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The Sanctuary, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Image 1 - Beautiful panoramic views greet you on The Sanctuary Walk 

The Walk: I don't normally include these types of confined, smaller walks on my website. This is mainly because they are already well promoted, and detailed by ACT Parks and Conservation, and are not what I would really describe as a 'real' bush walk. To me, a proper bush walk is something that takes you deep into the wilderness, away from the crowds and into the serenity of the great outdoors or, provides you with a challenge in locating a remote landmark or, perhaps getting to the top of one of the ACT's highest 25 peaks. There's nothing like getting to places that hardly any others get to!

 

But, I regularly get questions about which walk would suit younger children and thought that I would detail this particular location, as it's not only great for families (and anyone for that matter), but is also a shining example of a successful environmental project that has become a very popular attraction for all. It just goes to show, a little bit of money invested in the right place can produce amazing results. The challenge in putting together this description, is to do The Sanctuary the justice it so rightly deserves, considering the enormous effort that staff and volunteers have contributed over the years.  

After arriving at the carpark (there is ample parking), I grabbed my camera and commenced the walk. You know you're at The Sanctuary when you arrive at a double gate, designed to ensure that the animals within The Sanctuary cannot get out, but also so others cannot get in (Image 2). 

After passing through the gate, you walk along the pathway and you quickly reach the covered amenities area (Image 3). This has picnic tables, a viewing platform and public toilets. The viewing platform gives you your first glimpse of the The Sanctuary, out over the waterway, which is teeming with birdlife (Image 4).  

 

If you're after a short walk that is suitable for the family, you can't go past The Sanctuary Walk at Tidbinbilla.  You could also get around  in a wheelchair on most tracks, as they're of high quality. A shining example of environmental restoration and preservation at its best!

Walk Rating: Level 1 -Easy. We covered about three kilometres but you can easily get this down to a kilometre or less by just sticking to the track that follows the wetland. The Sanctuary is enclosed by fences and the walking paths are flat, and well defined. There are duckboards around the waterways with regular information signs as well as information boards, sheltered picnic tables, public toilets and plenty to see for  all.

 

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. You will pass the playground and picnic area, Dalsetta and come to a fork in the road. Either way is fine as it's a loop road and both ways will get you to the turnoff to The Sanctuary. If you turn right, this is the shorter route. 

After having turned right, continue on for about 3.5 kilometres and the turnoff to The Sanctuary will be on your left side. 

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!

Attached to the right is the Tidbinbilla, taken from the ACT Parks and Conservation website. Their website is also well worth a visit.

Image 2 (above left) - the double gated entrance to The Sanctuary. Image 3 (above right - well presented and covered picnic tables, lookout platform and toilets. Image 4 (below)The view from the first viewing platform gives you a glimpse of what is to come.

After a short stop, we continued along the pathway and we were quickly surrounded by native woodland and thick undergrowth that you would expect in a sheltered, well maintained sanctuary, but something that I also see in the remote wilderness areas of Namadgi. There is a very healthy array of native birdlife (not just the water birds), and they accompanied us throughout the walk, darting in and out of trees and shrubs, only stopping briefly for us to get a glance at them. The majority were Superb Fairy Wrens (Image 5), and I can't think of anytime that I've seen a more healthy population than here. They really do seem to be thriving, which is so great to see.

 

We were also halted on the pathway (later in the walk) by a family of swans crossing (Image 6). They made it abundantly clear that they expected us to stop and wait, after the father put his head down and hissed in our direction!

 

Along the first pathway, there are a number of information signs, detailing so many different aspects about the local Flora and Fauna, but also a well thought out artistic piece that provides an overview of the areas timeline over millions of years (Image 7 and 8). It really is humbling when you realise how insignificant the world really is in terms of what has happened in Australia (and previously Gondwana) over such an enormous time period. The continuous and successful period of Aboriginal culture only impacted upon through the arrival of Europeans.     

Image 5 (above) - The male Superb Fairywren. They move very quickly, darting in and out of low lying shrubs. Spectacular when they stop (albeit briefly) and Image 6 (below) - family of swans crossing our path

Image 7 (above) - shows the artistic snake depicting a timeline of acheological and historical events over thousands of years and Image 8 (below) - some the events listed along the length of the snake

After moving through beautiful and tranquil woodland, we came out into the open and were greeted by the first of the waterways and a well constructed duckboard (Images 9 and 10). The first thing that strikes you, is the number of water birds. 

I stopped about half way along the duckboard and stood quietly, watching their activities. What struck me most was that all the birds seemed so comfortable and happy in their surrounds. The fact that there are so many different species, all seeming to exist in perfect harmony must surely highlight the success of The Sanctuary. 

Image 9 (above) - the start of the waterway duckboards after you come out of the woodland path and Image 10 (left) - the duckboards are well thought out, and take you up close to the native birdlife

After you step off the duckboards, you can swing around to the left and it takes you in a loop and eventually back to the entrance gate. If you veer off to the left, the pathway takes you back through native woodland and you will come across a veterinary/animal care facility. The facility is designed so that you can see in, and although there was nobody there that day, when the centre was operating,  you would be able to see various native animals being cared for (Image 11).

From here, we continued along the pathway and came across the Aboriginal education amphitheatre. A well designed and constructed (covered) seating area, with the sound of a gently flowing stream nearby, which makes this a particularly relaxing spot (Image 12).


  

 

 

After spending a little time at this location we ventured further afield and walked some nearby dirt access tracks, where we observed very healthy populations of Eastern Grey Kangaroos (prolific in the ACT and surrounds).

 

From here we doubled back onto the established pathways in The Sanctuary, where we came back to the waterway area and also to an area of the waterway that had been damed, which is the habitat of the Platypus. We didn't see any that day unfortunately, but it was the middle of the day so I'm not sure that they are overly active at this time (Image 13) . 

What I particularly loved about The Sanctuary was the fusion of artworks, which were scattered at regular intervals in different forms along the walk. These have been really well thought out and it's one of the few occasions that I see artwork in this form, that I can say without hesitation, has value added to the natural ambience of the environment (see image slide below article).

 

At regular intervals, there were well placed quotes, from various people either stencilled into the pathway, emblazoned into fence railings or just on regular information signs. Some of the quotes really did make you pause and think and perhaps the one that captures the peacefulness of The Sanctuary is this one:

"For observing nature, the best pace is a snails pace". Edwin Teale, Naturalist 1899 - 1980.

We arrived back at our car and headed down to Greens Picnic area, where we had lunch and reflected on The Sanctuary. One of the group asked me what I thought, particularly as I'm more used to getting right out into the wilderness, and love nothing better than to cover a good distance during my walks. Good for the soul!

 

I gave it some thought, and came up with this. To me, this best captures the experience of The Sanctuary. 

Whether you want to take the kids out to visit, or would like to experience nature at its best without having to venture into the wilderness, there is something for everyone here. The tranquility, I'm sure, inspires photographers, artists and writers. If you were looking for inspiration, I think you will find it here, in a form that best suits you individually. 

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Image 11 (above) - the native animal care centre and Image 12 (below) - the Aboriginal education amphitheatre

Image 13 - the section of the waterway that has been damed, providing a beautiful habitat for Platypus.

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