Inspired by my recent walk around Yerrabi Pond at Gungahlin I decided to go for another autumnal walk – this time around Lake Ginninderra at Belconnen, in the northwest of the city.
Like the other three main lakes in Canberra – Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Tuggeranong and Yerrabi Pond – Lake Ginninderra is artificial having been established along the course of the Ginninderra Creek in 1974, to collect storm-water from Belconnen and its surrounding suburbs. Below is an artistic impression by Robert Hoddle (National Gallery of Australia) of what this area looked like in around 1832-35, well prior to the creation of the lake and, indeed, Canberra.
In terms of size, Lake Ginninderra ranks second to Lake Burley Griffin. A walk ‘around the lake’ actually leaves out a sizable section to the northeast of the Ginninderra Drive bridge due to the absence of a path on about half of that area. Hopefully with recent and ongoing development in this area a path will eventuate shortly allowing a full circumnavigation of the lake. That said, the current relatively flat, paved pathway, shared by walkers, cyclists, runners and mothers with perambulators is a very admirable seven kilometres long making for a very pleasant and easy walk, if you are up to the distance.
Having caught the number 53 bus to Belconnen (yes, since my retirement I have been getting into using Canberra’s public transport – which I find to be clean, safe and convenient for those not in a hurry) I started my walk at the southern tip of the lake. Naturally, being a circular walk, you can start where you like but I do suggest you walk in a clockwise direction as, for my money, the views are better – especially in the morning.
While not technically part of the lakeside park/walk I began my walk by passing through Belconnen Skate Park which was devoid of people. While I greatly admire the skill of the young ones who partake of this activity they tend not to do it at 8.00am so no action shots here!
Passing by an attractive Aboriginal mural of stylised native animals on my left and some ‘modern art’ in an offshoot of the lake, to my right, I very soon arrived at the lakeside proper.
From here I headed northwards along the foreshore path (Emu Bank Walk), with colourful trees and the lake on one side and a series of bars, restaurants and takeaways on the other.
Undoubtedly, it is best to keep your eyes fixed towards the lake as you pass through here, as I did with my camera lens when taking the pictures above. While this prime lakeside location offers great potential for outdoor dining and quality food outlets the businesses here have not capitalised on the views and could at best be rated average with a number falling well short of this accolade. That said, the Lighthouse bar and the Bella Vista Italian and Thai Ayutthaya restaurants are long time stalwarts of Emu Bank (the strip’s name) and can be safely recommended.
Only a few hundred metres off to the left of the pathway is the Westfield Belconnen shopping complex, one of the best in the city, which has an excellent array of eating options.
Also, though perhaps of less relevance to the visitor unless self catering, 2 Yummy, an unpretentious, almost hole in the wall, joint on the inside of the block away from the waterfront is the place to go should you be desirous of the best takeaway Peking duck in Canberra. Everything else here, based on online reviews, seems to be awful!
At that awful end the spectrum, I vividly recall once, some years ago now, visiting a new Chinese Restaurant here for yum cha. It is the only restaurant that I have ever started eating a meal in only to get up after a few morsels and walk out, letting the proprietor know that I would finish my yum cha in a previously tried and tested Chinese Restaurant next door. The offending establishment closed very shortly afterwards.
Anyway, moving along, at the end of Emu Bank I passed the Belconnen Arts Centre which is currently being extended before passing through a newly landscaped part of the lakeside (rather stark until the trees grow) and leaving the urban part of this walk behind.
Immediately before leaving the buildings behind, slightly off to the left, is the Black Pepper café. This is the last opportunity for a coffee fix or food along the walk for at least an hour and that’s assuming you keep up a steady pace.
Casting aside the temptation to indulge, I soldiered on. In truth, I wanted to try out a café on the other side of the lake – almost at the end of the walk – which I had been meaning to frequent for quite some time.
From here on the path became a lot quieter though given the popularity of the lakeside walk and the existence of a number of small beaches, barbecue and playground areas along the way which can also be accessed without the need to walk you will not be alone at any time of the day, especially at weekends and on public holidays.
The path now meandered in and out from the waterfront through a mix of native and introduced (what we call exotics in these parts!) species – I particularly liked the weeping willows. Here, and right around the lake, there were ample seats should I have wished to rest or just relax and enjoy the view.
The first of a number of beaches and playground areas are located next up on the western foreshore of the lake (Western Foreshore Park). While the small beaches (Bargang and Yarra) do not compare with Bondi or the North Shore beaches in Sydney they are more than pleasing to the eye and sufficient to provide endless fun for children, especially when coupled with a flying fox, climbing frames, swings, slides and the bicycle riding training area also located in this area of the park. The bicycle training area is the latest addition to the area and I think it’s great – even if I am a little big and old for it myself! Add to this the free barbecue facilities, toilets, car-parking and shelter and you have a most agreeable area which was even more gorgeous when I passed through as the trees displayed their autumn colours and exuded that wonderful aroma you get from freshly decaying leaves (if that’s not an oxymoron).
Moving on, I crossed the rather ugly dam/spillway wall which carries the busy and thus noisy Ginninderra Road at the northern extremity of the lake though one can’t complain too much as if this were not here there would be no lake! On a positive note, crossing it afforded me a nice view back across the lake to Belconnen, with Black Mountain’s easily recognisable Telstra Tower just in view in the distance, to my left, as well as the opportunity to see two black swans foraging in the rocks below.
Having moved back into the park the first thing once notices is that the vegetation here is much more of the native variety with eucalypts prevailing. The next kilometre or so is actually through what one might term a eucalypt grove. This provides very welcome shade and a gorgeous smell of, believe it or not, eucalyptus during our hot summer period. Today I could only imagine that scent while feeling a distinct drop in temperature in the shade on what was already a rather nippy Canberra morning – though you could hardly tell that from others of my pictures.
Though I had, by this stage, encountered quite a few ducks and the swans pictured above there wasn’t as much wildlife as I have previously seen on the western and northern parts of this walk. While I went out onto a couple of wildlife viewing platforms as I passed through the eucalypts the wildlife, in the main, remained elusive.
Moving out from the eucalypts and into another beach area (Diddams Point Park) what especially stood out was another stand of deciduous trees, absolutely stunning as their leaves changed colour and the autumn sun beamed down on them.
Trees aside, the small beach here looked nicer than those on the western foreshore but while there are also playground facilities here they are not as extensive or modern as those I had passed earlier. Perhaps making up for this, there is a reasonably large enclosed area where dogs are permitted off-leash. Elsewhere in the park dogs must be on leashes at all times. Again there are quite a few barbeques and there is ample car-parking in this area for those who wish to come here directly.
It was at this point of my walk that wildlife (birdlife) became more bountiful and I was able to get close up to a few different birds. A few sulphur-crested cockatoos proved particularly obliging when it came to being photographed.
By this stage coffee was beckoning and all that stood between me and it was another noisy bridge crossing – again the Ginninderra Road connecting northern Canberra to the city.
When crossing the bridge I kept to the left hand (city bound) section so that I could admire that part of the lake not covered by this walk. If I had wished to extend my walk I could have continued on, following the Centenary Trail signs, along the northern bank (left in picture below) before crossing the bridge. I would have had to retrace my steps as it is not possible to return along the other bank.
Underneath this bridge, on both sides of the lake, are legal graffiti art walls. While nowhere near as extensive as the site at Yerrabi Pond you can occasionally find some good work here. Only two pieces appealed to me today. The third picture was taken on an earlier visit.
Having crossed the bridge and pointed myself in the direction of Belconnen I continued along the path for about 100 metres before turning left towards the Birragi Café, about 50 metres in from the path and clearly visible. To be honest, I hadn’t expected much from this place but wanted to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by the café and enjoyed a coffee on the verandah before returning to finish my walk. As someone, even more famous than me, once said “I’ll be back!”.
The final part of the walk was through the John Knight Memorial Park, named after John Knight, an ACT Senator, who worked to ensure the preservation of the lake’s foreshore for recreational purposes but sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 37. While small I find it very well landscaped and pretty, particularly so in its autumn colours.
Being small and close to Belconnen and the University of Canberra with barbecues, parking and children’s play equipment this part of the foreshore is particularly popular with both humans and birdlife, the later being admirably fed by the former.
When you are ready to leave, cross the small bridge at the end of the park and you will have returned to the Lighthouse bar. How fortunate, if by this stage you are in need of a little liquid nourishment!