Take a hike: Nil Desperandum Homestead

Lisa Martin 20 April 2016 1
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In an attempt to get through most of the hikes within the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, I recently set out to do the Nil Desperandum hike with my friend Jarryd.

I started the hike from the Dalsetta carpark, which is located on the right not far inside the national park.

From the carpark, it’s a five kilometre track to the Nil Desperandum homestead – Nil Desperandum translating to “Never Despair”.

The first few kilometres winds past kangaroo grazing areas and through the Greens picnic area – a large open space with picnic tables which would be a great spot to spend a sunny day.

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Once through the picnic area, you cross over the Tidbinbillla River and over a short shaded path to a fire trail. Then you start a climb up. It seems a bit hard at first after a mostly flat trail but it’s not too steep but be careful on some of the loose gravel.

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It’s a good view over to Gibraltar Peak and the surrounding mountains as you continue climbing up. There’s was a bit of fog around when we started the climb up proving a nice effect as it hung low over the mountains before burning off.

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Make sure you bring some sunscreen with you on this hike and the last few kilometres are very open with no shade. The last section to the homestead is mostly downhill but it’s a brief but steep climb on the way back.

The homestead is a nice spot to have a bite to eat before the walk back. The Nil Desperandum homestead was built in the 1890s by an Irishman. It was destroyed in the 2003 Canberra bushfires but was rebuilt to its current state.

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The homestead passed through several owners and by the mid-1980s Nil Desperandum was one of the last remaining freehold blocks of land in the ACT before being resumed by the government. In 1991, Nil Desperandum became part of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Nil Desperandum used to be used by reserve staff, but can now be rented out if you want to turn your Tidbinbilla experience into a weekend excursion. The homestead comprises of three rooms but you have to bring your own sleeping bags, food and cooking equipment. There is no electricity but there’s an outside BBQ.

All up the return hike took us about two and a half hours and was the easiest walk I’ve done so far in the park. It’s a great walk if you want plenty of kangaroo spotting opportunities and to see a part of Canberra’s history.

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One Response to Take a hike: Nil Desperandum Homestead
Masquara Masquara 8:18 pm 06 Oct 15

Nil Desperandum used to be such a treasure. It was not well known, looked and felt its age, and was treated like a getaway shared amongst family – people brought their own old furniture and curtains and cushions to replace broken chairs etc, and replenished the kitchen spices and things for others. You picked up the gate key from some random little office in Woden and it cost about $20 a night. The visitor’s book (which I’m sure dated back to WAY earlier than 1991) listed a fantastic range of interesting people. There were all sorts of tricks needed to get the utilities working. Heartbreaking that it burnt down. There’s a wonderful hidden swimming hole in the creek nearby. There used to be the remnants of the vegetable garden near the house – lots of rhubarb! The man who built the cottage , Henry Gillman, was possibly a remittance man with a shady past … there’s a book of his poetry in the NLA …

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