top of page

Routes R 6 City to Woden & 66 Woden to Denman Prospect

Date: 6 June 2023

Route: R 6 City to Woden and

66 Woden to Cooleman Court via Denman Prospect

Sights: Parliamentary Triangle, Stromlo Forest Park

Weather: 5 - 18 overcast, wet to sunny

Time taken: 5.5 hours round trip

The first few days of the official southern Australian season of Winter started off bright and sunny and we did not believe it could be that season, but this week things have changed. Cooler temperatures, grey skies and rain. Australians like things neatly packaged and seasons are no exception. Four seasons of three months each in the south of the country and two seasons; wet and dry in the tropical north. Change of season is not dependent on the weather but on the date.

It was a cool, overcast and damp day that I set out to travel from Woden to Cooleman Court in Weston (yup, you guessed it; a shopping centre), with the tempting prospect of better weather to come in the afternoon.

There are a number of ways to get to Woden from the City; I decided on the first bus that came, the R6. Even though this is an R bus (Rapid) it goes the long way to Woden; across the Lake, through Barton, Kingston, Griffith, Red Hill and Garran. This takes about 45 minutes through some of the most pleasant tree lined streets in Canberra. The R4 and R5 both take the same route to Woden then diverge but they are at another platform at the city interchange so I opted for the R6. I also got this bus on my return journey as it was the first to arrive. I did not realise until today that I have not written about the R6 yet. I am including it in my travel diary for this trip too. Two more buses to tick off my list, or map.

As we approach Barton and journey under the canopy of pin oak trees a huge flock of cockatoos descend on the piles of large brown leaves. Most of the trees have lost all their colour now and any wind sees cascades of brown dead leaves from tree to ground level. The cockatoos love the acorns hidden in the piles; they pick through them crunching as they go. Cockatoos are large birds. They fly in large flocks. They make a large amount of noise. The only thing I knew about cockatoos when I first arrived in this country was they make good pets, as seen by Johnny Morris on Animal Magic. Now I know they can be destructive; stripping trees of leaves, seeds and fruit, eating window frames on houses and the noise kills animals. Yes this is true.

When my older children were at kindy we were tasked with looking after the class guinea pigs for one week of the long school holiday. They came with a cage, food and anticipation from my children. We left the cage out on our deck so the guinea pigs could see what was going on and be outside in the fresh air. The guinea pigs seemed happy enough. One day I heard the squawking of a flock of large birds. About 100 hundred or so, cockatoos had descended on our deck, all flapping and carrying on. A dispute between two very large, I suspect males, was disrupting all the others who were cheering on the two protagonists. I told the children to stay inside. No amount of arm flapping, yelling or waving frightening things (cushions), or playing 80s music on our part, from inside the house, would dislodge the birds for more than a little while. They were going to stay put until they were ready to move. Which they did, eventually. As the last bird took flight the kids ran through the door to check on the guinea pigs. Both, yes both, has carked it. Heart attacks, said the vet, they are fragile. I bought more guinea pigs for the kinder and passed them onto the next family with a warning about fragile hearts.

The R6 is nearly full. Groups of passengers get off at National Library, John Gorton Building, Kingston and the rest of us stay on until Woden. The Temporary Bus Interchange is still looking new and slick. I find my bus platform and wait. The 66 only goes once an hour.

As I get off the bus I spy the woman I assisted last week. I wanted to catch up with her but

she was too fast for me, even on her walking frame. She must have worked out how the buses run from Woden, she knew where she was heading for today.

A woman with a blue hand-knitted beanie tells me she does not like the new e-buses. She know they are better for the environment but they make no noise and are dangerous. She tells me it is a case of technology moving faster than we can keep up with. As an e-bus pulls up to the platform I bring her attention to the door-bell like noise it is making. She tells me it is not a nice noise and it should be different, and louder! It is the echo in the sound she objects to; it offends her ears. She also tells me she does not like the seats at this interchange, made of metal they are too cold. She tells me they should be made of recycled plastic, they would be warmer and cost less. She asks me why I am catching the bus. I tell her about my project. She tells me I should start a club to encourage people to go on more buses. Her bus arrives. As she readies to board she tells me she can’t wait to get home to Queensland because it is warmer there, she only comes to Canberra because she has to.

My bus arrives shortly after. A bendy bus (new experience for me) I board with 6 other people. We space ourselves out over the length of the double length bus. Google maps tells me it is 4.7kms between Woden and Cooleman Court and will take 10 minutes to drive (in a car). This bus takes the scenic route through Lyons, Weston, Duffy, Wright, Denman Prospect, Coombs back to Weston and finally to the shopping centre. If it runs on time and stops at the places it is supposed to it takes 56 minutes. I sit back to take in the view.

The journey moves us from the older suburbs of Weston to the new and still unfinished suburbs of Wright and Coombs. They feel different. The older suburbs (and when I say older I do not mean from the 19 Century but the 1970s and 80s) feel more established; gardens, street trees and bog standard three bedroom places with double garage. The newer suburbs feel more mixed. Apartment blocks, both large and small, new playgrounds, walking tracks, houses in many sizes including McMansions, and gardens that are still full of rubble. The gardens vary: beautifully landscaped to grassed areas where many cars have and can be parked over concrete, I assume to accommodate multi-generational families; children do not often move away from parents these days. Too expensive. A garden with two concrete swans as planters in the middle of a sea of concrete catches my eye. Both plants are dead.

One of the things I really like about Canberra gardens is they do not often have fences. This is a constant in both old and new suburbs. Sometimes hedges have been grown, sometimes gardens have a boundary marked by plants or rocks or retaining walls but mostly there is no front fence. I find this inviting, welcoming in some way.

I am intrigued to see a walking track up the median strip of John Gorton Drive, with people walking on it. The day has improved a little and the sun is trying to shine. People with dogs, a young mum with two kids on walking bikes, an older person on a walking frame all making their way along the “Jogalong Track”. This would be a good thing to do if the track was just paved and grassed but it has been landscaped well with different trees and plants, giving an illusion of being somewhere else not just the middle of a road. Places to sit and for children to hide break up the straight path. A great enticement to get out and walk.

As we head back into the older suburb of Holder we drive down Mulley Street. I recognise the houses and gardens; the one with an explosion of pigface, another with a street library, and a painted rock collection, another with a bench for the weary. I have walked this many times with family. The new suburbs lack something, not sure what, but I know it will be fixed with time. The dwellings will feel more lived in, the gardens will establish themselves and the street trees will grow to offer shade to the new playgrounds that are currently relying on shade-cloth.

Cooleman Court appears around a corner. The five of us on the bus alight and walk, through the carpark to the shops. I know these shops well; we have family who live within easy walking distance. The Gelato Place at the rear of the shops is a favourite spot. I get a coffee and sit for a while as I have one hour until the next 66 does the return trip to Woden.

As I make my way from the shops to the bus stop I spot a familiar face; Bill Gemmell, a member of the PTCBR group I have joined. PTCBR advocates for all things to do with public transport in the ACT; more buses, better routes, better connectivity and integration between transport types: the voice of public

Photo: Canberra Times

transport users. A recent submission to the ACT government about Light Rail Stage 2A (extension of the tram from the City to Regatta Point on the Lake) basically said “Build it” but also came up with some neat solutions for better design for pedestrian crossings, bus bays and how to improve throughput of people when there are big events at Commonwealth Park.

Bill is getting off a bus the other side of the road. He gets on his phone, walks to my side of the street. I approach. I introduce myself and ask what he is up to. We talk about the bus he was on (on time) but he had to change to another to get home (left early) so he had a call to get a lift home to be in situ for his next engagement (on behalf of PTCBR) with an online Zoom meeting.

While he waits for his lift he explains to me about his idea that the 66 should join the 47 so the route goes from Belconnen to Woden via Denman Prospect. He tells me he wants to do some research on buses versus trams, and the emissions they produce, and how busy he has been since he gave up paid work. He tells me he grew up in the Blue Mountains and how they always travelled by bus or train to local towns or Sydney. It was a better way to travel. Except of course when your connecting bus is early and you have to call a friend.

I return to the bus stop to find two women waiting for the same bus. They are both regular bus users, one admitting she does not drive. She tells me she visited her son in Coombs at the weekend. She missed a bus so thought it would be quicker to walk home than wait, so did. We all agree the drivers are great, helpful, cheerful and skilled. The other woman tells me her husband was ill and often the drivers would drop him a couple of houses up the street just to be closer to their home. We also all agree more buses should be available at the weekend. The woman with the son in Coombs tells me she is excited that three of us are waiting for the bus; it is usually just her. They both ask about my journey. I inform them of my project and give them cards. We talk about how it makes your day when you chat to people on your way. It gives us connection and a vignette into the lives of others. And in a town as small as Canberra how you have to be nice about everyone for sure as eggs is eggs someone you speak to will know someone you know.

We all get on the bus. Both women leave a few stops into Holder. I arrive back at Woden with nine others who we have picked up along the way. Now I have a decision to make. Which bus back to the city? I opt for the R6 again as it arrives first. Returning on the windy route back to the city via Kingston I get to see the best views Canberra offers: the Lake, Parliament building, the older suburbs of the inner south. It does take more time than driving and other bus routes but it is worth it for the spectacle and views along the way. Maybe we could all do with a little more slow time?


bottom of page