Ahead, partly hidden among the long spears of cured grass are the ramshackle ruins of an old hut.
As we crouch to crawl in what remains of its entry, we hear a thud of something bulky careering into a piece of tin.
"Oh, it's good to see it still being used as a home," quips Tim McGrath, my guide for the afternoon, as he points towards the posterior of a startled wombat as it scurries from under the collapsed roof and into a nearby hollow.
In fact, but for a partially collapsed chimney and a rickety wooden bed frame you'd be hard-pressed recognising it as a hut, let alone a home. With old glass bottles and sheets of rusting tin scattered around, it more resembles a bush dump.
"It's hard to imagine spending one night in this there, let alone 40 long years," says Peter Firth, who has crept inside for a peek. Both Peter and Tim are active members of the Gundaroo & District Historical Society and they've brought me to this old hut on the outskirts of Gundaroo to highlight the remarkable tale of Ted Watt, a veteran of the Second Boer War.
"When Ted, around 40 at the time, arrived in Gundaroo in the early 1930s he had only one leg, one arm and one eye," says Peter. "Due to his injuries he was virtually unemployable so he made ends meet by growing fruit and vegies on his little farm."
"Incredibly, Ted didn't have any mechanical assistance tilling the soil and tending to his vegies," says Peter as he points towards a couple of silted-up rudimentary irrigation channels Ted somehow hacked out of the rocky ground to help water his crop.
Tales of Ted toiling the land has become firmly entrenched in Gundaroo folklore, however, very little, apart from a short account of his life written by his granddaughter, Maureen Robinson is documented.
Crouched under a mature quince tree, no doubt planted by Ted some 70 years ago, we flick through Maureen's notes.
"He lived in the one-roomed hut made from mud, wood and flattened kerosene tins, through wind and rain, hail and snow, through floods and long hot droughts," writes Maureen.
There were no luxuries for Ted. "The hut had one small window, a kerosene lamp for reading, one single bed, a small bench, one small cupboard and an open fire for heating and cooking, an earth floor and not even a chair."
Apart from his vegetables, according to Maureen "he fed himself on tinned herrings, powdered milk and rolled oats, with bread only when he went to town."
Ted was as resourceful as he was tough. On his walks into town, he'd often push a small cart of his produce selling it door-to-door and also to passing folk from the verandah of the wine saloon.
"On the trip down into town, he had to harness himself to his buggy so he didn't fall over," Peter says.
Keen to follow the route he took, Tim and I bump along in Peter's ute for the five kilometre or so downhill bash on dirt roads down to the Gundaroo Colonial Inn – and it's historic wine bar. How he did the trip on one leg, with one arm and one eye and with his cart laden with fresh produce is anyone's guess.
It's late Friday afternoon and the pub is abuzz with an eclectic mix of local cockies and office workers who've knocked off early from Canberra to return to their country blocks for the weekend. We pull up a stool in the exact corner of the verandah where Ted peddled his harvest.
Over a beer, I discover more of Ted's extraordinary story. He grew up in Gippsland in the late 1800s, and seeking adventure as a young man, he travelled to New Zealand with friends to try his luck on the New Zealand gold fields. Not striking it rich, in 1901 he enlisted in the Sixth New Zealand Regiment and fought in the Second Boer War.
"He returned from the war to his family in Australia two inches shorter than when he left [via a hip injury]," says Peter. "Following the war, his family's crops were destroyed by successive hailstorms, sending them bankrupt."
After marrying, in 1907 (and fathering nine children), Ted moved to Sydney where he suffered more misfortune – losing his arm in a farming accident. "It's not clear if he lost his leg and eye in the same accident," says Peter. "He then tried various ways to earn money including selling fish door-to-door before eventually ending up by himself in Gundaroo in the early 1930s.
Not unexpectedly, it turns out almost everyone in the pub has a story about old Ted.
"As kids, we were scared of him because of the way he looked, but as we got older we realised he was harmless and a good bloke," says Lyn Pearmain who joins us for a sundowner.
Lyn says the townsfolk did what they could to help the staunchly independent battler. "Matt Crowe [who was publican for many years] would often pick him up to save him hobbling into town; he'd look after him, even cut his hair," says Lyn, who recalls visiting his hut a few times. "Sometimes Matt would collect me from school in Canberra and he'd have a box of groceries for Ted with him, so we'd drop them off at his hut on the way home."
"As Ted's health deteriorated he stopped selling the vegies and would only grow them for himself," Peter says. "At 85 he apparently got such a bad tooth infection that he had every tooth ripped out of his head."
Ted was offered a place at Narrabeen for returned soldiers, but preferring his independence, he opted to stay on at Gundaroo until he was nearly 90, when he then went to live with his daughter in Sydney. He died in 1970, aged 93.
Next weekend, as part of the Anzac Centenary the Gundaroo & District Historical Society and the Gundaroo Community Association Memorial Committee are commemorating those from the Gundaroo area who served in wartime by showcasing the village's war history in a one-off exhibition. Ted's story is one of those featured.
I'm not sure how much sway the historical society has with the local publican, but a small plaque, perhaps with the words "Ted's Corner" mounted on the wall of the verandah where Ted used to peddle his vegies might also be a fitting, longer lasting memorial to one of Gundaroo's favourite sons.
I'd drink to that.
Gundaroo's War History Exhibition: Photos, records and artefacts reflecting the role of Gundaroo and its residents (including Ted Watt), in various wars will be displayed at the Gundaroo Soldiers' Memorial Hall (23 Cork Street) between 7am and 4pm on Anzac Day (Saturday, April 25) and between 10am and 4pm on Sunday, April 26. Entry by gold coin donation. Gundaroo is about a 30-40-minute drive north of Canberra. More: gundaroohistoricalsociety.com
Did you know? The Gundaroo Soldiers' Memorial Hall once housed the village's Elite Skating Rink which was built in the 1890s at the height of the roller-skating craze of the era.
Ted's hut: The remains of Ted Watt's hut is on private property and not accessible to the public.
Look out for: On the Gundaroo War Memorial it states that World War I ended in 1919, not as many of us learnt in history lessons at school, when fighting ended on Armistice Day (11 November 1918). It turns out that a number of other war memorials around the world (and some others in our region, including Collector) also use 1919 to reflect the date (28 June, 1919) when the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, was signed.
Make a day of it: Take a stroll and marvel at some of Gundaroo's 19th-century buildings and monuments, finishing with a cold drink and a game of two-up at the Gundaroo Colonial Inn. Apart from above-average pub grub at the inn, there's a range of other food options including gourmet pizzas at Cork St Cafe (Ph: 6236 8217 or corkstcafe.com.au) and Grazing's white-linen dining in front of cosy open fires in the restored 1865 Royal Hotel (Ph: 6236 8777 or grazing.com.au). Alternatively, take a picnic to the village's little-known riverside park (at the western end of Lot Street).
Where in Canberra?
Clue: Fancy a beer?
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Last week: Congratulations to Ian McKenzie of Weston who correctly identified last week's photo sourced from ArchivesACT as an historic image of a bird hide at Jerrabomberra Wetlands. Ian just beat 10-year-old Finn Zentelis-Wilde of O'Connor who is trying "to devise a plan for a quicker internet connection" to be the first correct entry after 10am next week.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am Saturday, April 18, with the correct answer wins.