|Inside The Village|
Sue has been cursing hay fever for the past few days.
We spent the morning walking through the north western suburbs and stopping a coffee in Spence. The conversations ranged over our joint experiences in the UK and Ireland in 2012, our families, politics, social change ... just as an artist might daub the sort of brush strokes one paints in washing the background of a new creation, so it is with a developing friendship.
Kevin took us to the National Arboretum for lunch.
What a wonderful place.
Located at the western edge of the city, it's 250 hectares are spread across several hillsides that open onto a new vista of the capital. The site of a pine forest that was mostly burnt and destroyed in the cataclysmic bush fires of the first few years of the Naughties, the land has already been planted with 48 000 trees. The earthworks done to sculpt the central valley which ranges down from "The Village", created steps and paths to manage the potential erosion and fill the dam which provides water. They are the largest earthworks completed in Australia since the 2000 Olympics.
|Bonsai and Penjing Centre|
The aim is to cultivate endangered species from around the world that will adapt to Canberra's boom and bust diversity of climate and in the process, learn more about the plants. In this, the staff - many of them volunteers - have exceeded their brief, establishing 104 species. Follow the link for more information ... National Arboretum Fact Sheet
We didn't have enough time to explore other aspects of the place. On a nearby rise, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion is a function centre with best views of the capital and between sits an open air, grassed amphitheatre where live music may be absorbed in late afternoons and under the stars. Above The Village, Dairy Farmers Hill is the highest point of the arboretum, with its few undaunted trees and Nest III, a sculpture of a large eagle sitting on its nest. It looks across the central valley to the words Wide Brown Land, sculptured onto the landscape from Dorethea McKellar's icon poem, "My Country", which kids of my generation could recite, back in the day. They have been formed to replicate her handwriting style for an even greater homage.
A children play area is nearby, with its climbing structures incorporating huge acorns to be climbed through and over and in and around.
Tucked in beside The Village is the Bonsai and Penjing Collection - one term Japanese, the other Chinese but both for the same tiny, perfect trees. The walkways that wind through here are white pebble and grey slate. As we visited, a volunteer expert was trimming an exhibit with nail clippers and all the care and love with which a mother might brush a daughters hair.
Inside The Village is a large open space, cool on a hot day and warm in the winter. It houses a restaurant, a gift shop and a cafe, all with friendly, go out of their way staff and reasonable prices. The food we ordered was satisfying and the coffees were rich. Its incredible outlook is staggering for visitors, but if I was a resident, I would find myself a coffee table by the window for that mid morning coffee and then stay, perhaps with a book or a pen or just empty thoughts, until it was time for a late afternoon red.