This is the last of the Canberra Community Walks. I’ve now been on all 19 of them.
I’d put Nicholls off because it was one of the longer walks – a 3.2km loop, mainly flat with moderate gradients. Dac wasn’t very keen on this one and indeed I couldn’t get him out of bed for it, so sadly I set off alone on the considerable drive across town to Gungahlin.
The controversial Gungahlin Drive Extension (the GDE) is undergoing roadworks, having been too small from the outset. For the brief period when the speed limit was 80kph, it was a fast way to get to the other side of Canberra – as long as you didn’t mind being tailgated by all the important Canberra drivers who don’t need to observe the speed limit.
Now there’s a road work speed limit of 60kph, with occasional patches of 40 if work is actually going on. Any dope who observes the speed limit must be tailgated and threatened to the limits of the important driver’s ability.
The joys of the new one lane ‘highway’ – Gungahlin Drive
by Tilly Dog Fauxtografix, on Flickr
Licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Driving to Nicholls, I was actually passed on the left by someone so important that he couldn’t possibly refrain from swerving violently into the merging lane (exemplified on the left of the photo above) and screaming past in order to reinstate his natural entitlement to drive above the limit.
Not an auspicious start.
Being tailgated is anxiety-provoking: you know you’ll be smashed into if anything unexpected happens and you have to slow down suddenly. Being tailgated for a solid 30 minutes on the GDE; being illegally, rudely, unnecessarily, and dangerously passed on the left; being tailgated while trying to find my way in a completely unknown suburb – TMI alert: what all this added up to, as I arrived at the starting point of the walk, the Nicholls shops, was an unwelcome but undeniable need to pee.
I walked past the shops and couldn’t see anything resembling a public toilet. The path led down to a small park so I headed for it, thinking there’d certainly be one there. No such luck. I didn’t have any idea what to do, so I continued walking, Micawberesque: something was bound to turn up.
Towards the end of the walk, about an hour later, I was seriously considering ringing a random doorbell and pleading with the occupants, but I couldn’t imagine that they’d let me in.
I know if someone turned up on my doorstep asking for the loo I’d be extremely wary of agreeing. I recently had a couple of charity muggers (not volunteer collectors, but employees who want your credit card number) on my doorstep, and they asked for a drink of water. Rather than invite them in, I said I’d bring it, and locked the door in their faces while I did so.
I dare say my predicament was another dimension of “good exercise”, but it added nothing to my enjoyment of the walk, which wasn’t high to begin with.
The principal feature of Nicholls seems to be grotesquely huge houses. Many of them were boxy, but all of them reminded me of the loss of urban amenity caused by allowing monstrosities to be built out to property lines. Scant space for plants or trees. Plenty of multiple garages, however.
Apart from my usual puzzlement over who’s going to clean these gargantuan edifices, and my natural resentment of the rich, I wonder why any rich person would choose to live way out in the sticks. The fact that there’s a golf course running through the suburb may compensate, I suppose.
The gradients didn’t feel all that moderate to me, perhaps because I was already in distress. There wasn’t much to look at from the higher ground – more boxy houses, mainly. I caught glimpses of some excellent doggos (including a German shepherd taking a girl for a walk) but these were the only ones I managed to photograph:
I hazily remember:
- estates of townhouses with American names like “Miami”,
- the very occasional bus stop seat where I sat and breathed, trying to reduce my discomfort, and
- mystification as to why I was spending a really long time walking along a street named after a car.
The street was Lexcen Avenue. As usual, the ACT Planning and Land Agency place name search sheds some light. The streets of Nicholls are named after sportspeople (perhaps because of the golf course) and this street is named after Ben Lexcen (1936-1988), designer of Australia II, winner of the America’s Cup in 1983.
Because that day I was at work compulsorily (and ironically) watching our lairily dressed Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, chortling, “Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum”, I actually remember the name. [Photo from the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library website]
Another street on the walk was Anne Clark Avenue. Anne Clark BEM (1903-1983) was one of the founders of the All-Australian Netball Association and served five terms as its president, and she was President of the NSW Netball Association from 1949-1978.
Without this walk, I wouldn’t have known about her, and I wouldn’t have learnt about the remarkable man after whom the suburb is named, Doug Nicholls. Pastor Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls KCVO, OBE (1906-1988):
…was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted and the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office, serving as Governor of South Australia from 1 December 1976 until his resignation on 30 April 1977…
He was a member of the Yorta Yorta people, a professional athlete, and a pioneering campaigner for reconciliation.
Finally I reached the last leg of the walk. There were hills in the distance but my best efforts to identify them have failed. I wonder how anyone knows the names of the mountains in the ACT! For me, they don’t show up on Google, and not many of them appear on the extremely detailed map I downloaded from Geoscience Australia. Any clues gratefully accepted!
I cut across some playing fields to save a little time, but realised there was a creek in my way so returned to the path.
Once again I searched the Nicholls shops and found no toilet, so I asked the young people serving at the IGA supermarket. No public toilet round here, they said. I must have looked as if I was about to collapse, because they consulted among themselves and ended up agreeing to let me use their private one. Because it was out the back, I had to be escorted there, and waited for, but they were really nice about it.
I’ve probably been quite unfair to Nicholls because of the lack of facilities. I can’t think of another Canberra shopping centre, no matter how small, that doesn’t have somewhere to go, even if it’s only one of those horrible prefab self-cleaning ones where you worry that the door will fly open.
But enough of this! Despite missing a walk in the middle of May because of our trip to the Coriole Music Festival, I continue to trail behind in this blog by two walks. Having completed the Canberra Community Walks, I’m now having to invent my own.