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Discover What's in Your Own Back Yard

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by Julia Hebaiter (aka Julia Svoice) (subscribe)
Owns 'FoodLit'. Highly qualified, established food & lifestyle writer, former restaurateur, founder professional writing business, Articul8. Long, diverse writing history, passion for food culture, the land & inspired food language.www.foodlit.com.au
Published November 2nd 2010
You think you know your own neighbourhood like the back of your hand? I thought I did. After living in the same neighbourhood for 13 years, I decided to change my regular walking route and discovered a beautiful, detailed wooden sculpture of a cat living in a tree – along with a full-sized velodrome open to the public for casual use! And I had just purchased a new bike.

That eye-opener got me thinking. With most people being more mobile these days, most are probably yet to discover the many hidden secrets and little treasures their neighbourhoods are waiting to offer up. Here are some ideas to help you discover yours.

1) Take different routes when walking, cycling or driving around, and especially check out the nooks and crannies.

2) Develop 'fresh eyes' and be consciously observant of the world around you. Even checking our people's front yards reveals interesting flowers and trees. It also tells you loads about the people living there. Let imaginations run wild.

3) Pull out your old street directory (not the nav man). Peruse the map of your area carefully. Then go out and explore anything interesting you found. If you tossed the directory since the nav took over, you can see a map, along with points of interest, of any Australian suburb here. Just type your suburb into the Location Search.

4) Get the family and any local friends involved. Exploration and discovery is great fun when it's shared. Make a game of it with the kids. Head out on foot (or bikes or in the car if aiming further afield), and don't come home until each person has found two new things.

5) If you haven't yet, download Google Earth for free for a bird's eye view of your town. Fasten your seatbelts!

6) Jump onto your local council's website. You'll not only find out all about your area, you'll also be able to check out what's on locally for entertainment, education or fun. Many councils also provide a printed guide to their local neighbourhood. Don't know their web address? Well, that might be telling you something… He's a link that'll take you to any council in the country.

7) Do you read your local paper or line the kitty litter with it? While the latter is a good, sustainable use for it, do browse it first. Skip the ads and crime news… You'll not only learn more about what's in your area, but also about any new developments in the area. Got a 'No Junk Mail' sticker and don't receive it? That's okay. Most are available online these days. Don't know the name of your local? Find it here.

While you'll certainly find exciting new things in your area, be open to meeting new people throughout explorations of your local neighbourhood. Before you know it, you'll not only have a much better sense of place, but also a deep sense of belonging within your own community.
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Why? Because the best things are often in your own backyard.
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