Plogging along.

The last Sunday in October has been a  standing date in my diary for the last decade or so. This is the day the Seven Bridges Walk (SWB) is normally held. The Seven Bridges Walk is a 30-ish km walk around the foreshores of Sydney. (You can see the route in the Alltrails app) It is organised each year by the Cancer Council as a fundraiser. Well, every year except the last two, when it’s been interrupted by Covid. 

I have participated in this fundraising event at least 12 times (maybe more!?). Sometimes alone, but usually with 2 or 3 friends. It’s a fun day out and apart from what you may spend on donations/registration fees you could make it a very cheap day’s entertainment. There are “villages” set up along the way to buy food and drinks, but you could bring your own. The whole route is accessible by public transport, which on Sunday has an $8:15 cap

At the end of the walk, my friends and I always reward ourselves with a beer and some potato wedges at a pub at our endpoint. After that, we haul our tired bodies out of the chairs and head home. 

This one from 2017, with my buddy Michele.

Stanwell Park to Wollongong

Last year, since the “real” walk, was cancelled two of my buddies and I decided to do a local walk from Stanwell Park to Wollongong. This as it happens, is also a 30 km walk. 

The scenery is amazing and heading south, it is all downhill! There are shops, parks, water fountains and public toilets at convenient intervals so you don’t have to carry much if you don’t want to. In contrast to the Seven Bridges Walk, we lost count at twenty bridges of one kind or another, but here is one spectacular bridge – The Seacliff Bridge which makes the walk worthwhile in itself.

The deck of the Seacliff Bridge.

Cancelled again!

This year the SBW was cancelled again due to the uncertainties of Covid. The organisers were encouraging people to do it on their own or in small groups,  without the usual support crews, villages and checkpoints. While many restrictions have been lifted since Freedom Day (11 October), large crowds are still not a great idea and LOTS of people usually join the walk. In fact, due to overcrowding, the walk has been capped at 15,000 participants.

Once again the idea of going into the city when things were still a bit sketchy in terms of safety was unpalatable, so we decided to do the Stanwell Park to Wollongong walk again. This year we changed it up by adding plogging. That is, we walked and picked up rubbish as we went. Plogging is a Swedish term that has become a worldwide movement. According to the plogging.org website the first organised plog happened in 2016 in Stockholm. 

Grabbers and garbage bags at the ready!

Plogga (or plogging) is the basis of a collective name where we want to change the setting and get everyone to become “Proud litter pickers”.

plogging.org

Although it took us longer to walk the 30 km than usual, the beer at the end was still a goal to aim for. We picked up rubbish for the first 25 km but decided we better hurry as it was getting later and we really needed to be getting home. We walked the last 5km at a cracking pace which made the beer even sweeter!

Add plogging to your eco-warrior repertoire

Plogging is an easy thing to add to your eco-warrior quiver. The ocean is downhill from everywhere and it’s sad to think all those bits of plastic wrapper will eventually end up there. Some will fly down and sea creatures will eat them thinking it’s food, or if the plastic hangs around in the sun long enough it will degrade and the microplastic will contaminate the soil. 

Apart from plogging, alternative solutions to littering include taking better care of our own rubbish or even better still avoiding stuff that makes rubbish. If you want ice cream, get one in a cone without the packaging. Easy!

Even though I think plogging is a great idea and it’s fun and easy to do when you’re with your buddies, I’m working up the courage to do it solo. I haven’t seen anyone in my area do it yet. Maybe I can be a plogging trail blazer! 

ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

PS: The previously promised Part 2 of Eco-friendly painting will appear soon!

Snapshots of Wollongong – Ken Ausburn Track

This post returns to the Snapshots of Wollongong Series. I haven’t done one for quite awhile! With lockdown still keeping us close to home in the Greater Sydney region, I went looking for some novel walks. I came across a short track that links to the Mt Keira Ring Track which I have featured in a previous Snapshot post.

The Ken Ausburn Track starts at the northern end of Northfeilds Ave, just near the big roundabout and the University of Wollongong. The track, although managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife, is on land owned by the University and BHP. It is named after Kenneth Ausburn, who was the first Head of Physics at the Uni and a keen bushwalker.

Just a short stroll

The Ken Ausburn Track is very short, only about 1 .5 km but it is fairly steep. There are several flights of wooden steps and boardwalks and other areas with steps made with treated logs. At the end of the trail you can turn right towards Mt Pleasant (a further ~0.5 km) or left to get to the Ring Track. This short section of about 600 m is well used by mountain bike riders so make sure you listen out for them. The track is narrow and it would be a close squeeze if walkers and riders ended up in the same section. The track is mostly bare compacted dirt. It would be a terror in the wet, so I’d recommend avoiding it on a rainy day.

Deer Deer!

You’ll see plenty of deer poop on the grassy lower sections of the track. Feral deer are a big problem in the Illawarra and their numbers are increasing. I have written a post about this which you can find in my archives.

Feral deer are a significant issue in the Illawarra

Accessible by Public Transport

The University is on the free city bus route. You could get off at the main Uni bus area (see map below), walk up Northfields Ave for about 400 m and join the track. The trail head is easy to find although it looks a bit like someone’s back yard. You could use this track to access the Ring Track which is NOT serviced by public transport. If you did the Ken Ausburn Track plus the complete loop of the Ring Track it would be pleasant walk coming in at under 10 km. If you wanted a longer walk you could add in the Robertson Lookout (another 2.5km).

Architectural treats

In addition to the pleasant walk, there are two architectural treats along the way. Firstly, the Lawrence Hargrave Memorial and then the Kermira Brick Ventilation Shaft. The memorial is a modern stainless steel sculpture depicting a flying creature. It was crafted by Bert Flugelman in 1988. There is apparently a small replica in the grounds of the Uni itself. A friend told me that she watched the sculpture being airlifted in by an army helicopter when she was still in primary school. On the other hand, the ventilation shaft is constructed from red bricks and is rather elegant. It was erected in the 1890s. There are several interpretive signs on the route which point out plant species and the history of the track. It was originally a rail line for getting coal down the hill and then on to the harbour.

Best views

The best views are from the start of the track, specifically on the first flight of wooden stairs. You need to walk up a very steep grassed section first. From here you can see the city laid out in front of you and to the south, the Nan Tien Temple. As you get up higher there are too many trees blocking the view. (Darn nature!!) There is a section marked as a lookout a bit further up but it is very overgrown and you can’t see much.

Logisitcs.

As I said, you could catch the bus to the Uni. If you do drive be aware that the parking is limited and most is only for two hours (even on weekends). The section near the Uni colleges is not time limited but I think it would be hard to come by a spare space in peak periods and during Uni session times. There are publicly accessible toilets at the Uni. If you choose to add on the Ring Track, there is a toilet at Byarong Park. There is a coffee shop at the Mt Keira Summit but check the opening hours as it is not very reliable, especially in COVID times. Byarong Park has several picnic tables and is a great place to stop. Take full advantage of being outdoors and carry a packed lunch.

Of course, take enough water. Don’t be lulled into thinking it’s only a short walk and you won’t need water. It is very steep in sections and will get you puffing. If you add on the Ring Track there is no where to fill up your water bottle.

Google it!

Wollongong’s Mural Trail

Fancy a trip away from the hype of Sydney, where you can enjoy an afternoon eating great food while following a mural trail to rival that found in Glasgow?

Well, come on down to Wollongong, a thriving regional city just 90 km south of Sydney! Wollongong is Australia’s 10th biggest city and the 3rd largest in NSW. Sharing a similar history to its northern sister Newcastle, Wollongong’s industrial roots are giving way to a vibrant small bar scene, hatted restaurants, quality coffee and a fantastic collection of street murals. The murals have been created during three days of frenzied painting for successive  Wonderwalls Festivals.

READ THIS POST IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE MAP:

This map gives you a suggested mural trail route, starting and ending at the railway station, with some recommended eateries.

Choose the cafes that match your budget and the time of day.

Lace-up those walking shoes, slap on your explorer’s hat, and let’s get started!

This article was first published in a condensed form in Culture Trip

Wollongong Railway Precinct

You’ll spy your first glimpse of colour as you walk up the ramp from Wollongong Railway Station. The five artworks here include Clarity by Gary. Turn right to grab a seat at the Lettuce B Frank Wholefoods Cafe. Take your time to peruse the menu which has offerings to please everyone from strict vegans to paleo carnivores. Check the mural trail map and get your bearings. Decide now whether you want to venture to the two furthest flung murals The Maid and The Indian.

A few metres from the Clarity site, duck into the driveway next to Dicey Riley’s pub to see the Photo Opportunity Collection.  Double back a little and head down the eastern ramp of the station and walk through to Auburn Street. You’ll pass the Welcome Pelicans before finding the Green Gecko.

a
In the Alley next to Dicey Rileys

MaCabe Park Precinct to Crown Street Mall

A cluster of works borders McCabe Park on Keira Street including an unofficial set of practice walls. Depending on the time of day you may even find an artist at work.

Work your way up to the Crown Street Mall. Here, things get a bit complicated. There are a lot of murals crammed into a small area and there will be some crossing over. That’s good because you’ll work up an appetite!

On Burelli St, to your right, you’ll find Fever, an abstract riot of colour, and Smug’s (slightly creepy) Koalas. Turning left you can see work by Mikey Freedom and John Kaye. Double back to Globe Lane and walk through to the Crown Street Mall. You’ll find some small scale works on the garden walls.

two koalas and a man
The work of world-renown Smug.

If it’s Thursday, the Eat Street Market is open between 5 – 9 PM with plenty of food trucks and music. Save room for a pastry at Kurtosh! The entrance is very unassuming and easy to miss. The big feature you will not miss is Smug’s Harmonica Player on the flyover.

Crown Street Mall to Smith Street.

Once you’re done in the Mall, get back onto Keira Street and head north, turn left into Market Street and then the car park entrance.  You’ll find two very large scale works. (Man with a Magpie and Life). There are public toilets in the Centre if you need them.

Keira Lane heading North

Head into Keira Laneway and past Bull and Bear, a cafe and tapas restaurant, which opens seven days a week. Bull and Bear commissioned their own mural which butts up against the Black Cockatoo fresco. Follow the lane to Smith Street.

North end of Keira Street

This end of town is awash with restaurants including the hatted Caveau. You’ll pass Red Square, a vodka bar and Junipers, a gin bar, both opening late afternoon. Tucked away in the alcoves between the buildings you’ll discover four more murals. My favourite is the Woman with Red Lips by Rone.

Street mural of a woman with red lips
Woman with Red Lips by Rone

Continue heading south and you’ll find Ziggy’s House of Nomms.  Ziggy’s is worth stopping at just for the Cheese McBurger Dumplings! Quirky, cheap and cheerful, it shares an entrance with Xanadu (a Chinese restaurant).

Market Street Car park to the Arts Precinct.

Head back into Market Street for the entrance to the Central Carpark. There are several murals in the car park on its various levels, as well as at the entrance. If you walk towards the pedestrian access, you’ll find Dearly Departed; a dot painting and a long cartooned wall stretching for 20 metres. Make a very quick foray in Crown Lane to see the Mexican Jaguar.

You’ll now cross back over your route to head through the Mall again, and down Pig Alley to Simpson Lane. Lining the walls of Pig Alley are some metal panels with works commissioned by Wollongong City Council. These are changed at regular intervals so there is no point describing them here.

Drop into Burelli Street heading east to view the many artworks in this area. The Art Gallery is well worth a visit. There are some murals inside The Icon. The Icon, one of Wollongong’s newer bars, is a casual dining option.

Photo 12 Chimneys

Visit two more far-flung works on Stewart Street (Predators and the Crowned Emu)  if you’re up for it, otherwise, take Moore Lane for Yam Fam, Steel City and the Glowing Cicadas.

Final Leg of the Mural Trail!

Is it gin o’clock yet?  Make your way to Kembla Street. Heading north you’ll pass Nikka Luca’s work and the rosy faces on Ox King’s panel.

One last highly recommended stop is Births and Deaths, a boutique gin bar. Jared will make you feel welcome and tell about his sustainable business while you try to choose from the extensive drinks menu. I have reviewed Births and Deaths in my series on Small Bars in Wollongong.

You can now head to the railway station for a sleepy ride back to Sydney or stay another day, you haven’t even seen our beaches yet!

Used my map for the Mural Trail? Please let me know what you thought and if there are any glitches I need to fix.

Thanks!