Last week this column shone the spotlight on secrets of the convict era at Lanyon. Here are 10 more reasons to explore this jewel in the crown of ACT Historic Places when it re-opens on October 29.
Ancient Artefacts: There are more than 14 recorded AbAoriginal heritage sites in the Lanyon Historic Precinct ranging from stone artefact scatters to a possible earth circle. Most of these locations are kept hush-hush, but you can marvel at two scarred trees, including a grand old gum tree from which it is believed bark was removed to make a canoe for crossing the Murrumbidgee River. This tree also bears other marks suggesting it was a site where traditional custodians of this land may have camped. Ngunawal elder Wally Bell runs regular tours to this these treasured trees, something every Canberran should do at least once.
Wondrous Windmill: In the paddock just to the south of the scar trees and just beyond the remnants of 180-year-old bank and ditch farming practices (look closely, it's there!) is a much more modern landmark. Built in the late 1930s, this 20-metre-tall Southern Cross ''Seneschal model'' windmill with 10-metre span is considered one of the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Despite being damaged in a storm in 1994, it was repaired in 1998 and continues to pump water today.
Gorgeous Gardens: With so many nooks and ''garden rooms'' formally separated by walls and hedges, a stroll through the grounds is a treat at any time of the year, especially in spring. Don't miss the Lily Walk which incorporates a path-line which was originally the main entrance to Lanyon House prior to the construction of the current 1859 homestead. Edged with strawberries, this Edwardian garden contains Madonna and November (or Christmas) lilies as well as winter irises and self-seeding tobacco plants. Divine.
Mysterious Mound: About 10 years ago, after removing a considerable thicket of ivy, gardeners discovered a curious partially-buried concrete structure. Its semi-circular shape prompted some to speculate it may have been a giant outdoor bread oven. However, archaeologists believe due to the fact it's completely enclosed, it may be a tank, possibly part of a rudimentary sewage system. A modern-day mystery.
Stable Secret: If visiting the circa 1830-50s stable don't be distracted by the wooden louvre shutters for ventilation with ingenious closers. Make sure you look down where the real visual treat here is the floor which is crafted from hand-hewn hexagonal hardwood timber stumps. Apparently, the end grain is kinder to horse hooves. Is this practice widespread? I haven't seen it anywhere else.
VIP Veranda: The homestead's Victorian-Georgian-style veranda captures the low angle of the sun in winter but is cool and shady in summer. Go on, name a better veranda in Canberra. I bet you can't. While it's now a great place to relax before or after a house tour, spare a thought for regular reader of these pages, Pat Jeffery of Jerrabomberra. One of Pat's first jobs in the early 1950s was to get down on hands and knees and wash and polish the veranda every December. "The owner Mr Field was away for most of the year, but always came home at Christmas and it had to be in tip-top shape," recalls Pat.
Aviation Antique: Squirrelled away in the circa-1860 old dairy-cum-site office is an exhibition featuring historic photos of the Cunningham family who lived at Lanyon from 1849 to 1926. Taking pride of place among the photos is a piece of the Orroral Dingo, a de Havilland Gipsy Moth flown by Andrew Cunningham in the late 1920s. There are anecdotal reports of the daredevil pilot who also owned a property in the nearby Orroral Valley starting it up to scare away the dingos. However, according to historian Jenny Horsfield, "It was the people on the ground who were just as startled by his low-flying acrobatic antics". These days, the only reason you need to duck is to get through the door leading into the exhibition.
Bunya Beauty: Just near the northern side of the homestead are two towering Bunya trees (Araucaria Bidwillii) planted by Jane Cunningham in the 1870s. By all means, check out their distinctive elephant skin-like trunks but don't get too close in late summer/early autumn when they drop ripe pineapple-sized cones. Ouch.
Towering Tennent: The hulking summit of this 1375-metre mountain towers sentinel-like over Lanyon. Mt Tennent (misspelt Tennant) was originally called Tharwa (meaning wallabies) until somebody decided it a good idea to change it from its indigenous name to honour failed bushranger John Tennent who, according to local lore in the late 1820s, had a hideout on the side on the mountain. Did someone mention buried treasure?
Murrumbidgee Magic: Today, apart from a maze of wombat burrows, there's not many obvious signs of wildlife along the river, but according to Samuel Shumack in An Autobiography or Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ANU Press, 1967) "during the 1800s the river abounded with fish and waterfowl". Apparently one local "landed a fish so large that when a sapling was passed through its gills and carried on the shoulders of two men, the tail of the fish dragged on the ground. It was a giant Murray cod, known to weigh over 100 pounds [about 50kg]". Heck.
These days, if you want a decent feed at Lanyon, then you best head to the Lanyon café housed in the old men's barracks. Run by chef extraordinaire Owen Brennan for more than 20 years, regulars battle to be first on a Sunday morning to tuck into his fresh scones with jam and cream. I can also vouch for his lemon tarts. Yum.
See www.historicplaces.com.au for opening hours.
Dog on the tucker box offspring unveiled
This column is occasionally asked why the famous dog on the tucker box statue is located 8 kilometres out of Gundagai on the Hume Highway, rather than in the centre of town.
The main reason is that the line in the poem, Bill the Bullocky, which inspired the statue, states the dog was "five miles (8km) out of Gundagai". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the historic town more connected to the iconic statue, the local council recently commissioned sculptor Darien Pullen to create three puppy statues. Yes, the dog on the tuckerbox is having a litter! And earlier this week I had a sneak peek - they look wonderfully realistic. And why wouldn't they? Darien made that other knock-out sculpture in Gundagai, a tribute to Yarri and Jacky Jacky, two Aboriginal men who saved many lives during the catastrophic 1852 flood.
The currently nameless trio of cute canines will be installed prior to the town's big Snake Gully Cup Carnival on November 12-13 - the one with sausages (pictured) will be outside the local butcher, another with a newspaper will live outside the newsagency while the third will be waiting for its owner outside the Family Hotel. Thankfully they won't remain unnamed forever- Visit Gundagai just launched a competition to name them on its Facebook page.
Still on the landmark statue, it's 40 years ago this week that a group of Canberra students sparked national outrage after they dog-napped the bronzed kelpie, posing with it near the entrance to the refectory at the University of Canberra, before it was safely returned to Gundagai. In 2016, this column got close to uncovering the perpetrators with several former students just falling short of naming those responsible. Surely, now is the time for a confession? Who knows, with an appropriate apology, maybe one of the puppies could be named after the ringleader? Mmm ... then again, maybe not.
WHERE IN CANBERRA?
Cryptic Clue: Cold student accommodation
Last week: Congratulations to Brenda Birkett of Page who was first to correctly identify the location of last week's photo of a very concrete ramp. It wasn't all plain sailing for Brenda who, using, the clue of ''emu'' endured "an exhaustive but unsuccessful search on foot for possibilities in our first hunch of Emu Bank, Belconnen". Luckily for Brenda, while "trudging home", she widened her search to meander through Emu Ridge where she "serendipitously came across the steps, near the end of the cul-de-sac in Stapley Court to Dodgshun Court".
As to the curious concrete ramp, apparently two narrow ramps were installed in the 1980s to aid those pushing prams up and down the stairs. Over time, one of the ramps was removed (look closely and you can see the faint outline of the second ramp). Several readers including Phil Tarrant suggest this was due to changing safety standards. Or maybe to discourage skateboarders. As to their use now? I guess you could push a bike up the ramp, or as Laura Frame suggests, "it'd make a good marble run". Gee, does anyone play marbles anymore? There are several similar historic stair ramps elsewhere in Canberra including in Scullin and Torrens, also in various states of disrepair - does anyone use them? There are also more useful modern ramps at ANU purposefully designed to walk bikes up and down stairs.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and suburb to firstname.lastname@example.org The first email sent after 10am, Saturday October 23, 2021, wins bragging rights. Double passes to Dendy, the Home of Quality Cinema will be offered again as prizes once cinemas re-open.
While tending to his backyard choko vine, Michael Calkovics of Lyons disturbed this dark-spotted tiger moth (Spilosoma canescens) coming out of ''hibernation''. "It was as if the moth was popping it's little head up to say 'hi' to us all coming out of lockdown," says Michael. According to this column's go-to butterfly (and sometimes moth) expert Suzi Bond, "This moth is found across Australia and here in Canberra it flies from spring to summer and is fairly common in suburban gardens." Have you seen one?
As to chokos, while the much-maligned veggie is apparently experiencing a comeback in backyards all over Australia, it won't be in the yowie bunker where the little green devils get as much love on our dinner plates as the dreaded brussels sprout.