Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eli's school trip to Blundell's Cottage and the National Capital Exhibition

It's not everyday you voluntarily agree to spend the day with fifty odd six year olds. Indeed as the previous day had witnessed snow in Canberra for the first time in a decade I wondered quite how far my masochistic desires extended.

I'd agreed to help out with Eli's school trip. It was actually really nice as I haven't been able to help out that much at school recently. I'd resigned from my prestigious spot on the school vacuuming roster and I'd missed the last couple of school outings.

Eli and the two kinder classes were headed for the National Capital Exhibition (a small, but very well put together exhibition which describes the story of Canberra) and Blundell's Cottage, an original 1860's cottage which once stood in the sheep paddock that was Canberra, but now with the city's topography considerably changed nestles by the edge of Lake Burley Griffin.

We'd all been to the National Capital Exhibition a couple of years ago, but with a guide the exhibition was really enhanced. Amongst other things there's a great interactive map there which describes the formation of Canberra's parliamentary triangle.

Canberra, (like the Australian flag and national anthem) was designed as part of a competition. It was won by an American Walter Burley Griffin, whose winning entry (from 137 entries) has shaped Australia's capital over the last 100 years. Walter Burley Griffin's plan was well worked and was designed for the future. It made full use of the natural elements of Canberra's geography.

Sadly for Walter Burley Griffin the commencement of Canberra also coincided with the start of World War I, so much of Australia's funding was diverted to the war effort. He planned much much more than actually got built - a train system linking north and south, modern buildings and much more intelligent road linkages than actually currently exist in the city in 2015. Griffin fell out with the Australian Government and removed himself from the construction of the city in 1920 (not something that's mentioned in the exhibition). In actual fact the more I read about Griffin the more I'm convinced that his wife (Marion Mahony) who was also an architect was actually more of the brains and driving force behind a lot of Canberra's construction.

I wonder what Canberra today would have looked like if it had been delivered to Griffin's actual plan.

Anyway, the kids loved it especially the design your own Canberra in lego part of the exhibition.

We had lunch and walked along the lake to Blundell's cottage. It's a ramshackle old cottage originally constructed in 1860. In Europe, I have absolutely no doubt that it would have been pulled down years ago, but in Australia old things are precious and in short supply. They've recently renovated the place - removing the donated knick-knacks that used to clutter it up and restored it more authentically to how it used to look when no less than three families lived in the tiny cottage. The last family had lived there as recently as 1961.

The folk at Blundell's cottage had laid on some audio visual stuff for the kids (really nicely presented on rugs by the side of the lake) and all the children really enjoyed comparing how life had been a hundred years ago, when Canberra was little more than a sheep paddock.

We headed back on the bus. There was no singing as most of the kids were exhausted. It was lovely to spend a day with my little boy.

Eli building a capital

Studying the 3D map

Looking out over the lake

Blundell's cottage

Much more fun than an ipad

Learning about the history of Blundell's Cottage

Proud, Ponder and Percival

The three amigos

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