Sunday 13 February 2011 – Woden Town Centre walk

This was my final southside Community Walk. I set off at 10 am on a day that was supposed to get up to 24°. It was already 22° so I had to get a wriggle on.

Map of the Woden Town Centre walk

Map of the Woden Town Centre walk

Beforehand, I’d spent some time on Google Earth figuring out where to leave the car. I know it’s decadent even to mention driving, but the fact is that I have to get to the starting point somehow. If I walked there, I’d have had my walk and more, and wouldn’t be able to get home!

Woden Town Park is a nice little park opposite the bus interchange. (Why didn’t I catch a bus down? Well, for a start, I needed to hurry, to beat the heat, and it was Sunday: very few buses. And my nearest bus stop is a considerable walk away. And it’s uphill on the way home.) I suppose on weekdays, at lunchtime, this park is full of office workers. It offers plenty of shade and mad wisteria, flourishing in the wonderful yet bizarre wet weather we’ve been having. There’s a little wooden bridge over the storm water drain and across to the cycle path.

Two pictures of cockatoos nibbling a tree at Woden Town Park

I know I said I wouldn't take any more bird pics, but...

Some information gleaned from the Territory and Municipal Services page about Woden Town Park: its official name is Arabanoo, named for the Aboriginal captured by Captain Arthur Phillip to teach him Aboriginal languages and customs. Arabanoo died of smallpox 6 months later.

The name links the park to the suburb of Phillip, named for Governor Phillip who led the First Fleet to Australia. Many of the street names in Phillip are associated with the First, Second and Third Fleets.

I didn’t know that. And the first street name I chose to look up on the ACT Planning and Land Authority search, Corinna Street, wasn’t.

Anyway, back to the vital issue of parking. If only I’d looked at the Territory and Municipal Services page first! Unrecognisable in Google earth, and not looking all that useful in the map of the walk, there are acres of carparks at the back of Woden Town Park, which “provides a pleasant paved and lit pedestrian link between the town centre and Eddison Park and the parking areas on the eastern side of Yarralumla Creek.”

Yarralumla Creek! Not just a stormwater drain!

The walls on the Plaza side of Yarralumla Creek are completely covered in graffiti, and I thought it was good stuff – street art rather than a nuisance.

Paintings along Yarralumla Creek at Woden Town Centre

Street Art 1

Paintings along Yarralumla Creek at Woden Town Centre

Street Art 2

Paintings along Yarralumla Creek at Woden Town Centre

Street Art 3

As I innocently wandered along the cycle path towards Hindmarsh Drive, I was assailed by a loud and inchoate yell. It was so loud and so sudden that I went into fight or flight mode. Shortly afterwards, I became aware of the whisper of bicycles. When they got really close, one of the riders (I think it was the same one) yelled “BIKE!” at the top of his voice. I nearly fell over. Three lycra-clad arses flew by. I wasn’t quite left rotating in their wake, but the breeze definitely smote me.

When Dac is with me, we have disagreements about where to walk on paths. He wants to walk on the right, facing the oncoming traffic – which is a very sensible idea, and what I was taught as a child about walking along roads. The signs on shared foot/cycle paths, however, instruct one to keep left. So that’s what I was doing – and I was as far to the left as I could be. What’s wrong with gently ringing a bicycle bell to notify your presence? although I dare say these entitled fellows would have some AWOOGA-AWOOGA alarm rather than a mere bell!

All the way to Hindmarsh Drive I had trouble with cyclists. The ones coming from behind didn’t signal, after the initial yelling mob, so I was just suddenly aware of bicycles flashing past me. As I tend to lurch and stagger a bit, this is very scary. Cyclists coming towards me were sometimes on both sides of the path, and left it till the last minute to get over.

I was decidedly unimpressed. It seems as if Woden cyclists terrorise pedestrians in exactly the same way cyclists complain of being terrorised by drivers.

“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.”

– Augustus De Morgan after Swift, according to Wikipedia

Why not show a little empathy instead? I try to, when I’m driving near cyclists. What the yellers did to me was equivalent to my driving as close as possible to a passing cyclist, blowing my horn.

It really irritates me, anyway, that cycling is such a high-tech, expensive, privileged pursuit round here. Even though we mocked the Dutch upright cycling posture (see pic of Chloe in my travel diary) and were astonished to see chaps in business suits cycling through the countryside, I admire the fact that Dutch cyclists just get on with it. Everyone cycles, including my peers the old, the fat, and the unfashionable – and they take their pets in their baskets (follow the red arrow below).

A busy level crossing in Holland, with cyclists, and a dog in a bike basket

Hilversum cyclists

They wear their ordinary clothes, they don’t have any gear besides the bicycle (no helmets), possibly they have floral decorations on their baskets, and they go about. It is a genuine mode of transport over there, rather than an exercise in aggression and one-upmanship. Mind you, bicycles have right of way over cars!

*  *  *

The walk-as-advertised had changed because of the massive development taking place on the corner of Callam Street and Hindmarsh Drive.

Sign on the building site of a large number of high rise blocks of flats

Woden Arcology <TM> The RiotACT

The Can.Times of 4 Nov. 2010 carried details of this proposed development, including artist’s impression, under the headline ‘High-rise units to tower over Woden’ (‘A 35-storey, 100m-high residential tower with four neighbouring towers up to 20 storeys is proposed for Woden Town Centre’, etc., etc). In its story on 2 Dec. 2010, ‘Woden highrise may be downsized’, ABC News online noted that proponents of the scheme are ‘considering reducing the height of some of the proposed buildings’ which would involve opening negotiations with ACT Gov about expanding the project further along Callum Street.

– Dacquiri, 9 January 2011, commenting on
18 stories is medium density – The Greens
by johnboy, 7 January 2011 on the RiotACT

Yes, this is opposite the already-whinged-about Sky Plaza.

Sky Plaza, Woden, ACT

Sky Plaza from the site of the next lot of highrises

Changes in the route meant I had to improvise, and probably walked a little further as a result. Further along the scary cycle path, unfortunately. One good outcome was meeting the sole doggo of the walk:

Big but obedient dog posing aginst the building site fence

"Sit," they said, and the doggo sat!

As I made my way up Hindmarsh, I observed that the Southern Cross Club has lovely little water tanks, and was appalled to note that the Woden Fire Station is flanked by palm trees.

Scenes from Woden Town Centre: clockwise: corner park, fire station, Trash'n'Treasure market, water tanks

Scenes from Woden Town Centre

Clockwise: the corner park mentioned in another episode (see Sky Plaza link above), Woden Fire Station looking like something out of Somerset Maugham, Trash and Treasure, slimline water tanks outside the Southern Cross Club.

I think Woden Trash and Treasure is Canberra’s oldest market, but can’t find any verification of this online. The Woden Lions Club that runs it was established in 1968. Anyway, the market was in full swing as I came up to the corner of Melrose Drive.

And that was the end of the populous bit of the walk. Thereafter it wound its way past deserted shops and offices. Perhaps as a result of the aggression I experienced early in the walk, I was quite apprehensive walking down alleys and lanes where no one was about.

I passed the Albermarle Building and the Alexander Building, where Brian and Tricky and I all worked in 1971. They were in the Department of Health, and I was in the Department of Education and Science – the minister was Malcolm Fraser. I passed  the bar that used to be called The Contented Soul and noted that it’s now called The Soul.

The odd person I did encounter seemed quite odd – no doubt they thought the same of me! Only one said hello. I smiled diffidently at the lone youths I passed on the now-deserted paths near the former Woden TAFE.

A cantilevered building with concrete silos at the corners

Formerly the Woden College of Technical and Further Education

My smiles drew no response. I admire my friend Jo, who engages with such passers-by as a matter of principle, to make them feel part of the community.

I like this building, now called Callam Offices and housing public servants. (Callam Street is named after the surgeon on the first fleet ship Supply.) It looks as if it could be picked up by a passing skyhook. I was pleased to learn that the architect was John Andrews, “a key practitioner of the Late Twentieth Century Brutalist and Late Modern styles”. Brutalists, hurrah!

As I re-crossed the bridge over Yarralumla Creek, a smile was brought to my exhausted and panting face by the sight, downstream, of a large painting of Steve Pratt, formerly a Liberal member of the ACT Legislative Assembly. He warrants a painting on the side of a bridge because he painted over the government-sponsored street art that used to be there! I recommend visiting the relevant entry on the blog of Ampersand Duck for before and after shots.

The last little bit of the walk was very hard work, but I made it.

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6 Responses to Sunday 13 February 2011 – Woden Town Centre walk

  1. dac says:

    Another walk I failed to make.

    The cyclists are between a rock and a hard place with regards to going around people on the path. They don’t make much noise (noise = inefficiency = loss of energy = slower/harder), and so people in front of them rarely hear them coming. If they are coming towards you, AND you’re looking forward (instead of at your feet, like I tend to do), then you’ll see them a bit before they run into you, and you can get out of the way (always off the edge of the path, never towards the middle).

    If you don’t know they are coming, what are they supposed to do? Well they can just swoosh by with no notice, causing you to startle, or they can yell out, or they can hurl abuse as they go by, and feel wronged that someone is -walking- on -their- bike path.

    I used to ride a bike, I know from experience that even going -gently- around people, can still startle them, plus it greatly increases the chance of the bike rider smacking head on into a ‘heads down, bums up’ speeding menace going the other way — a collision which can really ruin your life.

    It’s better when people don’t walk on designated cycle paths, and when people don’t ride on designated walking paths. Sometimes there is little choice in the matter, and people just have to be accommodating rather than antagonistic. Very difficult for the self-congratulatory biking crowd to -not- be puffed up with their own self-importance tho.

    I’m sorry I missed this one, I had gone to bed at 5am or something, and just couldn’t bring myself to clamber out of bed in order to trudge around Woden Plaza.

  2. albertine says:

    a truly courageous walk, and a lovely report. Thank you.
    1. why eschew bird photos? I love ’em.
    2. The cyclists shoud all have bells and ring them well before reaching the pedestrian in front – several times!! Or they could call out the name/suburb of their town of origin – that would be fun. (eg Wangaratta!!) I think the guy who screamed ‘Bike’ was probably doing his best in a difficult world. It’s the cyclists without lights who bother me most: I have a longstanding fear of one day turning left (while driving a car, silly) and taking out some poor soul whom I just haven’t seen.
    3. really good pictures!

    • valkyrie1 says:

      1. All the bird photos I’ve taken for other blog entries have been minuscule and blurry. I thought it was time to swear off them, as I swore off zoo photos years ago when I realised I had wallets and wallets of photos of dots on the horizon.

      2. You have excellent ideas for The Civil Society, Jill. Yelling out town of origin would be fun!

      3. Glad you liked the pictures.

      4. Dac too: I appreciate the comments!

  3. Marc says:

    Oh goody, another educational walk. Who knew about the First Fleet, even if we could have made a good guess about the frequency of the appearances of the Brutalist School. The issue with bike paths is fraught with equal rights. Walkers want to to coexist, bikes don’t. The result is that bikes win, yet walkers have nowhere to go. It’s true that giving good warning can startle a pedestrian, and it can be quite a thril to have the words “to your left” soothingly intoned onto one’s ear before a cyclist wizzes by. But this requires gentility, imagination and good voice control, hardly characteristic of those well suited gangs of speed freaks on their carbon fibre machibes. They are all about might being right, and so they are, for now. In case it makes up some of the balance, walkers often arrest runners in full flight simply by refusing to step aside. Maybe it’s time for them to face up to runners in the same way.

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Marc, there once were more Brutalist buildings than there are now. I don’t think it’s good when things are bulldozed not long after they were put up!

      I’m sorry to hear about walkers arresting runners, but it bears out my flea quote: everyone’s doing someone down on these supposedly shared paths. I’d love a soothing intonation of “to your left”, but even a shout of “Fore!” would do.

  4. Marc says:

    Yes. I meant “face up to riders” of course, but as you say it’s revealing behaviour and in any case I don’t think I would steadfastly stand in the path of a carbon fibre exxxoped on the assumption that its rider would wish me good morning. I would be like Quentin Crisp’s nun who showed her lack of faith by leaping backwards onto a median strip. Fleawise, Where I live, people try to beat each other from the front door to the lift so they can impress the “close door” button with their prehensile thumbs and ride up alone. We need a liveried elevator boy to mediate. Or good manners, which have a LHC stuff’s chance of reappearing as they are no longer taught to children between the ages of one and ten.

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