Time stands still in the Daintree Rainforest

There’s nothing like a place that hasn’t changed in 130 million years. And why should it? The Daintree Rainforest is pretty much perfect as it is.

Described as the ‘land that time forgot’, the primeval World Heritage-listed Daintree forests are the world’s oldest at 135 million years as well as the largest continuous area of rainforest on the Australian mainland.

A lush tropical paradise that hosts more than 3000 plant species (many still being discovered); one-fifth of Australia’s known bird species, including the endangered Southern Cassowary (who number less in the wild than Giant Pandas) and around 60 percent of Australia’s butterfly species – all this diversity can be found an area that takes up just a tiny bit of the whole continent.

Daintree RainforestNo less than 13 different rainforest types have been identified here, many of which may well hold the secret to unanswered questions about the origins of flowering plants – plants on which we humans depend for life.

One in particular, commonly known as the Idiot Fruit (Idiospermum australiense) and thought extinct, was arguably Australia’s most significant botanical find. Then there’s the ‘Wait-A-While’ plant (Calamus Muelleri) (for obvious reasons also known as the Lawyer Plant) whose thorn-covered tendrils reach out to trap unsuspecting passers-by.

Boat tour Daintree RainforestCruise along the mysterious waterways of the crocodile-infested Daintree River, trek through a pure ecosystem or fly through the trees on flying fox zip lines for a bird’s-eye view.

If you’re game, arm yourself with a flashlight and talk a night walk through the jungle. That’s when the animals stir and the forest really comes to life.

So if you’ve ever wondered what the world looked like way back when, head to the Daintree Rainforest. You’d be an ‘Idiot’ to ‘Wait a While’ longer. It’s an Australian icon.

Magic and history of Sydney’s iconic harbour islands

The magic and history of Sydney’s iconic harbour islands will be showcased during a series of events celebrating  nature and culture throughout October.

Sydney Harbour Island Hopping gave people unique access to the spectacular harbour islands of Sydney Harbour National Park via one looped tour, with tailored entertainment and experiences on each.

“People loved the idea of spending the day cruising from one island to the next,” said National Parks and Wildlife Service Head, Sally Barnes.

“For the first time this year, the Sydney Harbour Island Hopping program will include food experiences on all of the islands and a visit to the newly reopened Goat Island.”

First stop on the looped tour – which will run each Saturday and Sunday from 9 – 24 October, the experience on Goat Island will pay tribute to its colonial past, with visitors getting a taste of life in the 1830s, complete with convicts, food and music from the era.

Shark Island will be a highlight for the kids, who will enjoy becoming ‘Future Rangers’ and visiting the Kid’s Cafe, while everyone can experience Sydney Harbour’s Aboriginal heritage and sample traditional bush tucker as part of the Aboriginal cultural experience on Clark.

Sydney Harbour's Aboriginal heritage

The popular Perfect Picnic will also return in 2010 offering a fantastic way to finish the long weekend on Monday 4 October. With picnickers invited to dress to impress and prizes awarded for the best picnic spreads and costumes, Perfect Picnic is the ultimate place to spend the afternoon relaxing with friends, complete with DJ and 360 degree harbour views.

Fort Denison Sydney HarbourFort Denison will feature in this year’s program as a stand-out, stand alone lunch and dinner experience in one of the most coveted dining locations in Sydney. Looking out from the Harbour’s sandstone sentinel, diners will be treated to an Australiana menu inspired by local produce and ingredients.

Dining on Fort Denison will run each Saturday and Sunday from 9 – 24 October and will include a guided tour of the island’s historic Martello Tower (the last of its kind in Australia), ferry transfers to and from the island and a sparkling wine welcome drink on arrival.

Sydney Harbour Island Hopping is a part of Crave Sydney International Food Festival, offering 31 days of extraordinary food experiences.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival offers something for everyone – large scale food events; intimate dinners cooked by some of the world’s leading chefs; authentic food experiences across Sydney’s culturally diverse suburbs; and family and free activities on and around Sydney Harbour Bridge and islands.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival is one of five anchor events on the NSW Master Events Calendar created by Events NSW on behalf of NSW Government.

Further information and tickets are available through

The glory of steam, Pansy, the Camden tram

One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden tram, affectionately known as ‘Pansy’.

It has always had an enthusiastic bunch of supporters. They positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell Pansy stories to anyone who wants to listen.

Fans gloss over its short comings.  All the stories are laced with a pinch of nostalgia and a touch of the romantic. It was a vital part of local life. So why does this old locomotive conjure up such a strident bunch of supporters?

Pansy Train 1917 Camden NSWSteam engines and locomotives bring back memories  of the glory days of industrialization and the great days of Australian nationalism in the late Victorian and early 20th century. Great monstrous  engines that hissed, spat and groaned.

They were mighty machines that were living beings. They had a life and soul of their own. They were responsible for creating the wealth of the British Empire. And Pansy is part of that story.

Pansy 1915 crossing the Nepean River on its entry to Camden NSWThe Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963.

The Camden tram was one of a number of standard gauge light rail lines in the Sydney area.  The tank locomotive worked a mixed service that took freight and passengers.

The branch line was thirteen kilometres and had eight stations after leaving Campbelltown station, where it joined the Main Southern Railway. The stations were Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran’s Hill, Narellan, Graham’s Hill, Kirkham, Elderslie and finally arriving at Camden.

Most of the stations were no more than a short rudimentary wooden platform with a shelter shed that were unmanned.  Others like Camden had a longer platform and an associated goods handling facility.

Pansy 1963 on its last run
Pansy 1963 on its last run

Pansy was a regular part of daily life for those who lived near the line. Locals in the Camden township would listen for the loco’s whistle and know that the morning papers had arrived from Sydney.

Legend has it that the engine driver would hold the train for regulars who were running  late for work on their way to the city, especially local lasses.

Some of Camden’s better off families sent their children to high school at Parramatta and Homebush each morning on the train. Pansy  would chug past the milk factory at  the entry to Camden township as local dairy farmers were unloading their cans of milk from their horse and dray.

Tourists from Sydney would be dropped off on Friday afternoon at Camden station to be bused to their holiday boarding houses in Burragorang Valley.
The first passenger service left Camden station left at 5.47am to connect with the Sydney service on the Main Southern Line.

On the return journey the last passenger service from Campbelltown left at 9.44pm.  During the Second World War the tram provided transport for many servicemen (Army, RAAF) who were based at local military establishments.

Airmen from Camden airfield would catch the train to Sydney for weekend leave, and would be joined by soldiers from Narellan military base and Studley Park Eastern Command Training School.

Camden station and good yards were located adjacent to Edward Street, with a siding to the Camden Vale milk factory. Coal from the Burragorang Valley mines was loaded at Camden yard from 1937, although this was transferred to Narellan in 1941 and eventually the Main Southern Line at Glenlee into the late 1950s. But even by the 1940s the limitations of the line for caring freight were showing cracks.

From its enthusiastic opening the tram never really lived up to its predictions. The mixed goods and passenger service was of limited value. Its light gauge restricted the loads and the grade of the line, particularly over Kenny Hill, severely limited its capabilities.  Even in 1939 there were already signs of the eventual demise of the branch line with more coal leaving the district by road than rail.

Its days were numbered and the writing was on the wall. Its death blow was delivered by the Heffron ALP Government in 1963 as a cost cutting exercise and a drive from modernization of the railway system across the state. Diesel was the new god.

For current enthusiasts with a keen eye there are remnants of the embankments and cuttings for the narrow gauge line still visible in the area. As visitors leave the Camden township travelling north along Camden Valley Way (old Hume Highway) embankments, culverts and earthworks are still visible in the farm paddocks on the Nepean River floodplain.

You can make out the right of way  as it crosses Kirkham Lane and heads  towards Narellan before disappearing into a housing estate. For those with a sharp eye a cutting is still  evident on the northern side of Narellan Road at Kenny Hill just as you take then entry ramp onto the freeway going to Sydney.

It appears as a bench  above the roadway and is evident for a short distance. (for details  see Peter Mylrea, ‘Camden-Campbelltown Railway’, Camden History March 2009, p. 254-263).

A number of streets in Curran’s Hill are connected to the history of Pansy. Tramway Drive is close to the route of the train and a number of other streets are named after past railway employees, for example, Paddy Miller. The Camden Community Band celebrates the legend of Pansy in their repertoire. They play a tune called The Camden Tram written by Buddy Williams a Camden resident of the 1960s.

Are you interested in seeing the real deal? Do you want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself? Go and inspect the real Pansy:  ‘the steam locomotive 2029 and a small composite multi-class carriage’. They are on display at the New South Wales Transport Museum
Barbour Rd Thirlmere NSW 2572 (02) 4681 8001

Images courtesy of the Camden Historical Society
Written by Ian Willis member of Professional Historians Association NSW.

The Camden Community Band has recently added the tune ‘The Camden Train’ to its repertoire. The lyrics tell an interesting story about Pansy, the locomotive. It was written by Camden local Buddy Williams about the time of the last run on of the train in 1963. More Details

Painting The Rocks: the loss of Old Sydney

Museum of Sydney
Saturday 7 August — Sunday 28 November, 2010

Against the backdrop of slum clearances, wharf rebuilding and debates about working-class living conditions, a group of artists set out to capture ‘Old Sydney’ before it disappeared in the city’s transition to a modern metropolis.

The first decades of the 20th century saw countless buildings from our colonial past torn down and whole streets disappear as Sydneysiders embraced the march of progress.

Rocks Sydney NSW PaintingRemarkably, in the midst of this change a conservation movement began to arise.

Giving voice to the people who worked and lived in The Rocks, this exhibition places the often romantic and sentimental 1902 artists’ paintings alongside the stark realities of government-commissioned photography, inspection reports and remodelling plans.

A joint initiative of the Historic Houses Trust and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

Location: Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney NSW 2000
On the site of First Government House
Contact: 02 9251 5988
Admission:Adult $10, Child/Concession $5, Family $20
Members of the Historic Houses Trust free
Hours: Daily 9.30am — 5pm

At the Museum of Sydney you will meet our city’s first people, inspect models of the First Fleet ships and peer at the archaeological remains of first Government House and the intriguing objects uncovered by a number of digs on the site. Fast forward through 200 years and you will learn about the distinctiveness of this great city, its harbour, transport, people and particular personality via a changing exhibitions program.

Image credit: Clyde Street [detail], Sydney Long, c 1901. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Call no: ML 319. © Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

Heritage & Culture Tourism Awards: Greater Sydney NSW

Greater Sydney Tourism Awards are an opportunity for tourism operators of attractions and businesses to gain an insight into their industry, their business, achieve recognition for their success and promote tourism within their region. The Greater Sydney Tourism Awards are awarded via a rigorous and fair assessment and judging process.

The winners of the Heritage & Cultural Category were:

  • Gold: Hawkesbury Regional Museum
    Hawkesbury Regional MuseumThe museum comprises a new, purpose-built construction at 8 Baker Street, Windsor, and the heritage building known as Howes House at 7 Thompson Square.Together they form a unique cultural facility offering a high-quality museum experience.As well as a permanent exhibition on the themes River, Land, People, the museum offers a program of changing temporary and travelling exhibitions on a wide variety of subjects.
  • Silver: Ebenezer Church
    Ebenezer Church NSWOverlooks the Hawkesbury River in a rural/bushland area that is 12km from the township of Windsor.Built in 1809, Ebenezer Church is the oldest existing church in Australia. It became the first Presbyterian Church in Australia in 1824.
  • Bronze: Elizabeth Farm
    Elizabeth Farm Parramatta NSWAustralia’s oldest surviving homestead – you can wander freely through the old house and garden as if you were its original occupants.There are no barriers, locked doors, fragile furniture or untouchable ornaments in this unique, ‘access all areas’ house museum and experience the history.

Old Great North Road: World Heritage

The Old Great North Road is a nationally significant example of major public infrastructure developed using convict labour. Situated in its unaltered natural bushland setting, the Old Great North Road is the best surviving example of an intact convict-built road with massive structural works, which remains undisturbed by later development.

Convict RelicIt demonstrates the isolated and harsh conditions in which the convict road building gangs lived and laboured for months at a time. The Old Great North Raod is listed as part of the Australian Convict Site on the World Heritage List.

The Great North Road, surveyed in 1825 and completed in 1836, was constructed using convict labour. Up to 720 convicts – some in chains – worked on the road, which spanned 264 km, connecting Sydney to the settlements of the Hunter Valley.

It features spectacular and beautifully preserved examples of stonework, including buttresses, culverts, bridges and twelve metre high retaining walls.

Unfortunately the road was not popular. It was isolated, had no permanent watercourses, and bypassed existing settlements. By 1836, as the few remaining convict gangs were completing the last northern sections of the road, it had been almost entirely abandoned as a route to the Hunter Valley. Coastal steamers became the preferred mode of travel and transportation.

The Great North RoadOnly 43 km of the road remains undeveloped and relatively intact. Running through and alongside Dharug National Park and Yengo National Park, this section has been named the Old Great North Road. It goes from Wisemans Ferry in the south to Mount Manning (near Bucketty) in the north, and includes the oldest surviving stone bridges in mainland Australia. The road is closed to motor vehicles, but makes a great walk over two or three days – or an exhilarating day’s cycle.

Relics such as stone retaining walls, wharves, culverts, bridges and buttresses can still be seen along the entire length of the Great North Road – in Sydney suburbs like Epping and Gladesville, at Wisemans Ferry or Wollombi, Bucketty or Broke, or when walking in Dharug and Yengo National Parks.

Although the road is closed to vehicles, it can be walked or cycled.

If you have a few hours up your sleeve, you can follow the original ascent of the Old Great North Road from Wisemans Ferry up Finchs Line. You can combine this with a walk up Devines Hill to complete a loop track of about 9 km, (including a 2 km walk along Wisemans Ferry Road). The track offers spectacular views over the Hawkesbury River, and allows you to compare the construction work on both ascents.

This walk really gives you a feel of the blood, sweat and tears that convict road gangs endured in constructing the road. Although some of these convicts were shackled in leg irons, escape was easy for many. The fact that the road was completed – and in only eight years – shows that these men were skilled, diligent and interested enough to stay on the job.

Full range of walking and cycling tracks

Heritage walks around Sydney

Having arrived in Australia it’s time to stretch your legs. There are plenty of city walking tours on offer, and lots of opportunities to explore magnificent walking tracks free of crowds.

The Rocks Sydney NSW

In Sydney, start off by exploring the historic Rocks area of the city with Rocks Walking Tours.

The Rocks is considered to be the birthplace of European Australia. It’s packed with heritage buildings, boutiques, restaurants, and traditional pubs and tales of old-time convicts, pickpockets, and press-ganged sailors.

Unusual tours of the area include searching for ghosts, and exploring some of the city’s most atmospheric pubs on The Rocks Pub Tour.

One can also pick up some of the 12 self-guided historical walking tour brochures produced by the City of Sydney. Each brochure introduces you to a different area of the city and different aspects of Sydney’s fascinating history.

These self-guided historical walking tour brochures have been developed by the City of Sydney History Program to introduce you to different aspects of Sydney’s fascinating history.

Each brochure features a clear map of the walk with numbered points of interest, detours and museum stops suggested along the way. Each tour takes approximately 1 to 2 hours. More Details

Visitors to Sydney are usually amazed at all the greenery surrounding the famous harbour. In other parts of the world this ‘prime real estate’ would have been developed long ago, but here most of it is protected by the Sydney Harbour National Park.

There are several self-guided walks through the park. One of these is the 1.4km (0.9 mile) South Head Heritage Trail, known for its sandstone cliffs, historic fortifications, and sweeping views. You’ll see different angles of the harbour from a variety of lookouts on this track, which starts from Camp Cove in Watsons Bay.

Another lesser-known track is the 5km (3 mile) Bradleys Head and Chowder Head Walk. This starts near the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf and follows the shoreline through eucalypt forests. As well as spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House, you can see some of the historic cannons that once defended Sydney.

The 17km (10.5 mile) Manly Scenic Walkway offers more panoramic lookouts across Sydney Harbour. The trail takes in beaches, Aboriginal sites, community parks, forests, scrubland and even pockets of subtropical rainforest.

Among Sydney’s most challenging scenic tracks is the Coast Walk. The 26km (16 mile) walking trail spans the entire east coast of the Royal National Park from Bundeena to Otford. Experienced walkers can do it in one day, but it’s best completed in two. You will need camping equipment and plenty of water.

The walk leaves from Bundeena in Sydney’s south and takes in deserted beaches, coastal heathland, pockets of rainforest, and dramatic cliff tops. You can often spot whales during their annual migration. You can get to Bundeena from the surf-side suburb of Cronulla onboard the little M.V. Curranulla ferry. In 2009 this boat celebrated 70 years on the Cronulla to Bundeena ferry run. She remains the oldest commuter ferry in Australia working a regular timetable.

On Sydney’s western fringe you will find the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage-listed site containing plenty of marked walking trails ranging from easy strolls through dripping rainforest and around dramatic canyon rims, to adventurous hikes through the wilderness.

Historic lighthouse on Crookhaven Headland

Shoalhaven City Council has welcomed the announcement of $100,000 in funding from the NSW Minister for Lands Tony Kelly to help upgrade the historic lighthouse on Crookhaven Headland.

Acting Shoalhaven City Mayor Councillor Gareth Ward welcomed the funding for one of the city’s old lighthouses.

“I believe this funding will help to bring a new lease of life to a historic reminder that the Shoalhaven was a thriving city where ships would ply produce and timber up and down the coast,” Clr Ward said. “The city provided produce to Sydney and the Shoalhaven River was a significant access point for goods to be taken to Sydney.

“Council has been in discussions with the NSW government departments on the lighthouse and its future,” Clr Ward said. “This project has taken a lot of hard work by Council staff and also negotiations with the relevant NSW government departments.

“As far back as 2006 Council has offered the Department of Lands support for heritage funding to preserve the lighthouse and to consider interpretive and educational signage associated with the lighthouse and its proud history.”

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse
Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

The original lighthouse at Crookhaven Heads was constructed of timber in 1882 and located as part of the Shoalhaven Pilot Station with a Mr. Thomas Bishop being the first operator. 

A new lighthouse to the south of the mouth of the Shoalhaven River was built in 1904 and the old wooden lighthouse was demolished. 

The walk around the headland adjacent to the historical lighthouse follows a well-developed track and provides good views of the whole of the Crookhaven Bight and Shoalhaven River.

Old photo of Ulladulla Lighthouse
Ulladulla Lighthouse

In October 2007 Minister Kelly provided $60,000 to fund the restoration of the lighthouse at Warden Head in Ulladulla. This lighthouse is also on the Council’s Local Heritage Register.

In January 2007 Council voted $11,870 to improve view lines and walking track to the Crookhaven Headland lighthouse.

In April 2008 Council wrote to the then Minister for Lands seeking support for funding for the restoration of the lighthouse. Council again wrote in July 2008 requesting funding.

Council also applied for funding from the Federal Government’s Department of Environment, Heritage and Arts Jobs Fund in October 2009, but was unsuccessful.

The lighthouse sits on land owned and managed by the NSW Land & Property Management Authority. Council is the Trustee Manager of the land which forms the headland, but not the lighthouse. Council has a plan of management for Crookhaven Headland, with Council maintaining the path, track and vegetation.

restoration of Crookhaven lighthouseThe lighthouse was commissioned in 1904 and replaced a wooden structure about 200 metres away on the beach. The lighthouse incorporates the lantern from the former lighthouse on Cape St George which dates back to 1863.

June 2010 photo: NSW Minister for Lands Tony Kelly is joined with Councillor John Ferguson, General Manager Russ Pigg and South Coast Register Editor John Hanscombe to inspect the Crookhaven lighthouse.

Illawarra Museum

Long before the Illawarra Historical Society had anywhere to house its collection of moveable objects relating to Illawarra region and its pioneers, the society members had worked hard since the formation in 1944 to collect artifacts.

The hard work of the members came to fruition on 2 December, 1966 when the society opened the doors of Illawarra Museum at 11 Market Street, Wollongong.

Illawarra Museum At first the society had only access to the ground floor. By 1969 the society had the use of the whole building. Over the years the main building has remained unchanged.

The Museum committee has fitted out and maintained the exhibits on display. On the upper level is a parlor, bedroom and a schoolroom.

The ground floor has a craft room, and two rooms known as the East Room and the West Room. These are used for changing displays and traveling exhibitions.

Illawarra Museum The courtyard has a colonial kitchen, laundry, blacksmith’s shop, air raid shelter, stockman’s hut and a farm implement shed.

At the official opening of the building the then President Mr. Edgar Beale said “. The unsmooth course of true love is notorious and the same applies when the love is of a display of history.

”To really appreciate the collection one must visit the Museum.”

Illawarra Historical Society Inc. Illawarra Museum
11 Market St, Wollongong 2500 
Phone: (02) 4228 7770 or (02) 4228 0158