Setting myself the challenge of completing one Centenary Trail stage per month

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When I officially opened the Centenary Trail in October this year I promised myself that I would complete the Trail as soon as I could manage by setting myself the challenge of one stage per month. So far I’m on track….or on the Trail!

Stage 1 centenary trail 21/11/13

We started early at 7am having parked the car underneath Parliament House we emerged to a beautiful still Canberra morning. The temperature was perfect for walking with a mild heading to a top of 28 degrees with our kick off temp about 6 degrees.

Stage 1 kicks off from the Foundation Stone – where 100 years ago Canberra was named – with a selection of some of Canberra’s most picturesque landmarks as the trail moves down from Parliament House along Federation Mall to the Museum of Australian Democracy through the spectacular Rose Gardens, with the roses in full bloom and, depending of which way you want to walk to the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, your choice of Questacon, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library or the National Gallery of Australia.

My colleague Vic and I chose to follow the map (at least we thought that’s the way it was telling us to go) walk through the rose gardens and down along Parkes Place to meet the lake at Reconciliation Place. What a fantastic sight to welcome us to LBG with rowers and early morning walkers/joggers lining the shores.

One thing to be aware of here – is there is no Centenary Trail signposts at all – this is probably an issue about NCA land but I’m looking into this as whilst its fine for locals if I was a tourist I would be searching for a signpost to start the Trail at what is the official beginning and then would expect to see signs regularly along the way.

We enjoy the walk around the lake’s edge over Kings Avenue Bridge which is pretty busy and you have to remain alert for the cyclists and fast runners coming through even at this time of the day.  We feel pretty relaxed moving at our leisurely 5km an hour speed past the Carillon and down past Blundells farmhouse until we take the underpass to Constitution Avenue where the map directs us towards Anzac Parade.

We pass the deserted heritage-listed Anzac Park East and smirk at the early morning Canberra motorists securing a free car space less that 2kms from the city centre. A brief chat about car parking (a favourite Canberra discussion) before we remind ourselves that we are here to enjoy the walk and not weigh ourselves down with the reality of life.

Anzac Parade is such a special place to walk around. You can spend hours on either side of the road reading and learning about the different memorials and taking in just a little bit of our history as a nation. Looking up is the magnificent War Memorial – a truly world class building which sits so majestically at the base of Mt Ainslie. It is at this moment on the walk that it strikes me just how much Canberra has grown into the role of the nation’s capital because for a brief period in time I imagine looking at this spectacular view through the eyes of a tourist and it is breathtaking.

Half way up Anzac Parade and we hit the 5km mark. I take a photo of Vic as it amuses me that we look like tourists – well, he does more than me as he has a backpack (it never hurts to prepare even if you are walking around the heart of the city!) and the map out too.

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It’s 8am and we cross Limestone Ave (following the map again) before the roundabout at the top of Anzac Parade and we count the cars that have to wait for us and we walk on through. Whilst we feel a little guilty about stopping the traffic at peak hour the crossing is set up well for walkers to cross a major road like this safely as we head onto the base of Mt Ainslie.

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It’s at this point that we find the first Centenary Trail sign YAY! (about the 7km mark) and it’s at this point that you start to experience Canberra as the bush capital. Its hard to believe that it was only half an hour ago and we were walking through the nation’s cultural institutions and now here we are on a fire trail starting to walk the base of Mt Ainslie to Mt Majura.  The morning was still perfect in terms of weather and walkers are rewarded with the pure natural beauty of the reserves which buffer our city.

The Trail to this point has been very flat and even on this stretch it maintains a reasonably mild gradient suitable for most walkers. I hope this continues for the rest of the Centenary Trail (the previous Chief Minister Jon Stanhope stressed the importance of making this walk accessible to as many as possible) and its obvious that all of those involved in determining the route and building the connecting paths such as such as Darren Stewart from Makin Trax and Anthony Burton have really made an effort here.

Walking the fire trail that abuts the back of the residential areas of Ainslie is really enjoyable as walkers meander along the main fire trail for several km’s. We passed several walkers in both directions and the friendly Canberra “good morning” is mandatory along this stretch it seems.

We resolve to stop and have a break at the 10km mark (about 9am) but it is about this point that we somehow get taken off the trail. This is strange as since we reached the base of Mt Ainslie the centenary trail direction signs are pretty good – (we haven’t worked out yet whether we missed a sign and walked on or if there needs to be another sign at this point – or in fact whether we were distracted by the prospect of being swooped by a fierce looking magpie – see photo) regardless of how we got off track it wasn’t long before it dawned on us that we were “lost”- the sight of the airport and the new Majura Parkway is a sign you have gone the wrong way :) ). Thank goodness for google maps and the fact that one of us has some sense of direction (and the friendly guy walking Mt Majura who directed us to the reservoir) which got us back on the Trail . We lost a bit of time here so no break at 10km mark and we keep heading north towards Watson.

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 Magpie protection device

I loved the last part of this walk as it took me to places I hadn’t ever walked before – along the back of the Majura horse paddocks with views out to Dickson, Mitchell and Gungahlin and absolutely worth the walk at the 15km mark. The trail is still reasonably flat – mildly undulating is as bad as it gets and by 10.30am we are nearing the end of our morning’s walk. We put the call out to get picked up at the petrol station at Watson on the Federal Highway.

By 10.45am we’ve finished Stage 1 about 19.5kms (including our wrong detour) in just on four hours. I could keep walking but the office calls so we leave the peacefulness of the centenary trail and hop in the car to make the trip back to civic full of promises that Stage 2 will be conquered soon.

A couple of things I will chase up following completing Stage 1

  • See if we can better sign-post the walk from Parliament House to Mt Ainslie
  • the need to get the Centenary Trail on an App (will work on it)
  • fix that sign post where we got lost!
  • Oh and take better photos.

You can also walk up to the summit of both Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura as part of this stage if you choose

Overall great morning, great company and more importantly I can’t wait to do Stage 2 from Watson to Forde.

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Mobile reception worked unfortunately :)