Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Giant Mushroom

What's big, yellow, pink and blue, and lots of fun for little kids? The Giant Mushroom at Belconnen Markets, of course!

Australia has a lot of Big Things, and this is the Australian Capital Territory's only contribution. It's 6 metres high, 15.6 metres wide,  and covers 190 square metres of children's playground. It was built in 1998, as a Sunsmart initiative of the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets (supported by the ACT Cancer Society), and is well known to Canberra parents. Kids can climb into the stem of the mushroom and look through the triangular windows at their parents, who are often occupying seats around the edge while chatting and sipping coffee from one of several nearby cafes.

While it can get a little cold when the wind whistles through, it's pretty much a year-round playground, protected from both sun and rain. And it's free!

We popped in today after school to buy some veges, and my 7 year old insisted on a quick play in the mushroom (as always), so I took the opportunity to take this photo. I also took photos from a slightly higher vantage point on the far side, but there's been so much new development at the markets that it's hard to get a good view of the cap of the mushroom. Not so long ago it stood out above the rest of the complex, but not any longer, although the bright pink and yellow colours on top help a bit.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Canberra is very much a planned city. The basic design was the result of a competition in 1912 which attracted 137 entries from Australia and overseas. The winning entry was from a Chicago husband and wife team, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, although the submission was only in Walter's name. The Griffins were landscape architects, influenced by the garden city movement, and this influence is clear in what is often known as the 'bush capital' of Australia.

Rather than treating the site as a blank canvas, as many of the other entrants did (some of whom never even visited the site), the Griffins used the natural features of the land as the starting point for their design, and this intent has also been carried through into the satellite town centres of Belconnen, Woden, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin.

A neighbourhood philosophy was adopted by the main planning authority, with the green belts which run through the suburbs an integral part of putting this into practice. In general, each suburb is bounded by main roads, and contains a small shopping hub within walking distance of all the homes in the suburb. Paths, such as the one in the photo, run through the suburbs to the shops, and are shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The underpasses allow users to avoid crossing busy roads, and in many areas children can walk from home to school without crossing a road at all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This fine fellow was lazing around in the sun waiting for us on our return trip across the little bridge from yesterday's photo.

One of the things I'm finding particularly interesting about this blog is that I'm discovering things I didn't know about my local area. I had no idea that this park had a name, let alone the historical significance of it. I've also found out that the McKellar Wetlands were artificially created, but are now an important frog habitat, and that there are the ruins of an old post office and store down the other end of the park, near the Barton Highway. I think another walk in this area is called for to check it all out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Green space

This photo was taken in October 2009, in Palmerville Heritage Park, off Owen Dixon Drive, McKellar. If you walk straight ahead, across the little creek, you will pass (on your right) the memorial trees of the National Landcare Forest, and just a little further along are the remains of the residential complex and Gininderra Cottage. Further to the left is the McKellar Wetland. The park is named for George Palmer's sheep property Palmerville, established here in 1826.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Honeysuckle Creek

Honeysuckle Creek, 32km SSW of Canberra city in what is now Namadgi National Park, is the location of a former space tracking station with an important claim to fame: it was Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station that received and relayed the pictures of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 landing in 1969.

The tracking station was opened in 1967, and operated until 1981. The antenna (the 'dish') was dismantled and relocated to Tidbinbilla Deep Space Station further north and closer to Canberra, and the buildings were abandoned to vandals before being demolished in 1992.

When we last visited quite a few years ago, there was nothing but the road and the foundations & floors of the buildings. When we headed out there today much had changed: there are now maintained camping grounds, a picnic shed and composting toilets, as well as steel information panels to explain the significance of the site. And there are the 'footprints' of astronauts. Some in panels like in the photo, and others painted on the concrete floor, leading visitors around the complex. It's one of the lesser-known places close to Canberra, but definitely worth the visit.

Honeysuckle Creek Campgrounds
Apollo Road, off Naas Road south of Tharwa, ACT

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rainforest in the city

This is part of the Rainforest Walk in the Australian National Botanic Gardens. I took this photo just before the 5pm closing time today. It's cool and green and damp in this tiny gully at the foot of Black Mountain, and it's a peaceful place to visit. We didn't have much time today - just a quick stroll along the lower boardwalk under the tree ferns and along the creek, across the bridge you can see, and back along the upper boardwalk.

The Botanic Gardens are about a 30 minute walk or only a few minutes by car from the city centre.

Australian National Botanic Gardens
Clunies Ross Street, Acton
Open daily 8.30am-5.00pm, except Christmas Day. Extended opening hours in January.
Free entry. Pay parking.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Go tell it on the mountain

Black Mountain Tower (aka Telstra Tower) sits on the top of Black Mountain, strangely enough. The tower opened in 1980, reaches 195 metres beyond the mountain summit, and is a major telecommunications facility as well as a very recognisable landmark on Canberra's skyline.

It's a great place to visit, offering 360 degree views over the city and surrounding area. Be aware that it can be very cold on the outer viewing platform, so dress warmly in the cooler months!

Black Mountain Tower viewing gallery and the Panorama Cafe and Gift Shop
Black Mountain Drive, off Clunies Ross Street (near the entrance to the Australian National Botanic Gardens)
Phone 1800 806 718
Open 9.00am-10.00pm daily, including Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Admission charge: Adults $7.50 / Aged pensioners $3.00 / Children 4-16 years $3.00 / Children under 4 years Free / Family Pass (2 adults and 2 children) $17

Alto Tower Restaurant (revolving restaurant)
Open for lunch Thursday-Sunday from 12pm; dinner Tuesday-Sunday from 6pm. Closed Mondays. Reservations (02) 6219 6140

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shine Dome

This unusual building is the Shine Dome. Built in 1959, and previously known as Becker House, it is sometimes referred to as the 'Martian Embassy'. The design for the building was the most radical in the design competition for the new Australian Academy of Science building, and marked the beginning of modern architecture in Canberra. There were some construction challenges along the way, not least of which was how to ensure a 710 tonne self-supporting concrete dome didn't collapse as the timber formwork was removed. But apparently the top of the dome only dropped a centimetre as it took its own weight - and I'll bet there was a collective sigh of relief!

Shine Dome
Gordon Street, Acton ACT

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

National Museum of Australia


The 30 metre high loop near the entrance to the National Museum of Australia is the most visible part of the 'Uluru Line', which begins with the covered walkway at the entrance and (physically) ends in a huge red concrete wave up past the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) building. Conceptually, the line continues on in a north-west direction to Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock).

There's currently an exhibition entitled Not Just Ned: A true history of the Irish in Australia at the museum. It opened last week, and runs until the end of July. Admission: adults $10 / children $5 / concession $8 / Family $22. 

National Museum of Australia 
Lawson Crescent
Acton Peninsula
Canberra ACT 
Freecall 1800 026 132 
Phone (02) 6208 5000 

Open 9am-5pm daily (except Christmas Day)
Free general admission

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cockatoos in March

At this time of year, Canberra is littered with twigs and leaves, and this is the culprit. The white cockatoos are after the berries, and their sharp beaks snip off anything that's in their way! This photo was taken at the same time last year, but they're at it again right now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Canberra overview

Welcome to Daily Photo Canberra. I've been lurking around daily photo blogs from London, Paris, Rome and Venice recently, but couldn't find a current one for the city I live in, so here we go ...

Canberra is the capital city of Australia, so some of the photos will be of Canberra landmarks and national institutions. Some will be of events and  the people of Canberra, or local and little-known aspects of the suburbs. I'm not a professional photographer, but I'll do what I can to keep them interesting.

Most of the photos will be taken by me, and if they're not, I'll let you know. Some of them will be ones I've taken over the past few years, and some might be from the same day they're posted. If they're 'right here, right now', I'll let you know that too, because Canberra's seasonal variations are one of the things I love about living here. Comments and questions are very welcome.

So without further ado, the first photo:

Looking from Black Mountain over Lake Burley Griffin, Acton Peninsula and part of the Parliamentary Triangle of Canberra, on an overcast Autumn day two years ago, but similar to today's weather.

On the left is part of the Australian National University, the road is Parkes Way, and the yellow and red structure in the middle marks the National Museum of Australia. The bridge in the middleground is Commonwealth Bridge, and the one further back is Kings Ave Bridge (to the left of it you can see the National Carillon, a bell tower with 55 bronze bells). The right bank of the man-made lake, between the bridges, features a number of national institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery (which may not be in this photo - it's still quite new), Questacon (the National Science and Technology Museum) and the National Library of Australia.

Civic - Canberra's city centre - is just out of the photo to the left, and Parliament House is to the right of the photo. They'll both appear at a later date.