While recently wandering through Crace Grasslands Reserve, Mike Hermes of Ainslie stumbled on an unusual metallic object "laying on the ground on the brow of an eroded low rise".
Intrigued, Mike, an archaeologist by trade, picked it up, gently rubbed off some dirt and realised the brass or copper alloy object was a belt buckle.
"The differential weathering on either side of the buckle, one side with light green corrosion, the other in pretty good shape, indicated it had been exposed to the elements for a long time," he explains.
An inspection of the area surrounding his discovery revealed "just a few spent .22 rifle cartridges, clearly much newer and not related".
At first Mike thought his chance find, which measures 6.5cm across, and 5.2cm top to bottom, was reminiscent of Kerry Packer's famous World Series Cricket motif.
However, that theory was promptly dismissed when Brian Meilak, an Australian authority on buckles, dated Mike's discovery to "1865 plus or minus five years".
"Cricket buckles were apparently at the height of fashion in the 1860s,'' reveals Mike, adding, "numerous illustrations of cricket teams of the time attest to their popularity."
"It's amazing to think the buckle probably lay there on the ground for over a century," says Mike, who wonders if the fashion accessory is somehow connected to Cricketers Arms, a hotel which once stood at Hall Village, just a couple of kilometres north of Crace.
"There are a number of historic photos of the pub with cricketers posing out the front dating to the around the time of the buckle," reports Mike. "Maybe it's a tenuous link, but I'd like to think it belonged to one of those jaunty characters."
Mike has agreed to donate the buckle to the Bradman Museum in Bowral but has first loaned it to the Hall Schoolhouse Museum which plans to feature his chance find in its upcoming exhibition about the evolution and social importance of cricket in the Canberra region.
Historian Allen Mawer, author of The Canberry Tales: an informal history (Arcadia, 2012), who is co-curator of the exhibition along with Nick Swain of the Canberra and District Historical Society, is thrilled with the timely discovery and believes "it is likely connected to 'squire' William Davis, who lived at nearby Gungahlin Homestead and had his own cricket team".
Davis is widely considered the 'father' of cricket it the Canberra region and according to Allen, the Ginninderra cricket teams were considered to be among the best in the colony.
"Davis took his cricket very seriously and was very proud of his team and a buckle for each player may have been one of the things he spent money on," suggests Allen.
"Davis played cricket from the early 1850s until he left the district in early 1877 and even had his own wicket at nearby Palmerville, which at the time was the most famous wicket anywhere south of Goulburn, because it was turf and cost a fortune to maintain," reveals Allen.
As to how the buckle ended up in the paddock has both Mike and Allen stumped. Perhaps it fell off while a player was riding his horse to a game at Palmerville?
IF YOU GO:
Crace Grassland: This159-hectare reserve is located in Crace, with access off Bellenden Street (Mitchell) and Randwick Road. A word of warning: watch (and listen) out for the opera singers who have recently started to use this out-of-the-way location to 'work' on their sopranos.
The Cricketers Arms: A Canberra Tracks sign on Victoria Street in Hall (half-way between city-side Barton Highway turnoff and the Hall Showground) marks the location of the former watering hole.
Fooling around in Flannels: When social distancing permits, the Hall Schoolhouse Museum plans to launch this exhibition about the history of cricket on the Limestone Plains. Prolific Canberra author Alan Foskett also plans to release his latest offering, Stories and Images of Cricket in Canberra and Nearby, to coincide with the exhibition opening. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, still on cricket, prompted by your columnist's recent exposé on White Cliffs and its sub-standard cricket ground (Moonscape a wonder to behold, May 23, 2020) Jane Southwell reports of her own 'rough pitch'.
Jane reports the "spinners' dream surface", carved from ant bed and cement on an unknown date, was unearthed on Wargeila, her family property near Bowning, in 1982.
"During the drought of 1981-82 we noticed a different shading in what was a normal grass paddock down by the river", she reveals. "We then started digging where the grass wasn't growing and lo and behold, uncovered the remains of an old cricket pitch."
Jane reports she has been trying "for years" to uncover more about the peculiar pitch but without much success other than a reference to a game between Wargeila and a team from Goulburn that was played in the late 1880s.
Jane reports her pitch is still occasionally used for social games, but with one major limitation. "You can only bowl from one end as the run-up and crease have crumbled and now favour the batsman a little too much," she muses.
Jane is also aware of other historic cricket pitches in the vicinity of Mike Hermes' buckle find at Crace. "My cousin John McKinnon used to live at Deasland (on the Barton Highway at Ginninderra) and there was an old cricket pitch in his paddock there ... right about where the Caltex and McDonald's outlets are now located," she reveals.
"There was also a pitch on our old farm 'Rosevale', where the suburb of North Lyneham now stands," Jane, adds. "I remember it as a child and it was in our paddock next to the Old Canberra Inn."
From birdsong to Beethoven
The school holidays are upon us again (heck, that was quick), and with limited (and at some resorts, extra expensive) lift tickets at the snow this year, over the next couple of weeks many Canberra families will instead be heading to the South Coast for some much anticipated R&R.
On coastal odysseys many of us put on the blinkers and drive direct to our favourite beach, but there is, of course, more to the coast than just surf and sand.
One nature-lover who doesn't take these other natural wonders of the coast for granted is good friend and regular contributor to this column, Matthew Higgins, who, after recently making a sea change, has embraced life at his bush block at the Black Range, near Tathra.
"Living close to Tathra means ready access to the beaches, estuaries and forests and the recreational opportunities that those sorts of places offer," reveals Matthew, who especially enjoys spotting whales from his bush block, despite it being 10 kilometres inland. "We even saw some breaches just a few days ago," he reports.
To celebrate the wildlife on his patch at Black Range, Matthew has created a short video. "It reflects the remarkably rich and precious diversity of the area, especially in the wake of the bushfires which have impacted so much of our beloved coast," he says.
Matthew's four-minute YouTube offering takes viewers on a journey from glorious trees to goannas, falcons to finches and ends with twilight bats and a full moon rising and with a delightful soundtrack featuring Canberra's Gabrielle Hyslop playing Beethoven's beautiful Moonlight Sonata.
Wherever you are headed these school holidays, travel safely and don't forget to send me photographs of anything unusual you encounter.
WHERE IN THE REGION?
Clue: Eden-Monaro electorate
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Michelle Paxton of Chisholm who was first to correctly identify the location of last week's photo as Auburn Street, Goulburn. The photo features Harry Laman during his epic cycle from Sydney to Eden via Canberra in 1923, outside the town hall (soon to be a performing arts centre). Michelle just beat Carole Purry of Evatt, Carol Egle of Ngunnawal and Chris Drakakis of Griffith to bragging rights. "The shadows indicate the photo was taken around midday in a north-easterly direction," reports Peter Kercher of Holt.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and suburb to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday July 4, 2020, wins bragging rights. Tickets to Dendy Cinemas will once again be given as a prize when the cinemas reopen.
On a lunchtime stroll through the ANU this week, I was shocked that the statue of Sir Winston Churchill which has stood on the corner of Balmain Crescent and Liversidge Street since 2001, had vanished.
Sure, the concrete plinth was there, but no sign of the larger-than-life replica of the Ivor Roberts-Jones original (1973) located in Parliament Square, London. Had it been pilfered by activists, tossed into Sullivans Creek by pranking students, or had the ANU removed it in a pre-emptive strike against possible protests?
Turns out it's none of these - according to a spokesperson for the nearby Churchill House, ANU's Winnie "was taken off display last month to repair damage sustained during the January hailstorm".
No word yet when (if?) he will return.