The Village of Hall is only a short, thirteen minute drive from the centre of Canberra but as we turn off from the busy Burton Highway and into the main street, it might as well be light years away. It is wooded and green and as we step from the car, other than the sound of bird calls, there is stillness and a sense of calm. We pass single story homes, surrounded by rambling gardens, ‘Bee Friendly Garden’ signs on some of the front fences. We notice Native Bee Hotels attached to trees.
Prior to our walk, we are briefed on the history and of the ‘Bee Friendly Hall Village Project’, by Jonathan Palmer and John Kenworthy, both members of the Rotary Club of Hall. They take us on a journey of how a group of local beekeepers, environmentalists and concerned citizens, aware of the vital role played by pollinators, came together to establish Hall as Australia’s first ‘Bee Friendly Village’.
Jonathan, our guide on the walk, points to one of the native bee hotels, dotted throughout the village. This one is attached to a tree and appears to be occupied – some of the cells already capped. We stop to view the bee garden, planted out with nectar and pollen rich species. Surprisingly, given the bracing autumn morning, we spot a couple of honey bees foraging among the few remaining flowers.
Further on Jonathan draws our attention to the skeleton of a dead tree that was retained rather than being removed, so that its hollows could continue to provide habitat for wildlife. He then points to a rustic bench made from one of the fallen trees and now provides seating in the Hall Village Park – where even more surprises await. Like the ugliness of a toilet block that disappears under a magnificent mural by Wiradjuri artist, Kristie Peters more here. In yet another example of brilliant camouflage, also in the Park, the public barbecue becomes a canvas for images of bees and other insect pollinators.
We leave the Village of Hall inspired and appreciative of the opportunity to view first hand, a remarkable example of how a semi-rural community can coexist with wildlife – especially our wonderful pollinators and honours the original owners of the land.
Liz and John McCaskill.