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Routes 62 and 63

Date: 5 September 2023

Route(s): 62 Woden to Mawson, 63 Woden to Cooleman Court

Sights: Brindabellas

Weather: 4 to 16 C

Time taken: 5.5 hours round trip

My intention, on my day of travel, had been to catch three of the buses that journey around the Weston area of the ACT. Best laid plans and all that. The day started OK but then time and energy seemed to slip away and I did what I could.

To get to Woden or to Cooleman Court, where the #60 buses all travel through, I have to take the tram into the city and then a bus to Woden. Unusually, the wait for the tram is more than 10 minutes and the wait for the R7 is nearly 15. By the time I get to Cooleman Court to catch either the #64 or the #63, whichever comes first, it is gone 10am. I check Next There to see which of the two bus stops the buses would arrive at. Next There tells me platform 1. There are no signs on either of the bus stops to say which is Platform 1 or Platform 2. Buses to Woden and the City go in both directions, so that is no help. I work it out by asking.

A woman moves into the bus shelter to join me out of the wind, which is very blowy today. The seats in the bus stop are covered in a fine film of yellow pollen from the wattle trees. The woman brushes the seat with a hanky then sits down. I ask her about the bus numbers and stops. She tells me the #63, not arriving until 10:30, will stop here. I decide to wait. She asks me why I would want to go to Sterling. She tells me there is nothing there. She lives there, so she knows. She tells me the buses are great here. Since she moved to Sterling she has not had a car. There are so many different ways to get to Woden. All the buses she takes, go there.

I am reminded of the trick Bill Bryson plays on visitors to London, as he describes in Notes from a Small Island.

Here's an amusing trick you can play on people from Newfoundland or Lincolnshire. Take them to Bank Station and tell them to make their way to Mansion House. Using Beck's map -which even people from Newfoundland can understand in a moment - they will gamely take a Central Line train to Liverpool Street, change to a Circle Line train heading east and travel five more stops. When eventually they get to Mansion House they will emerge to find they have arrived at a point 200 feet further down the same street, and that you have had a nice breakfast and done a little shopping since you last saw them. Now take them to Great Portland Street and tell them to meet you at Regent's Park (that's right, same thing again!), and then to Temple Station with instructions to rendezvous at Aldwych. What fun you can have! And when you get tired of them, tell them to meet you at Brompton Road Station. It closed in 1947, so you'll never have to see them again.” Notes from a Small Island 1995

This is the part of the ACT public transport system that works, that is, if you want to get from one central place (Cooleman Court) to another (Woden). If you do want to travel to Sterling, even though there is nothing there, you have to wait for the once an hour bus (once every two hours on a Sunday) and hope it turns up. I wish it was more like the London Underground, with a variety of ways to get to anywhere you wanted, especially when it is windy. I do not like wind.

A 71 arrives and the woman boards, wishing me a good day.

Her spot is taken by an older gentleman dressed in a dapper jacket and matching trilby hat. He asks which bus I am waiting for. He too is waiting for the #63. He complains about the wind. He too does not like wind. He tells me about how he trained as a jockey in a horse stable after his father died when he was 12. His brother was sent to a dairy farm to help out. His two younger sisters stayed with his mother. He told me how he learnt from his father how to cut large trees using a two person saw and wedges. He tells me he remembers all the things his father taught him but has difficulty with things he learnt last week. He is a small man and I have trouble imagining him with a large two person saw. He tells me he gets the 63 everyday once he has done his shopping. One Monday it did not arrive so he waited the hour for the next bus and it still did not arrive so he walked to Waramanga. The bus came as he reached his home. He did not complain, to me or anyone else, about this as generally the buses are reliable and good. He likes to talk to the drivers, even the ones who are heavy footed on the brakes!

He tells me about his dog which he trained and then it got a disease so had to be put down.

The 63 arrives. He allows me to get on the bus first. He sits up by the driver so he can see out. He wishes me a good day.

The area of Weston Creek was first gazetted in 1966 and divided into eight suburbs. It is named after Captain George Edward Weston, an officer in the East India Company, who arrived in Australia in 1829. He travelled to Australia to be the Superintendent of the Hyde Park Convict Barracks in Sydney. He was granted the land that now has his name in 1841. Approximately 9000 acres of land was subdivided and rented to returning soldiers in the 1920s. Weston was one of five homesteads in this area; only Blundell’s cottage is left. Vestiges of the Weston homestead can be seen in Holder; the pine trees on a small reserve on the corner of Calder Crescent were the original wind break for the dwelling and the driveway ran off what is now Cotter Road, and can still be viewed as a dirt track between Cotter Road and Dixon Drive.

The houses in the area all look established with neat well maintained gardens. The tracks that run between houses and under roads allow the residents to walk the area without crossing major roads. The gardens are full of trees in blossom, magnolias, daffodils (now past their best), ixias, and grape hyacinths. One garden on the corner of two intersecting streets has a long planting of ixias bouncing around in the wind. They look stunning, especially planted against a sandstone wall covered in some kind of green ground cover.

Gardening in Canberra can be hard work. The soil is not good; not much top soil then hard clay. There is not much rain, and the winters are cold so plants have to be tough. The gardens in this area have been going for a few decades and those that look lush are full of European plantings that do well with frosts and hot summers. Very mediterranean.


We can thank Charles Weston for much of the knowledge about what grows well in the ACT. Born in the UK in 1866 he trained as a horticulturist and moved to NSW to use his skills as a gardener at Admiralty House in 1896. He ran the NSW State Nursery from 1912-1913 and from there he moved to Canberra to work in collaboration with Walter Burley Griffin. They worked together to trial plant species that would do well in this climate; both trees for urban design and plants for a domestic setting. Nearly 1.2 million trees were planted between 1921-24. When Charles Weston died in 1935 his ashes were scattered in front of Old Parliament House.

Images: George Weston National Archive


The bus passes Fisher shops. There is a helpful sign that labels them. A number of people, with shopping they have purchased elsewhere, get off the bus. As we head towards Waramanga we pass a sign that says “Site reserved for future development”. It has been there a while; faded with the paint at one corner peeling. I think it is going to take more than ‘future development’ to save the Fisher shops.

As we drive along a high ridge to Waramanga I see Mount Stromlo. The sun is highlighting the trees. The mountain looks spectacular.

All around the ACT there is evidence of tree planting; new small saplings in groups or as new feature street trees have protection, mulch and stakes. This is part of the program to plant 53,000 trees in 2023-24. A fraction of those planted by Weston. Trees not only cool streets, bring amenity, provide habitat and can increase the value of homes, but the ACT government is using the trees as a way of mitigating climate change; and we all benefit from that.

As we head towards Woden I watch the cyclists along the bike path. All of them have zip ties on their helmets to protect them from the magpies swooping.


Australia has many ‘Big Things’. I have seen a few of them on our travels around the country: Big Pineapple, Big Murray Cod, Big Prawn, Big Worm, Big Banana, Big Koala, Big Cassowary, Big Galah, Big Merino. Some of these Big Things are now commemorated on Australian coins in a special collection, and The Big Swoop, in Garema Place, in the middle of Canberra, is one of them.

Image: Canberra Times

Artist, Yanni Pounartzis, is surprised the giant, chip eating magpie, has been recognised this way as “it was just an idea, a funny, ironic idea” but he went onto say, "When you release an idea to the community, then they decide what it becomes, so that's been really nice to see where he's ended up."

When the sculpture was first unveiled the magpie was vandalised and had to be taken away for repairs. Many locals were upset about this and have now become more protective of him.

Big things feature in country areas of Australia to celebrate their local industry or flora or fauna. They are also a way of attracting tourists. They have been popping up since the 1960’s, and their appeal does not seem to wane. Not all the big things made it to the coins: The Big Potato (looks like a big turd), the Big Prawn (not all its legs were there when we saw it) and the Big Apple (not to be confused with the one in the US).


As I wait for the next bus #62 to Mawson, I watch plastic bags rolling across the Woden Temporary Interchange like spinifex. Large bits of paper are flying around above the bus shelters. The shelters adapted from shipping containers are good at keeping the sun off but provide no protection from the wind as they have no ends. The wind whistles through the interchange with waiting passengers standing in the sun to offset the breeze.

The bonus for the day comes by way of the #62 being an electric bus. It glides into the stop making its doorbell like noise. The bus leaves with about 10 passengers spread out across the bus. The driver said hello to each of us as we got on.

The bus heads north towards Lyons then turns south towards Chifley, Pearce and Torrens. By the time we get to Torrens shops I am the last person on the bus. I notice a case for ear buds has been left on the seat in front. I pick them up and will hand them to the driver as I leave. This is not the first time I have done this. I imagine the Lost Property at the bus depot is full of ear bud cases. The bus crosses Athllon Drive into Mawson.

The #62 route is a loop. The last stop is Mawson then the bus heads back to Woden. I get off to break my journey with brunch at Al Manoosh. Three African women are gathered just outside. Two are admiring the newly done hair of the third. They join me in the queue talking about how long hair extensions should be. They all have hair down to their waists; one has an elaborate top knot with braids around the edges.

We all order food and wait in the sheltered outside area for it. The three women are joined by two men. They talk about the Arabic pizzas they have ordered. One man tells the women it is not real food as it does not have meat. The women agree the pizzas would not be this good or as big in Kenya.

As I wait for the return bus I get into conversation with two women also waiting for the #62. They both tell me how they are baffled by new technology. One admits she has been scammed and thinks the best way to deal with this is to not use the phone at all. She does not own a computer so not using the phone makes her safe. The older of the two (86) tells us about her son. She tells us he has an acquired brain injury from a car accident which she appears to blame on the fact he went to university in Sydney. She tells us that he now has a job in Woolworth stacking fruit and veg, but this is only after his marriage broke up. She tells us the woman he married was from the US and followed the Rev. Moon. She tells us they got married in one of those huge ceremonies where hundreds of people took the pledge at the same time. The younger (85) tells us about her lawyer daughter who gets what she wants by being nice to people, even if she does not like them or they are being unreasonable. She never loses her temper.

The bus arrives. We spread out over the bus. As the older woman leaves a few stops into the journey in Torrens, she waves and yells out “Thanks for listening”.

By the time I get to Woden I know it is time to go home. I had planned to do the #64 but that will have to wait for another day. The next #64 is not due for over half an hour and the long wait, in the wind, is more than I want to do. I catch an R4 back to the city.


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