Australia is in the news at the moment because much of it is on fire. Australia has always been prone to bush fires. The First Australians knew how to use it to control their land and help prevent catastrophic events. Global warming has meant that massive fire events are happening more and more frequently.
This shot comes from the Bulli Beach. A pall of smoke has been hanging over Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle for weeks. Air quality is dangerously low. No substantial rain is forecast. The day I wrote this two firefighters died. It’s hard to stay positive.
I am safe but many others are not.
Taken with my iPhone SMAX. The resolution and quality are not great but the eeriness is.
At the end of November, I stepped way way out of my comfort zone and did a studio shoot with lights! We were aiming for moody and exotic. I learnt a lot and got some good images which Tara Yasmin will use for her social media. Still so much more to learn but it was a good start!
My Snapshot series has forced me to go out and do some research in my home town, venturing into some unknown places. This Photo Safari took me to Cringila about 8 km from my home. As I parked my car on the main street to begin my reconnaissance a smartly dressed older man said “hello!” He looked at me intently, waiting for my answer. I said hello back. He said, hello again. It went on for a few more hellos on his side and when he seemed, satisfied, he moved on. I watched him walk down the hill and my eyes were drawn to the contrast of the suburban red-tiled rooves against the backdrop of a massive steelworks. The plumes of steam emanating from the tall stacks filling the already smoky sky with white clouds. The sound of a relentless flow of traffic drifted up towards me from Five Islands Road. The sky was smoky, not due to the smoke from the stacks, but rather from bushfires that had been burning for the previous week in Newcastle some 240 km away. It gave my expedition a suitably gloomy flavour.
Cringila, a small suburb made up of only eighteen streets, is surrounded by heavy industry. The Steelworks in Port Kembla is literally across the road and is connected to Cringila by a few footbridges that lead directly into the steelworks itself. The houses are older but substantial, their tiled rooves capping external walls clad with aluminium siding or fibro. While I did not wander into the suburban depths of Cringila, it was evident that the properties here are “fixer-uppers” on big blocks. A first home buyers paradise.
The town started off as Steeltown and rose up in direct response to the steelworks. Its original inhabitants pitching their tents and building shacks on the boundaries. Despite being surrounded by industry a substantial portion of the suburb is green open space. (Open as it turns out due to it being contaminated with waste from previous industrial dumping and therefore unfit for use)
At one time Cringila had an interesting claim to fame. This suburb topped the charts for the highest number of non-English speaking migrants of any place in Australia. It still holds that title for Wollongong. Only 25% of people who live in Cringila have both parents who were born in Australia and 48% of all residents were born out of Australia. Macedonian and Lebanese families represent 15% and 11% of the population, respectively.
The small shopping centre has an odd assortment of shops including three (very busy) barbers, a pharmacist, newsagents, a florist, dog groomers, two old fashioned mixed business grocery style shops, the ubiquitous bottl-o (bottle shop aka liquor store), a community centre and two burek shops. There are two mosques and a small public primary school. The local football club, the Cringilla Lions, is very important to the community.
I didn’t get the courage to go into the Cringila Pub, I was turned off by its reputation for having topless waitresses. They did have a very funny sign out the front a few years ago, advertising itself as a “husband day-care service”. Now their website says “Just your true South Coast local – Beer n Boobs”
The two burek shops both claimed to sell the best burek. I had never had burek before but I can tell you I’ll be having it again! I bought a piece (? or are they slices?) from Bitola Burek for $6. The woman who served me brought out the burek in a flat circular tin and tipped it onto a hot plate. We chatted as she flipped it a few times to crispen it up.
She cut the large 30 cm round into quarters and wrapped up my quarter in white paper. I intended on taking it home and eating it later but as I carried it to the car the smell was irresistible, so I broke off a chunk to taste! Devine! The golden, flaky pastry was simultaneously crunchy and chewy while the filling was a tasty mass of gooey cheese with a flavour similar to feta but milder and stretchier. (According to a recipe I just googled it is a mix of feta and mozzarella… or the Macedonian versions thereof) $6 worth was enough for me for two meals. I’ll have to go back and try the other shop to compare!
I am always astounded by the diversity of things you can do in a small city like Wollongong. Sure, it’s not as exciting as the forever-awake New York, but it has its charms and enchantments!
A case in point is the Illawarra Festival Of Wood. The Festival is in its third year and offers the community a chance to see fine artisans at work, try out some woodworking skills, keep the kids entertained (under 12’s enter free) and eat some great food. All of this, in a country fair atmosphere at the Bulli Showground. What more could you ask for on a sunny Sunday?
Happy memories of crafting
I jumped at the opportunity to act as a guest photographer at the Festival because frankly, I love wood and the idea of working with wood to produce beautiful warm and peaceful objects brings back happy memories of my grandfather Colin. Papa, as we called him, was always busy creating something. Sometimes from wood, other times from metal, stone or leather. Although retired, he was never idle and the big shed he had in the backyard in Hurstville, was filled, literally to the rafters, with materials all waiting to be turned into something useful.
Papa made simple jewellery and sturdy furniture. All the family had/have something made by Papa. There was a graduated and scheduled procession of gifts; a leather belt in early teenage years, then an ornate wallet and later for the girls, at 18, a carved handbag. Grandma kept a little book of who had what and when the next item was due.
When I was first married, I happened to live a few streets away from Papa and Grandma. It became my habit to visit on Saturday afternoons, have a cup of tea and a few biscuits in the cosy kitchen and then head to the shed with Papa to make something. He taught me how to use a lathe and make enamel necklaces. We would tumble rocks for weeks on end in jars of sand. The coarse sand replaced incrementally by finer and finer grains as the stones began to gleam and round out. The transformation of rocks to polished jewellery was slow and laborious.
I enjoyed this time with my Grandfather and now reminiscing as I write, I realise that this must be where I developed my love of crafting and the desire to create simple things with my own hands. One of the items on my 60 for 60 list is to do a woodworking course, so the Festival made me as happy as a lark while I snapped away amongst the sappy sweet smells oozing from the resiny slices.
Surprising Health Benefits of Wood
Real wood went out of fashion for a while with wood panelling and furniture replaced by slick, sleek plastic laminates. These materials might be easier to clean, but science shows that timber, real timber, offers many health benefits. It can lower blood pressure, increase levels of well being and improve a person’s emotional state and creativity. Housing Health and Humanity is a comprehensive, evidence-based report that sets out these benefits. Wood interiors and wooden furniture, to some extent, bring the outdoors inside and create a health-giving bond with nature.
Combine these latent health benefits with the practice of creating and keeping old crafts alive, and you have a winning formula for a great weekend.
These values are easy to see in the craftspeople and stallholders at the IFoW. A small band of wood enthusiasts organises the Festival; Suzanne and Stuart Montague along with another couple Christian and Tomiko Timbs, who own and operate Japanese Tools. Suzanne and Stuart also own the Illawarra Woodwork School and run top-rated courses in furniture making. The courses sell-out fast, so you need to get in quick to grab a space. The class schedule on the website is currently not up-to-date, so it would be worthwhile emailing them if you want to sign up.
Suzanne buzzed around all day solving the sorts of logistical problems that often arise in these sorts of events from not having enough garbage bins, making sure there is enough power leads right through to the threat of inclement weather that could spoil everything in one big downpour.
Where can you find the Festival?
The Festival runs over two days in mid-October and is timed to coincide with the last weekend of the Spring school holidays. Workshops are aimed at different skill levels. You’ll find plenty of beautiful slabs of timber for sale as well as tools, furniture and homewares on offer from more than 70 stallholders. A wide range of food vendors will ensure you don’t go hungry.
Bulli is one of Wollongong’s northern suburbs and is about 90 minutes drive south of Sydney, The Showground is on the Old Princes Highway just south of the Primary School but before the pub. You can easily walk from Bulli Railway Station, although you should check the timetable carefully as trains are few and far between on the weekends. On-site parking is available for a gold coin donation.
Ticket prices for the 2019 Festival were $15 for single-day entry and $25 for both days. Workshop fees varied depending on their complexity (some of the more complex ones spanning the two days) and include the entry fee. Children’s workshops range from $60-80.
If you want to make a full day of it the beach is only a short distance away. The Wood Festival is on the same weekend as the very popular and successful Scarborough Art Show held at Scarborough Primary School from Friday night.
It’s too late for this year, but you could organise a lovely weekend away in the sunny city of Wollongong for 2020!
This post gives the profile for two adjoining suburbs, that while small in area, pack a lot of punch in the facilities they offer.
These two small villages are well-established suburbs which have been part of Wollongong more or less since land grants were made in the area. Once again the Spearing family were the first to own a parcel of land here. Keiraville is named after Mt Keira which rises above it at the end of Gipps Road. Gwynneville is named after John Gwynne, a farmer who lived in the area in the late 1880s.
The small commercial centres for both Kieraville and Gywnneville run off Gipps Road.
G is for Gwynneville
For a small place, there is a lot happening here! Gwynneville offers some major sporting venues. Firstly, Beaton Park Leisure Centre which has a 25m indoor heated pool as well as a well-equipped gym. The gym is owned and operated by the Wollongong City Council. There are lots of group exercise classes plus the regular gym weights and machines. A full-size basketball court is also used by local clubs for badminton and other sports. In case you pull a muscle, there is a Sports Medicine clinic in the grounds too.
Within the same complex is the Kerryn McCann Athletics Centre which has an 8 lane running track, long jump and pole vaulting facilities as well as a shot put and discus areas. Members of the gym can use the running track when it is not being used by the Athletics Club. Nearby and sharing the same car park, is Wollongong Tennis Club which has 14 full-size courts (10 synthetic and 4 clay) and 8 mini-courts for kids. The Clubhouse is licensed, and they serve drinks and meals most days. It is closed on Mondays and only open every second Sunday. Just across the little stormwater drain is the Snakepit Basketball Stadium, which is the home of Illawarra Basketball. The major league’s games are not played here anymore as they moved to the bigger Wollongong Entertainment Centre.
We are not done yet.
Across the road from the Beaton Park cluster is Wisemans Park Bowling Club which has three greens and a large licensed club. Next door to the Bowling Club, is a cricket oval. There is a second cricket oval adjacent to the Kerryn McCann track which is used for soccer in the winter.
The small shopping centre has a pharmacy, a mixed business which doubles as the Post Office, a greengrocer, a chicken and chips place, two cafes, one of which includes a boutique, a bakery which also has a cafe, an Asian grocery store, a Turkish takeaway and pizza place and a Chinese take-away. There is also a petrol station, a small community theatre company, Senior Citizens Centre, a beautician and hairdressers!
Another feature is the Omar Mosque, one of three mosques in Wollongong.
All this, within walking distance of the main town of Wollongong and the University, make it a very desirable place to live. It is well serviced by buses, and North Wollongong station is very closeby. It should be noted that Gwynneville is dissected by the Princes Motorway, a 4 lane highway with lots of traffic!
The Wollongong Botanic Gardens is one of my go-to places when I am looking for a little photography inspiration. While only small, it has an impressive collection and I especially love the succulent and cactus collections. My grandson loves to feed the ducks (as do most of the toddlers in Wollongong.) There is a coffee van, which at the time of writing is open 7 days a week, where you can get snacks as well as tea or coffee while browsing the street library collection. There is an enclosed playground for kids and plenty of lawns and delightful nooks for big family gatherings or romantic picnics.
On the high side of the Gardens and up the grassy hill is Gleniffer Brae, a heritage-listed residence that now houses the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music. Built in 1937-39. It is described as being a Tudor Revival style. There has been some controversy in recent years about its use and redevelopment.
Keiraville also has a small shopping centre with three cafes, a pharmacy and petrol station, a bottle shop, a small supermarket, a post office, a travel agent and a homewares/clothing boutique. An alternate medicine/clinic offering “new age” treatments as well as a physiotherapist has also opened up in the last year. There is also a small Polish Museum.
Keiraville Primary School which opened in 1891, is a quaint collection of weatherboard buildings. The local designated high school is Wollongong School of Performing Arts.
Parking near Wollongong University.
Since both Keiraville and Gwynneville are close to the University, parking is an issue. There are clearly marked parking bays on the residential streets surrounding the Uni. While the Uni and the Council have done their best to make public transport an attractive option by providing a free bus that loops around the central Wollongong area and a free shuttle bus from North Wollongong station, plenty of students still drive. Parking in the Uni is probably beyond the financial resources of students.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!