Canberra in the Wet
23-24 October, 2004
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Text and photographs © David Powell, except where indicated.  
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Did a weekend trip down to Canberra to visit some friends - and naturally, do a bit of sightseeing on the way and down there. A quiet drive - about 300km or so each way and not much traffic. We did run into a swarm of bugs just north of Goulburn, which necessitated a stop at a service station to clean the windscreen. Took the opportunity to have some morning tea. Then back onto the road and onto Condor. Condor is a fairly new suburb on the southernmost edge of Canberra. Past Condor is farmland. Not all that long ago, that's what Condor was too, for that matter. Yet another mushroom suburb. We were visiting some friend's of Cynthia's. Took the morning to get down there and then after lunch & some socialising, we did a bit of tourist sightseeing .. more for my sake I daresay.
Lanyon Homestead
Lanyon Homestead Kitchens
Lanyon Homestead, Tharwa
Image © David Powell, 2005
Kitchens, Lanyon Homestead, Tharwa
Image © David Powell, 2005

Headed south on the Tharwa Road (which actually goes to Cooma and the Snowy Mountains). First stop was Lanyon Homestead, an old sheep station. A nice looking place, with the buildings a pretty ochre-yellow colour. Alas, while it is normally open for tours, the house itself was closed for a wedding. Roamed around the estate a bit (it's still a functioning farm), the outbuildings (including a small gaol), and gardens and down to the fence overlooking the fields. The outbuildings, built of locally quarried stone, include several storage sheds, the kitchen, a gaol, dairy and several retainer's cottages, Wilson's Cottage and Dutton's Cottage. Many of the outbuildings date to the homestead's earliest years and many of them are covered with a thick growth of ivy. I was particularly taken by a bell turret at the top of one of the kitchen walls. Looking up the bare plaster coated stone wall, one could almost imagine looking at the wall and bell of some simple adobe church in Mexico.

The original homestead was built by James Lanyon in 1835 using convict labour and was Canberra's first stone cottage. Now a National Trust property. Andrew Cunningham built the present day Victorian-style homestead in 1859, again with convict labour. Even tho' Lanyon was only in Australia for three years, the homestead still bears his name. James Wright bought the property from Lanyon and in turn sold it to Cunningham in 1848, in who'se family it remained until the 20th century.

Also on the property is the Sir Sidney Nolan Gallery. There was a lovely white carriage with two black horses there for the wedding.

View along Tharwa Road
Tharwa Bridge
View along Tharwa Road
Image © David Powell, 2005
Tharwa Bridge, Tharwa
Image © David Powell, 2005

Then on south along the Tharwa Road with some pretty neat views along the sides of the roads with rolling hills and farmland. Next stop was the Tharwa Bridge, built in 1885 over the Murrumbidgee River. An old wooden trestle bridge, probably just as solidly built and study as modern concrete bridges - it has lasted for over 120 years after all.

Cuppacumbalong, Tharwa
Image © Cuppacumbalong 2004

Continued south to have a quick peek at another old homestead, "Cuppacumbalong". Alas, we couldn't have a cuppa there - there was a wedding reception going on there as well. Hmmm ... maybe there's something in the water? Even tho' the name sounds rather contrived, it's supposedly an aboriginal word meaning “Meeting of the Waters” - the property is sited near where the Murrumbidgee and Gudgenby Rivers converge. Originally a sheep & cattle station covering 18,000 acres and including the village of Tharwa. The original homestead was built in 1848 by James Wright after he'd sold nearby Lanyon Homestead. The original homestead was destroyed by a flood in 1890 and the present day building was built in 1923. Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the homestead during her 1954 tour. Well ok, she had a cuppa there. Honest! The family cemetery is a short walk from the homestead and incorporates an old aboriginal burial site as well as the grave of one of Canberra's earliest bushrangers.

Headed back via the upmarket end of Condor - way up in the hills. I'd hate to park on the driveways there! Forget to put the handbrake on and you'd find your car several kilometres downhill. Well maybe not - the roads were a rabbit warren maze. Some of the houses were big enuf to be motels.

A tasty stir-fry dinner and an early nite. Woke up in the wee hours of the night to the sounds of heavy rain, which continued non-stop until the next evening. Actually it followed us back to Sydney.

Had more touristy plans for the day, but the rain washed most of them out, such as a tour of Lanyon Homestead. Had a look at Rose Cottage, which I noticed on the drive down. Decided to go there because an ancestor of mine once lived in another Rose Cottage, this one in London during the 1860's & 1870's. Rose Cottage was one of two cottages built in 1876 by Richard James Harris on a subdivision of Tuggeranong Station, 'tis now surrounded by the suburb of Gilmore. The cottages were made from plaster and mud with, originally, an earthen floor. A fresh-water spring near the cottages still exists today. Harris' wife, Margaret, planted extensive rose gardens around the cottage, hence it's name, tho' it was originally called Sweet Hills and covered some 2000 acres. Only 9 acres remain today, along with Rose Cottage - the property was acquired by the government for development as a new suburb. Today the two cottages form a restaurant, The Old Rose Inn. The cottage itself is rather small, prolly only a few rooms. Managed to take some carefully angled foto's to avoid the newer additions to the site.

Rose Cottage
Black Mtn from Parliment House
Rose Cottage, Gilmore
Image © David Powell, 2005
Black Mountain & Telstra Tower
from near Parliment House, Canberra
Image © David Powell, 2005

Drove a bit around the heart of Canberra. Had a quick look at the new Parliament House and then drove along Melbourne Avenue, the heart of the embassy district - where the highest concentration of embassies can be found. Very luxurious. Wasn't there to look at the embassies - less than 50 metres down one of the side streets was where Cynthia's parents lived back in the 1970's, before her dad retired and moved to Sydney. Talk about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Or should that be rich and infamous? It was raining all the time, so the sightseeing was strictly thru' the car window.

Telstra Tower .. going
Telstra Tower, Canberra, 50mm
Image © David Powell, 2005
Telstra Tower .. gone
Telstra Tower, Canberra, 28mm
Image © David Powell, 2005

After a few creative detours (someone said they used to live in Canberra), which seem obligatory for almost every tourist visiting Canberra, we eventually got to the top of Black Mountain and more to the point, the Telstra Tower that's sited there, built in the early 1970's. At 195 metres high, it's not exactly making any records, but sitting on the top of a mountain, overlooking Canberra, you can see it clearly from almost anywhere in Canberra, making it Canberra's most conspicuous landmark. Oh, and the view of Canberra from the tower is simply spectacular. Well in theory it has a great view. The tower is high enuf to be well into the cloud layer and all one could see were clouds .. lots of clouds. The cloud was pretty thick and while I was changing lenses on my camera in the car park, even the tower disappeared. I know it was only 'bout 50m away, but not a trace of it could be seen, the cloud was that thick. Well I assume it was still there - for all I know someone could've gone and stolen it.

O'Malley's Pub
King O'Malley's Pub, Canberra
Image © King O'Malley's Pub 2004

Back down to Canberra and braved the teeming rain to have lunch at a neat Irish pub, King O'Malley's. In decor and atmosphere much like Sydney's Green Fiddler, however O’Malley’s is comparatively new. Named after King O'Malley, an Irish-American immigrant who arrived in Australia in 1889. O'Malley, who made a career of politics, is known as the Father of Canberra, having first fought for Canberra as the site of the nation's capital and then choosing Walter Burley Griffin's design for the city. Some of his other achievements include establishing the Commonwealth Bank and building the Transcontinental Railway (the latter not in person, I assume). O'Malley's pub was founded after he retired in 1927. It's rather ironically named after O'Malley since he was a tea-totaller and he kept Canberra 'dry' for well over a decade. I had a Guinness of course, not that I like beer, but when one is in Rome, one does as the Roman's do and it was an Irish pub. Said our farewells and headed back home .. in yet more rain. Lotsa rain. Lotsa heavy rain. Made the drive tricky at times, but we did get back safely, even if it took a bit longer than usual for that drive.

On the way down we passed by Lake George, which has been dry for so long that its basin had long since been turned into grazing land and t'was full of sheep. On the way back the rain was well on it's way to turning the basin back into a lake and it was already looking more like fens than pasture. Presumably someone went and rescued the livestock before they got more than just damp. Took a detour thru' Collector on the way back, an old village midway between Canberra and Goulburn and founded in 1824. From what we could see it's well on the way from turning from a ghost town into a bunch of ruins, tho' to be fair, some of the buildings are still inhabited .. and not just by mice.

Some web sites of relevance
(valid as of January 2005)

Lanyon Homestead:
Yesterday's Canberra:
Canberra Tourism:
Heritage of the Tuggeranong Valley:
Historic Buildings and Places in Canberra:
Aussie - Canberra:
Australia Travel - Telstra Tower:
King O'Malley's Pub: