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Routes 24 Belconnen to Gungahlin, 27 & 28 Gungahlin to Casey Market Town



Date: 28 August 2023

Route: 24 Belconnen to Gungahlin, 27 Gungahlin to Casey, 28 Casey to Gungahlin

Sights: Mount Ainslie, Mount Majura and Black Mountain

Weather: 6 to 18 C

Time taken: 4.5 hours round trip



There has been a change in the air; warmer nights and a stillness. The wind can be ferocious in Canberra but we have seen a run of mild and still days. My mind has turned to planting spring and summer plants like parsley, oregano and thyme, summer crops like zucchini, and pumpkins. I am pleased to say my two fruit trees, an apricot and a plum, have blossom on them for the first time and I am predicting fruit.


I am not the only one who has moved to thinking about and doing productive things in gardens, or balconies in my case. I have noticed, when on the bus or just walking about, more people in their gardens. Mostly they seem to be tidying up; clearing the autumn leaves, mowing, clipping back hedges and trees that have got out of hand while we have been hibernating. There are more people out on the street too; walking dogs, pushing prams or walking beside small children on bikes. People in Canberra are always polite and happy to talk but it feels like there is an added engagement. If the sun is out and there is no wind there is no rush to get out of the weather.


Even Belconnen is improved with the sun. I get to Westfield Shopping Centre with the pink and white blossoms on the way distracting from the ugly high-rise, road works and concrete. I expect Lake Ginninderra is looking fantastic, but of course, it can not be viewed from the main bit of Belconnen. The bus interchange is full with a steady stream of passengers. There are two that catch my eye. One is a young woman who is pacing up and down. She keeps checking her phone, walks up to the end of the platforms to view the information screen, walks back to platform 2. She checks the numbers on the buses then her phone. Maybe she is having the same problem I have and is trying to work out which platform the bus she wants will leave from? The other noticeable passenger is an elderly man sorting out the shopping trolleys that have been hurriedly shoved into the metal station. He straightens them all and pushes them so they stack nicely into each other. He mutters to himself as he does it. He checks the $1 coin slots to see if there is any money and there is. He is a couple of dollars richer. As the bus he wants approaches he picks up the bag of shopping he left on the seat and boards the bus. Public duty done and slightly better off for his troubles.


I take a seat next to two Asian women who are dressed in matching hand-made knitted cardigans; one pink, one blue. They also have matching hats with peaks and anchors. The 24 arrives and I am the only person to board. It appears I am the only person who wants to take the slow route to Gungahlin.



Image: McKellar Stadium home of the Canberra United Football Club - A League

The bus deviates from William Slim Drive to do a route through McKellar. McKellar, a suburb within the Belconnen district, was first gazetted in 1974 and has houses that are typical of that time; three/four bedroom, one bathroom dwellings with a garage for two cars. The gardens look well established with an amount of pride taken in them; neat lawns and flowerbeds with established planting of appropriate plants. There is an abundance of magnolias all putting on a show; one stunning front garden feature tree has only white blooms but they are the largest magnolia flowers I have ever seen. As with most suburbs in Canberra there was a small, local, shopping centre located near the middle of the suburb but this closed in 2012 and was demolished soon after. The suburb does not seem to be suffering because of this. The open space looks as well cared for as the private gardens. There are views to Black Mountain, Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie. The houses on the higher side of William Webb Drive have views only interrupted by the mature trees of their neighbours. We leave Owen Dixon Drive to rejoin William Slim Drive towards the Barton Highway. I see the sign for Gold Creek.


We have been coming to Canberra on a regular basis for the last 18 years, since one of our offspring started university here in 2006. By the time we moved here we had visited most of the attractions Canberra has to offer more than once but we had never been to Gold Creek: it always sounded a little tacky to me. Home of the Reptile Zoo, Walk In Aviary, Cockington Green Gardens (miniature village) and the National Dinosaur Museum, it also has a host of shops catering for the tourists. Located on the main road to Melbourne and a easy deviation from the main road to Sydney, it captures many visitors on their way in or out of the city. And tourists and locals alike can dine at The George Harcourt Inn, a hostelry that boasts “English Pub” at its entrance. Named after a local landowner who was from the UK, it was built in 1980, although it looks older and is modelled on, yes, you guessed, an English Pub. Its culinary delights include “Sunday Roasts” (after 5pm on Sundays), “Guinness Pie”, and “Bangers and Mash”. This last one might confuse a few locals as sausages are usually known as ‘snags’ here.

 

Image: Cockington Green Railway Vijay Chennupati/ Flickr


There is no gold nor is there a creek at Gold Creek. It was named after a race horse. This seems appropriate somehow as the whole complex is geared towards fun: golf, reptiles, large extinct reptiles (dinosaurs), birds, gardens and more golf. Golfers have the added wild life hazard of mobs of kangaroos; makes the game more interesting. It also houses the site of the original Ginninderra Village

Image: Wikipedia

established in 1883 as part of a second wave of European migration. Aboriginal people had inhabited this land for centuries before but it took the establishment of a post office (1859) and telegraph station (1869) for it to become named officially. It then suffered a series of unfortunate events including two fires that destroyed the general store (1905) and the The Cricketers Arms Hotel (1914).


The area was farmed by small holders growing mainly wheat and selling supplies to the influx of gold miners in Braidwood and Major’s Creek. By the turn of the 20th Century the area had become known for growing high quality merino sheep. The centre of the wool industry was at Ginninderra Station, located on what is now the suburb of Giralang. The wool shed was pulled down in the 1970s to make way for the development of Belconnen.


The Ginninderra Village that makes up part of the attraction at Gold Creek is made from local buildings that were always present or have been transported from other local places. The blacksmith’s is made of wood and corrugated iron and is well preserved. The Farmer’s Union building has been moved from Hall. There is a school and post office. Both closed when the postmaster, who doubled as the school teacher, retired in 1962. The remaining children at the school transferred to Hall Public School.


As well as all the attractions Gold Creek has a collection of touristy shops: English Lolly Shop, all-year Christmas Shop, gardening centre, ice-cream parlour and variety of home goods and decorations; think nice cushions. It is a very popular place to go with children during the school holidays; something for everyone!


 

The bus makes its way around Nicolls and onto Gunderoo Drive. As we approach Gungahlin the houses and streets change; all newer, mixed developments with townhouses and small apartment blocks, fewer established trees and and small gardens. This is the edge of the 1970s establishment and the 2000s arrivals. Three bedroom family homes are making way for one, two, three bedroom homes with small courtyards, or balconies.


Gungahlin township is a new centre which has had much thought put into it. It feels human scaled with only a couple of residential towerblocks that sit on the edge of the suburb. The shopping area is divided by a road but it is only one way and one lane. Pedestrians have right of way and so can easily walk from one side to the other. I have heard people who drive complain about how hard it is to navigate but it works very well if you are on a bike or on foot.


The tram terminates at Gungahlin with the bus intersection located in the adjacent street. All well labelled and not confusing. I look for the 27 or 28, check Next There to find the 28 pulling up at the stop. These two buses end at the same destination, Casey Market Town, but take different routes to get there. The 27 makes a passage through Moncrieff, the 28 a large loop around Ngunnawal. The houses in both these suburbs are new, some still being built. It does not have the same feeling as Denman Prospect but I can see the similarities.


The driver on the 28 wishes all who board a good morning. He is patient while people sit and he waits for a woman who is only half way across the road as the bus turns a corner out of Paul Coe Crescent. This driver is not heavy footed on the brake and manages to navigate the many small roundabouts without mounting the kerbs.


Casey Market Town is nothing to write home about, when we get there; another shopping centre filled with Super Barn (a bit exciting), Aldi (could be useful to know), loads of places to eat (nothing interesting) and a few shops that are not open yet. The logo for the shopping centre, a circle of points of colours, looks very similar to the Centrelink logo: I wonder if that was unintentional.


I wander back outside to the same bus stop I got off at. I can not see another. It is directly across the road from the entrance of the centre. I look at the signs on the bus stop. I check Next There. I am in the wrong place. Two buses terminate here and one, the 25 goes on to somewhere else. I search the sea of cars in the car park opposite, I walk around one edge of the shopping centre: no visible bus stop. I walk back past the entrance and see a bus, waiting facing the other direction I had come from. I get about 100 m and notice a bus stop, just past the bus. Why do I find this stuff so hard? I read the signs and find, with a little relief, it is the correct place to stand and wait for the 27 or 28 that will take me back to Gungahlin. The driver of the bus that is waiting, changes the signs on the front from Not In Service to 27 Gungahlin. Me and another three people get on. The bus winds its way through Casey, Ngunnawal, Moncrieff to Gungahlin.


Moncrieff is named after Gladys Moncrieff, a musician, with the streets named after musicians or in the case of Crackajack Way a brand of mouth organs. I have not heard of either before, but then I am not very musical.


There are four people talking on their phones; each in a different language. I recognise Spanish and Hindi but the other two are a mystery. One is a type of Slav and the other a type of Chinese. These people use bus time to catch up with life admin; to sort things out to get things done as they journey to where they are going.


I take many photos on my phone on the return journey to Gungahlin. It is such a pretty time of year. It holds so much promise. Triple JJJ, the ABC youth radio station, posed a question on their Facebook page this morning, “What songs reminds you of spring?” I nominated “Its only the beginning” by Debra Conway. It is playing in my head as we turn corners and crescents, past playgrounds, houses, apartment blocks and trees in full blossom.


The return trip from Gungahlin to Belconnen is without event and I take the opportunity to sit and relax, stare out of the window and watch the suburbs of the ACT pass by with a soundtrack about that first feeling of love.


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