Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Armidale Diaries 6 - Living with social isolation: Autumn and the Armidale Creeklands

Autumn’s final burst of colour, photo Gordon Smith, UNE campus, 2015 

It's full autumn now in this little university city.

As I write, I'm looking out the window across the back yard past the neighbouring block to Queen Elizabeth Drive aka the Mad Mile, a main drag to the University. It acquired the Mad Mile title many years ago when the longish straight stretch then just outside the city boundaries encouraged foot to the floor acceleration. The autumn colours are not as spectacular this year because of the drought. You can see the impact on the trees with straggly leaves and some dead branches.

It's been beautiful weather over the last few days, classic Armidale autumn weather, with warm days and cool nights. It's the type of weather that encourages people to get out, to meet and wander. That's more difficult now, but it's still happening within social distance rules.

The large University campus with its trees and tracks lies just up the road. From the campus, a combined bike and walking track runs along Dumaresq Creek to the city centre and beyond. I'm not quite sure what the total distance is, perhaps 8k?

I bless the city elders who were responsible for that track. When it first opened back in (I think) the 1970s, it was seen as something of  a waste of money. Certainly for the first part of its history it was seen as something of a waste of money and indeed it did become something of a no-go area. How things change!

The start of the track lies just up Elm Avenue, the traditional drive leading into the University. This is a beautiful road with its elm trees and open space. From Elm Avenue you turn right and start walking. The track winds as the creek winds, leaving the creek and then coming back. I haven't attempted a full return walk yet. I need to get fitter and allow several hours for the return walk. I suppose I could get a bus back, our local bus service is still working, but I want to walk the whole distance. For the present, I start out, walk a certain distance and then come back by a different route.

The thing I most notice is the people. As I came onto the track a day or so ago, there was a man running with his young child sitting on his shoulders. I smiled as we said hello. it reminded me of when my girls were young and I could play with them.

Yesterday there were dozens of people on the track, mothers pushing their children in prams, family groups out walking or riding bikes. Noticeably, everybody said hello or good morning. Sometimes when you meet singles walking with their heads down, alone with their thoughts, you hesitate. But when you say good morning or afternoon, they look up with shy smiles and respond.

We can't really talk, but it provides a human connection.

As I walked, I thought that without covid-19 I might never have known this track as well as I do now. Of course, I have walked and enjoyed bit of it. Down near Stevens Bridge in the center of town is the BBQ area where we used to take the girls and Aunt Kay for a BBQ lunch. Here the girls and I ran along the creek bank trying to get kites airborne. But this is very different from seeing the Creeklands and the track as a whole entity,

It would be nice to think that when this is all over, we might promote the Creeklands' track as a route in its own right, something to enjoy as an entity. It's taken covid-19 to make me really realise its unique value. 


Anonymous said...

Link worth the reading time for you Jim.

Got to it by a quite circuitous route which started at Gresham's Law, then meandered hence :)

Hope you're well.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. I'm well. I'm glad that you are still following your normal meanders. That paper was very interesting!