animals and what appear to be human like figures. The four white figures on the left represent a kangaroo, a turtle and two dingo’s (wild dogs). The white figure on the right may be a kangaroo, wombat or Koala. The centre red figures are birds. The remaining figures mostly appear to be human representations.

    As with many rock art sites in Australia older paintings seem to have been overpainted by more recent paintings. The figures were painted over a period of hundreds
 or possibly thousands of years.

    Rock art sites are culturally significant to Aboriginal people as they provide evidence of the importance of the site to their ancestors.

    Getting there:

    Leaving Canberra head for Thawa, In Thawa take the Nass / Boboyan road towards Adaminaby. About 25 Kms from Thawa turn right onto the Old Boboyan road (unsealed) and continue 3-4kms to locked gate and car park. From here walk three kms to Yankee Hat Rock Art site.

    Don't panic as you drive along the very hilly and windy road from Thawa to the walk car-park. The walk is easy with a slight incline toward as you approach the artwork. It is well marked across grasslands and around a scenic swamp area with beautiful mountain views. The walk is well worth doing in itself even if you have no interest in the artworks. All along the walk you will see loads of kangaroos and rabbits. The latter are seen as pests.

    Prior to heading out pick up the Yankee Hat Rock Art Walking Track brochure from the Namadji Park Visitors centre or download from http://www.tams.act.gov.au/parks-recreation/parks_and_reserves/namadgi_national_park

    Even if you download the brochure do stop at the visitors centre to get an update on road conditions, etc. There are numerous walks you can do in Namadji National Park. Details can be downloaded from the website listed here or obtained from the Visitors Centre.

    Namadji Park Visitor Centre just outside Thawa opening hours: Weekdays: 9am - 4pm; Weekends: 9am - 4.30pm; Open all public holidays except for Christmas Day.

    Park entry fee: Free

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    Birrigai Time Trail – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 12, 2013

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    Birrigai Time Trail - Birrigai Rock Shelter
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    This is graded as an easy 3km walk with the suggestion that it can be completed in an hour and a half.

    While there is a bit of a pull up to the Birrigai Rock Shelter the loop walk is, I agree, overall easy and I took around 55mins to complete it.

    Both this walk and the Church Rock walk are “sold” as heritage walks – the latter focusing on European settlement in the area while this walk focuses on both Aboriginal and European settlement.

    While the brochure accompanying this walk (pick one up from the visitors centre, from which the walk starts) tells a story about 19th and early 20th century European settlement in the area there is actually nothing to see in relation to this settlement as evidenced by my picture of the 1920s ‘tennis court” (picture 2) which is located beside the equally hard to see Gibraltar School. European settlement of this area started in the 1830s when George Webb and his family secured land in the Tidbinbilla Valley from local Aboriginal owners though from a government perspective Webb was squatting on Crown Land. Title was granted to the Webbs in the 1860s following the Selection Acts which divided the land into blocks. Former or ongoing Aboriginal occupation of the land was not considered an issue in those days. It was hard to eke out a living on what was now small 40 acre blocks of poor quality agricultural land and many selectors (as those who settled here were called) left the land and the area.

    The Aboriginal element of the walk, in the form of the Birrigai Rock Shelter (picture 1) is of course still there with it and the granite rock formations around it certainly being with a look. Birrigai is a Ngunnawal Aboriginal word meaning laughter.

    As far as the walk itself goes most of it is across open grasslands (picture 5) where you will see lots of kangaroos. You will pass a small dam (do this loop walk in a clockwise direction) before entering the more interesting rock outcrop area and arriving at the shelter. There are great views (picture 3) towards Gibraltar Peak (for my money the best walk in the Reserve – based on the ones I have done).

    Once at the shelter it is easy to appreciate why the Ngunnawal people would have selected this shelter to escape the searing heat of grasslands where they lived in small communal groups of several families. Based on pieces of stone, bone, shell and charcoal found during an archeological dig of the shelter’s floor it is estimated that it was used as long ago as 21,000 years. Unlike the Yankee Hat shelter in Namadji National Park, about 50kms drive from here, there is no artwork in this shelter.

    If you are interested in the historic aspects of this walk then please inquire at the visitors centre about hiring a guide. Without a guide (and noting that details on half the story boards along the walk – those facing the sun – have faded away) this becomes a distinctly average walk with the Reserve having many much better walks.

    If your time is short and it’s a question of do it or don’t then I would say, do it.

    This is walk 2 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Church Rock Walk – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Written Oct 12, 2013

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    Church Rock - Spire like
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    This is a modest 2km walk which is graded easy with the suggestion that it can be completed in an hour.

    While there is a bit of a pull up to the Church Rock the loop walk is, overall, easy and I took around 50mins to complete it.

    Both this walk and the Birrigai Time Trail are “sold” as heritage walks – the Birrigai Time Trail covering both Aboriginal and European settlement in the area while this walk focuses on European settlement. While there certainly is a story to be told about 19th and early 20th century European settlement in the area there is actually nothing to see in relation to this settlement bar a 21st century recreated homestead entrance gate (Picture 2) and post box and another 21st century gate.

    That said, the brochure accompanying this walk (pick it up from the stand at the start of the walk) relates the harsh realities of life here in pre-park days. Life was hard but people got on with it and made the best of it. As Phylis Morton (nee Flint) from the area noted:

    “Life at Tidbinbilla in the early days was very isolated and quite hard but worry free.
    …. A good dance would finish at dawn; it was a real night out, then we would go home and milk the cows”

    I recall my grandfather making similar comments about country life in Ireland.

    Self-sufficiency was the order of the day. The local community, indeed, had to build its own school though the government provided a part time teacher.

    Notwithstanding the lack of historical sites the walk itself is a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. Having plodded your way though quite an area of kangaroo and emu dung (you will see Kangaroos and emus so that is some consolation for walking through their feces!) you start ascending towards Church Rock on the other side of the Old Tidbinbilla Road. This relatively easy ascent affords some nice views back to the valley and the mountains (Picture 4) behind the valley.

    Church Rock is so called because of the tall spire like rock (Picture 1) which could be seen from the valley below in the 1800s which perhaps gave the area its religious significance. Catholic mass was said here and the priest would take children to the rock for religious instruction.

    Returning back to the car-park you will pass a couple of small ponds (picture 5) with a limited amount of birdlife – so worth a close look as you pass by.

    All in all not a bad way to spend an hour or so good walk, good views.

    This is walk 6 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Sore Neck Walk – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    Peppermint Trail - Rock Wallaby
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    As you may have guessed there is, in fact, no walk in the Reserve with the name Sore Neck though for a country with places like Mount Buggery, Titwobble Lane and many more in a similar vain (see my Australia introduction page for many more) it would not be a surprise if there was. What I refer to as Sore Neck walk is in fact two walks – Koala Path, a very easy 700m loop walk which can easily be done in 15-20 minutes and Peppermint Trail an equally easy 1.8 kms loop walk which can be done in 30-45 mins. Koala Path is actually wheelchair accessible.

    I have included both these walks in the same review as they are of similar scenery and intent and are indeed within the same fence enclosed area. Essentially Koala Path is a sealed surface sub-part of the gravel Peppermint Trail.

    The walks take you through a wet eucalypt forest and crisscross the beautiful bubbling Mountain Creek. You will readily notice a marked variation between the pre 2003 bushfire and post 2003 bushfire vegetation – compare my second and third pictures attached. Even in springtime the smell of the eucalypts pervade and add to the experience – in the dry heat of summer it gets very strong but never overbearing.

    As suggested by the name “Koala Path” the primary focus of these walks is to spot a koala in the trees. For the information of visitors koalas are not bears! Last time (pre the 2003 bush fires which devastated Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve) I did this walk I saw a koala. They typically sit fairly high up in the eucalypt trees. I wasn’t so fortunate this time round – October 2013 – and didn’t see one. Rangers told me that due to very strong winds earlier that week the koalas had moved down in the trees making them much harder to spot. An addition I did notice this time is that just inside the enclosure there is now a smaller enclosure where typically a koala or two are kept lest, I imagine, you don’t see one along the main walk. I wasn’t to be fortunate here either – it was closed for renovation and contained no koalas!

    By now you may have worked out why I entitled this review Sore Neck Walk… simple, you spend most of an hour and a half walking round head in the air trying to spot a koala in the tree-tops such that you are likely to have a sore neck by the end of it. Yes, if you are determined to see a koala you will spend longer than the time it would normally take to do the walk without such a distraction.

    While on koalas, you will come across (within 200m of the enclosure entrance) a brass plaque affixed to a large rock, a memorial to a koala called Lucky who died in 2008. Lucky was the only koala known to have survived when a fire ravaged the Reserve in January 2003. Very sad and a harsh reminder that this reserve and many parts of Australia are tinderboxes during our long hot summers. Be careful with fire any time of year here.

    Please do not spend all your time on this walk looking into the tree tops – keep an eye out for wombats, wallabies, echidnas and many species of birds and reptiles and enjoy the scenery generally. Well worth the effort even if you miss out on seeing a koala.

    Koala Path and Peppermint Trail are walks 11 and 12 respectively on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pic up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve. Park at the Eucalypt Forest car-park.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Hanging Rock Walk - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    Hanging Rock - overhang
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    A very short and easy walk within Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. While only 500metres in length the walk does involves some steps. Allow 30 minutes at a very leisurely pace as you meander though the eucalypt forest partially along a creek, on route to the Hanging Rock. This is a circular walk best done in a clockwise direction.

    Aboriginal people have lived in the Canberra area for around 21,000 years and there is certainly evidence of their habitation in Tidbinbilla going back some time if not for 21,000 years.

    Aboriginal people have a close affinity with their land and different groups remained broadly in the same areas over time. Given the vastness of Australia these areas were still large and they practiced a hunter, gatherer style of living.

    The purpose of this short walk is to see a traditional aboriginal shelter and indeed shelter there your-self for a while under the Hanging Rock - especially welcome on a hot summer's day.

    The main rock among a number of granite tors, Hanging Rock, is an impressive undercut boulder under which hunting parties would have sought refuge or camped when on their way to the mountain tops to collect Bogong moths in the summer. These rather ugly looking creatures (which are over-runing Canberra as I write this review!) provided an excellent source of nourishment in former days if not a favourite today. Yam Daisy roots, wallabies, possums and other food was also available from the surrounding forest with the nearby river providing a ready source of water. Families would also have congregated where in the summer months for weddings and on other celebratory occasions.

    This shelter is one of a few such shelters in the area and should you do the Birrigai Time Trail you will come across another.

    This is walk 10 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pic up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    The Sanctuary Loop – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The Sanctuary Loop
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    This is an easy 2.1km wetlands walk (a half loop can be completed) which according to the guide takes 1.5hrs. It can be done in much less than this though do spend a bit of time to enjoy the walk and the sights along the way. You could spend a few hours here. The walk (apart from a couple of very short side detours) is fully sealed, has a number of seats, and is wheel chair accessible. It is a good introduction the the Reserve - even if its not my favourite walk (see later).

    This and the Koala Path/ Peppermint Trail are easily the most popular walks at Tidbinbilla. While you won't be alone on the walk numbers are such that the walk generally remains a tranquil experience especially if you do it during the week.

    I recommend you commence the walk at the Sanctuary car-park at the southern end of the loop. The northern access at Eucalypt Forests is currently (Oct 2013) closed for refurbishment in any case.

    The walk skirts and crosses, via boardwalks, a series of five ponds which afford you the opportunity to view an abundance of wildlife, birds in particular (ducks of numerous varieties, pelicans, black swans and other water birds). If you are lucky you may even see a platypus. Outside the water you can find rock wallabies, wallaroos, echidnas, reptiles and insects of all types. I came across a red belly black snake. Although its venom is capable of causing death, a bite is not generally fatal - I have no plans to test this assertion! It goes without saying, I hope, that should you come across a snake you leave it alone, recalling that Australia has more of the worlds most deadly snakes than any other country.

    Lift your eyes as you walk and admire the mountains circling this valley walk. They make for great views (and photos) across the ponds.

    As I mentioned earlier there are two short diversions off the walk. Both are to granite outcrops with the first being to the west side (left) as your enter from the Sanctuary car-park. I failed to see the advertised views – spare yourself the albeit relatively small effort and continue on the main track. The other outcrop, on the east side of the walk and again not far from the Sanctuary car-park is certainly worth the 10 minute diversion for the rocks themselves and the views back over a couple of the ponds.

    Being the main walk of the park there are lots of informative plaques here and there throughout. Towards the northern end of the walk there is a vet centre with a small reptile display. I wasn’t open when I visited at the weekend – I suspect it's only open on weekdays.

    While you are at the northern end of the walk it is worth leaving this walk and making a short detour to your right to Black Flats Dam (even if you are not planning to do the woodland walk adjacent to the Dam (read pond)). This is again a popular place to spot a platypus but I was unlucky here too. this diversion will take around 20-30 minutes.

    While I find this walk a little too artificial and ordered for my liking it's still a decent walk if not a serious bush-walk. It is certainly worth doing for everyone and the best way to get a good feel for the Reserve if you are not up to some of the more more strenuous paths. Most of the paths and a lot of the vegetation were set out in 2008 so everything still has that new and underdeveloped feel about it. Like a good red, I am sure it will improve with age.

    This is walk 9 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pic up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve. Black Flats Dam walk, which I refer to above, is number 8.

    For details of getting to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Gibraltar Peak Walk – Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Oct 1, 2013

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    Gibraltar Peak walk - Almost the top
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    A highly recommended walk in Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve.

    Some distance before you reach Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve (see my general tip on Tidtinbilla which includes details on opening hours, entrance fee etc, etc) you will notice a bunch of rocks on the horizon. This is Gibraltar Peak which, once you have reached Tidtinbilla, can be reached in three ways all by foot.

    You can do a round trip from the visitors centre (around 12kms), you can walk along a fire trail (just over 6kms and until 2012 the only way to reach the peak) or you can drive into the Reserve to Dalsetta Trail Head car-park and take a new trail from here (just over 8kms).

    The first option is long (unnecessarily so unless you just want to walk – nothing wrong with that!), the fire trail is a hard slog and boring (I did it a few years ago) and the final option is a fantastic walk, very well laid out through varying landscape and scenery. I recommend the new trail from Dalsetta.

    The walk is graded moderate to hard with a walk time of 3-4 hours. The grading is about right though the hard part (not that hard) is restricted to the last couple of hundred metres. The track is in good condition throughout (pictures 2 and 3). I completed the walk in just less than 3hrs including stops at the top and Eliza Saddle where I had a picnic lunch (about 45mins).

    When you leave the car-park (there is a toilet here) the track takes you across open grassland where you will see an abundance of kangaroos. From here you ascend slowly bypassing a small wetland area filled with reeds all the time with quite beautiful views back into the valley. Around half way up you will reach Eliza Saddle (if you walked from the visitors centre you would join the peak track here). Here, while there is no view, there is a small picnic area with a groovy table were we stopped for a picnic on the way back down from the peak (the day I went it was very windy on the peak). From here the gradient increases a bit while the view gets even better until at about 250 metres from the top you come across a viewing platform which affords fantastic views back towards Canberra (picture 4) – you can see Black Mountain Tower in Canberra in the distance.

    From here, if like me (of the relatively unfit variety), you may work up a bit of a sweat getting to the top as you pass a series of stunning granite monoliths,. When you get to two large rocks (picture 1) and a large exposed area of bare rock you could be forgiven for thinking you had reached the top. You haven’t but there isn’t far to go so continue. Once you get there, there are great views from the peak (1040 metres) so do sit down and take your time before returning back to the valley.

    For details of getting to Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve, park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve see my separate general Tidtinbilla Nature Reserve review.

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    Cotter Reserve

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 12, 2011

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    Weir at the reserve
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    This park is in existence because Cotter Dam is nearby. At the time of writing Cotter Dam is going to become a whole lot bigger, massive in fact.
    However, that won't spoil the park, a lovely expanse of green with a tree lined entrance.
    You can splash or go fishing in the Murrumbidgee River, head off into the bush or simply go there for a picnic; tables, toilets etc. are provided.
    Facilities include short walking tracks to the dam and river, and limited overnight camping spots. Take the children out there for a run – they will love the challenging playground.
    Cotter Reserve is 23kms from the CBD

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    • Fishing
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