Nil Desperandum Hut
Image 1 - Nil Despernadum Homestead nestled at the foothills of the Tidbinbilla Mountains and surrounded by beautiful native woodland.
Nil Desperandum (Never Despair) homestead is nestled at the foothills of the surrounding high peaks of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (Image 1). Such a peaceful, beautiful location with an added bonus; it is one of the few huts that can be booked for overnight stays (Image 2).
Walk Rating: Moderate. From the carpark at Tidbinbilla, the walk is around 4.2 kilometres on an undulating fire access road. There are a couple of reasonably steep parts but also plenty of downhill sections. If you stay overnight, you can also drive to the homestead but ACT Parks and Conservation restrict this to four wheel drive vehicles only.
Directions: Drive to Point Hut Crossing and continue over the bridge along Point Hut Road until you come to the T-intersection. Turn right onto Tidbinbilla Road and follow the road for about eight kilometres and you will see the entrance road (on your left) to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Turn left into Tidbinbilla and follow the road past the visitors center until you come to the first intersecting road and turn right. Follow the road past the playground and picnic areas and continue to the right. Park in the small carpark on the left-hand-side adjacent to Greens Picnic area. Cross diagonally across the picnic ground towards the stream and you will see the start of a walking track. Attached below (Image 3) is the walking track map of Tidbinbilla. Our route is shaded red and the total distance of the walk from the carpark is 8.4 kilometres return.
The Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre opens at 7.30am each day, and you are required to pay a small fee if you are taking your car into the reserve. The fees raised go towards maintenance and upkeep of the reserve - a very worthy cause!
Image 2 - The front of Nil Desperandum Homestead
Image 3 - Walking route in red, to Nil Despernadum from Greens Picnic area
Image 4 (above) - Part of the walking track to Nil Desperandum and Image 5 (below) the track leading towards the homestead
The Walk: I have walked to the homestead several times, but I've also stayed at the homestead overnight on numerous occasions. Each time I visit or stay at the hut, I find it such a peaceful and relaxing experience. It's always hard to drag yourself away and return to civilisation!
As mentioned earlier, you can drive to the hut if you have a booking. You can also walk in. The choice is your's and largely dependant on the amount of gear you have. If you were taking children with you, you would be much better off driving in as you can ensure you have all the necessary supplies to keep the little ones happy!
You can book the hut online:
If you've booked, simply attend the Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre on the day of your booking to collect the keys. The keys enable you to unlock the gates for the drive in, but also to unlock one of the rooms at the homestead so that you can access the camp cots. If booking the homestead, consider taking others with you, as this keeps the cost down by splitting with others, rather than just going by yourself or with one other. There is a maximum limit of six people permitted to stay at the homestead.
Well worth mentioning, one of the great things about Nil Desperandum is that the homestead is open to all during the daytime. It makes it a great destination for day walks, and is a fantastic location to stop for a break or lunch.
When walking into the homestead, I always park near Greens picnic area and commence the walk from there. Cross Greens picnic area and veer towards the table on the right side. Just past this table, cross the bridge over the stream and follow the walking track until you come across the dirt access/maintenance road.
Turn left at this point and simply follow the signs to Nil Desperandum. It is a well marked trail and I have attached a map of the walk (Image 3) as guidance. If you are unsure, drop into the Visitors Centre and they will give you directions and a map to help guide you.
The track to the homestead (like most walks in Tidbinbilla), is a well-maintained walking track (and maintenance access road) to make your way along. The walk is pleasant and presents an interesting array of landscapes. The area was badly damaged by fire in the 2003 Canberra fire-storm, so although there is still quite a bit of re-growth happening, there are also well established grassland and woodland areas and the whole valley has turned green and vibrant once again. You can really see the area bouncing back at a rapid rate.
On the walk in, there is the usual healthy array of native birdlife and wildflowers (springtime) and the occasional red bellied black snake.
You are not only surrounded by wonderfully peaceful woodland, but the Tidbinbilla Mountains stand majestically to the west providing you with an ambience of nature at its best.
After winding along the track and ascending some of the uphill sections (there's plenty of downhill as well), we finally reached the homestead. Like the surrounding landscape, the homestead was also badly damaged in the 2003 fires, but has been superbly restored. There is a signpost at the front of the homestead, with images of the damage to the homestead.
This is such a pleasant walk and the reward of arriving at this well maintained homestead is well worth the effort. As mentioned previously, the added bonus is that you are able to use the homestead as a rest or lunch point as all the rooms except for one, are unlocked and open to the public. The hut has a beautiful covered deck, which wraps around the side and rear of the homestead (images 6 and 7). There are two picnic tables so that you can sit and enjoy your lunch and the wonderful views of the immediate woodland and surrounding mountains. There is also a barbecue!
Image 6 (above left) and Image 7 (above right) showing the fantastic deck that wraps around the side to the rear of the homestead
Whilst the hut is wonderfully nestled amongst native bushland and surrounded by towering mountains, there are also many walks that you can do from this location. From the demanding to the leisurely, whatever you are up for. Walks such as Camels Back, Mt Tidbinbilla, the loop track that brings you back around to the homestead again (refer to catalogue of walks for further details), and of course, the shorter tracks immediately around the homestead, which provide signage describing the history of the early settlers (refer to catalogue of walks for further details).
If you are specifically interested in history, the immediate access road takes you to some of the nearby historical sites (Images 8). These mainly relate to the history of the homestead but there are also other aspects of interest, including the old Koala Sanctuary and the old Eucalypt Distillery. Only a short distance to the north-west is the old Camellia Garden, which is now fenced off to ensure it remains safe from the native animals. The Camellias were in full bloom when we visited (Images 9 and 10).
The sign to the Camellia garden also reveals details of an improvised pool that was constructed in the 1940's. The 'pool' is fairly rudimentary, and was constructed in the creek to form a small dam, which served as the swimming pool. There is not much left of the pool now, and the remains give only a glimpse of what past life was like at the homestead. Nevertheless, I'm sure the pool was very popular with the kids at the time.
Image 8 - One of the signs providing details of the historical aspects of the immediate surrounds of the Nil Desperandum homestead
Image 9 (above left) - the information sign adjacent to the old Camellia Garden and Image 10 (above right) - the fenced Camellia Garden
If you have children with you when visiting the homestead, it is worth mentioning that there is a dam very near the homestead (image 11). In addition to the nearby creek, obviously keep a close eye on the little ones. Although the homestead is fenced off, the gate latch could be undone (or left undone by someone).
If you're interested in the facilities, I've attached photo's below in a slide show to give you a good idea of what you get when staying at the homestead. All the rooms are well maintained, and the kitchen has a lovely big wooden table, fireplace, and an old wood fired Canberra oven! I hadn't seen one of these since I was a young child and I was so pleased that one still exists and is in great working order.
There is also tank water (but I would treat it before consuming) and the homestead has its own solar powered lighting. There is no hot water though.
There is also an outdoor fireplace, and the staff at Tidbinbilla do a great job supplying wood, ensuring that you are well stocked to enjoy a glass or two around the fire at night. The sunset and the night skies are spectacular. If you are a photographer, well worth some night shots of the stars over the Tidbinbilla Mountains.
In the kitchen, there is an old poetry book, and all the poems were written by one of the previous residents. It gives great insight into the turmoil of the region and the distrust and hatred of the governing classes and local magistrates (probably with good reason when you read the poetry).
Really, the only thing to decide, is whether to come and enjoy the summer night skies, or the winter time by the open fireplace, whilst waiting for a pot of your finest cuisine to cook. Whatever you decide, you wont be disappointed with a visit to Nil Desperandum.
Image 11 - beautifully set in native woodland and the old dam nearby