Your Zen Garden: Canberra’s Most Relaxing Nature Escapes
Deep in the concrete jungle, where the chirping of birds and calm trill of insects is overgrown by purring engines and the constant racket of a moving city, we often overlook the need for self-care and finding peace among a busy civilian life. While Canberra’s hubs showcase gardens as such, true peace found from untouched nature provides a more complete sanctity for your mind, body and soul. The following places found around Canberra’s nooks and crannies have been offered to you as a pledge to ease the ‘burden of the everyday’ and allow a little inspiration to unravel and relax.
Pialligo Redwood Forest
The age-old giants stand tall and furnished in green, reaching toward the sky over decades of growth. Their grandeur clasps this forest like a glove and almost silences the outside world… and that is what brings the mystique about Pialligo Redwood Forest.
Situated along Pialligo Avenue just passed the end of the Canberra Airport runway, the turnoff is about fifty meters past the traffic lights at the Fairbarn turnoff. You need to be ready to get in quick, and yet I have never seen the small gravel car park filled up.
As you step onto the grounds, you are greeted with a wide open grassy field, covered in rabbit holes and wispy hair grass. Its a lovely place to picnic, but even more so to sit and lay amongst the stars at night when the density of the surrounding trees clears out the airport light pollution and presents you with a sea of twinkling lights. It is like a little oasis, right next door to a busy airport.
While the seclusion is strangely quaint, and natural elements are inspiring, there is of course the apparent but not obstructive noise of passing planes on the runway beside. It is not intrusive, however, but more an occasional hum to backdrop the forest scenery.
Fairbairn ‘Fungi’ Forest
If you enjoy calming your mind by letting your imagination drift away to lands of fantasy then Fairbairn’s ‘Fungi’ Forest will come close to a real-life fairytale. Just a bit further down Pialligo Avenue driving towards Queanbeyan there is a left turn to the Canberra Speedway and Paintball Sports ACT (click to enlarge map). At the end of this road is where you park your car, grab out your sneakers, and leave the world of worry behind.
After starting the Air Disaster Memorial Trail to the left of parking the car, you will see a straight path up the hill. Walk halfway along this and then hook a quick right straight into the forest. Don’t be alarmed by the silence, it is not a huge forest, and direction to the outside world is a simple straight line out so long as you don’t zigzag your steps. This turn into the forest should guide you into its heart, where the temperature will slightly decrease as the sun is partially covered by treetops of creaking pines. As you venture deeper, the forest begins to slant down into a gully filled with lush mosses and amber coloured fungi speckling the floor. Yet the wondrous part is not just the presence of these bizarre organisms, but the variety they present from wide and round flattopped Fly Agaric to thin and delicate Fairy Bonnets.
It not only holds resonance from the aesthetic appeal, but the seclusion factor further impresses as you stand in the midst of the field hearing the subtle thud of your own heartbeat amidst the occasional passing caw of a crow. The spontaneous existence of this place gives it an illusion of a magical scene and helps distract the human mind into another realm. A perfect escape – only fifteen minutes from Canberra City and yet takes you far away.
Pialligo ‘Secret’ Forest
Now listen closely… I will tell you a secret. Track back along Pialligo Avenue citybound and turn left at the end of the airport runway. The loose graveled turn off has a wired fence to the left and a mound of brittle scrub to the right. Park near the scrub – the left holds
equipment associated to the airport control towers and cannot have vehicles obstructing when parked alongside the fence (Click to enlarge map). From here you begin the journey into a hidden slice of nature’s wonder.
Walk over the mound and find the dirt path toward the peering branches in the near distance. As you get closer you may hear the scurry of rabbits with each step beside the many holes they have dug out, or the cheep of tiny finches whizzing from one thorn bush to another. But when you reach the entrance, you are greeted with an archway made of birch trees like nature’s secret door to Eden.
Inside you will find the lull quite soothing and the colour palette of the environment enchanting. In pastel hues the birch trees – which normally appear white – hold a lilac tinge and bring a slightly ethereal energy.
Their form is mesmerising as they all lean the same direction and some so far over the trunks concave on themselves like a bowing swan.
If you head to this location at the right time of year, nestled upon the bark of tree trunks are countless cicada shells that when viewed at the golden crest of dawn can illuminate and bring quite a beautiful display.
What you see above is just as lovely as what you see below, but you will have to get on ground level. Along the forest floor there lay mossy patches with tiny sprouting plants and fungi within them that cannot grow above the height of a matchstick.
This place allows you to unwind and alter perspectives, pay attention to detail and appreciate the smaller things – both in front of you and inside of you – like stepping away for a minute and restoring your inner peace.
This self-care is only a simple step away from the hustle and bustle of work and relieving the stresses and pressures attached to everyday life.
But in case you find yourself unable to get out, remember that window in your office block? Walk over to it, take a look out and find a tree. This little symbol, even when you can’t get away can sometimes give you just what you need. Just allow it.