Glow Worms and Waterfalls

A few weeks ago a friend in Hazelbrook invited me to see some glow worms near her house. I had never seen glow worms so I was very keen for the new experience. We met at the end of Alexander Avenue where the walk to Horseshoe Falls begins. It was just getting dark and it was winter cold so we had on our thick jackets as well as torches to light the way. Within a few minutes we could hear water cascading and not long after that we saw a path off to the left with a sign to Horseshoe Falls. We didn’t follow that. We kept to the right and headed further down the track until we reached a large rock overhang and a waterfall which I believe is Horseshoe Falls (the signs are a bit confusing!). At first we couldn’t see many glow worms but as darkness set in and our eyes adjusted, our bioluminescent friends started to light up the cave like little stars. It was mesmerising!

Glow worms are unique to Australia and New Zealand and prefer the dark, perpetually damp walls of caves, tunnels and rock overhangs. Glow worms are technically not worms but they are the larvae of predatory fungus gnats. At night they emit a glowing blue-green light from their abdomens attracting other insects for them to eat.

Apart from this cave in Hazelbrook there are other places in the Blue Mountains to observe glow worms including a canyon near Mount Tomah and a tunnel near Lithgow. In order to preserve these magical glowing larvae and their habitats, it is important to follow a few guidelines when visiting them:

  • Avoid shining any light directly on them, this includes torches and flash photography.
  • Keep as quiet as possible.
  • Don’t pollute the air, ground or water of their habitat.

After visiting the glow worms with my friend, I was keen to go back in the daylight and see more of the walk. I am glad I did because it is so beautiful, especially in the morning sunshine. I started down the track and turned left at the Horseshoe Falls sign this time and discovered some falls which I think are called Fairy Falls. Then I found my way back to Horseshoe Falls and the glow worm cave. I stayed there for a while to relax and daydream in the peaceful surroundings.

Just beyond Horseshoe Falls is a sizeable shelter crafted from sticks and bark. Very creative! I wonder who the builder is and if they ever come back to admire their handiwork.

I also discovered there were many more paths to follow and another two waterfalls (Oaklands and Burgess) to find but I had to get home. If only I had all day to go exploring! Ah, next time. Soon.

Pilgrim Inn

peregrine – Medieval Latin ‘peregrinus’ – traveller, pilgrim

Perhaps I should have been an archaeologist; I have a fascination with the ruins of old buildings. I like to imagine who constructed the buildings and who lived in them. I love the mystery!

The other day was I reading up on some Blue Mountains’ history and found out about the ruins of Pilgrim Inn at Blaxland. I was keen to see the ruins and I was surprised to learn that they were in a car park behind a fast food outlet in Blaxland (corner of Layton Avenue and Great Western Highway).

Next time I was driving past I pulled in to the car park to have a look. Sure enough, there was what remained of Pilgrim Inn; three crumbling stone walls propped up with metal brackets and the site surrounded by a fence.

The building seemed quite small but apparently it was originally part of a bigger complex. Seeing the ruins only intensified my curiosity so I went looking for more information and discovered quite a story.

This is what I found:

Pilgrim Inn was constructed on one of the first land grants in the Blue Mountains. In 1825 a 320 hectare site at Blaxland followed by an additional 640 hectare site at Glenbrook was granted to a man named Barnett Levey (1798-1837) who was New South Wales’ first Jewish free immigrant. He named his land Mount Sion Estate.

The dwelling and out buildings that later became Pilgrim Inn were built on Barnett Levey’s estate some time between 1825 and 1828 but it was not long before he became bankrupt. The site was sold to the sheriff, John Wood who subsequently leased it to James Evans. Pilgrim Inn was issued its first licence in 1830. It was the first inn west of Penrith in the Blue Mountains.

Pilgrim Inn was later bought by John Wascoe in 1857 and in 1869 it closed as an inn. The William Deane family bought the site in 1873 living there until a bushfire destroyed the buildings in 1968.

Even though Barnett Levey lived in the Blue Mountains for only a few years, he made a lasting mark on the Glenbrook area where his Mount Sion Estate was located. After he had bought the estate, John Wood made the following comments in a letter,

“The proposed new road cuts the waters of the Brook Kedron from the main body of the land. The road destroys or occupies the principal part of the good land in the Valley of Jehosophat through which it runs. The names seem ridiculous, but they were the names given by Mr. Barnett Levey before I purchased same.”

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/100972025

Although I can’t find any trace of the Valley of Jehosophat on current maps, many street names in the Glenbrook area such as Levy, Barnet, David, Tabor, Kedron, Carmel, Benjamin, Olivet, as well as Mount Sion Park are testament to Barnett Levey’s Jewish heritage and his brief time in the Blue Mountains.

Barnett Levey was an interesting man with a varied career and big dreams. He was a merchant, an auctioneer and later a jeweller, watchmaker and realtor. He is credited with opening the first lending library in New South Wales and he has been referred to as the ‘Father of Australian Theatre’. He bought a warehouse on the site of the current Dymocks Building in George Street, Sydney and lobbied Governor Darling to build a commercial theatre. In those days, the Governor’s consent was required for such ventures. Governor Darling was not keen. In the meantime Barnett Levey turned part of the warehouse into The Royal Hotel, a business to fund his theatre which he began building behind the hotel.

In 1832 Barnett Levey was granted the first theatre licence in the colony by Governor Darling’s replacement, Governor Bourke. In early October 1833, Barnett Levey finally opened his Theatre Royal and on Boxing Day that year, he organised the first professional performance of Shakespeare in Australia – a production of Richard III.

Unfortunately, Barnett Levey was not a great businessman and faced many challenges with his theatre.

Sick, tired and worn out by his efforts to make the theatre pay, Barnett Levey died on 2 October 1837, leaving a widow and four small children in poverty. Acknowledging his bold idealism, The Sydney Times, 21 October 1837, stated that:
‘to his spirit and perseverance are the public indebted for the introduction of theatricals into New South Wales’.

https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/australian-jewish-community-and-culture/arts-culture-barnett-levey

Unlike Pilgrim Inn, no ruins remain of Barnett Levey’s Theatre Royal. It was destroyed in a fire in 1840 and subsequently other buildings were constructed on the site.

Next time you are enjoying a stage play, spare a thought for our performing arts enthusiast, Barnett Levey, who fought so hard to bring theatre to the new colony. When you are driving around Glenbrook look for those street names harking back to his brief time in The Blue Mountains. If you feel a hankering for fast food at Blaxland, take a moment in the carpark to see the remains of Pilgrim Inn. Perhaps you will wonder like I did about all the stories those stones could tell.

Photographs of Pilgrim Inn before and after the 1968 bushfires can be found in the Blue Mountains City Library: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blue_mountains_library_-_local_studies/27091383856/in/photostream/

You can also see another photo here: http://collectionsearch.nma.gov.au/object/129969

I found all my information about Pilgrim Inn and Barnett Levey from these websites:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/100972025

https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/barnett_leveys_theatre_royal

https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/australian-jewish-community-and-culture/arts-culture-barnett-levey

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/levey-barnett-2352

https://www.bluemts.com.au/info/about/history/historic-blaxland/

https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/blaxland-20070815-gdkpyk.html

Madoline Glen

Madoline Glen (also called Birdwood Gully Round Walk) is one of my favourite bush walks. It is 2.6 km and takes about 45 minutes if you don’t stop along the way but there is plenty to explore so it usually takes us longer. It is a great walk for children because it has such variety. There are shallow creeks, bridges, stepping stones, caves, fallen trees, boardwalks rock overhangs, waterfalls, ferns, angophoras and a lovely grotto. It does get a bit soggy after a lot of rain but otherwise, it is an easy walk.

We usually start at the barely visible entrance to the walk on Bednal Road that leads down into the ferny gully. Before long we are surrounded by bird song, the gurgle of the water and towering trees. We often take a picnic because there are so many places to stop and relax.

I have many memories of my children complaining loudly at first about having to go for a walk but then having a wonderful time exploring the caves, spotting yabbies in the creeks and imagining along the way that they are having adventures in various fantasy worlds from books they had read. They don’t always enjoy the climb out that ends up on Lucinda Road but they always survive! Of course the walk can be done in reverse as well, starting on Lucinda Road, but either way there will be a bit of a climb out.

I like this walk because it is easy to fit into a morning or an afternoon and it is reasonably accessible. You can easily walk to it from Springwood Station or if you are driving, it is a simple turn off the Great Western Highway at Moorecourt Avenue, Springwood (and then left onto Bednal Road). If the walk has worked up an appetite there are plenty of cafés to check out afterwards in nearby Springwood.

As with any bush walk it is important to take drinking water, wear sturdy, covered shoes and take some first aid supplies. It is also a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be.

I hope you get to try this walk one day!

Shibui Bowls

The power of literature is evident in that a Japanese novelist who I never met instilled in me a love of pottery bowls. In high school I read Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata and was introduced to the Japanese concept of shibui in which a functional, ordinary, even old-fashioned household object is valued and admired for its simple beauty and subtle detail. In hindsight, I think this way of thinking was one of the precursors to my interest in simple living.

About ten years ago when pottery wasn’t considered to be that hip, I spotted a gorgeous blue bowl in an op shop. It was beautifully crafted and signed with the potter’s mark. It was only $5. It was a turning point. I became a restrained, discerning but enthusiastic bowl hunter. Over the next few months and years I developed a small but lovely collection.

To this day my shibui bowls bring me a great deal of quiet joy not only because I think they are beautiful but also because they are so functional. They are handcrafted and earthy. They are my partners in hospitality. They make my home feel warm and cosy.

What’s your shibui thing?

Michael Leunig

Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. His commentary on political, cultural and emotional life spans more than forty years and has often explored the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world. The fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world is a related and recurrent theme.

His newspaper work appears regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life.

Quoted from : http://leunig.com.au/

In 1999, Michael Leunig was declared an Australian Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. What a great decision! I have been a fan of Michael’s work for a while and a number of his books sit well-read on my bookshelf. Every New Year I buy his calendar and I also follow his instagram https://www.instagram.com/leunigstudio/?hl=en.

I noticed last month that The Sydney Film Festival 2019 featured a documentary called The Leunig Fragments about his life and work. It was directed by Kasimir Burgess. I was so disappointed to miss it and hope to see it one day. Here is a trailer:

Two years ago I had the privilege of seeing Michael Leunig in concert with Katie Noonan at the Sydney Opera House. It was called Gratitude and Grief. Michael and Katie’s collaboration was magical. The concert combined poetry, music and illustration. Michael would read one of his poems then Katie would perform it as a song. While she sang, Michael drew an illustration for the poem and the images were projected onto massive screen so we could watch as he worked. It was a unique and thoroughly entertaining experience! Here’s a taste:

Not long after I saw the concert I wrote this poem.

Our Living Treasure


Each
tender stroke of felt tip
every 
‘toon and curly quip
a spark
a rustle
a wink
a gift

on the brink
he sends out
a cappella notes
like doves to bless
and declare
our state of undress

Poet, Prayer, Prophet, Sayer
like that Holy Jester
of camel and needle fame
our Antipodean Fool
dusts off
old bones 
celebrates
the odd
the out of tune
the precarious

The Loon
knows our bitter sweet 
capacity
teaches our fickle hearts
veracity
knows the crux 
of our ferocious woes
and the antidotes
of those
knows righteous rage
and fringe dwelling
slow-dances with shadows 
and truth telling
sows wild blooms
in deserts of tears
and beckons a smile

©2019 Belle Perry

Confessions of a Rhubarb Queen

I have had a long love affair with rhubarb.

Legend has it that when I was a very little girl I went to an afternoon tea party and when asked what I would like to eat I replied, “Rhubarb please!”

That amusing incident earned me the title ‘Rhubarb Queen’ in my family.

Last summer I was walking along the street with my friend and I noticed a bucket of free rhubarb. It was outside a house with a well-tended garden. I had often stopped there to admire the dahlias. Delighted, I took a bunch of rhubarb home and stewed it later that day.

My tastebuds were dancing the cha cha, the jitterbug and everything in between! It was unbelievably good. Just enough tartness and just enough sweetness. Paired with vanilla ice cream, it was a simple but completely satisfying dessert.

Following this I had a New Year epiphany. I decided that my only resolution this year would be to plant some rhubarb in my garden. I did some research and was a little disappointed to find out that I couldn’t plant it straight away. I had to wait.

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time! No more waiting. I scoped out Springwood Growers Market and found a healthy looking rhubarb plant at the awesome Patio Plants stall. You can find Patio Plants Pty Ltd on Facebook. They are regulars at both the Blackheath Growers Market (2nd Sunday of the month) and Springwood Growers Market (4th Sunday of the month).

I chose a sunny well-drained spot in the garden and planted it with lots of love and care. Hopefully there will be something delicious to harvest in the next year or so. Looks like the ‘Rhubarb Queen’ will have to be patient some more. It will be worth it though.

Thankfully, unlike growing rhubarb, stewing rhubarb is quick (and easy)!

Stewed Rhubarb

  • 6 – 8 stalks of rhubarb
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1/ 4 cup water
  • Remove and discard the leaves (they are rather toxic, so don’t feed them to your chickens!)
  • Wash the stalks and chop them into 2 cm chunks.
  • Place them in a saucepan with water and sugar.
  • Stew gently for 5-10 minutes or until the stalks are tender.
  • Serve hot over vanilla ice cream.
  • Cold with muesli and yogurt works too.
  • You could also stew the rhubarb with 4 or 5 apples (peeled and sliced). A great combo for a crumble dessert!

The Scrabble Dream

So I have a little Scrabble habit: Not only do I love to play but I also must work out the combined score of all the players after each game. I reckon anything over 500 is worth celebrating!

I come from a long line of Scrabble enthusiasts. It is such an entertaining game of word knowledge but also skill, strategy and luck. Every holidays we play, sometimes three generations represented around the board, and our Scrabble dictionary is pretty shabby from so much use!

In the photo above you can see one of my favourite op shop finds: a vintage Scrabble set. It makes me so happy. It has wooden tiles and trays and is in top notch condition though it was missing an ‘i’ when I bought it. Copyright on the box says 1953 by Selchow & Righter Co. Bay Shore, New York.

Recently I watched a wonderfully quirky film called Sometimes, Always, Never. It features a particularly hilarious Scrabble playing scene. In fact Scrabble is delightfully woven all the way through the film. Here is the trailer:

Scrabble was born in New York in 1938. The inventor of the game was Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and amateur artist. He tried without much luck to market the game and finally in 1948 he sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot who came up with the name ‘Scrabble’. Brunot also set up a Scrabble factory in Connecticut. The game didn’t fully take off until 1952 when an executive from Macy’s, the famous department store, played the game while on holidays. He loved it so much, he decided to stock it in his store. There was such a demand for it that Macy’s turned production over to Selchow and Righter, a company that had previously rejected the game. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/07/obituaries/alfred-m-butts-93-is-dead-inventor-of-scrabble.html

Scrabble is now popular all around the world and over 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold. There are Scrabble clubs, associations and tournaments. There are variations of the game: Travel Scrabble, Scrabble Cards, Deluxe Scrabble, online Scrabble and Large Print Scrabble. There are Scrabble dictionaries. There are Scrabble tea towels!

If you think a Scrabble tea towel might enhance your dish wiping experience or make a great gift for a special Scrabble friend, The Turning Page Bookshop in Springwood have them: http://www.indies.com.au/TheTurningPageBookshop

I bet the ongoing success of Scrabble was beyond Alfred’s wildest dreams when he first invented the game in 1938. It reminds me that we should never underestimate the potential of our ideas, dreams and creativity.