Stories of the Landscape

On his way to stay at Duntroon House in the 1870s, Stanley Howard rode through the area and described what he had seen in his diary:

'... we had a glorious ride: first to the parsonage, then over that low range covered with scattered trees like a park, which lies between Mount Ainslie and the Bald Hill. We had a most lovely view on the way back as we came over this range. Just at the foot of it was a pond (or waterhole as they call it here) surrounded with willows, and the cattle grazing on fresh grass. On the right was the pretty church, with the ivy growing over it, and the new parsonage not far off. In front the plain rolled away right up to the foot of the black forests with which all the hills are covered. Here and there, on the plain, one caught sight of a rustic cottage with its bark roof and rough looking sheds attached...'

Knowles, B. 1990. The Cottage in the Parliamentary Triangle. Canberra and District Historical Society

In a book about Blundells Cottage, Beth Knowles writes about the area:

'Life for the lively Blundell children was not all work; Jack (as John was called) remembered the koalas that frolicked in the nearby gum trees. The Molonglo River at Church Crossing, when it wasn't in flood or suffering drought, was an idyllic playground. Generations of Canberra young (with dire warnings from parents about drowning and snakes ringing in their ears) created and enjoyed make-believe games of boats and water engineers at this spot. It had all the right ingredients: a rocky knoll for bushranger watching, willow-covered pools, a bank for sliding, big smooth rocks and little rocks for adjusting the flow of water. For background music add the resonant song of magpies ... the echoing call of the currawongs, the laugh of the kookaburras and the caws of ravens ...'

Knowles, B. 1990. The Cottage in the Parliamentary Triangle. Canberra and District Historical Society

Read one, or both, of the descriptions to the class and then ask them to draw or paint the Limestone Plains as they imagine it looked in the past. Describe the paddocks, animals, crops and dusty roads of a rural landscape to assist the students in this activity.

Some of the photo gallery images can also be used to compare how the landscape around the cottage has changed.

When the Ginns and Blundells lived in the cottage, there was no Lake Burley Griffin. The Molonglo River ran through the area. Ask the students why the Molonglo River would have been important to the cottage families. Explain that there was no running water – for drinking, cooking, washing, animals. The river used to flood often and, when it did, it would ruin crops and haystacks and sometimes drown animals and humans.

Photo Gallery Link – Canberra 1910 (Duntroon Estate), Blundells Cottage and surrounding area 1964