On 18th January 2003 fierce bush-fires swept through the western suburbs of Canberra. The fires were started by lightning strikes earlier in the month in the Kosciuszko and Namadgi National Parks that surround Canberra, finally burning into the ACT itself. By the end of that day, four people had lost their lives, 490 had been injured and over 500 homes had been destroyed and 5000 evacuations had taken place.
MOUNT STROMLO, CANBERRA
The following day – January 19th – the fires continued their destructive path burning out the Mount Stromlo Observatory. The Mount Stromlo Observatory was at the time fully functional and also an historically significant building. Established in 1924 as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory, the bush fire destroyed all the telescopes. Also destroyed in the blaze were the library and workshops, leaving only the empty shell of the observatory buildings behind.
The burnt out observatory buildings still remain as an eerie reminder of the devastation caused by those fires.
A new observatory has since been built. This is open to the public on a daily basis from 9am to 6pm.
STROMLO FOREST PARK
Also destroyed in those fires was the 450ha of surrounding pine forests and countless animals and native plants.
Stromlo Forest Park was established as a multi-use recreational park by the ACT government in the aftermath of the fires. There are now Mountain Bike Trails, Horse Riding Trails, Cross Country Running Trails and Walking Tracks open to the public.
After getting a new mountain bike for his birthday last year, Ben was very keen to test out some of Stromlo’s tracks.
“The Stromlo trails cater for anyone with a mountain bike. Trails range from beginner level up to highly difficult for extremely good riders. All trails are smooth and well maintained which allows for an extremely fun ride. At the start of the trails there are plenty of maps with easy to follow directions so you can start your ride.
The loop at Stromlo that I rode was loop 2. It is one of the longest loops at the park that will take you anywhere between 45-90 minutes for a full loop. I was feeling lazy and started from the top. I missed all the up hill part of the trails! Loop two is an easier trail for beginner riders. If needed, this section can be taken slowly.
There are several sections involved in the downhill loop.
DOWNHILL LOOP SECTIONS
Western Wedgetail– which was a fast open starting section with a few rocks and jumps to keep your heart racing and a lot of easy corners.
Skyline– This section went along the side of the hill without a lot of down hill. This section is mainly covered by trees. It had a lot of jumps and rocks.
At the end of skyline you come to a bridge that splits at the end, the left side continues along the easy trail but it is a very narrow start. If you went right you were spat onto the hardest trails at Stromlo so unless you can GO LEFT.
Luge– This section is pretty self explanatory. Berms (big sweeping corners) after berms after berms with some little straights in between. The straights are eliminated altogether further down this section. It is corner on corner to finish out the section.
Blackberry climb– Is a bit of everything thrown into one section, it is fun but once you get here you’re sadly about to finish.
Old Duffy descent– This is the roughest part of the trail with some up hill at the start and a slow warm down finish which brings you back to the start of the trails.”
Sounds like lots of fun doesn’t it?
It was also great to see that the natural bush land is regenerating. Plenty of wildlife has returned to the area and is flourishing.