Page 45

More on Canberra.

The day we went to Cockington Green.

One day we went to see the Cockington Green Miniature Village. I admit I didn't really want to go, it was one of those days. My lovely wife had brought me a mug of coffee in bed, as she always does. Yes, she spoils me rotten. I was half asleep, took one sip and fell back to sleep, tipping the whole mugful everywhere. Ho-hum.

Anyway, when we arrived at Cockington Green I was truly amazed by the place. It had many dozens of miniature buildings with little figures, vehicles, trains, barges on a canal, animals, etc. The garden was immaculately presented - but why talk about it when I took a million pictures?

Model House

A front view of the house at Cockington Green.

Real House

And the rear view. But this is real and the top picture is a miniature.

Garbage Collection

Garbage collection day in suburbia - with a giant looking on.
Don't just stand there, woman, there's a bloke needing urgent help on that middle house.

Miniature Cricket

Pam was in heaven - she's always wanted to be taller.

General view of Cockington Green

Colourful. A general view over part of the Cockington Green Miniature Village.

I won't show you any more pictures of the miniature village; you can see the quality from the ones above and Pam has another three in her journal for 7th April 2007.

I was particularly taken with the three different railways. I don't know what the gauges were, but the smallest rolling stock was about 4 inches (100 mm) in height, the next about half as big again, and the largest was pulled by a steam loco made by John Fowler of Leeds which stood about 5' (1.5 metres) high and hauled several coaches full of visitors. Its boiler was fired by an L.P.G. burner and the only thing that let it down was of its whistle which sounded like a cockatoo with laryngitis. Well, okay, just one more picture.

Steam Train

John Fowler & Co's N° 15910. Isn't she a little beauty?

Cockington Green Miniature Village was by far the best of its kind that we've seen so far - by a country mile.

The Australian National Botanical Gardens

We were disappointed by the Botanical Gardens. Perhaps not the fault of the Gardens, but of us and our timing. We went in autumn and there were few plants flowering. Australian native flora is frequently rather drab and spindly with small, dull green leaves. Hey, calm down, that's only an opinion and I did say 'frequently'. All the plants had Latin names which were ridiculously long with vowel combinations that defy pronunciation. We finally stumbled upon a section of the garden where they had tables, chairs and cappuccino deliciouso, which we really needed for a caffeine fix.

The CSIRO Discovery Centre.

When we left the gardens we travelled on to the CSIRO Discovery Centre. CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Not a lot of people know that. We didn't until we went there. The Discovery Centre was amazing. This organisation is into everything from genetic engineering to contact lenses and soil degradation. We watched an interesting 3D film using glasses with polarised lenses in place of the red and green lenses that were previously used. Our only disappointment with the Discovery Centre was that several of the interactive displays didn't work.

The National Museum of Australia

We went on to the the National Museum of Australia which was also a bit disappointing. Too 'politically correct' with lots of interactive video displays where we were asked to touch the screen to select from several choices, none of which we wanted to see anyway, and there was apparently no way to get back to the start.

We'd been told that the Museum had Phar Lap's heart on display and it was a 'must see', being double the size of any other horse's heart. For those that are not familiar with Phar Lap, he was a champion race horse, the like of which has never been seen before or since. He was an Australian icon, though born in New Zealand. He was taken to the U.S.A. where he won all his races but, while there, died of arsenic poisoning. Funny, that.

The display of this heart seems to be for what this museum is best known, though God knows why. The heart was so inconspicuously displayed that I walked right past it even though looking out for it. It took one of the guides to show it to us.

Opposite the display of the heart was one on cricket which contained the 'other bail' which had been made into a decorative paper-knife. The other bail, of course, was the one that was not burned to create the famous cricket Ashes.

The poor guide was explaining all this to a group which consisted of Pam and I plus about six Americans. Where do you start with people who don't know what a wicket is, never mind a bail? He explained that there were three wooden sticks stuck into the ground. They are called wickets. The two bails are placed so that they balance across the top of the sticks.
What for? the Yanks wanted to know.
Well, the other team has to hit the wickets with the ball, he said, pointing to a cricket ball in the same display.
I suspect the Yanks might have known what a ball looked like.
They either have to bowl or throw the ball and knock the bails off, he went on. The Yanks looked blank. From their expressions the guide decided he was on a loser. How do you explain the finer points of cricket to people whose national pastime is attacking third world countries, killing thousands (including their own), totally screwing everything up, then going home?

Fortunately it was five o'clock, the museum's closing time. Saved by the bell. Talking of bells, the next day we visited the National Carillon on Aspen Island in Lake B.G.

The National Carillon.


Ladies and Gentlemen, not a sewer vent, not a water tank but the National Carillon.

What is a Carillon? It's a bell tower that - and here I quote - by definition, must have at least two octaves or a minimum of 23 tuned bronze bells. The National Carillon in Canberra has 55 bells so is large by world standards. The pitch of the bells ranges chromatically through four and a half octaves. The bells weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes each. They were given to the people of Australia by the British Government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Capital. Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Australia, accepted the Carillon on behalf of all Australians on 7th April 1970. (The italic is mine.)

Well, thank you very much to the British Government and Her Majesty, but when Pam and I visited our bells we found them locked up in a concrete tower by the National Capital Authority on behalf of the Australian Government.

After the Carillon we had a sandwich and a coffee each at the National Capital Exhibition which cost us $34 and an extraordinarily long wait. Eventually, revived physically if not temperamentally, we made our way to the High Court building.

The Australian High Court

High Court

Not the most attractive of buildings. Despite the lake and the trees, the High Court building
still reminded me more of a power station than the highest court in the land.

The High Court of Australia was not in session so things were quite relaxed, if not downright friendly, inside the building. The court sits for two weeks each month and hears appeal cases that might involve interpreting the Australian Constitution, or cases that could set a precedent for future decisions. Important stuff anyway, you won't find a house breaker or graffiti artist in the dock here. Usually the cases involve legal argument between barristers. The parties involved may not even be in Canberra, video links from all other capitals save time and money.

Court Two

Court Two has five judges, the senior sits in the centre.

The court will usually reserve its decision, which means the judges involved will discuss the arguments put forward in private, then each will consider his decision and put it in writing with all the supporting reasons. That's why they only sit two weeks per month, the rest of the time the judges are engaged in writing out their judgments and then making sure they are full bottle on whatever case is coming up next. Once the High Court's decision is handed down there is no appeal and that decision will bind all inferior courts in the future.

Red Hill Lookout

Red Hill Lookout provided great views over the Capital and all the surrounding countryside. There was a nice café on the summit too . . . but it was closed for renovations.

Red Hill Lookout

From Red Hill Lookout. That flagstaff over Parliament House and Jim's Jet are visible from all
over the Capital. Jim's Jet? Our nickname for the Captain James Cook Memorial Jet.

The trees below the lookout were very attractive in their autumn colours - worth a separate picture, perhaps.

Tree Colours

Beautiful, but not by pure chance. Nothing exists by chance in Canberra.

The Scrivener Dam

The Scrivener Dam is responsible for holding the water in Lake Burley Griffin. From the lookout we could see most of the lake but we had never seen the dam. In fact, we didn't even know which end of the lake was dammed. Fortunately a very nice man drove up as we were scanning the lake ends with binoculars. He had lived in the area for many years before Canberra was developed and remembers the dam being built, and the day the water flow in the Molonglo River was closed off. For weeks nothing much happened. What little water was flowing down the Molonglo formed some small pools but seepage and evaporation took care of the rest. Then came very heavy rain in the mountains and the flow in the river rose dramatically. Almost overnight Lake Burley Griffin was full. Should such rainfall occur again, there are five large gates across the Scrivener Dam that can be opened to effectively lower the height of the dam by about two metres. These gates are tested regularly by floating a temporary barrier across one gate at a time to hold back the water, then fully lowering and raising that gate.

Back of Dam

The 'dry' side of the Scrivener Dam. What appear to be bright hydraulic rams holding the gates
closed are clearly visible, four per gate. Lady Denman Drive, runs across the top of the dam.

Front of Dam

And the 'wet' side of the dam. The water level is perhaps 100 mm (4”) below the top of the gates.
A far cry from the situation at Lakes Jindabyne and Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains.

Yarralumla House, the residence of the Governor-General of Australia

On the way to and from the dam we passed Yarralumla House, the residence of the Governor-General of Australia. We were not allowed to go near the house but there was a viewing area about 700 metres away so out came the 200 mm lens.

Yarralumla House

Yarralumla House is 170 years old and the large cedar tree to its right just three years younger.

So that was Yarralumla House, a bonus we picked up by going to the dam. The Royal Australian Mint was our next port of call where a large sign invited us to make money.

The Royal Australian Mint


All is not what it seemed. Sounded good, but what it meant was
we could make our own dollar coins . . . for $2.50 each.

Pam decided she would stamp out a dollar for each of our grandchildren. Pam, I'll give you SIX dollars for $5 - you don't have to spend $12.50! She also pays for water in bottles when it's free out of the tap.

Mint and Dollar Coin

Pam, never happier, feeding $12.50 to a machine for a $5 return.

The Mint was interesting with many coins on display and stories to accompany them. Like the old shilling coins (12d) that contained 16d worth of silver each. You don't understand 16d, kids? Ask Mum or Dad. If you get no joy there, try Grandma or Grandpop, but be prepared for, I remember when you could buy a bar of chocolate for 6d. And you could, too.

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