Sarah chills out in Garran's mystery stone circle. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Have you noticed how green our hills are at the moment? I can't ever recall seeing our countryside this verdant, especially so far into autumn. In fact, if you venture into one of our nature parks, it's so lush that you could easily be excused for thinking you were on a ramble in England, rather than a walk in Canberra.
One part of our territory where the countryside looks especially English is on the bit of Red Hill tucked in behind Garran, where a stone circle sits prominently on a grassy knoll. Yes, you read correctly, a stone circle! Well actually it's more oval than circular but it's quite substantial (about 15 metres long and half as wide).
Sure, if you were in the British countryside where stone circles, with many relics from ancient times, are a dime a dozen, you'd hardly bat an eyelid, but here on the slopes of Red Hill?
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I was tipped off about the stone arrangement by Greg Hutchison, who recently stumbled upon the unexpected scene while on a recce for a walk he was leading for the Melba Shed.
Although it's clearly no Avebury or Stonehenge, it's clearly identifiable on Google Maps and during the week, Sarah, my six-year-old daughter, tried to count the number of stones but lost count (read: got hungry!) at about 500. Some of the stones are quite large and would have required considerable effort to carry or roll them into place, but who built it?
Equally as perplexed as to its origins as Hutchison and his merry band of wanderers, I referred the mystery to the Red Hill Regenerators - this column's authority for anything strange afoot on Red Hill. If a crimson rosellas near as passes wind on their patch, this group of passionate park carers are on to it.
The mystery stone ‘circle’ in Garran Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Surprisingly some members had never seen (nor heard) of the Garran stone ''circle'' but the general consensus was that ''it had been constructed about 15 to 20 years ago by a character who used to stand in it daily in the mornings to perform meditative and physical exercises''.
''Strangely, I only ever saw him facing west towards Woden whilst he went through his routines,'' reported one confidant, who added, ''he took a couple of years to complete and raise the height of the circle and he obtained his materials from the surrounding hillsides … I haven't got the faintest idea who he is and in fact haven't seen him for about eight years.''
The Garran stone ''circle'' is just the latest in a growing list of stone arrangements (although none quite so grand) popping up on our hills and reported to this column over the past 12 months.
An adult Pink-tailed worm lizard Photo: David Wong | davidwong.photoshelter.com
While many may have artistic merit (I understand some were the result of a school art project), most are actually being constructed in nature reserves where, Michael Mulvaney of the Red Hill Regenerators reports, ''it is an offence to make such a structure''.
More pertinently, Mulvaney wants these budding landscape graffiti artists to be aware of the environmental consequences of moving rocks. ''Parts of Red Hill are habitat for the nationally vulnerable pink-tailed worm lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) that needs rocks like this to be flat amongst native grass absorbing heat from the sun for the lizard to lie under and regulate its own body temperature,'' says Mulvaney, who adds that marbled geckos, delicate skinks, three species of scorpions, several centipede species and a host of beetles and other insects live under the rocks or rely on rocks embedded into the soil.
Do you know about the origins of the Garran stone ''circle''? Please let me now.
The black and yellow banded centipede which is found under rocks on Red Hill Photo: Miranda Gardner
Garran stone ''circle'': Located in the Red Hill Nature Reserve and closest access point is a footpad leading up from a gap in the fence near Astley Place, Garran. The stone ''circle'' isn't signposted, so you will have to hunt around a bit to find it. It's about two-thirds of the way up. Around 150 to 200 metres east-south-east of Astley Place, look out for a line of stones (presumably placed as a path/marker by the builder of the stone ''circle'') leading in a northerly direction off the footpad.
Melba Shed: Based on the ''Men's Shed'' concept that has recently developed throughout Australia over the past decade, which primarily caters for older men no longer in the workforce who meet regularly to socialise, and undertake various excursions. Unlike most other ''sheds'', the Melba Shed doesn't have a workshop, but instead focuses on a speaker program and interesting outings (like to mystery stone ''circles''!) around Canberra. The Melba Shed is located in the neighbourhood centre next to the North Belconnen Uniting Church, Conley Drive in Melba, and meets most Friday mornings. More: melbashed.com
A trail of mushrooms on Limestone Avenue, Ainslie. Photo: Susan Pitt
Red Hill Regenerators: Red Hill Bush Regeneration Group is a registered Parkcare organisation formed in 1989 to restore the original native bushland environment of the Red Hill Nature Park. More: redhillregenerators.org.au
Don't miss: A rap song about the plight of the Pink-tailed worm lizard which appears on the ABC Catalyst website (abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3429624.htm) and is sung by David Wong, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. Maybe next time, instead of recording it in a studio, Wong, who has been studying the legless lizard for several years, could give a live performance of his catchy number while actually sitting in the Garran stone ''circle''. I'm not sure who would be more amused at such a sight (and sound!) - members of the Red Hill Regenerators on one of their regular weeding exercises or the friendly mob of eastern grey kangaroos who call this south-western end of Red Hill home.
Do You Know? There are stories of a family who lived on the slopes of Red Hill back in the 1920s-30s. Do you know where their hut/shelter was?
Monster-sized mushrooms on Kingsford Smith Drive, with 20 cent coin for comparison Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
Recent rain has resulted in a proliferation of mushrooms in parks, gardens and roadsides around Canberra.
A huge red stinkhorn near Wombeyan Caves. Photo: Denis Wilson
This week, on two separate occasions I saw cars pulled over on the Kingsford Smith Drive median strip in Latham, their occupants snapping photos of mushrooms, so I stopped to see what all the fuss was about. The mushroom caps are the size of a small dinner plate and one reaches over 20 centimetres tall. For comparison, I placed a 20 cent coin on the cap of one. Have you seen a bigger mushroom in Canberra?
Meanwhile, Susan Pitt, who is astounded at the number of mushrooms along the side of Limestone Avenue in Ainslie, wonders if it is easy to tell the difference between harmless mushrooms and the death cap mushroom, a poisonous introduced fungus that is responsible for 90 per cent of all deaths related to mushroom consumption.
Although death cap mushrooms often grow near established oak trees, official advice from the ACT Government is that people should not pick or eat any wild mushrooms and that anyone who may have accidentally eaten death cap mushrooms should seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department.
Peg your nose
Barely had I returned from my expedition to Robertson to catch a whiff of the foul-smelling stinkhorn fungus (On the Nose, April 12) when during the week this missive arrived in my inbox from Denis ''Stinky'' Wilson.
''Shame you were not with us today, at Wombeyan Caves Road, Tim … this red stinkhorn was huge - with four 'fingers' longer than my friend's entire hand. It was still 'poo-scented' but it was the size which took me by surprise,'' wrote the Southern Highland-based naturalist.
Variously called devil's fingers, octopus stinkhorn or helicopter stinkhorn, the scientific name of this red stinkhorn is Clathrus archeri and although Australian in origin, it has apparently spread to North America and Europe. ''Serves them right for the sending us the rabbit, the sparrow and thousands of plant weeds,'' Wilson says.
Last week's expose on smelly fungus brought back childhood memories for Lee Freeman, who reports, ''In Adelaide there was a 'stinky tree' which had small black seeds not much bigger than a peppercorn. If you wanted to clear a room (such as Mr Palmer's maths class) all a kid had to do was stomp one open, spit on it and a toxic cloud would emerge and envelop all within smell-shot like a malevolent genie.'' Freeman also recalls several unwanted encounters with ''the 'itchy bomb tree' which had seed pods about the size of a golf ball and were loaded with itchy fibres that could drive a kid mad when inserted down the back of the shirt''.
Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write to me c/o The Canberra Times 9 Pirie Street, Fyshwick. A selection of past columns is available at: canberratimes.com.au/travel/blog/yowie-man.