Tim the Yowie Man: No stone unturned

It appears that Rick and Lyn McDonald (Suburban Secrets, April 5) aren’t the only Canberrans intrigued by the curious concrete posts scattered across parkland in West Belconnen.

‘‘I’ve lived in the area since 1993, and always wondered [about] the origins of the standing stones dotted around the Ginninderra Creek and footpaths in Macgregor,’’ writes Sarah G.
‘‘Some of them have been sunk into the ground up on end, and look like rough concrete, coated in a smoother, cement skin. They look like English standing-stones, and I always thought it was rather peculiar that they’d been left in the ground randomly like that,’’ she adds.

Several readers, including Bev Booth, of Latham, and J.G. Montgomery, of Macgregor, believe  the concrete pillars are likely to be the remains of Cranleigh ‘‘farmhouse’’ which was built on land now bounded by Kingsford Smith and Southern Cross drives in Latham.

The farmhouse, hand crafted from large concrete blocks moulded with sand and pebbles from the nearby Ginninderra Creek, was built in the mid-1920s for General James Gordon Legge and more resembled a fortress than a typical Australian homestead. It was designed in Indian style with a flat roof and internal verandah courtyard, onto which 10 rooms opened. Despite the substantial effort to construct it, Legge’s fortress was partially demolished in the years following his death in 1947 and its foundations removed some time later.

There are reports that some of the bricks of the dismantled house were sold in 1955 and used as pavers on the nearby Pine Ridge property, however why (and when) so many stones (some rendered) have ended up scattered across parkland in Latham and Macgregor is a mystery.

Perhaps the result of a council worker with a sense of history? Someone must know.

Meanwhile, last week’s expose on the oval-shaped stone arrangement just behind Astley Place, in Garran, prompted several readers to take their children on a scramble up the hill. ‘‘The kids absolutely loved searching for the stones and then stood on them, playing I’m king of the castle,’’ reports James Wood, of Wanniassa.

Despite its lofty position, the existence of the stone arrangement was a  surprise to many readers, including former Garran resident Chantel Louise Brown, now of northern NSW, who ‘‘walked the hills around [her] Canberra home for many years and never saw or heard of it’’.

Further, it seems that there is at least one other nearby hill topped with a similar stone arrangement.  ‘‘It’s near the corner of Heysen Street and Tuggeranong Parkway in Curtin,’’ reports Paul Wilson, who wonders if they were made by the same person(s).


Of inflatable salmon and bushrangers
After good autumn rains, the countryside around the ACT is looking as inviting as ever, and next weekend there’s even more reason to venture across the border with two of our more historic neighbours in party mode.

1. Braidwood 175th: Saturday, May 3
It’s not every day  a town celebrates its dodransbicentennial, and Braidwood  plans to mark it with a street parade to end all street parades. It’s on from 1pm to 2pm on Wallace St (from Lascelles Street to Ryrie Park) and will include vintage bikes and cars, horses, carriages, bullock train, dog run and more.
While in town, don’t miss the photo exhibition at the Braidwood Museum (186 Wallace Street, Phone 0248422310) featuring stills from films shot in the town, including Ned Kelly (1969, starring Mick Jagger) and On My Selection (1996). In this photo appears in a scene in which Kelly (played by Jagger) had audaciously disguised himself as a policeman for one of his bushranging raids.
More: festivalofbraidwood.org.au  

2. Collector Village Pumpkin Festival: Sunday, May 4, 10am to 4pm.
It may only be 40 minutes from Canberra, but the folk do it differently out Collector way. Last year they somehow convinced a certain akubra-clad columnist from The Canberra Times  into a carved-out pumpkin, before unceremoniously plonking the pumpkin (and its squirming contents) into the Collector Creek with just an oar. And this year?

‘‘Well, Canberra has a skywhale, a big scary thing that floats about in the sky, so we thought we’d rival it with our inflatable salmon,’’ boasts festival organiser  Gary Poile, who adds, it’ll be ‘‘gracefully tethered to the ground where children can crawl into its belly for  music, drama and magic-making’’. The blow-up fish is part of Victorian-based Nylon Zoo, and its creator Evelyn Roth is ‘‘very excited to be bringing it to the Canberra region for the very first time’’.

Pumpkin lovers need not despair, for the festival will also feature all its favourites, including  wheelbarrow races (with pumpkins, of course), live entertainment, make your own scarecrow and (of course) lashings of pumpkin soup.

Further, to demonstrate that they aren’t just a town of country bumpkin pumpkin munchers, townsfolk have ingeniously crafted a mini Sydney Harbour Bridge at the northern entrance to their historic village out of hay bales. ‘‘We used concrete reinforcement/trench mesh to make a base and then stacked the bales from each end, using cable ties to secure them,’’ reports Poile, who confesses to being more than a tad concerned ‘‘that a side wind might topple the whole thing’’.

Forget the wind Gary. I’d be more worried about the hungry cows in the neighbouring paddock eyeing off a good feed.
Cost: $5 for adults and children under 12 are free. Take the Federal Highway to Collector and follow the signs to the free parking area. More: pumpkinfestival.com.au


Several south coast correspondents are mourning the loss of one of our region's best-known simulacra - Gerroa's bum tree. The iconic blackbutt gum (Eucalyptus pilularis) which was located on Gerroa Road and infamously sported the word ''bum'' painted above two prominent naturally occurring bulges, was recently felled by Shoalhaven City Council.

The origins of the tree's conspicuous ''cheeks'' is somewhat of a mystery, although local lore suggests that in the 1960s the tree was badly damaged when a car careered into it, and over time new growth covered the scarring. Apparently for several decades the word ''bum'' has been painted on the tree, with some locals speculating that the art work has even at times been touched up by Canberrans on holiday.

Despite protesters holding a month-long vigil at the south coast landmark, the tree was felled last month by the council as part of works ''to improve safety'' on the popular tourist road.

''Lots of local people came by with their kids to take a last photo of the bum tree,'' reports Mark Whalan, who ''knew it as a quirky tree for a long time'' and was ''particularly upset at the loss of habitat for several greater gliders'' which called the tree home.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sloan, a Kiama Municipal Councillor who paid his last respects to the tree on the day it was felled, recalls ''the cathedral of branches linking over the road was so special for both human and fauna well-being''.

Mark and Andrew, although I can't bring your beloved bum tree back from the chipper, on a recent road trip along a back road in the Byron Bay hinterland, I stumbled upon another tree with an analogous appendage. Are there more?


Clue: A lot more people than usual will gawk at this fetching sculpture next weekend.

Degree of difficulty: Easy - medium

Last week: Congratulations to Chelsea Benac of Chapman who was first to correctly identify last week's photo (inset) taken by Arthur Lindeman as an aerial view of Government House (Yarralumla), the official residence of the Governor-General, before Lake Burley Griffin's construction in the early 1960s. I would have thought that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who bunked down at Yarralumla during the week, were a shoo-in to win the prize but, alas, local lass Benac was too quick for them.

How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to timtheyowieman@bigpond.com. The first email sent after 10am on Saturday, April 26, with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.

Email: timtheyowieman@bigpond.com or Twitter:@TimYowie or write to me c/o The Canberra Times, 9Pirie Street, Fyshwick.  A selection of past columns is available at: canberratimes.com.au/travel/blog/yowie-man.