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Showing posts from April, 2007

Recycling with style

Van de Velde made his money from Feltex carpets and other wool goods. To build Feltex House in George Street Sydney he had to demolished the London Chartered Bank but put the old entrance to good use for a fountain in his Everglades garden. Photo: Bacchus Fountain Everglades, Leura Sorensen, the landscape designer, masterfully created a series of formal and informal gardens stepping down the steep hillside using points of interest like the fountain to surprise and delight. Words to walk with: From The Garden by Andrew Marvell “Here at the fountain's sliding foot, Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root, Casting the body's vest aside, My soul into the boughs does glide : There like a bird it sits and sings, Then whets and combs its silver wings ; And, till prepared for longer flight, Waves in its plumes the various light.”

Sorensen’s gardens

Paul Sorensen was a Danish-born landscape designer of great skill and genius. His signature stone walls are found in the best historic gardens of the Blue Mountains. Photo: Everglades Garden, Leura View from the Glades across the watercourse At the Everglades, depression labour was used to help in the massive task of building miles of intricate stone walls and paths curving thoughout a magnificent terraced garden. Stone walls appear in many mountain gardens, mine included, but there are no walls quite like Sorensen’s. Today we are in awe of the fineness of his work and there is great social cachet for owners of gardens with genuine Sorensen walls and garden design. Words to walk with: The Garden by Ezra Pound “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens, And she is dying piece-meal of a sort of emotional anemia. And round about there is a rabble Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor. They shall inherit

Art deco delight

In 1932, Henri Van de Velde, a Belgian-born industrialist bought 13 acres of land in Leura and commissioned landscape designer Paul Sorensen to create a beautiful garden for him to enjoy. Today, through the National Trust, it is available for us all to enjoy. Photo: Courtyard garden, Everglades Words to walk with: From Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats “Thou still unravished bride of quietness, Thou foster child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape Of deities or mortals, or of both, In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? What men or gods are these? What maidens loath? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?”


This week I visited the Everglades historic garden in Leura, now owned and managed by the National Trust. Over the next few days I will share garden poems and some of the photographs I took of this lovely place, currently dressed in autumn splendour. Photo: The drive, Everglades, Leura It is several years since I visited the Everglades and it is wonderful to see the progress of ongoing restoration bringing the garden back to its former grandeur and beauty. You can read about the garden’s history and restoration at the Everglades website . Words to walk with: From A Forsaken Garden by Algernon Charles Swinburne “In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland, At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee, Walled round with rocks as an inland island, The ghost of a garden fronts the sea. A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses The steep square slope of the blossomless bed Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses Now lie dead.” Photo: Studio Terrace

Faithful violets

People wear rosemary sprigs on Anzac day – rosemary is for remembrance. Violets are said to symbolise faithfulness. I found a native violet by the path in the Fairy Dell at Springwood. You can rely on seeing this lovely plant in damp parts of the forest. It flowers throughout the year. Photo: Native Violet ( viola hederacea ) Which reminds me the sweet violets growing under the trees at the back of my garden usually flower in autumn. I must go down and see if they have survived the drought. Words to walk with: Ophelia speaking in Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5 by William Shakespeare “There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts … There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a

Australians in other lands (2)

Today is Anzac Day – the day we remember the sacrifice of Australian soldiers who fought for our country. The prologue from marches and services held today begins: “We are assembled here to commemorate the immortal day when the young men of Australia by their deeds and sacrifice demonstrated to the world at Gallipoli that Australia was truly a nation.” World War 1 (1914-1918) following so soon after Federation (see Monday’s post ) was the first major occasion when Australian troops fought as Australians rather than as subjects of the British Crown. It had a significant role in our development as a nation and remains deep within the sentiment of Australian’s today. A huge number of young men died at a time when our population was still small. After the war, monuments sprung up in nearly every town as there was barely a place untouched by tragic loss. Lawson is one such town with an imposing monument and also a garden of now mature trees. Photo: Anzac Day Service, Honour Avenue, Lawson R

Australians in other lands (1)

During the tree naming yesterday I was reminded of seeing Australian trees overseas. On a coach tour of Los Angeles, gawking at the mansions of Beverly Hills, the bus driver said we Australians would know the trees lining the street. He was wrong, they looked like eucalypts but had big clusters of red flowers like I had never seen before – it turns out they were a Western Australian variety. There are a lot of eucalypt trees in California, the climate seems to suit them. Another time, by the turquoise sea in Bermuda I spotted familiar wispy trees among the white-roofed candy-box houses. The tour guide called them Australian Pines – we know them as casuarinas or she-oaks. Photo: Morning dew on Casuarina Words to walk with: Read the poem The Bermuda Triangle at the poet John Kinsella’s website . It begins with “Pat Rafter, saviour of Australian tennis, maintains a comfortable existence on Bermuda…”

Tree naming – rainforest lesson

There are easy grade but longish forest tracks joining Falconbridge and Springwood. At this stage I have only made brief forays into the beginning of the tracks from each side – one day when I have more time and energy I will do the full walk. Photo: Fairy Dell, Springwood. Being a little lower down the mountain (hence warmer) and moist, the growth is lush and a perfect spot for me to identify rainforest trees after my earlier tree naming lessons on 4 February , 6 February , 19 February and 4 April Sassafras Turpentine Pittosporum Lilly Pilly Casuarina Coachwood How’s that? And not one of them is a eucalypt. Words to walk with: With Anzac Day coming up on Wednesday this poem seems a good fit. From Naming the Parts by Henry Reed "To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday, We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning, We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day, To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens, And to-day we have

Corridor of Oaks

My recent walks have been in the Falconbridge-Springwood area. Victory Track starts near the Corridor of Oaks. Photo: Corridor of Oaks, Falconbridge The Prime Minister’s Corridor of Oaks was established as a tribute to Sir Henry Parkes . He was a political leader often called “Father of Federation”. Sir Henry owned property in Falconbridge and his grave is there. The Corridor of Oaks (established by Joseph Jackson a NSW member of parliament) has an oak tree planted by every Australian Prime Minister or their nearest surviving relative. The federation of Australian colonies occurred on 1 January 1901 with Edmund Barton as the first Prime Minister. Words to walk with: From Old Henry Parkes by Dame Mary Gilmore “Old Henry Parkes, In his big top hat, His lion-like head, Eyes like a sword, Blazing in a thought, Blazing at affront, Blazing for a word -- But, in-drawn, still, and cold as the ice, as vision-held he sat, and saw Commonwealth and Empire, brotherly and brother, This State and t

Red Robin

I was sitting in the sunroom looking out on the maples. It’s still a few weeks before they colour in our garden, but I noticed a tiny spot of red fluttering like a stray leaf that had already turned. It was a little robin. Photo: Rose Robin There are several types of Red Robin – Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, Red-Capped Robin and Rose Robin. I think this is a Rose Robin. I only ever see them in my garden in the colder months. To me they are a signal that the cold weather is on its way. I was reading that American Robins are a totally different bird which herald the spring. English Robins , included in so many of our childhood stories are also unrelated. Words to walk with: A traditional English nursery rhyme “Little Robin Red breast sat upon a tree, Up went pussy cat and down went he; Down came pussy, and away Robin ran; Says little Robin Red breast, "Catch me if you can". Little Robin Red breast jumped upon a wall, Pussy cat jumped after him and almost got a fall; Little Robi


The tinkle of bellbirds is one of the most delightful and loved bird calls of the Australian forest. In the mountains I typically hear the tremolo of notes coming up from deep in the valley when I am standing at the cliff top. As such, I have never seen a bellbird until this week. On the walk to Knapsack Viaduct, hearing the familiar tink-tink of bellbirds, I realized they were in the trees above me. So I stood quietly, watched, listened and made some interesting discoveries. Discovery 1: The bellbirds don’t go tink-tink-tink-tink. One bird goes tink. And then another goes tink. And another. Until there is whole carillion of continuous tinkling. Discovery 2: Folklore says the bellbirds are more often heard than seen, which I took to mean it was a nondescript ‘little brown bird’. What a surprise to find the tinks coming from an olive green bird, with a colourful orange beak, legs and eye patch. And what a delight to actually get a photograph. Photo: Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys) You

Prickly Weeds

I was interested to see that flanking the track to Knapsack Bridge there a thickets of Lantana. This bush with a rather pretty flower is an import from South America and a rampant weed in warmer parts of Australia. I know it well from Queensland where it has taken over vast tracts of land. It seems that in the lower mountains the climate is warm enough for this nasty weed to flourish whereas I haven’t seen it higher up. Photo: Lantana The prickly weed of the mid and upper mountains is Blackberry which is also a pest that forms thickets and is difficult to control. Words to walk with: From Paridise Lost by John Milton On Adam last thus judgment he pronounced: - "Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, And eaten of the Tree concerning which I charged thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat thereof, Curs'd is the ground for thy sake; thou in sorrow Shalt eat thereof all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles it shall bring thee forth Unbid; and thou shalt eat the

Knapsack Viaduct

This week I did a walk in the lower mountains. The road climbs steeply from Emu Plains at the foot of the mountains up Lapstone Hill. In the 1860s when the first railway line was built the ascent was too much for the steam trains to take in a single burst and a tunnel was too expensive so a zig-zag (switch back) was constructed. There is an old zig-zag on each side of the mountains. The Lapstone climb began with an impressive 5 span viaduct across Knapsack Gully. This was originally built for a single railway track and was used until it was bypassed in the early 1890s when Glenbrook Tunnel was built. Photo: Knapsack Viaduct, Lapstone Following that the top was widened to carry 2 lanes of road traffic and was part of the Great Western Highway up the mountains until it was replaced in more recent years by the motorway. Today it is closed to regular vehicular traffic and is used as a walking track. I enjoyed the easy walk on a warm sunny afternoon to view this interesting historic struct

Green lawn

A wrap up of this pair of walks would not be complete without a picture of the well groomed lawns of the golf course. The trees are colouring up nicely, I must visit some gardens soon. Photo: Leura Golf Course Words to walk with: From Baby Running Barefoot by D.H. Lawrence “When the bare feet of the baby beat across the grass The little white feet nod like white flowers in the wind, They poise and run like ripples lapping across the water; And the sight of their white play among the grass Is like a little robin’s song, winsome”

Inspiration Point

I don’t know exactly which spot is Inspiration Point but I do find this picture of the swirling depths below Gladstone Lookout inspirational (the colour enhanced by a moment of accidental inspiration getting the white balance wrong). Photo: From Gladstone Lookout, Leura Words to walk with: Inspiration was not lacking in John Keats short life as shown in his sonnet When I Have Fears “When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain, Before high-piled books, in charactery, Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain; When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And think that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, That I shall never look upon thee more, Never have relish in the faery power Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.”

Riding the high seas

The second walk from Leura golf course is along Inspiration Point track to Moya and Gladstone Lookouts. The branch track to Gladstone Lookout meanders though she-oaks before bursting upon an unfenced lookout with a big vertigo inducing view. Photo: View of Gladstone Lookout, Leura It was like standing at the prow of a great ship sailing a billowing sea, taking care to navigate away from a dangerous outcrop of rock marked by a lighthouse on the starboard side (OK the lighthouse is a mobile phone tower but let’s face it I wasn’t on a sailing ship either!) Words to walk with: From the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free; We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea.”

Hanging Swamp

The walk to Lilians Bridge traverses a boardwalk over a hanging swamp. Hanging swamps occur on sloping rock faces where there is constant supply of groundwater. Over time the water and decomposing plants have formed peat that acts as a sponge holding the water which is slowly released over the cliff edge even in dry times. Photo: Boardwalk over hanging swamp, Leura Common plants in the swamps are sedge grasses and Coral Fern ( Gleichenia dicarpa ) Words to walk with: The township of Lawson was once known as “Christmas Swamp”. The explorer Blaxland described a swamp of rushy coarse grass with water running through it near the current location of the town.

Wot’s in a name?

I have recently walked two tracks that start from Leura golf course at Fairmont Resort. The first follows the Grand Cliff Top Walk which is odd naming because this walk is not grand and doesn’t have great cliff views – it does however go along the cliff top and is a pleasant well maintained track. Usually the path runs from Leura right through to the Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls getting over the gap between the ridges via Lilians Bridge but the bridge is currently closed for reconstruction thus cutting the walk short. Photo: Lilian’s Bridge, Leura Lilians Bridge was built in the 1890s and the heritage materials are now worse for wear and need replacing. Though you can’t see it from the photo, there is a huge drop below so it needs to be very safe. Even though I could not complete the full walk I wanted to reach the bridge in memory of my Mum as her name was Lillian and she loved hiking in the bush. The sign says the bridge was named after Elizabeth Lila Murray, the daughter of o

Leaf fall

With the exotic trees in our streets and gardens taking on autumn hues soon there will be multi-coloured leaf fall. But in the Australian bush it is different – here the eucalypt leaves, looking like scraps of tanned leather, fall and are soft underfoot all throughout the year. Photo: Eucalypt leaf litter Words to walk with: From the Holy Bible Isaiah 40:8 (New International Version) “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

Autumn colour

The street trees are taking on their autumn colour. Photo: Liquid Amber, Queens Oak Park, Lawson Words to walk with: From Ode To Autumn by John Keats “Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run”

Olive Oyl

Photo: Boofhead in Amphitheatre Park, Leura A little further up the road on Olympic Parade there is an amphitheatre (opposite Leuralla, Toy and Train Museum) with another sculpture overlooking a lovely view. Many people consider the giant statues of Boofhead and Olive Oyl a modern example of insensitively placed public art. What do you think? Words to walk with: From the theme song for Popeye (Olive Oyl’s boyfriend) -- "I'm strong to the finach, 'cause I eats me spinach, I'm Popeye the sailor man! (toot, toot)"


Photo: Picnic shelter, Gordon Falls Park, Leura Before moving on from the Gordon Falls area is it worth mentioning some interesting examples of public sculpture found here. Like many of the parks in the mountains the Gordon Falls picnic area has quaint old cement shelters. While in a past era these might have been considered a sensitive addition to the landscape today they are somewhat amusing. You can however shelter from the wind on a cold day and enjoy a great view while eating lunch. Words to walk with: “Yabba dabba doo” Because the picnic shelter reminds me of the Flintstones

He is Risen!

Today is Easter Sunday. On the first Easter, women went to Jesus grave early in the morning to attend to his body but find it gone – He was alive, he had risen from the dead. Early morning Tarpeian Rock, Leura Words to walk with: This anonymous poem from the 15th Century, set to choral music by Geoffrey Burgon in 1984 reflects on the mystery of Easter. A god and yet a man? A maid and yet a mother? Wit wonders what wit can Conceive this or the other. A god and can he die? A dead man, can he live? What wit can well reply? What reason reason give? God, truth itself, doth teach it. Man’s wit sinks too far under By reason’s power to reach it. Believe and leave to wonder.

Tarpeian Rock

Walking the other direction from Gordon Falls along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk I reached Tarpeian Rock, which is an interestingly grooved rock overlooking a sweeping valley view. Photo: Tarpeian Rock, Leura I looked up the web to find out what the original Tarpeian Rock was. It turns out to be another way the Ancient Romans executed criminals [see below] like crucifixion in yesterday’s post Words to walk with: From Wikipedia "The Tarpeian Rock (rupes Tarpeia) was a steep cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum in Ancient Rome. It was used during the Roman Republic as an execution site. Murderers and traitors, if convicted by the quaestores parricidii, were flung from the cliff to their deaths. Those who had a mental or significant physical disability also suffered the same fate as they were thought to have been cursed by the Gods."

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. This is the day when we remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Photo: Crosses on property by the highway in Lawson Words to walk with: The account of the crucifixion of Jesus from Luke 23 in the Holy Bible – New International Version [Pilate the Roman governer asked] "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him." But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand … and surrendered Jesus to their will. … Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." … The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at

Lyrebird Dell

Continuing along the path from Gordon Falls picnic area Lyrebird Dell is reached. Here there is large cliff overhang which today is grassy spot with picnic tables but has a history of aboriginal occupation from 14,000 years ago. I took a rest here before retracing my steps. Photo: Lyrebird Dell, Leura an aboriginal occupation site Words to walk with: From Bora Ring by Judith Wright one of Australia's best loved poets. “The hunter is gone: the spear is splintered underground; the painted bodies a dream the world breathed sleeping and forgot. The nomad feet are still.”

Blue Mountains Ash

Climbing up from the Pool of Siloam and further along the track, beautiful tall Blue Mountains Ash trees grow by the path. The bark strips from these trees in ribbons, to reveal a smooth silvery grey trunk. Photo: Blue Mountains Ash, Leura Words to walk with: From signage supplied by the local bushcare group. “Blue Mountains Ash ( Eucalyptus oreades ) is a common tall tree in sheltered sites in the Upper Blue Mountains. Blue Mountains Ash grows in sheltered moist sites with deeper soils that allow the development of large roots to support their height. Surrounding slopes protect them from strong winds. You will often see colonies of young trees about the same age which have regenerated from seed after the bush fire. If fires are too frequent these trees do not have time to set seed and numbers will decline.”

Pool of Siloam

I have moved on to doing walks around Leura and will cover these over the next few days. From Gordon Falls picnic area there is a pleasant track that starts in the dry forest and descends into the rain forest (by more steps than I like) down to the Pool of Siloam. Photo: Pool of Siloam, Leura Words to walk with: John 9:1-7 from the Holy Bible – New International Version "As he [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life … Having said this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. Go, he told him, wash in the Pool of Siloam (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."

Immense Gulf

Darwin’s Walk ends at the top of Wentworth Falls. (I showed the falls in my post of 7 March 2007 and the view from the escarpment on 8 March 2007 . Click on the date links for a reminder of how grand the view is from different angles.) Even though I have seen the view many many times I still gasp with wonder when I see it. Photo: Cliff near Wentworth Falls Words to walk with: Charles Darwin describes his experience of seeing this view for the first time in the The Voyage of the Beagle "An immense gulf unexpectedly opens through the trees which border the pathway, at the depth of perhaps 1500 feet. Walking on a few yards, one stands on the brink of a vast precipice, and below one sees a grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest. The point of view is situated as if at the head of a bay, the line of cliff diverging on each side, and showing headland behind headland, as on a bold sea-coast. These cliffs are composed of horizont

Weeping Rock

Towards the end of Darwin’s Walk, just before arriving at the escarpment, the water oozes over weeping rock. Photo: Weeping Rock, Wentworth Falls Words to walk with: “Weeping Rock” I love it … such a descriptive name.