It is amazing to think that millions of years ago, around 420 million to be more precise, the London Bridge, Googong area was part of the ocean floor. As the ocean receded the arch, which would become known as the London Bridge Arch, slowly formed by water leaching through the fossiliferous limestone, enlarging cracks, until a passage big enough to let the Burra Creek through was created. The arch reached its present form about 20,000 years ago.
London Bridge and the Burra Creek are the main features of this short and relatively easy walk which takes the walker directly to London Bridge and then along the Burra Creek, in a northerly direction, before crossing the creek at Drawdown Crossing and returning to the car park across open grassland – a total distance of just two kilometres. Various other walking options which include visiting London Bridge are possible and these are briefly detailed at the end of this post. Note that pictures included in this post are from a number of visits I have made to London Bridge over the past few months.
This walk starts at London Bridge car park, as do all but one of the walks in the southern part of the Googong Foreshores reserve. The car park is about 40 kilometres from the centre of Canberra, about 45 minutes drive.
Prior to setting off on the walk (or on your return) it is worth having a look at the old woolshed and shearers quarters located in the large recreational area adjacent to the car park. Here you can also find free gas barbecues, picnic shelters/ tables and toilets.
Both the shearers quarters and the woolshed were built in the early 1930s, to replace those at the nearby London Bridge Homestead which had, by then, outlived their usefulness. Between 2,500 and 4,000 sheep were shorn in the woolshed annually until 1973 when it and the remainder of the London Bridge property were acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia to protect this part of the catchment of the Googong Reservoir (one of the main sources of water for nearby Queanbeyan and Canberra) which was created shortly after that date.
Returning to the walk, if you are proceeding beyond London Bridge (i.e. following this walk the whole way) I recommend you ‘sign in’ on the register as you leave the parking area – and not forget to sign out on your return. This way if you have not signed out by the reserves’ closing time park rangers will come looking for you, lest you have had an accident. Mobile phone coverage is patchy and, especially if you walk during the week, you may be the only walker on any particular day.
Having signed in, I made my way up a slight incline and after about 50 metres I veered right onto the management track continuing along the well formed track for another 350 metres to a sign directing me to London Bridge.
Turning left at the signpost it is a short (approx. 300 metres) downhill walk to the rocky top of London Bridge.
From the top of the bridge I had picturesque 360 degree views of the valley and along the Burra Creek which runs under the arch.
As I was continuing my walk north (left) along the creek, after enjoying the views from the bridge I continued across it and turned right to look at the bridge and arch from that side first.
The arch is thirty-four metres long, twelve to fifteen metres wide at water level, and about five metres high above normal summer water level.
The bridge (and the nearby homestead) is named after London Bridge in London, UK. Unlike it’s man-made namesake which has fallen down more than once (with one incarnation being bought by an American and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – did he really think he was buying Tower Bridge?) this London Bridge has stood the test of time for 20,000 years and is still going strong. Coincidentally, the night before I wrote this review I was reading about Olaf’s feted attack on London’s London Bridge in 1014 and how it was likely the inspiration of the children’s nursery rhyme, ‘London Bridge is falling down’.
Having admired the bridge from the southern side I moved across to the northern side for look from that side.
The first European to record the existence of the arch was Captain Mark Currie who sighed it in 1823 as he returned from his exploration of the more southerly Monaro Plains. Currie was shown the arch by local Aboriginals and at the time described it as ‘a natural bridge of one perfect Saxon arch, under which the water passed’.
Looking at the bridge today (from both sides) a number of caves can be seen in the structure.
Currie made no mention of these caves though, over the years, various stories have developed around them, none of which can be absolutely confirmed.
One story (Butz 1987 ‘Karst and caves in the Canberra area’) records the discovery, in 1874, of `a veritable catacomb’ containing `many hundreds of human bones and skulls, centuries old’. These were, according to Butz, carried away by the bagful and pronounced by three surgeons, including the Coroner, to be `the skeletons of the Aborigines of former times’ (Brennan 1907). It has been widely believed that such Aboriginal cave burials are rare in the region (Flood 1980). More recent work (Spate), while not buying into the bagfuls of bones, suggests that the caves were used for burials, though there have never been any human bones produced in evidence.
Another story (Moore 1981) records that the area received some notoriety through the ‘London Bridge mystery’ with the discovery, in 1875, of human (supposedly European) bones in a small cave near Burra, leading to an inconclusive coronial inquest and rumours of murders committed by bushrangers. It is not known if the cave referred to in this story is one of the caves at the bridge.
In any event, the bridge and the caves hold a spiritual significance for local Ngunnawal (among other groups) Aboriginal people so I choose, as I recommend you also do, not to clamber up to the caves, though some people do. There is nothing to see so just admire them from the creek banks.
After admiring the bridge and arch I moved on along the bubbling Burra Creek, in a northerly direction.
After 500 metres of level walking along the creek I arrived at a signpost confirming that I could return to the car park via Drawdown Crossing or go back via the bridge. While not visible in the picture below some not very smart individual has scratched ‘ Track non-existent’ beside the Drawdown Crossing arrow. I say not very smart as it beggers belief how the author failed to recogise the, to me rather clear, track depicted below!
Continuing on, in about 20 metres I arrived at Drawdown Crossing.
Thankfully I was able to stone-hop across the creek without having to remove my boots and socks or get wet in the process.
Emerging on the other side and after going a little further along the creek for a look I made my way back to the ‘non-existent’ track and headed up the hill towards the end of my walk.
En route to the car park I enjoyed views back down across the valley and creek
and views across the grasslands towards Tin Hut Dam which I could have walked to but instead chose to drive to for an additional short walk and picnic lunch – More on that in a seperate post.
A few minutes later I was back at the London Bridge car park after a very enjoyable hour and a bits walk.
Other Googong Foreshores walk options – incorporating London Bridge
Option A – London Bridge return – from the car park to London Bridge as outlined above, returning the same way – approximately 1.5 kilometres.
Option B – London Bridge via London Homestead, a circular walk as outlined in my separate post noting that this 3.4 kilometres walk can be done in either direction.
Option C – London Bridge is also along the 19 kilometres Queanbeyan River Walk as detailed in my separate post.
My next Queanbeyan review– HERE
Return to the beginning of my Queanbeyan reviews –HERE