Sunday 29 May 2011 – Blandfordia 5

A note on footnotes

It seems to have become impossible to add footnotes to WordPress posts. I’m trying an experimental solution – linking to a separate page which is in a new format known as an aside. If you’re game to follow the footnote links, they’ll open in a new browser window.

The walk

Once again, our walk was based on a National Trust self-guided heritage tour. The brochures are available from the ACT National Trust website. Blandfordia 5 is now part of the suburbs of Griffith and Forrest, unusual in that they were built to the original Griffin plans.

While the name Blandfordia suggests, to me, ‘dullsville’ and Another Pleasant Valley Sunday, it is in fact the name of a native plant species which includes the Christmas Bell.

The brochure doesn’t set out a route, so I cobbled one together based on the information provided, of which there is a considerable amount. I should have done more than scan it. As we strolled along the streets of the suburban heritage precinct, I kept trying to read about what we were seeing and what we should be looking for.  On one occasion, a kind woman stopped and asked me if I was lost!

We were to set out from The Lawns at Manuka – pronounced /ˈmɑːnəkɑː/ mah-nə-kah, unlike the eponymous[1] New Zealand plant. Manuka isn’t a suburb – rather, a small shopping centre which shares its name with a nearby Circle. Apparently Walter Burley Griffin (my hero, along with Marion Mahony Griffin, who is known to be responsible[2] for the beautifully-drawn plans of Canberra) was naming elements of the city at a time when it was still thought that New Zealand would become part of Australia. The idea seems extraordinary, but it still comes up from time to time.

As does talk of public transport, which leads me to a rant.[3]

In Manuka, cafe society is in full swing, especially at weekends, so we couldn’t park anywhere near The Lawns. Finding ourselves virtually on Flinders Way, we set off that way and arrived in Murray Crescent.

Old photo from the Canberra Tracks sign

Early duplexes in Murray Crescent, Griffith. c1945. Credit: National Library of Australia VN4612626

‘Almost at once you can see some of the major features of Garden City planning,’ says the brochure:

  • wide street following the natural land contour
  • wide verges planted with trees
  • varied house styles and house siting on the blocks
  • corner houses oblique, facing the corner

‘A major feature of this street is two storey semidetached houses, which are sited symmetrically and originally had consistent designs.’ Duplexes and triplexes, ‘acting as a transition zone between the commercial area of Manuka and the residential area of Blandfordia 5’ – except that somewhere along the line, the commercial area started creeping into the residential. Murray Crescent has a great many offices.

Two bulldogs, one black and one white

Their owner thought they weren't sufficiently beautiful for a photo!

As we went round to Stokes Street, an opportunity for doggo photography arose. Look at those tongues! There were more people walking around Blandfordia than I’ve seen in any other suburb. Not many dogs, though.

Old photo from the Canberra Tracks sign

Image showing plantings and verges of Stokes Street, Griffith. 1963. Credit: National Archives of Australia A1200, L43214

Stokes street is a narrower street featuring hedges. I’ve heard rumours that the Federal government (which ran Canberra until 1988) used to trim the hedges for residents once upon a time.

Three pictures: top: hedge with dead bits; bottom left: round hedge; bottom right: another round hedge

Hedges of Stokes Street

The top hedge in this photo reminds me of the forest of briars in Sleeping Beauty. Poor residents! The hedge was probably planted in the 1930s, when the house was built, and grew out dangerously over the footpath in its old age. It seems unlikely those gnarled branches will ever again put forth leaves. The second hedge reminds me of a big cushion, and the third of a series of cushions.

On the corner of La Perouse and Stokes Streets, we were meant to observe an opening out of the view, but I think it was hidden by big trees. We were also meant to note ‘curved corners and pocket parks serving as traffic islands’. What I remember seeing were grassy traffic islands: can’t remember anything else growing on them.

We also missed ‘the red-brick gutter, or swale’ which is supposed to be there, personally maintained by a resident. I thought I saw one later in the walk, however. It wasn’t a gutter along the side of the road: it was a gutter along the side of the path. You can perhaps see that the path is recessed on the right-hand side in the photo above: that’s where I eventually saw some red (presumably local) bricks.

We admired the Stokes Street Park, where ‘[t]he group of poplars in the low section of the park marks the site of a former dam, a reminder that this was once good grazing land and of the several creeks which ran nearby’. (‘A good sheep paddock spoiled’ strikes again!)

Durville Crescent passes Bass Gardens, which is a huge park full of trees planted between 1930 and 1940. ‘The park is also a fine remaining example of native temperate grassland.’ As we came down Durville Crescent to Flinders Way, we passed the junction with Hayes Crescent – the streets ‘gently merge to form another characteristic open space’. I noticed some rocks amongst trees on a median strip:

A small park leading from the junctions of Durville Crescent and Hayes Crescent is characterised by a natural outcrop of rocks. This was once a favoured camping area for Aboriginal groups. The outcrop is located on the slopes above a small creek which originated on Red Hill and ran into the Molonglo River (now the East Basin of Lake Burley Griffin). Traces of the creek remain on the far side of Flinders Way. Elders of the local Aboriginal people can still remember staying here after the suburb was established.

The creek isn’t marked on the map, but it’s there all right. We departed from our planned route, and missed a couple of brochure items, to have a squiz at it.


Now we were on the homeward run. We walked up La Perouse Street and turned down Grant Crescent, which as promised was one of the highlights of the tour. Leafy and well-maintained, the street is full of interest because nearly all the houses still have their Federal Capital Commission facades.

Clockwise: heritage fire hydrant, three letterboxes. Centre: magpie

Street sights

These photos were taken at various points in the walk. The original fire hydrant (which apparently still works) was, I think, in La Perouse Street. The two letterboxes on the right are to show that the European post-horn extravaganza I saw in Chapman wasn’t alone. The magpie was very bold, and the final letterbox was at least a metre square. What large letters that person must receive!

A formal garden with topiary


To keep up the topiary observations, here are some formal gardens on (I think) Flinders Way.

After Grant Crescent, we were back in Murray Crescent, and had our opportunity to walk down the lane that leads to Bougainville Street and the Manuka shops. ‘The lane and the Lawns of Manuka are elements of a linear axis linking Telopea Park, Manuka Oval and the former Capitol Theatre building.’

At the Bougainville Street end of the lane we found the Canberra Tracks sign marking the start of the walk. It’s where I got the black and white street photos above. I’ll put its photo and transcription on another page.[5]

Tea break

It was lunchtime, so we wandered round to Charmers, where we often used to go for breakfast some years ago. I mention it because after this walk they served me my all-time world-record worst cup of tea. A glass mug of hot water was placed in front of me, with a teabag lying uselessly beside it in the saucer. The ‘milk on the side’ I’d asked for wasn’t provided.

I really must start sending so-called tea back when the teabag hasn’t been put into freshly-boiled water – pace Janet who, when she lived here, maintained it wasn’t possible to make a decent cup of tea in Canberra because the altitude meant that the water boiled at too low a temperature. At least if the teabag goes into recently-boiled water, you get a bit of colour in your hot water!

I did flag down our waiter and ask again for milk. He brought me a small jug, and it was only after I’d tipped in the few drops I require that I realised it was hot, boiled milk. 😦 One sip of the resultant beverage convinced me that I wasn’t going to be able to drink it. I take milk in my tea for two reasons:

  1. to take some of the edge of bitterness off, and
  2. to cool the tea down a little so I stand some chance of drinking it before the restaurant closes.

The boiled milk tasted detestably sweet, the only perceptible flavour in the scalding hot ‘tea’. I was unreasonably upset by this – I’d been looking forward to a cuppa at the end of my walk – and was persuaded to complain. I was quickly supplied, free of charge, with what usually passes for tea in Canberra: a little tray with a cup and saucer, a leaking tin pot of hot water with a teabag in it, and a little tin jug of cold milk. And then I was happy.

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2 Responses to Sunday 29 May 2011 – Blandfordia 5

  1. Jill Barker says:

    Blandfordia five – as in ‘Free the Blandfordia five’? But what did they do?
    Hedge 3 looks like a toy stuffed caterpillar – Holly and I saw one of these at the kiddies’ section of the library in Oxford on Monday, so I know what I’m talking about here. We also saw a brave troupe of Downs’ syndrome actors, doing street theatre. Holly loved their bubble machine.
    Tea is so sensitive: now that I drink it black (and stay shockingly long times in the homes of people who have unsuspectingly offered me a quick cuppa) I have to make it with filtered water. English teabags are so powerful, though, that they will make tea in almost any temperature of water.
    Adding to the Dada-esque qualities: I encountered these posts backwards – thus the footnotes came first, and I reached the actual post last of all, via the Rant, the Sign – and so onwards.

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Blandfordia Section 5 – suburbs here are laid out in blocks and sections. The Blandfordia 5 were innocent!

      I know about “No such thing as a quick cuppa”. Even though I have milk in my tea, I still take ages to drink it. These new cone-shaped mugs are a bit of a help, but only a bit.

      So you agree that my posts are Dada-esque? Wa!

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