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Snapshots from Wollongong – Mt Keira

Gum leaf on the track

M is for Mt Keira.

Mt Keira and Mt Kembla although not mighty alps, dominate the Illawarra Escarpment.  These landforms are of considerable significance to the local Dharawal people,  who refer to Mt Kembla as the men’s mountain and  Mt Keira as the women’s mountain.

Along with Mt Keira and Mt Kembla, there are also other suburbs called Mt Pleasant, Mt St Thomas, Marshall Mount and Mt Ousley.

Mt Keira

 

Mt Keira is a small residential suburb on the side of Mt Keira itself. This flat peak of mostly sandstone rises 434 M above sea level.  Only 460 families call Mt Keira home, but it is a very popular recreational venue for visitors and locals alike. There is a charming picnic ground at Byarong Park which is also one of the trailheads for the Mt Keira Ring Track. In addition to this walking track, there are few sidetracks and other mountain bike tracks which are well used.

There is both a Scout Camp and a Guides Camp, parts of which can be hired for private functions.

Mt Keira Ring Track

The Ring Track is around 5.5 km long and encircles the Mt  Keira Summit. The track has recently been renovated, and you can now walk all the way around. Before this, the section below the Mt Kiera Lookout was closed due to rock falls. The renovation has seen the installation of hundreds of steps and a few boardwalks.

There is a Summit Park, which has a cafe. The cafe opens Thursdays – Sundays and has a magnificent view over the entire Wollongong coastal plain.

I walked the Ring Track on the first weekend in October 2019.  It took me longer than I expected because I took wrong turns, twice. While it is well signposted there are a few anomalies with the directional markers which meant I missed the two crucial turns. The 5.5 km walk became 10.7 km!

I was pleased to come across a stand of waratahs which I otherwise would have missed so being lost was a serendipitous adventure.  Waratahs are NSW State emblem and are relatively rare. Their showy, glossy red flowers really stand out in the olive green Australian bushscape.

Mt Keira is definitely worth a visit. Take your walking shoes and a picnic basket.

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Woonona

W is for Woonona

Wollongong has more than its fair share of suburbs starting with W. There is Wollongong itself, Woonona, Windang, Warrawong and Wombarra.

 

Woonona (including Woonona East) is in the “northern” suburbs. Here, the coastal strip is narrow, and the escarpment rises sharply only 3 kilometres beyond the beach. The suburb is divided by the Princes Highway and the railway line. East Woonona is east of the railway, and while not officially its own suburb, there is a significant demarcation in terms of house prices once you go across those tracks.

Woonona’s Numbers.

Woonona Infographic

Cook’s foiled landing attempt in Woonona.

Woonona has a big claim to fame in that it was the place where Captain Cook first attempted to land on Australian soil. Rough seas prevented the landing party coming to shore, and they continued to head north to Botany Bay.

 

Sea birds at Woonona Beach
Taken at Collin’s Point, Woonona

 

Woonona’s retail sector.

There is a small shopping area at “the Circle” at East Woonona where there is a newsagent, a bottle shop (AKA liquor store), a couple of fish and chip shops, a bakery and a small supermarket. There is (was)  also a hair salon.

Woonona itself has a largish shopping precinct with an IGA Supermarket, a McDonalds,  a very large RSL Club which includes a gym and many speciality shops. This shopping centre runs along both sides of the Highway and parking can be a bother. There is a car park in the street that runs parallel to the Highway on the eastern side.

It is well serviced by restaurants, and Samara’s (a Lebanese restaurant) is one of my favourites. They serve great food, and there is an amiable vibe. There is also a very good Thai place and terrific sushi place – Moon Sushi a bit further north.

If you are looking for coffee close to the beach, there is a cafe at 1 Park Road which has gone through a few iterations. Right now it’s called North Break Cafe.

Beach Fishig at Woonona

Woonona has two public primary schools and a High School. Woonona Primary opened in 1885, and some of the original buildings are still on site. The High School opened in 1964.

If you are looking for interesting architecture, the Woonona Co-operative Building in Ball Street is a bit of a standout. Built in the Spanish Mission Style in 1928 it was first a bakery (the largest on the south coast) and later a department store. It is now home to a pizza parlour and a self-storage business.

Flooding in Woonona

Because of the geography with the narrow coastal strip, the steep escarpment and small creek systems, the northern suburbs including Woonona are subject to flash flooding. In 1998 one person was killed and hundreds of homes damaged when 314mm (more than 12 inches) of rain fell in 6 hours.

Angels singing at Woonona Beach

 

Woonona Beach

The Woonona Beach is well known as a good surfing beach, and there is an ocean pool and changing rooms at its northern end. Like Bellambi, the cycleway runs right past the beach, and there is a series of sports’ ovals and a childrens’ park which has excellent views. If you had a mind to, you could walk from Wollongong to Woonona and beyond along the beach with the headlands being easy to scramble over in low tides.

 

 

Ocean Pool, Woonona
Woonona’s Ocean Pool at night.

 

I used to live in Woonona and hence have a bit of a soft spot for it and quite a few photos in my archives!

 

 

2020 Wall Calendars

I am delighted to announce that my new 2020 wall calendars are now available to order online through my Etsy shop.

This year’s theme is beautiful Australian native plants in high-key style. The flowers were sourced from my own backyard and photographed in natural light with my trusty Panasonic FZ1000.

All the images are photographs taken by me. Some have been digitally altered to look like pastel drawings or watercolours.  I have had them professionally printed onto 250 gsm fine art card with a spiral binding.

I have a very limited numbers so get in quick if you’d like one.

Photo of the Week 40

Photo of the Week Challenge

Beach Fishing

I was going through my old photos looking for images for my Snapshots from Wollongong Series when I came across this one from Woonona Beach. It was taken in 2012 when I first began my photographic journey. It would have been taken with a Panasonic FZ100. Perhaps a tad overprocessed for my liking now, I think it is still a strong composition.

 

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The Rock Route

Science Nerd Heaven?

Scotland is an excellent place to get your geology nerdiness happening! The Rock Route, which is part of the Northwest Highlands Geopark, is a great way to see some breathtaking scenery and get a bit of education at the same time.

Rock Route Explainer Board.
The explainer boards point out the major features that you can see in an easy to understand way. Here my photo is overlaid with sections of the board.

For me, a science nerd from way back, the “Rock Route” was a dream come true and discovered almost by accident. I was heading that way anyway and then I saw the purple road signs. It combined my existing road trip, incredible scenery and information all in bite-size chunks!

Rock RouteP1870177

 

With plenty of “explainer boards”, maps and signposts along the way you can trace the tumultuous geological history of the area.  The rocks along the rock route are old, really old and represent the oldest rocks found in Europe. They contain evidence of tectonic movement and the fossils captured in the sedimentary rocks are some of the earliest life forms ever discovered.

 

The Rock Route
It’s easy to see the two layers of different rock in this image. The darker rock, now on top, is older than the lighter one.

To top it off, the North West Highlands was one of the birthplaces of modern geology with Benjamin Peach and John Horne showing how stratigraphy needed to be carefully interpreted because the rock layers on top might not necessarily be the youngest. The accepted idea is that rocks are laid down in layers. The rocks on top are the youngest, the ones underneath are older. However, if the layers become deformed and folded, they can overlay each other, and older rocks might be higher than younger rocks. Geologists look for clues in the types of rocks and fossils to help put the rocks in the right order.

 

 

 

I started the Rock Route in Ullapool and while not stopping at all the highlights was able to get a good feel for the area. I dallied at the Rock Shop in Kylesku (just north of Unapool) and had one of the best toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches I have ever had! The day was a bit bleak outside and the warm cosy shop and museum, a welcome respite.

UNESCO Geoparks

The NorthWest Highlands Geopark is one of the many UNESCO Geoparks.

The UNESCO Geoparks are

“are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 147 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 41 countries.”

Getting to the Rock Route

I don’t think it would be efficient to do the Rock Route any way except by car. This allows you to take your own time, stop where you want and take as long as you like. I did the trip from Ullapool right through to Scrabster in one day covering a  distance of 197 miles  (317 km).  This was made possible through an early start and a late finish, thanks to the long daylight hours!! As stated, the weather was not great, and I did not take in all the highlights or linger long except at Knockan Crag, where I took a walk along the well-marked track and Unapool for lunch.

The best place to start the Rock Route is either Ullapool or Durness. Look out for the signs with a purple Celtic design on the A835 heading out of Ullapool.

Durness Beach - The Rock Route
The end of the Rock Route at Durness.

 

Snapshots Of Wollongong – Bellambi

B is for Bellambi

B might be for Bellambi but it’s  also for Balgownie, Berkeley, Brownsville and Bulli, some of which will be covered in their own posts.

 

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Bellambi is located to the north of Wollongong

 

Bellambi is a beachside suburb with significant indigenous connections and it remains important for the local Dharawal people. Large middens that existed near the beach have been destroyed by industrial development, transport infrastructure and residential housing. There is an active indigenous community which support events such as a large Reconciliation Walk which occurs during NAIDOC Week.

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Things to do in Bellambi

Bellambi has some tremendous recreational features which means there is plenty to do. It is right on the Wollongong – Thirroul cycleway which passes within metres of the sandy beach, Bellambi Lagoon and several picnic and bbq areas. There is a public toilet and a children’s playground at Bellambi Point Park.  The beach is patrolled, and there is a fabulous ocean pool.

Bellambi Ocean Pool 4a

The pool is fed directly from the ocean and is not treated in any way.  The beach is within easy walking distance from the Railway station.  There is a bowling alley on the western side of the Highway.

 

Bellambi’s stats and numbers

Bellambi infographic.jpg

 

Bellambi doesn’t really have a commercial area, but there are a few shops, (pharmacist, doctors’ surgery, a petrol station) a pub and a bowling club on or near Pioneer Drive.  This means you will have to go to the next closest retail centre, in  Corrimal. There is a large co-educational Catholic High School – Holy Spirit College and a primary school. The designated local public high school is Woonona High.

Bellambi is a social housing hub, with 40% of residences being rented and the majority of these from the Department of Housing.  This aspect has given Bellambi a “bad reputation”  as an economically depressed suburb.  On the plus side, the housing blocks are large and flat with most being the old 1/4 acre block with the three-bed fibro house plonked in the middle.  Once again, another suburb ripe for gentrification.