A Hundred Forests from the Flames

In January 2003 Canberra  was consumed by a “fire tornado”

(Google images of 2003 bushfires)                                                      

Within 10 hours 4 people died, 490 were injured and over 500 homes destroyed.

A large number of suburbs lost power due to the fires and high winds, many suburbs were also without communications and water.

The following day, on the 19th of January, the Mt Stromlo Observatory was destroyed. The observatory was not only a highly active observatory, it was also historically significant on a national level.

In total the fires burnt 164,000 hectares, which was close to 70% of the Territories total area. (information “Canberra bushfire web page)

These bushfires that ravaged Canberra in 2003 have been the catalyst for the creation of the National Arboretum Canberra envisaged by Walter Burley Griffin so many years ago. It provides an opportunity to conserve threatened species, a place for community recreation and a valuable resource for ongoing education and research.

The goal is to create a place of outstanding beauty, of international standard and interest, that is a destination and recreational resource in its own right. The Arboretum and Gardens is being developed on a 250-hectare site in the Greenhills Forest and boasts spectacular views across Lake Burley Griffin.

Looking toward Lake Burley Griffin

Looking toward Lake Burley Griffin

290ha site originally pine forest

290ha site originally pine forest

This is all that is left of the original 290ha pine forest plantation. The fire was stopped and contained along that line.

The concept was developed to plant 100 forests each forest containing one species of tree. The trees were selected on strict criteria, including rarity, degree of environmental threat to the species, country of origin, temperate sources, whether they are suitable for Canberra’s climate, distinctiveness and diversity. Each forest being approximately 2ha.

Eventually, as the trees grow, it will give a total emersion experience as you will be able to walk along the trails through the forests.

Two large stands of tree were spared when the fire raged through. A Cork Oak plantation from 1917 and a grove of Himalayan Cedars from approximately the same time. to walk through these plantations gives a feeling for what this Arboretum will eventually be like.

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Ardoretum PCsx40 181_4000x3000

Trees showing the marks of were the cork has been harvested.

Entering the Visitors centre

Entering the Visitors centre

But to go back to our visit. It was a glorious day with the feeling of spring in the air. The visitors centre is large and impressive and inside many display cabinets explain the concept and history of the Arboretum.

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Ardoretum PCsx40 003_3000x4000

Banksia cones create hide away places for the children

Banksia cones create hide away places for the children

The Pod is a unique children’s playground and the children were loving it.

Oh what is this...?

Oh what is this…?

Acorns to explore

Acorns to explore

In a building next to the village centre is the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia it is a unique collection of the finest miniature trees and forests.

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The village centre sits on a hill surrounded by celebrity terraces. These will eventually be used to plant individual trees by celebrities.

The village centre sits on a hill surrounded by celebrity terraces. These will eventually be used to plant trees by celebrities.

The village centre

The village centre, the building in front houses the Bonsai collection.

From the top of Dairy Farmers Hill the size of the building is impressive. Also on the Dairy Farmers Hill is this sculpture.

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Look closely and you can see the nest is made of tools and machinery parts. It dominates the horizon.

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In the opposite direction is Black Mountain dominated by Telstra Tower. We visited that iconic feature a short while ago. (Check it out here)

The building on the right is “The Margaret Whitlam Pavilion”  that is used for weddings, concerts and conferences.

It has been a very interesting and enjoyable day, 4 hours have flown by and it is time to head home, but one last point of interest to look at is the Cedar forest.

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Some of the trees have been given a warm, woolly knitted scarf to protect them from the winter blasts.

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Arboretum PCsx40 234_4000x3000

The sun filters through the trees and spreads fingers of silver. Another decade and this Arboretum will be all a forest of maturing trees. Will we get back to see it I wonder?

Jack has done a post about the amazing sculptures, especially the “Wide Brown Land” sculpture that is in my heading. To find out more about it click here.


Categories: Arboretum, Australia, Canberra, photos | Tags: , , , | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “A Hundred Forests from the Flames

  1. Pingback: Garden Photography Challenge : Winter… | Memories are made of this

  2. Fifty years and this will be incredible!


    • That’s what I thought. I would love to still be around and go back in 20-30 years time. I’ll probably be in a wheel chair by then. .. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Travel Theme : Letters… | Memories are made of this

  4. i am glad that i scrolled backwards, as i loved the images in this post – so diverse with so many views.. and i attempted to comment but see that it failed to reach you…

    ah, in time there will be faster internet at teh house, but for now i am still hobbling along.

    had a bit of a respite last night, but not enough time to catch up!



    • We are lucky to have good connections at this house we are staying in, it does make a big difference to the internet experience.


  5. so glad you got there, and yeah, Australians who rubbish Canberra don’t have any idea….


    • A very underrated city, so much to do and see and so attractive with all the mature trees and wide verges. Not really finding the weather to be too hard to put up with. Only had about 10 days of really finger nipping cold.


  6. A wonderful post, Pauline. What a devastating fire that must have been. I’m so glad that so much good came out of it. When those forests are grown again, they will be really awesome. The sculpture reminded me of the mythological Phoenix rising from the ashes. Love those colourful tree hugging scarves, and the Bonsais are absolutely stunning, aren’t they?


  7. What a fabulous project, Pauline! How resourceful are we humans? Why on earth can we not live in peace? Think what we could achieve!!!
    So much to admire in this post! The header grabbed me right away and I intended to comment on it but as the post progressed I so wanted to be in that visitor centre (preferably in the kids playground- awesome!!!). I’ve seen wild fires in the Algarve and they are the scariest things. I’m so glad they’re recovering in Canberra. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find it hard to believe why so many Australians rubbish Canberra Jo, but the ones that live here know it for the hidden gem it is. The Arboretum is just one project that shows how this capital city is forging ahead. I’m so pleased I have the opportunity to explore it in depth.


  8. Another fascinating post from Canberra – a very underrated city I think.


  9. Pauline, what a wonderful informative post.. Just loved seeing the regeneration of the forests and those bonsai trees were something else…The acorn playing area was a delight and the coloured scarves now they were very useful.. Wouldnt mind one of those myself this coming winter 🙂
    Glad to be able to catch up again 🙂


    • Good to have you pop round my posts Sue. Canberra is a very interesting place. Many Aussies say it is a boring place, but for such a young city I think it has a lot to offer. Always some thing to see and explore.


  10. absolutely beautiful !!!!


  11. Oh too many things to comment on-such a fascinating post! Thank you. I’ll keep it simples then…I LOVE the yarn bombing! And, I wanna live in one of them acorns!
    It’s Summer here in Liverpool, UK (not that you would think so right now), and seeing that “feeling” of Spring in the air makes me rejoice at the seasons and makes me feel much less sad that we are hurtling towards Winter. Autumn next up. Adore autumn.
    Thanks m’lady!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. I am actually enjoying having seasons. Back home on the Goldcoast it is just 2 seasons hot and humid, and slightly cooler but still humid, no spring, no autumn the months just all seem to blend together…I’m loving the fresh crisp air, it invigorates me. Yes for the first time I own a warm scarf, I bought it at the op shop, $1-50 I’m looking forward to the rebirth of spring. The camera will be in over-drive then….


  12. Those fires must have been terrible. What an amazing place it is now. A true testament to healing and recovery. I particularly like the design of the visitor’s centre. The ceiling is stunning – I like the way it seems to evoke the rings of a tree.


    • I remember seeing those fires on TV Jill and it was heart breaking. This is such a volatile country. But it is amazing what they are achieving with this Arboretum. I hope I am able to come again, but I think it will be 20+ years to see a major growth when you can walk under the trees as in the cork oak plantation.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I didn’t know the cork and Himalayan Cedars survived, Pauline – evolved, I guess, to cope with fire. The found objects nest is fantastic. I love things like that and am particularly lucky to have a devil mask made from Sri Lankan farming implements. Look forward to seeing Jack’s sculpture post. 🙂


    • I’m amazed these two stands of trees survived as they are in the fire zone
      Have you put any photos of your mask in your blog? It sounds fascinating. Some people have such incredible imagination to create these works of art.


  14. Very interesting walk through, Pauline


  15. Pauline your post is fantastic I am sure anybody seeing this post will put this on their to do list.
    Hope they have perfect weather as we did, not like today rain.
    I am going to do a supplementary post focusing on the arboretum sculptures.

    Liked by 1 person

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