Sunday 21 November 2010 – Lyneham walk

The Lyneham walk was (at the time) a bit of a disappointment, not helped by the weather. We left home at 11 and it was already 20 degrees. The forecast was for 26. What normally happens at this time of year is that it takes until about 3pm to reach the maximum temperature, then it sits there till about 6pm before rapidly cooling down. I’d thought 11 was early enough, but it wasn’t. We were very hot.

Advertised as a 2.9km flat loop, the walk was indeed flat, which was a good thing. A couple of signs were missing (1.56km and 2.35km, I think) but the turnoffs were marked, so I didn’t get lost. I did study the map very earnestly before we set out.

Map of the Canberra Community Walk in Lyneham, with slight variations marked in purple

Slight variations are marked in purple

We parked near Tilley’s and walked along Brigalow Street, past Lyneham Primary, Brindabella Christian school, and St Ninian’s Uniting Church. The church is a little old building – of local Black Mountain stone, I learnt from its website. It was dedicated and opened on 13 February 1873. I should have taken a picture, but there are good ones on the website.

Another missed photo opportunity (through guilt at being snobbishly critical) was the Spanish hacienda – white paint, sprawl, ornate wrought iron, arches, paving – obtruding from a whole streetful of modest brick duplexes. I like brick houses au naturel! What’s wrong with me?

Walking along Brigalow Street brought back a lot of memories – too many to cover here. Lyneham’s a popular suburb, close to Dickson and Civic and not far from the university. In my SCUNA days, I went to many parties there. Geoff and Marie lived there when I met them in 1977. For the all-too-few years they stayed, Helen and I used to go to their place every Sunday afternoon and watch Countdown with them. Marc lived there for a while; if I were to walk down his street, I’d see him tapdancing to Bach’s Magnificat.

Onto Mouat Street we went, past the almost-deserted Lyneham Motor Inn, and down to the storm water drain (I suspected it was Sullivan’s Creek, and investigations reveal that it is) where, after I’d expressed distaste at the algae, we spotted a Sacred Ibis. And a great deal of graffiti.

Ibis retreating to a bush in front of a graffiti'd wall

By Sullivan's Creek

Our proximity to Lyneham High School was signalled by the massed cawing of crows. We hear the same sound whenever we’re walking past Melrose High. Dac remarked that the crows were missing their lunch, it being Sunday.

On our right, as we walked along beside the drain, was Lyneham Oval, which I hadn’t noticed at all when we were going down the other side of it on Brigalow Street. There were some lovely old trees along the edge of the oval – and some huge old poplars which only had leaves low down, on what looked like suckers. Dying trees.

View of Black Mountain Tower across Lyneham Oval

View of Black Mountain Tower across Lyneham Oval

We crossed the drain and walked up a laneway beside the high school. We passed nouveau boxes of flats, with people lunching on their balconies, and brick cottages with thriving flower gardens. It must be hard living so close to the school. There would be so much noise. There’s noise here, with three schools close by, but at least my front door doesn’t open onto them.

When we reached Goodwin Street, it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to follow the map. There was a huge – and I mean huge! – excavation in front of us, and work going on all the way down to Wattle Street. Nowhere was there a sign telling us what was being built: plenty of signs telling us that the bike path was closed, however, and the footpath on that side of the road.

Excavation in Goodwin Street; Mt Ainslie in background

Excavation in Goodwin Street; Mt Ainslie in background

My suspicious mind immediately assumed someone was about to make a mint out of medium or high density housing, but I’ve now discovered with relief and pleasure that in fact it’s a project to turn that section of Sullivan’s Creek into a wetland:

The wetland will help improve the quality of the stormwater in the catchment and help reduce algal blooms in Lake Burley Griffin, provide aquatic habitat and enhanced terrestrial habitat, provide ‘natural’ recreational experiences and volunteering and educational opportunities and provide harvested stormwater for irrigation of playing fields.

Lyneham Wetland on Facebook

Driving to and from Lyneham, we passed the brand-new Banksia Street Wetland in O’Connor – I’d read about it and was pleased to see it. I’m positively thrilled that what I thought was more boxes in Lyneham turns out to be more nature instead! Further investigation reveals that the wetlands are controversial, particularly the Lyneham one, which involved felling some big trees.

A map of the Inner North Wetlands currently being constructed in Canberra

The Inner North Wetlands currently being constructed in Canberra - image: Edwina Robinson 2009

The map above comes from Sullivans Creek Catchment Case Study by Edwina Robinson and Maureen Bartle, 2010 available on the Constructed Wetlands page of the Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water.

It’s so hard to make changes to people’s familiar environments. I know how wretched I’d feel if the gummint came round and cut down the tree full of cockatoos on Pearce Oval. But water quality, natural filtering, better control over storm water, use of non-potable water for sportsgrounds… All these things sound good to me. I’d feel much more wretched if trees were cut down to make room for box-building and lining a developer’s pockets.

Anyway. The excavation meant that we didn’t cross over – we staggered along on the Lyneham side of the road, passing a patriotic letterbox, and falling upon a seat at a bus stop, though it only had shade for one.

Patriotic letterbox: a brown metal letterbox featuring metal flourishes and a map of Australia

Patriotic letterbox

Down Wattle Street we lurched, looking for a front yard featuring AstroTurf that I’d noticed on previous perambulations. Found two, and they both looked pretty real, actually. The brown isn’t earth showing through; it’s stuff that has fallen from trees.

Astroturf front lawn

Astroturf front lawn

I kept catching distant glimpses of dogs, waving happy tails like flags, but they kept turning off down other streets or lanes. Imagine how pleased I was when we were  greeted by the following woofers from their front window! It reminded me of Holland, where you often see a pair of dogs or cats (or vases or sculptures) in the front non-opening display window.

Two small dogs inside a front window

Woof, woof!

We were very hot and tired, so when another bus stop seat appeared, we flung ourselves down for a rest. After a while, a young woman came up to us and asked if we were waiting for a bus. She was parked about a block away, loading stuff into her car, and had walked all the way up the street to warn us that no buses stopped at that bus stop! “Especially on a Sunday,” she said. What a very kind person!

I omitted to notice Wandoo Street (which always reminds me of Hartley’s joke about “What’s a hendoo?”) because it had come to that point in the walk when all that mattered was getting back to the car. Oh, and I was distracted by boxes with palm trees.

Boxy block of flats with spiky palm trees

Not my dream home

Much has changed in Wattle Street since the days when the osteopath was on the corner of Hall Street. (In those days – not that long ago, I would have thought – it was a new building. And here it is empty, and looking run-down.)

Brick corner building in Lyneham

To let

Lyneham still has a few of its original (~1958) houses (and some of them were boxes, too, I noticed) but there’s been a great deal of gentrification. If only it didn’t go with growing such pointy plants! I suppose people are looking for drought-resistant gardens, but I’m sure these dead-looking pointy things aren’t native plants, and I’m sure there are native plants which would need little water and still look pleasant!

Lyneham Shops was humming, as always. People still flock to Tilleys.

The Mee Sing Chinese restaurant

The Mee Sing

Evidently they still flock to the Mee Sing as well. I’m happy it’s still there and still going. I had dinner there for the first time in 1969.

Dac bought diet coke at the local supermarket (where between 1978 and 1985 I used to buy the makings of dinner, after picking Helen up from the O’Connor Co-operative School, on the way home from work to our first house, in Kaleen) and we decided to try the All Bar Nun at O’Connor for brunch.

A snooty waitperson was pleased to tell us breakfast had closed at noon (it was perhaps 20 past) and the lunch menu looked dear, so we bought some bacon at another local supermarket and came home for brunch, and it was very nice.

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11 Responses to Sunday 21 November 2010 – Lyneham walk

  1. dac says:

    The food prices at All Bar Nun were extortionate — $20 for breakfast stuff, when most other places have them for $9-$15. When we were left standing at the service area instead of being shown to one of the many empty tables, I was fuming; it was nice to go to the supermarket, and pick up a pack of smokehouse bacon (from Angaston, in South Australia) and then head home and make bacon and eggs for lunch.

    It wasn’t that hot, it was very still though, without the cooling effect of the breeze. Glad I had elected NOT to bring my iPad along, because taking off my denim jacket really helped with the heat.

    Noticed you mentioned that there was only one shady spot on the seat, but not who got it (big cheesy grin, I got there first!).

    Will you have found abandoned train tracks to walk on for next week’s effort?

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Abandoned train tracks will have to wait. My sister is coming down from Sydney this weekend to help me with Christmas shopping.

      I am, however, working on abandoned train track walks: I know where to look in Reid and Yarralumla, and have a vague idea re Tuggeranong. Now it’s a matter of deciding on an interesting 2-3km flat loop.

      We’ll have to start our walks at 7am from now on, and take insect repellant and sunblock. :-/

  2. albertine says:

    Aaahh Lyneham! (So many of your posts make me go Aaaahhh!) Where my parents lived at Lewin Street (sp?), and so did George Garnsey, I think. Where I had my first job, on Northbourne Avenue, and found to my amazement that I was cleared to Top Secret status. (Ah, memory – maybe it was only ‘Secret’.)
    Thank you again for a lovely walk.

    • valkyrie1 says:

      I remember visiting your parents in Lewin Street. Your mother lent me _Trout fishing in America_ by Richard Brautigan. It was _decades_ before I returned it.

      I never knew where George G lived – I assumed it was in a manse in O’Connor. Or on campus. He’s in the Newcastle area now.

      If your first job was at Macarthur House, it’s included as an extension to the Lyneham walk – a green dotted line on the map. The extension took the walk from 2.9km to 3.7km, so I gave it a miss!

  3. albertine says:

    Oh yes – and where the cops came to Lyneham High in about 1973 to burn a little marijuana for us teachers to smell, so that we would recognise it if the students were smoking. We all looked sooo solemn, and nobody met anybody else’s eyes.

    • valkyrie1 says:


      I’d forgotten that you taught at Lyneham High.

    • Marc says:

      How terrifying. Did they call for questions from the group? I assume the police held classes for each other, too, so they would be able to recognize symptoms of drug use, consequences etc, from persnal experience.

  4. Marc says:


    Merde.. What an historical tour de force; who would have thought Lyneham would ever be gentrified?

    It’s extraordinary to read this and remember it so fondly. I assume the walk included John’s residence in Lewin Street. (Was it Lewin Street?). That’s where I learned to tap dance to the Magnificat.

    We all had so much glorious music in our lives in Lewin Street days in 1979. John taught me to play his harpsichord and piano on which Val and I prepared our duets. John’s friends included many houseguests, who were appalled by the fact that we routinely sang around the piano until 2 or 3 am. Although the neighbours never complained about our incessant cacophony, the houseguests did. One evening at 2 am a religious pair (actual priests I think) stopped doing the Left Handed Intercontinental Stuff so they could run into the living room and scream at us and shriek that we had to stop singing “Excelsior!” so they could… “get some sleep.” So Collis and I sat in the living room rolling our eyes at each other and listening to their Ugandan Folk dancing instead!

    Val often came by. Once she appeared with blue hair down to her waist. Frequently, she brought Jeff and Marie and their amazing children. Helen was addicted to Abba’s Dancing Queen and would listen to it on repeat literally for hours. I remember once playing it to her from 7 pm until 11:30 pm. I had only the 45 rpm (I still have the same one) and a record player so I sat by it and constantly returned the needle to the beginning. After a while this became utterly automatic so I got on with piano playing or reading or whatever while I was doing it and Helen kept on being the Dancing Queen. She simply did not stop for three or four hours but she seemed to be enjoying herself. So was I. Everything was hilarious then, to me.

    We were so poor that we used to go to the Lyneham butcher and ask for one small chop or to the fish and chip shop and try to persuade them to see one (very filling) potato cake (they came in pairs, if that makes sense). Once when Camilla did this she found later the butcher had given her several chops and charged her for one. I was jealous that this had never happened to me.

    1979 in Lyneham was a formative and very unusual year for with what I realise would now be regarded as drama for many people we all knew and for ourselves as well. But at the time the drama made no real impact and we got on with having a lot of fun and the music and the visits were fabulous.

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Merde indeed!

      Actually I didn’t walk down Lewin Street, although I was very close by. I find it hard to go to some places in Canberra, and that’s one of them. Going there would remind me that you’re not there. In the same way, I didn’t go to Grevillea Street for 25 years because Geoff and Marie weren’t there.

      Now that McMansions and cement render and blocks of flats are taking over (perhaps even wiping out) the Bush Capital, I midas well forget about these sorts of inhibitions. John’s house has quite possibly been replaced by a purple-cement-coated 8-bedroom sprawl extending to the property line, or a large set of grey boxes owned by speculators. Geoff and Marie’s house still looks like a house, I discovered when visiting the people next door, but it has been extended at the back, and has a great swathe of driveway out the front.

      I’m glad you didn’t mind my mentioning the tapdancing. You were really good, with arms and everything. Even though I’ve always been a fan, I’d never realised tapdancing could be put to such good use! I’m sure the neighbours benefited from hearing the Magnificat blasting along the street, and indeed from all the other music, Sleigh Bells and Marche Militaire included. One of these days, Marc, I must get the recording of us rendering those numbers digitised.

      (I’d forgotten about the houseguests who complained about the noise!)

      > Everything was hilarious then, to me.

      What a good thing!

      It’s a wonder we were spared, what with “making the weekends last longer”, Dom Pérignon on a budget, and the like.

  5. Helen says:

    Great entry mum – great comments!! Marc, I had NO recollection that you’d actually had to sit by the record player and restart “dancing queen” manually a million times! in Mum’s version, you were sort of pallid and shaking after 4.5 hours of this when she came to collect me…

    Mum, you MUST find a way to digitise those recordings – they are utterly fabulous!!

    Xoxox H

  6. Helen says:

    Oh, Marc – the phrase “incessant cacophony” made me cackle so immoderately that I’m expecting the White Truck courtesy of the neighbours at any second…

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