14 April 2015
Day 5 Watson to the Australian War Memorial
We start at a later hour than on the other days, first walking up the Watson Houses Track to where we left the Trail last time. We continue along the contour of the lower slopes of Mount Majura.
This section of the Trail is much frequented. We meet horse-riders, bike riders, other walkers and a fire truck, as well as a couple of very composed kangaroos, a few bunnies and the odd meat-ant mound. On our right are the backs of the houses, some of which have very healthy-looking vegetable gardens; on our left is woodland.
In the course of European settlement the native environment here has been greatly degraded through infestations of weeds: hedge mustard, blackberry nightshade, horehound, Paterson’s Curse and woody weeds. There are several garden escapees, including a particularly thorny cactus-like plant which is thriving along parts of the trail.
A Park Care notice informs us that since 2006 volunteers in a number of local organisations such as the local Park Care group, Friends of Mount Majura, Blue Gum School and the Mount Majura Scouts have been busy improving the environment of Mount Majura paddock. They help control weeds and erosion, collect seeds of local plants, raise seedlings, plant seeds and saplings and monitor rabbits. The results of their work are visible in clumps of white-flowering Burgan and patches of button wrinklewort as well as other native species bordering the Trail. Around the water tower supplying Watson and Ainslie, the slopes have been planted liberally with saplings with white and green ‘skirts’ to protect them from damage by kangaroos and rabbits.
There is a helpful Park Care sign describing the different types of eucalypts in the woodlands here: Yellow Box with its smooth grey and cream streaked bark, the rough scaly bark of the Apple Box, the smooth scribbled bark of the Scribbly Gum and so on. The sign also shows a leaf of a Blakely’s Red Gum infested by Psyllids, ‘tiny sap-sucking insects that produce protective sugary covers called lerps’, which are an energy source for birds such as Swift Parrots.
As we progress to the lower slopes of Mount Ainslie we are still not satisfied that we can identify accurately the different eucalypts in the forest, but we do identify and take a picture of the lerps on the pink sucked-out leaves at the base of one of them. Swift Parrots dart between the trees, Noisy Miners feed on the insects in a dead tree and magpies warble on the branches.
We reach a junction where the trail signs lead in two directions: straight up and to the right. We conclude that continuing up would take us to the top of Mount Ainslie. We opt for the right. We realise how we were ‘deceived’ last time we walked this part of the trail coming from the opposite direction. At that same junction we headed up the mountain by mistake, tried to recover the trail and got lost.
This time we have a better idea of where we’re going. Arriving at the War Memorial we climb the steps to the terrace dominated by the sculpture of Weary Dunlop and treat ourselves to a late and welcome lunch in the light and restful ambiance of Poppy’s Café.