Snapshots from Wollongong – Cringila

Train cars in Cringilla

C is for Cringila

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.

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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)

Cringila’s numbers

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.

Cringila

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.

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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”

Classy!

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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!

 

 

Illawarra Festival Of Wood

“Every tree tells a story”.

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?

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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.

Master artisans.

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.

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Suzanne with her trusty clipboard

 

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.

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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!

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Snapshots from Wollongong – G and K

K is for Keiraville and G is for Gwynneville

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

Gwynnevilleinfo

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.

Beaton Park Gym
Beaton Park Gym

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.

There is a public primary school as well as a catholic primary school. The designated high school is Wollongong High School of Performing Arts which takes local students and students by audition for its performance program.

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!

 

K is for Keiraville

Keiraville

A little further up the hill towards Mt Keira, you’ll find Keiraville. This pleasant suburb also has lots to offer. It has two of the city’s big guns: the University of Wollongong and the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.

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.

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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Snapshots from Wollongong – Unanderra

U is for Unanderra

Let’s face it! Some parts of Wollongong are going to be more exciting than others, but it would appear that Unanderra is the spiritual centre of Wollongong.  According to Wikipedia, its only attractions are a Catholic Church, an Orthodox Syriac Church and the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere – The Nan Tien Temple.

Apart from this, Unanderra has a railway station, a couple of primary schools, a small shopping centre and that’s about it. There is one pub and a large leagues club, Wests Illawarra. Wests is open 21 hours a day, every day of the year. You can’t tell me that place is not sucking people dry with its poker machines.

Artwork on the Unanderra Hotel.
Unanderra Hotel

Unanderra is near Lake Illawarra on one of the broadest, flattest parts of the Illawarra coastline. It is a mixed bag of residential dwellings and industrial properties. Many of the business located here are related to the steel and coal industries.

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Unanderra’s numbers.

 

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Nan Tien Temple

The Nan Tien Temple is set in magnificent gardens and is right on the border between the suburbs of Berkeley and Unanderra. The temple is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The complex boasts a large conference centre,  100 rooms of accommodation and a popular vegetarian restaurant. More recently the Nan Tien Institute has opened and offers courses for postgraduate studies as well as professional learning in applied Buddhist studies, wellbeing and mental health.

You can stay at the temple for a 2 or 3-day weekend retreat or a week-long monastic stay. These retreats offer participants an opportunity to understand the tenets of Buddhism.

Some other random facts about Unanderra

The RSPCA shelter for Wollongong is in Unanderra, so if you are looking for a rescue pet that’s the place to go.

It is home to the Illawarra Hockey Stadium, and it would seem most of their local couriers have the offices there so if you miss a delivery you have to head there to pick it up!

On the down-low, I shop at the Woollies (Woolworths)  at Unanderra because I had read somewhere that it is the cheapest one in the Illawarra. I never knew that the prices varied between Woollies stores, but apparently, they do. It’s not my closest one, but it is a bigger store, and I know the layout!

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Port Kembla

P is for Port Kembla

Port Kembla is the industrial heart of Wollongong. Home to a massive steelworks which dominates the horizon from many vantage points, it is often considered grubby, polluted and frankly, a place to avoid. The main street has a reputation for being a cruising zone for those seeking the services of prostitutes.

Port Kembla Harbour
Port Kembla from Mt Kembla

Cloud factories are continuously pumping out steam and presumably other chemicals, and there is an eternal flame burning off gases which lights up the night sky.

Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
Wentworth Street, Port kembla

Sounds delightful heh!  But if you look a little further, you can find a beautiful beach, a heritage park and a quirky commercial district.

Port Kembla Location map
Just south of the CBD and right on the coast

 

BHPBiliton  (and its predecessors) have had a presence in the Illawarra since the late 1920s. While its operations have scaled-down over the last few decades, there is still a large and rambling complex of sheds, smokestacks and railways that take up an area from Cringilla, Coniston and Warrawong.

 

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Port Kembla Beach and Ocean Pool

At the end of Cowper Street, you’ll find a long sandy beach and a spectacular ocean pool. Unlike other sea pools in the Wollongong area, the one at Port Kembla is not fed by the tide, but it is filled with seawater. It stands a little above the beach and is surrounded by gorgeous rich yellow walls which give it a very Mediterranean feel. The kid’s pools are well shaded, and there are plenty of places to lie about in the sun on the grassy hill.

The adjoining beach is a long curve that stretches nearly 7 km and ends at Windang on the mouth of Lake Illawarra. The section near the pool is patrolled during the season. The Surf Life Saving Association of NSW rates it as a hazardous beach so it would be best to stick to swimming between the flags.

Port Kembla Beach

Wentworth Street.

The main retail strip is along Wentworth Street. It boasts 3 pubs (one of them closed) a night club (The Vault) and a few cafes and the quirky Wentworth Emporium. At 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon, most of the shops were closed. Through the glass, the cafes looked pretty hip and funky.  Joanne, who opens the Emporium on Fridays and Saturdays, said that business is pretty slow. Her primary source of income being her adjacent upholstery shop. The Emporium is a mix of homewares, bric-a-brac, and potted succulents.

Adding to the ghost-town-like feel, most of the shops are actually empty and for lease. The interiors of some are showing signs of refurbishment while others are filled with chaotic trash.

On the bright side, the area is rebranding itself as an artist’s colony.  The Red Point Artists’ Association is a cluster of businesses which includes a gallery, cafe and several studios from which local artists run workshops and sell their wares.

Another theme is also developing with bridal and bridal accessory businesses filling up the empty shops.

Street Art.

As part of a deliberate rejuvenation program, the annual Wonderwalls Street Art Festival was held in Port Kembla in February 2019. The festival is responsible for brightening up many boring walls in the main part of Wollongong. There are now several very large murals brightening things up in the streets and laneways of Port Kembla.

Heritage Park at Breakwater Battery

There is a small museum near the eastern breakwater wall of the deep water harbour. Originally an observation station built in WWII, it is now home to the Maritime Services Board and the NSW Water Police. The outdoor area has several battery points and some intriguing white pyramids that were moved there from Berkeley Beach. The pyramids were tank barriers and placed on the beach to prevent Japanese tanks from landing on our shores in the 1940’s. Now they serve as fascinating photographic subjects!

 

I get the feeling that Port Kembla is a sleeping giant and waiting for a boom. It would be a great time to get in and buy some property on the cheap and wait for gentrification to happen.

 

Travel Mascots Part 4

The return of Iain

Several weeks ago, I reported that I had very carelessly lost Iain, my wee travel companion. I surmised that I had perhaps left him on the rooftop of my car while I packed my things or that I had simply left him on the rocks at Salen Jetty.

 

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The last known sighting of Iain

 

While devastated by his loss, I found another travel companion, Iain mac Iain. His black watch kilt and shawl at odds with the Royal Stewart tartan of his “father”. But hey, you have to make do with what you have, and I had a very generous donation of black watch tweed from my Airbnb host in Lewis.

Iain mac Iain was a valiant replacement. Forever seeking out his father, befriending other seemingly lost or abandoned travel mascots, he made it home safely to Australia after spending the better part of a month in Scotland. He had some grand adventures and has appeared in many unknown facebook posts as he was included in other people’s family snaps.

I sought the help of the good people of Salen Jetty. I messaged the shop as soon as I realised he was missing. We stayed in contact and finally the day after I flew back into Australia an Iain- sighting was made on Facebook! True to his armoury loving-self he was found sitting on top of a canon! My Salen Jetty shop contacts were quick to claim on my behalf.

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Now, three weeks after that first sighting he is here with me in Wollongong, Australia having a grand reunion with his dad! After an awkward handshake and a few minutes of small talk, it was man hugs all round!

 

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Dad!

 

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come here, Son!

Thanks to the power of the interwebs and the friendliness of a small community, we have been reunited! If you are ever in Salen Jetty, please drop in on these good folks, tell them you read the story of Iain and thank them on my behalf!

Thank you also to my friends who have joined in on Iain and Iain’s journeys, we’ve had some fun!