Sunday 24 April 2011 – Ainslie

This was one of those walks that doesn’t start at a shopping centre, which always makes me nervous about parking. I checked Google maps before we left, and hoped we’d be able to park outside Goodwin Village in Bonney Street. Fortunately we found a spot.

Canberra Community Walks map of Ainslie

I suppose one of the points of not starting at the shops is to walk past the 1930s houses, up through the park (Wakefield Gardens) full of huge old trees, to the shopping centre. (I’ve just noticed that the walk is called the Ainslie-Goodwin Community Walk, so the other point is obviously to start from Goodwin Village!)

And then to walk along Stephen Street (not Shephen Street, as the map says) parallel to Mount Ainslie. And then to turn into Majura Avenue and see Black Mountain Tower. This is what we did.

My daughter, Helen, used to live in Stephen Street. I nearly bought a house in Tyson Street once upon a time, but it was a duplex and I chickened out at the thought of having neighbours that close. I would have loved to live in such a central suburb.

In those days, I would also have quite liked to live close to All Saints Church, where I used to sing a fair bit when Canon Laurie Murchison was organist there.

Ainslie’s a pleasant suburb. Not at all manicured: more like Lyneham than Reid. It was built for “lower income public servants and workmen”, according to the Wakefield Gardens Heritage listing (No. 20046, accessed via the ACT Heritage Register).

Wikipedia tells us that the name Ainslie was gazetted in 1928, and that the streets of the suburb are named after pioneers and legislators. Visiting Ainslie entwined me in a  well-known local tale – the one about Canberra being “a good sheep paddock spoiled”.

The suburb was named after James Ainslie:

First overseer of Duntroon Station in Canberra; employed by Robert Campbell to drive a mob of sheep south from Bathurst ‘until he found suitable land’, 1825; Ainslie chose the Limestone Plains (the Canberra district) about 1825; was overseer for ten years before returning to Scotland.

ACT Planning and Land Authority name search on Ainslie

James Ainslie is also commemorated by a sculpture in Civic called Ainslie’s sheep:

Ainslie's Sheep Sculpture by Les Kossatz

Ainslie’s Sheep Sculpture by Les Kossatz
Photo by ArchivesACT, on Flickr

The national capital has memorably been described as ‘a good sheep paddock spoiled’. This sculpture is a satirical salute to one of Canberra’s early pastoralists…

artsACT – public art

The remark about the sheep paddock is attributed to King O’Malley (who also called the site chosen for Canberra “a howling wilderness”, apparently.)

But to return to Ainslie the suburb: most of the area we walked in turns out to be heritage-listed. I noticed a vacant lot on a corner near Wakefield Gardens and wondered why such a desirable location had remained undeveloped. Turns out there are heaps of vacant corner lots, they’re called “corner parks”, and they’re heritage-listed. Good!

We passed one of the four “pocket parks” that are apparently another heritage feature of the suburb, but I have to admit, I missed it completely. Here’s what I saw in Ainslie:

Photo by KatieTT

KatieTT on Flickr; some rights reserved

This was a stencil on the back of the shops. Passing through a walkway, we met a family with three big, lively dogs:

Three big energetic dogs

Doggos of Ainslie

I’m pretty sure I saw that orange dog again the other day in O’Connor but I was inside and it was out, so I couldn’t check.

At the shops, we were confronted by many sculptures – generally but not always creatures on tree trunks – and no information whatsoever about them. No information online, either. I’m disappointed.

Dac feeding the magpie sculpture

A closer look at the magpie:

I think it has an acorn

Acorns featured in many of the sculptures, no doubt because of the oaks in Wakefield Gardens. If you go back up to the magpie pillar  photo and look at about knee-height, you’ll see an acorn medallion which turned up on all the pillars. At first we thought it was a speaker!

Tree trunk scattered with sculptured frogs

Frog pillar

You get an idea of the proximity of Mount Ainslie in the photo above.  You can also see the handsome wall behind which are hidden the public toilets. A cod pillar can be seen on the RiotACT, but I missed it on this visit.

Frog close-up:

Public art in Ainslie

Top right hand corner is actually a floating acorn

We crossed the road to admire a playground (in front of the wall) featuring snail sculptures…

Playground at Ainslie shops with acorn on pillar surrounded by large snail sculptures

The playground at Ainslie shops

…and a giant acorn! Pillars marked the exit to the playground park:

Beetles on the left; tawny frogmouths on the right

Dac is gazing across at a Canberra Tracks heritage sign – one of many at Ainslie shops. I didn’t bother photographing them because I thought they’d be online, as the Reid one was. No such luck. I’ll have to go back!

It was Easter Sunday, so I was a little unnerved to see this at Ainslie shops:

White dove

Who knows?

(See Wikipedia article Paraclete.)

Then we passed a bold magpie and Dac took this excellent bird photo:


I can’t remember who took this one, but Dac spotted its subject:

Cloud formation in the shape of a dragon

Sky dragon

There were no surprises among Ainslie houses, apart from the one that featured these:

Sparkly coloured goanna figures


Apologies for the blurring – this photo is definitely one of mine. The same house had a nice cat that didn’t run away when the camera was brandished:

Puss, puss!

Henry called for more ranting in my blog posts, but I haven’t got a rant associated with Ainslie. It was an uneventful walk. I failed to get a photo of Black Mountain Tower as we turned the corner into Majura Avenue, but I did get one of my favourite power substation:

Electricity substation painted with a geometric pattern of serious galahs (and later defaced)

Squadron of galahs

A pity some graffitist couldn’t resist defacing someone else’s work. 😦 Still, it’s very pleasing to see this depiction of grim-faced birds flying in formation. I don’t know how the artist came up with the idea, as galahs couldn’t be further from military precision in real life!

I will add a link to a supplementary article when I get a chance to go back to Ainslie and read all the heritage signs.

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3 Responses to Sunday 24 April 2011 – Ainslie

  1. dac says:

    That silly shot of me ‘feeding’ the bird statue came out pretty well. I was impressed by the cat picture, and the Magpie piccy came out great, as did the Sky Dragon 🙂

    I was annoyed at the daylight robbery aspect of the bakery ($3.80 for a nondescript sausage roll?), but it kept me going until lunchtime (we had McDonalds, but you didn’t mention that, eh? 🙂 🙂 ).

    The day was remarkably sunny. Even now, a few weeks later, with the first chilly days of winter peeking through the autumness, the quality of sunlight is that much less powerful.

    As a side-benefit of going on your walks, I can point my doctor to this page as ‘evidence’ that I get out of the house, at least occasionally. I’m really not looking forward to the ‘imperative’ visit to see her tomorrow, after she got the results of my latest blood-tests from last Tuesday.

  2. valkyrie1 says:

    Well, all’s well that ends well (re your doctor).

    And all’s well that ends well (re walks). Of course I didn’t mention going to Mackers, where I generally don’t go because of the nauseating smell of their chips. Lunch isn’t the point of the walk – unless it was a particularly nice lunch!

  3. dac says:

    The doctor’s visit was quite laid back, there wasn’t anything drastically ‘wrong’ with my blood test results, — high in sugar, as usual, and cholesterol was up, which she was worried about. I told her ‘no statins!’ and she accepted my decision without argument.

    This Saturday we’ll have to walk through the Winery or something, at Coriole.

    Remember to pack your camera.

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