Wednesday 30 September 2020

Winter Wanderings Series: Woolloomooloo Bay

View from Rose Bank villa, Darlinghurst into Woolloomooloo Bay
Conrad Martens, 1840

We have a final tour to take today, Dear Reader, to complete the trio of bays which encircle the Urban Island we Pipistrellos call home, where most of the winter perambulations have taken place, and which has the most colourful name of all, viz., Woolloomooloo. The 311 bus will obligingly descend the hill to the waterfront but, as we are wandering, we necessarily must tackle stairs. But let us pause first to take in the surprising modern view.

Hullo, Sailor!

Your eyes do not deceive you. This is indeed our local naval base, HMAS Kuttabul, a.k.a. Garden Island, seen from Embarkation Park, which is itself atop the Navy carpark built alongside the cliff face. There are perhaps not many cities about where a deep-water harbour shelters a working navy in almost full view of residents, tourists and plenty of opportunistic seagulls. Not to mention the similarly shrieking, St Trinian's-styled Catholic schoolgirls in the Convent school we have to dodge to enter said park.

Busy, busy on the bay.
The city just yonder.

The Navy is a reasonably companionable neighbour, and often plays host to visiting, non-nuclear-powered ships, (but not since the Plague descended, obv.), so sailors of all colours and stripes are seen in our local shops and cafés when they come ashore. I have seen a sign at the gate to declare Photography Verboten, however benches in the park where these photos were taken give you a perfect vantage.

The restored wharf now home to a luxury hotel and apartments.

And neither can the residents and visitors to the Finger Wharf above resist their even closer view. I gather that there is a nuisance factor for the residents who live closest to the action in the form of hopeless radio and television reception, which is disturbed by the goings on, and when there is a particularly stinky, old ship idling with its engines humming, For No Good Reason, the pong requires us to close our windows if the wind brings it our way, but the general colour & movement makes for a rather unique neighbourhood.

 Sali Herman, 1944
Taking some artistic license with the scale of the McElhone Stairs

The circa 1902 McElhone Stairs, adjacent to Embarkation Park, bring us to sea level in 113 steps, and we are but moments away from the gentrified, timber Finger Wharf which is a the latest incarnation of Woolloomooloo's marine character.

Another Conrad Martens view of Rosebank, 1840
Where yakking over the backyard fence was already in vogue

The gardens and villas built in the early nineteenth century around the picturesque horseshoe bay, to a lofty plan specified by the then Governor of the Colony* to be both encouragement and rebuke to the grotty convicts in the next cove, gave way through subdivision to more workers cottages and boarding houses when a proper wharf was constructed. And as is the way of such places, in no time the fishing and coastal shipping trading which sprang up brought their own support industries like pubs and brothels and gaming houses. And lo!, there goeth the neighbourhood.

Original fish market, 1892

Of course, slums and gangs and occasional outbreaks of plagues and pestilence subsequently furnished most of the headlines for the area until the buildings were razed, the fish market was moved elsewhere and the Finger Wharf was built to unify the chaos of the small wharves during the Edwardian era. 

Troops ready for embarkation, 1916

After which, it settled down for a while to just a regular old shabby and impoverished area, notable for being the embarkation point for soldiers heading to war from the Boer War on, the landing point for the twentieth century immigrants arriving before the advent of affordable air travel, and, of course, a major dispatch point for the country's wool export, whose various baling paraphernalia are still found decorating the interior of the newly renovated wharf.

Here be dragons! Of the steel chain variety.
Mike Van Dam, 2015

Which is where we are today. The wharf is now home to an up-market hotel, fancy apartments where such glitterati as the likes of Russell Crowe** may be found living, an attendant marina, and a row of very expensive, waterfront restaurants. And while the gentlemen and naval sailors may not be the reliably pugilistic crowd as could be found in times past, they and the millionaires now living on the water have certainly lifted the tone of Woolloomooloo Bay again.

Which reminds me, we were happy with the Game of Thrones denouement,
Even if it went a bit rogue from the books ... Still waiting, G.R.R.M!

More stairs, such as those behind our dragon, who mysteriously moved to guard them this winter, lead directly up to the western flank of the bay where we find the Art Gallery of New South Wales cheek by jowl with the Royal Botanical Gardens and our nearest outdoor swimming pool, the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, and Mrs Macquarie's Chair (for another day).

The pool on a sunny pre-plague day,
Where the narrow bay can be monitored (or ignored) by all comers

And to complete a wander that seems longer in the reading than the walking, we can head back home, more or less retracing our steps. As there is slightly less vigour required, we'll bypass the McElhone Stairs and take instead the 1882 Butler Stairs, with their mere 103 sandstone steps, as we can wave a cheery Hullo! to J&P who live at their foot, and they deposit us slightly closer to the roost.

The Butler Stairs and view across Woolloomooloo to the City,
Frederic Schell wood engraving, 1892

* One Ralph Darling, who will make a future appearance around these pages, as he lends his quaint name quite liberally around the 'hood.

** Or has he moved? I do not know. I rub shoulders with such as he, not!

Image credits: 1, 5: National Gallery of Australia; 2-4, 9-11: Flying With Hands; 6, 7: State Library NSW; 8: via Flickr; 12: Internet Archive

Thursday 24 September 2020

Winter Wanderings Series: Rushcutters Bay

Looking down into Rushcutters Bay,
With the wilds of Darling Point beyond.

It was a modest little outing we last took, perambulating around Elizabeth Bay. The result, really, of so much of the foreshore's inaccessibility to mere plebeians. To see more of some waterfront and to make a better impression upon our smart(alec)phone pedometers, we need to continue on much where we left off and head down into Rushcutters Bay where, Dear Reader, parklands encircle and we plebs can skip about.

Rushcutters Bay one winter's day in 1937.
About fifty years after the parklands were inaugurated, it still looks a bit bare.

The marshland rushes for which it was named by the first convict settlers are gone, as are the vegetable market gardens which supplied the colonial settlement for around fifty years in the mid-1800s*. It's all a bit more solid under foot now, as land was reclaimed and a sandstone seawall enclosed it all before 1900.

People? Dogs? Where for art ye?
Falsely advertised, in this instance.

Ah, Tatiana Riabouchinska of Colonel de Basil's Original Ballets Russes
Will have to demonstrate the park's amenity, circa 1938-40.

On most any given day, it will be filled with People & Dogs alternating between indolence and vigour, as it provides for much of the recreation for Sydney's most densely populated peninsula on one side (and which some of us refer to as The Island) and a slightly posher class of urban dweller** on the other. 

Clivias putting on a show these days
Under a Moreton Bay Chestnut - Castanospermum australe.

A clump of Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow - Brunfelsia pauciflora -
Doing its spring-time thing.

We come down into the parkland from the west, where it's a bit more formalised and flowerbeds underplant the mature trees, providing more of a garden feel for the neighbouring apartments.

The Reg Bartlett Oval & Grandstand.
The tennis courts are beside and beyond.

A rather large Moreton Bay Fig specimen - Ficus macrophylla -
With a 28m diameter span, apparently.

The cricket oval and grandstand date back to around the time of the park's inauguration in the late 1800s.

Another glimpse of tennis courts, where Brother can these days be found on a Friday afternoon,
Behind which lies the clubhouse and café.

And the tennis courts have been going strong since the 1920s, when they replaced the earlier croquet lawns that have evidently gone out of vogue. I won't distract you at this juncture to say that to turn right, this way heads to Aldi!, but this is a shopping-free zone, according to my blog's creed, so try to contain any excitement and let us head instead to the waterfront by taking the leftmost path.

High tide in the harbour looking east.

The eastern point of Elizabeth Bay is seen to the left, behind which is Beare Park.

Extensive grassed areas lay beyond, where there is a popular kiosk
And playing fields materialise in the football seasons.

Hmmm ... Nanny State markings - there are lanes now!

Have you noticed there is a bit of a Theme going on?

Yes, it's a marina ... specifically, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia,
And starting point of the Boxing Day Yacht Race.
So we must skirt around it ...

Pausing briefly to admire some cups and medallions in the window,
Pass the chandlery and what-not ...

... Make a note of the handy clinic, if need be,
Making use of the old Naval drill halls ...

... And skirt past assorted launching ramps and paraphernalia
Left over from the former Naval Base at this site and the Olympics in 2000.

After which we can continue on our merry way into Yarranabbe Park, which runs along the eastern flank of the bay, following our sturdy sandstone seawall.

The fenced tree is a closely guarded replacement for a previous fig tree,
Scandalously poisoned by Person/s Unknown, seeking an improvement in their View! 

I think it was this general thing they were wanting to see to a more fulsome degree.

Looking back into Rushcutters Bay,
We see Oceana on the far right, marking the edge of Elizabeth Bay.

And this is the end of the path,
The park, and the eastern edge of Rushcutters Bay.

So now all that remains is to turn around and head back to the buildings in the distance, where lies Home!

* Not to mention the many Aboriginal people who called this home for around 6000 years.

** Darling Point, of which I speak, marks the beginning of what is loosely referred to as The Eastern Suburbs, and has a whole other medley of flavours and connotations of its own, and is for another day.

Image credits: 2: via Flickr; 4: State Library NSW; all else: Flying With Hands

Sunday 20 September 2020

Winter Wanderings Series: Elizabeth Bay

Edmund Dulac, 1911
nota bene: The Snow Queen has never visited Sydney in Winter

The Winter season has come and gone and the capriciousness of Spring is upon us. Our central heating was switched off several days ago, a little earlier than previous years, so the ups and downs of the temperatures may see us shivering for a couple of nights before things settle down. Fear not, Dear Reader, we aren't likely to be caught in a snowdrift around the Pipistrello roost. The winter doona is still on the bed, as is the wooly coat on the Oaken Armchair, and the temperatures we contemplate are positively laughable to anyone in, say, Canada. A Warm Temperature Climate makes for complete softies!

Gustaf Fjæstad, 1947
Neither would have GF find inspiration in our Winters

There was a time, seemingly long, long ago, when we may have decamped from the frozen steppes of Sydney for a week or two chasing something warmer, but this year was different, insofar as it being mostly mild, my not feeling the cold so much as I, ahem, age, and anyways it being the Year of the Plague.

Early Colonial allotment map of the
Three Bays flanking our 'Hood 

Today I thought to show you around my neighbourhood, where all of the winter wanderings of 2020 have taken place. So settle in for some armchair travelling of a distinctly local kind: Elizabeth Bay.

Elizabeth Bay House
Presently closed but the seats afford good views
 and some shade from the winter sun

View of Elizabeth Bay from the porch
Magnolias still putting on a show in this pic

Iris now in bloom around the pond

The closest park for taking some air, a book and a blanket is the last remnant of the original land surrounding the 1839 estate house for which our suburb is named, Elizabeth Bay House, built in the Colonial Regency style and now a museum. We call it the Fish Park, owing to the many healthy koi  carp in the pond, a.k.a. Arthur McElhone Reserve. No feeding allowed!*

A small and popular park
With park benches and lawn on which to loll

The magnolias are finished
And the frangipane leaves starting to bud ...
... But the azaleas, meanwhile,
Are going Nuts!

Stepping out of this park, we swing past the 1928 Spanish Mission des-res apartments, Del Rio:

The discreet back face of Del Rio,
Conceals lush gardens, swimming pool and harbour jetty

We walk a mere street's length (although there's naught mere about this veritable Millionaire's Row) to our next park, situated right on the water, replete with marina and café. Billyard Avenue is bookended by Del Rio and another 1926 Spanish Mission showcase, Boomerang**, on the harbour side, with red-bricked Art Deco apartment blocks facing the Millionaires on the other.

A tantalising glimpse of the Moorish design
Within the gentleman's residence Boomerang

A peek past the Italianate apartments Alabama,
To a corner of Boomerang
Just need to admire these poinsettias first

And we've arrived in Beare Park,
Giving us another view of Elizabeth Bay

The point between Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay
Where sits the 1961 Bauhaus apartment block, Oceana

The café at the Marina affords us a view
Of housework of a different kind.
The greenery in the distance is The Zoo

Victorian-era cast-iron Drinking Fountain detail
Exhorts us to Keep the Pavement Dry

Then back up the hill and we're home and hosed. We can do the loop around Elizabeth Bay passing the two parks at a brisk clip in well under half an hour, but there's never any reason to rush. There has been a hatching of puppies in the area and the parks are dog-friendly, and four-legged residents need admiring. There are roses to stop and smell and lots of interesting architecture along the way, grand and modest and everything in between. Art deco features strongly and we're mostly in tiny apartments and the majority of us don't get a view or our own outdoor space, so we count our blessing every day for living within skipping distance to our bay's parks in Sydney Harbour.

* Last year there was a late night robbery of many of the carp by some allegedly Chinese, shady underworld characters. I cannot say if the present residents were recovered from their ordeal or are replacements but there was a lot of tchh-ing about the Incident by the two-legged residents of the 'hood.

** A house that get's its own Wikipedia page!

Image credits: 1,2: Wikimedia Commons; 11: via Pinterest; all else: Flying With Hands

Bats In The Belfry