Fairytales sometimes really do come true.
Last week's expose on the church ruin on the side of the Federal Highway just north of Collector (Kirkdale Intrigue) prompted a number of readers to confess about their yearning to be married in the romantic rural setting.
"Oh, I've always loved that church from the time I first saw it as a kid with its stone walls, shingled roof and vestry,'' gushes Sharon Jones of Wanniassa. ''It just looked so perfect for a place to exchange nuptials."
In response to this column's shout-out if anyone has actually been married in the church, Charles Body of Kaleen and Ken Charlton of Ainslie both dug up an old Canberra Times article from 1976 (Workman Whistling by Jon Prance, May 3) that revealed there was at least one documented wedding in the church's heyday - that of a local farmer, Mr J.A. Baxter, who exchanged vows in the church in 1921. "The article also suggests that the church closed in the late 1940s or early 1950s," Body says.
Body also dusted off a copy of the Goulburn Herald and Chronicle dated December 9, 1874, published shortly after the church's opening, which claims that it "will hold about eighty persons comfortably". "Far be it from me to argue with the Goulburn Herald and Chronicle, but the newspaper's definition of 'comfortably' must be different from yours and mine," writes Body, referring to the church's diminutive dimensions.
Surprisingly, given its state of disrepair, my request for further information on the landmark church flushed out details of at least two contemporary weddings.
Firstly, Craig Shrimpton of Edinburgh in Scotland reports that he married his now ex-wife in the stone church in 1998. "Like a lot of people, I had driven past it countless times and wondered what it was,'' my far-flung correspondent says. ''When we were looking for a venue we decided it could be worth a look. So we approached the property owners and they let us have a look around. They were really friendly and helpful folks.
"At the time, it was basically a massive rabbit warren. Still, the place itself looked great under a blue sky. So we teed up a local lad to come in and level the floor. It was a great day and a fantastic location, and thankfully we got very lucky with the weather."
As to the questionable church capacity, "I think we had around 50 and it was pretty squeezy and standing room only but we had left some space at the front and there were a few patches of the floor that were very soft and uneven so people avoided those," Shrimpton reports. "Perhaps they could get 80 in back in the day when it had a floor but it would be tight."
Secondly, Heather Aspinall of Ainslie reports that she "attended a delightful wedding at the church in December 1999." Aspinall reports that her friend, Peita Littleton, "had always wanted to be married there". Now, I'm not too sure if celebrations got out of hand at Shrimpton's shindig for the condition of the church must have deteriorated somewhat in the year between the weddings because Aspinall reports, "unfortunately, the church itself was in too poor a state to allow people inside but the property owners were happy for the couple to be wedded in the grounds".
Littleton's big day was apparently quite a spectacle and, just like Shrimpton's, was blessed with good weather. "It was a glorious sunny day, not at all cold or windy (as you can see from all of the hats in the photo) and the wedding had some spectacular arrivals with someone flying in with a helicopter and landing in the field next door," Aspinall reports. "It was a memorable event and a beautiful old building, although I was rather glad not to have gone inside when I saw the state of the roof."
Shrimpton was also a tad disheartened with the state of the building at the time of his wedding. "It seems a shame for it to be so derelict when we have so little in the way of buildings of that age and structure,'' he says.
''Ironically, living in Scotland now, I see so many churches of that age that have been converted into houses, bars, lighting stores etc all over the show. It actually makes me think we should be better looking after these kind of properties in Australia."
STOP PRESS: It seems Shrimpton's wish for the crumbling church to be preserved has been partially granted. While Kevin McCloud and his team from Grand Designs hasn't quite got hold of it yet and turned it into a roadside tavern or quaint B&B, Jude Dodd of Burra, who has been travelling the Federal Highway regularly for 40 years, ''recently noticed that the church is now sporting a new dark grey roof (colourbond or painted corrugated iron), and a brand new door in a similar colour."
Regular readers may recall this column's feature last year on an elaborate network of rope bridges and "glider poles" that over the past five years has been strategically placed along sections of the Hume Highway in Victoria, and near the New South Wales/Victoria border, to help threatened marsupials such as the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) cross the busy highway safely (A Glider's Best Friend, August 4, 2012) .
Since the inception of the odd looking man-made structures (below), Kylie Soanes, a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, has used motion-triggered cameras to spy on animals that use the crossing and has undertaken some initial evaluation of their use by the threatened critters.
"It began slowly, with only a few gliders tentatively inspecting the structures during the first two years. However, since then, both the rope bridges and glider poles have become popular, with squirrel gliders crossing more than 2000 times,'' Soanes reports. Soanes's cameras have also detected common brushtail possums, common ringtail possums, sugar gliders, brush-tailed phascogales, and even a goanna using the structures to cross the freeway.
Keen bushwalker Monica Hart of Torrens recently stumbled upon this fallen branch on the Mount Taylor circuit heading south near Pearce. “Summer storms brought a lot of trees and branches down, including this one which looks just like a young heifer,” claims Hart. I certainly see the bovine resemblance (do you?), and wonder whether there are any other wooden cows grazing alongside our region’s walking tracks.
Ken Wood of Holt has taken exception to this column's recent claim that Big Cone Pines (Pinus coulteri), such as those growing in the Bendora Arboretum in the Brindabellas, produce the world's biggest pine cones (Back to Life, January 19). My aptly-named correspondent reckons such a lofty title ought to belong, instead, to the colossal cones of a Queensland native, the Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii). Wood even cites a story he recalls from the late 1940s when living in northern NSW as part of his claim: "A local resident was sitting in a deck chair under one of the trees in his front yard. He went inside the house and, on his return, he found one of these cones had fallen through the chair that he had recently vacated."
Unfortunately for Wood, his coney claim is dismissed on a technicality for, although the Bunya Pine does produce watermelon-sized cones much larger and heavier (some over 10 kilograms in weight) than those of the Pinus coulteri, it is not actually a true pine - rather, as its scientific name indicates, an araucaria.
Did You Know? The Bunya Pine Lawn at Lanyon Homestead in the ACT, a popular wedding location, is closed every March - due to "the falling of cones" from the two large Bunyas that grow there.
PS: Don't forget there's a full moon this Tuesday so if the cloud stays away it should be an opportunity to witness the ''Stairway to the Moon'' phenomenon on Lake George, which this column recently named as one of our region's Top 5 sights to behold (Nature's Wonders, February 9). If you do snap any photos of the reflection of a rising full moon on the lake's shallow waters that give the illusion of a magical stairway leading up to the moon, I'd love to see them.