Saturday, February 2, 2013

National Arboretum Grand Opening

100 years of Canberra
Perched on a hill near where we live is the National Arboretum.

It's a fairly new initiative (plantings commenced in 2006) to grow a 100 forests overlooking Canberra. The land was previously covered in pine trees but was ravaged by the bush fires of 2004.

Over the last few years we've seen the site develop from afar. Small saplings appearing over the barren hills and then a huge spaceship-like visitor centre (the Village) grew out of the hillside as well.

We've been along a couple of times to visit (the Arboretum held monthly open sessions) but nothing really prepared us for today which was the Grand Opening, timed as part of Canberra's centenary.

The "Village Centre" was open - the huge visitor centre with information boards, cafe and of course the obligatory shop, and it's size and beauty was staggering. Huge wooden beams support the high ceilings and magnificent windows overlooking the vista of Canberra. Without trying to break into "Grand-Designs" type language it really is superb.

So many things were laid on for the public. Shuttle buses took people to the site from all around town and numerous tents offering face painting, kite making, plantings combined with entertainment and food. Our favourite Canberra band (the Cashews) did a turn on a small stage and the sun shone and the wind blew (perfectly for the kites).

There's still a bit of polishing to be done to a few bits and pieces - the Pavilion which offers spectacular views of Canberra and is a dead cert to be booked out for weddings for the next 5 years, still needs to be finished but the paths, the sculptures and of course the trees are all in place.

It's wonderful that something like this has been done in Canberra. In truth it's probably not for another 20 years that the true value of the place will be realised. The exhibitions and interactive screens will probably be a bit tarnished by then but the trees will be the real heroes of the place.

We only meant to go along for an hour or so and ended up staying most of the day. I'm sure we'll have many happy trips up there.

Outside of the 'Village'

Listening to 'the Stilettos' - Audrey loved them!
Flying an octopus kite

Face painting fun

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