Hidden treasures in Dunlop Grasslands

12 Jun

Blogging has introduced me to some of Canberra’s very best, and that includes people like bushwalking legend John Evans. John has an extremely popular website where he documents every single walk he takes with plenty of detail and maps. John’s simple goal is to inspire people to resist sedentary life, head outside and enjoy some fresh air, and appreciate our surroundings. I look on in awe at his commitment to providing as much information to make that possible for people.

John and I have been on a few walks together – Mt Coree and Urambi Hills. As well as being knowledgeable, John is a gentleman and has a great sense of humour. When he offered to show me a part of Belconnen with which I wasn’t yet familiar, I jumped at the chance.

We arrive at the edges of Fraser and Charnwood, on Binns Street. Binns Street borders the Dunlop Grasslands and has plenty of parking near the gated entrance.

The first of the hidden treasures in the Grasslands is geocaches! Over a few hours of traipsing through the grasses on this windy public holiday Monday, we (well, John more than us) capture (is that the verb?) three geocaches, and the first one isn’t far from where we park. I took a lot of photos but am worried there might be some geocaching rules about not revealing locations so will leave it there!

On the other side of the fence, we make our way through the long grasses to reach the Bicentennial National Trail – at least the part of it between Cooktown and Melbourne which snakes through the ACT!

Wide brown land, for sure

John has promised that we’ll take a peek at the Osage orange trees which bear an interesting fruit, and we walk towards a cluster of spiky, bent over branches. The branches look devoid of fruit, but then we spot a blink of bright yellow, and then another, and then realise there’s a whole lot of yellow on the ground below the trees.

From afar, they don’t look like much, but up close it’s easy to see why the Osage orange’s colloquial name is ‘brain fruit’. It is almost structured like two hemispheres, and the fruit’s pattern is intricate and lumpy, just like a brain. *THIS FRUIT IS INEDIBLE.*

It’s so unexpected – these fruit borne from trees which were planted simply as wind breaks for the old properties that were in the area in pre- and early-Canberra.

The explanatory sign shares with us that the fruit was used by children as balls during cricket games, but it’s hard to imagine how they lasted (!).

We head back towards the houses where we stumble into the old Charnwood estate, still with olive trees and some purposeful stones.

Speaking of that explanatory sign – it turns out it’s linked to the Canberra Tracks mobile phone app. If you’ve got it installed and come across certain signs which have an ‘augmented reality’ symbol on a picture, you just need to scan you phone over the picture and it will start to play a video! Following from the fruit it’s another welcome surprise and genuinely interesting. Did you know the Charnwood estate was home to two well known names – Hall and Crace?

G augments some reality

From here we head west and pop ourselves over a few more fences before dipping into the valley. We’re looking for a significant border marker but in the undying wind it’s hard to ignore just how big the country is. Well, for me. John’s steady, ambling pace is double my ambling pace (made slower by all the photo opportunities).

John leads the way underneath a typical Canberra winter sky – bright sun and dark blue cloud

The border marker (the rocks in the foreground) points to Mt Coree (on the border) to the west and One Tree Hill to the east.

In quite a state (but which state?)

We make our way back up the hill towards the houses which border the nature reserve. As we near them, we spot a small wallaby moving slowly near us, and realise it’s approaching a very large roo which appears to be resting amongst the grasses. We’re very close so proceed cautiously. The big roo gets up to bound away and collapses. As it stands up and tries again, it somersaults – landing on its back with its two enormous legs in the air. The kangaroo has a broken leg and our presence is frightening it into moving. It is the most distressing sight when an animal’s manner of travel is by bounding and it simply can’t. In the circumstances, the best we can do is quickly move away from it so it stops trying to get away from us, and after glancing away it’s melted back among the grasslands.

Near the houses, a family is alternating between coaxing and taming a kite in the winds – a perfect area to do it. We stop for a last quick geocache find before bundling back into the warmth of the car.

While I’ve long appreciated the value of the nature reserves in Belconnen (think The Pinnacle, Mt Painter and Mt Rogers), it was a thrill to discover so many interesting historical elements which are literally just a stone’s throw from where you can park your car in Belco’s north. There’s a little fence hopping, yes, but there’s no steep inclines. To think of all we saw in a few hours – from walking along the Bicentennial National Trial, to olive trees and brain fruit, to old estates, to new technology and old border markers and sweeping views (as well as a few geocaches!) – it was a particularly productive walk. My thanks to John for his generosity (and patience!).

Date: Monday, 8 June 2015

Where: Drive to the end of Binns Street and park and look for a gate to pass through. There are a number of entrances that take you back to the road.

Cost: Free

Value for money: High!

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? John Evans’ blog is the best resource for information on this walk or, indeed, any walk.


4 Responses to “Hidden treasures in Dunlop Grasslands”

  1. MJWC1 June 15, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    Thanks Tara. I’ve really come to value both John’s and your posts for information on my walking adventures (this weekend was Kama Nature Reserve, Black Mountain, Mount Franklin and Mount Aggie). Where you have done the same walks, your write-ups complement each other nicely. Hopefully mine will, when I get to rejuvenating my blog (having been distracted by posting in other places).

    I’ve not met John, but have shared email with him and can certainly vouch for what a lovely and generously spirited man he is!

    Best wishes

  2. whisperinggums June 16, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Canberra Tracks Mobile Phone App. Must check that out. Your photos are gorgeous Tara.

    I’ve only done geocaching a few times, and the first time was on the Isaacs/Farrer Ridge about three years ago. That was fun. Another was at Tathra. It’s a fun activity and one I mean to do more often than I end up doing.


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