NURSERY SWAMP AND ABOVE
(in Namadgi National Park, near Canberra, Australia)
Another superb winter’s day in Canberra. Yesterday, the minimum temperature, at about 6.00 am, in Canberra , was -7°c. Just a few days before, snow had fallen up in the mountains of the Australian Capital Territory. Today, the minimum temperature in the city was -5°. Up in the hills it was a lot colder. However, such frosty mornings usually lead to superb days and today was no exception. A cloudless, crystal clear, blue sky and not a breath of wind. By lunch time the temperature would have risen to about 10°c in the hills and in the sun it would be delightfully warm.
Our party met at at the Kambah Village Shops in Canberra at 8.30 am where we “car-pooled” and were soon on our way. Soon we had left the suburbs behind , crossed the Murrumbidgee River at the little village of Tharwa and taken the Boboyan Road before turning off along the Orroral Valley Road. As we wound up into the Orroral Valley we had to be careful of the many kangaroos beside the road which might decide to cross the road without warning right in front of a car. A cheerful party was soon walking up the steep track to the Nursery Creek Valley from the car park in the Orroral Valley.
Nursery Swamp is a high altitude swamp, lying between the Orroral and Rendezvous Creek valleys. It is in a hanging valley and is extremely important in holding rainfall and slowly releasing it through the year, as well as being an important wildlife habitat..
It was cold and we walked fast, rapidly gaining height along the track through the forest. On reaching the saddle between the Orroral and Nursery Creek Valleys we paused to regroup as the party had become a little spread out on the way up. From here the path followed the lower, western side of the east-flanking ridge of Nursery Swamp for a little while before crossing the Creek. It was here that we received our first surprise. This western side of the ridge was covered in forest and in shade all day. The ground was frozen and there was some snow still lying on the ground.
We crossed Nursery Creek, following the track through open forest and grassland, between the high ridge to our east and a low ridge to the west as we followed the general line of the creek. There was still a lot of frost on the ground and the duckboards across swampy areas were either frosted over or iced over and very slippery.
Morning tea time came and we found a pleasant, sunny grassy clearing where we could sprawl out on the grass for a little while.
A short while later we were at the top end of Nursery Swamp which we crossed along tracks made by kangaroos through the tall, dense tussocks . Luckily the water was shallow and mostly frozen.
Having crossed the swamp, we followed it down, now again in the shade of the eastern ridge, walking between the swamp and the scrubby ridge. Here, too, we came across more frost and remnant snow.
The golden brown grasses of Nursery Swamp and the surrounding grasslands, surrounded by the blue hills, looked lovely.
Eventually we came to a gully coming down from the ridge and commenced our climb to the top of the ridge, following the ridge alongside the gully. Here the going was very slow as we had to fight our way through tall, dense scrub and over and around huge granite outcrops. Eventually, we reached the top of the ridge where the granite increased but the scrub became easier. Another half hour and we came to our goal : a huge granite slab sitting right on the ridge line. To our east, and a long way down, lay the Orroral Valley, To our west lay the broad sweep of Nursery Swamp, surrounded by blue hills and mountains,
Here, high up on our granite belvedere, we relaxed in the sun to enjoy lunch and chat.
It was a superb day, warm in the sun, with vast views of ochre coloured grasses, surrounded by rugged, blue, dreaming hills. Here was stillness, beauty, peace and silence. A place to dream, and wile away the afternoon if that were possible. To quote from a different hemisphere :
The drowse of summer on the sunlit crags
Lulled in the blue and shimmering air of June,
When Time, the lazy mountain- traveller, lags
To dream with us an endless afternoon
Surrounding the slab were grevillea bushes full of orange flowers.
It was with regret that “all too soon this hushed uplifted hour must end and (we) to meet the world once more descend”. ( W. K. Holmes)
A short, steep, and very scrubby descent took us back to the swamp where we again found a convenient kangaroo path which took us across to the other side. Careful use of tussocks took us back with dry feet. From there it was a pleasant walk back up the swamp in the warmth of a golden afternoon in the heart of a broad, golden valley until we came again to the iciness of the snow and frost in the shadow of the ridge and up to the saddle. From there it was an easy walk down the side of the ridge to the cars.
A wonderful winter’s day!