Monday, 18 February 2013

A review of the National Arboretum

I was told during the week that dogs on leads were permitted at the National Arboretum so decided that we would make our first foray there as a longer walk today.  I had visited a couple of times when ACT Veterans Athletics had staged Handicap events there, but hadn't really looked at what was on offer, having other things such as running (and, at the finish, searching for my contact lenses) on my mind.

Our good friends Rob and Carol are very keen on the place - Rob is now a Guide - so we felt we should go look it over.  Overall we thought it pretty good as an idea but obviously it needs a fair bit of time to develop properly.  It is good that they allow dogs (we saw a couple of others, also on leads) and apparently they are also encouraging mountain bikes (see reference above to folk looking for contact lenses).  I hope what follows isn't too negative, but it is hard to take photographs of the future: we did conclude that the place was a vision and not an hallucination.

Many other folk were also there.
I suspect this may change in the near future when pay parking comes in at $2.50 an hour or $7 a day.  Since the only reason for parking in this spot is to go to the Visitors Centre and buy the stuff on sale there or eat in the cafe (ie provide revenue to the Arboretum) I suspect they will lose a lot more than they gain by these IMHO extortionate fees.  (Note that the URL for the Arboretum does go to an ACT Government website so advanced thinking like that may not work for them!)

A very pleasant lady who seemed to share my view about parking charges (and appeared to work at the Arboretum but wasn't sure if she could tell people that the parking charges were not yet in force) did say that they were planning to put up some facility for restraining dogs while the owners were in the VC.  Better thinking!

This next image is of STEP - the Southern Tablelands Environment Park.  This seemed a very interesting idea developed by ANPS and the Friends of Grassland.  Apart from being something local (in a site where the proportion of exotic trees gives me some concern) the fact that the trees are planted randomly rather than in straight lines is nice.
The setting of the Arboretum is brilliant.  The stately pleasure dome is the Visitors Centre while the imitation mini-Opera House is called the Pavilion (but there was no sign of a cricket match).
As is apparent from the image most of the trees have a fair bit of growing to do.  This did mean that shade was not readily available .  This may explain the popularity of the Himalayan Cedars for picnics.(I am unclear why they didn't burn in the bush fires that did such a good job on the Pinus radiata which had covered most of the site prior to 2001.)  As well as picnics, people were playing boule - on a slope of about 10% - and experimenting with a remote controlled toy electric helicopter.   Both inoffensive activities but I wonder why they went to this location to undertake them?

Apart from the view (again) the next image shows one of the roads which allows the slothful to cruise around without getting out of their pollution generator.  As is often the case my views are shaped by those of Edward Abbey:
"... you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddammed contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus.  When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something maybe,  Probably not." Author's Introduction to 'Desert Solitaire'.
The box like items in this image are sheltering some Dragon Blood trees.  These come from the Canary Islands which have a climate rather different to Canberra!  I think the shelter boxes are going to be there for a long time.

There were not a lot of birds around, but mid-day at 29C is not a good time to be seeing them.  The commonest species was definitely Australian Magpie of which we saw a lot spread through the area.   This one is sensibly seeking shade.
There were a lot of grasshoppers around (as everywhere in the area at the moment).  Presumably this is what was attracting the magpies.  "Something" has been planted as ground cover between the trees and seems to be doing a fair job of keeping most of the weeds under control, except along the border path which had a prize selection of invasive - if not noxious - weeds.  That being said, there was a lot less St John's Wort around here than in the rest of the ACT.

This is one of the large sculptures around the site.  It is pretty impressive especially at a distance where the script can be read as "Wide Brown Land" (Marcus Tatton, Futago and Chris Viney).
I thought these rocks might have a few reptiles.  Alas no: brambles were all.  These weeds are going to be a big problem for the Arboretum especially with the massive, uncontrolled infestation in the nearby remains of the pine forest providing an on-going seed bank.
The sign talks about the Giant Sequoia.  I think come back in a few centuries to see them justify their adjective!  My yardstick assistant here is about 1.6m  high!  It is interesting that, looking at this image, the trees in the background they don't appear to be in straight lines, which is the overwhelming view of the site when seen from the usual perspective - blatting along the Parkway below the site.
This sign is amazing.  It manages to discuss Aleppo Pine and Gallipolli but not mention the Lone Pine.  The war memorials in most small country towns do better than that!  I think the story of the spread of the species around Australia from one tree is an astonishing bit of 'human interest'.
These two kids were very pleased to see Tammy (and were very polite and sensible in asking before they patted her).
This is the second major sculpture on the premises at present.  Nest III by Richard Moffat.
I really hope they develop the idea of a sculptural element in the place.  Two of our more memorable visits overseas have been to Storm King in New York and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  The setting of the Arboretum has the potential to match them with the right artists getting involved.

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