Perched upon a cliff overlooking the grandeur of the Grand Pacific Drive in Coalcliff, New South Wales, stands lost history that fell short of 1 year to earn its 100 year milestone.
Located in the scenic Ilawarra region of New South Wales Australia, in December 2012, employees of the Illawarra Coke Company (ICC), in 1966 owning both the Coalcliff and Corrimal Cokeworks, would have received devastating news, the Coalcliff site would be closing its doors after 99 years of operation and coke-making would cease operation.
The life of the Coalcliff site started in 1878 when a colliery opened on January 11, however the Cokeworks was not commissioned until 1914. Many workers, who walked out the gates for the last time in what would have been an indescribable emotional time, having been with the company for more than 40 years.
As is the question one often wonders when you walk amongst abandoned history. What lead to its demise, its neglect?
For Coalcliff, a number of factors contributed to its inevitable spiral into closure – money. In a matter of speaking.
A worldwide oversupply of coke, the high Australian dollar, the closure of domestic customers, infrastructure being too expensive to maintain, and not to forget the additional distance and cost to truck coke to Port Kembla.
And so history now stands abandoned overlooking the Sea Cliff Bridge. Mother nature claiming her home. Decay slowly creeping its way into the site, entangling its vines into once thriving machinery, bursting with life. Rust settles in, creating beautiful texture as the smell of age, permeates the senses.
View Full Gallery Below
Illawarra Mercury – 6 July 2013
Illawarra Mercury – 13 Dec 2012
Illawarra Coke Company, Wikipedia
University of Wollongong Archives (WAU) – D275 Illawarra Coke Company
So the day of reckoning arrives, Saturday 2 July to say my faith is and has wavered is an understatement when it comes to putting ones trust in a political party and perform your civic duty to vote. For years I’ve been a faithful Liberal supporter …
9am, I head for Miranda North Public School, 4 minutes drive from home. Upon walking up to the front gates, around 50 meters, I’m accosted on my left by larger than life images of the federal division I belong to Cook and Scott Morrison. And just in case I missed it and needed another reminder, that point was further reiterated every three meters with every step, Scott Morrison smiling down at me. Rest assured I’m not likely to forget the name Scott Morrison by the time I enter the front door. Truth be told, I’m somewhat seething inside at the mindless waste of tax payers money at tangible advertising for these campaign posters and boards that will likely be discard 48 hours post election day. One or two is more than sufficient. Not ten or twelve. Less is sometimes more.
As if a few defining images are sufficient to convince one of all the parties stand for and the weight of the importance of your vote. If only just a fraction of campaign advertising money could have been saved and used in areas where funds are short and in desperate need. Areas that affect all Australians; hospital care, homeless, transport, medicare. Here is a better use of tax payers money.
Entering the gates, I’m immediately surrounded by 9 individuals shoving yet more wasted money in the form of pamphlets into my hands. I bite my tongue in wanting to point out the fact that I should have by now done some homework on how this process works and shouldn’t need reminding literally 2 minutes before I’m actually suppose to do this. Majority of us have surely been talking to friends and family about the parties being represented. We’re reminded constantly in TV adds, on social media. There’s almost no reason why we shouldn’t have some insight into what at least two or three parties stand for. And if we’re being totally honest, the 5 minutes you have prior to having to vote, does one really think you’re gong to get a totally informed decision efficient enough to cast a vote based purely on what you’ve literally just read on an advertisement which is designed to seduce, coerce and convince. Mostly false promises. They’re not going to expose their not-so-stand-up history on a pamphlet. No siree.
I also strongly feel the need to want to point out that the Greens, some of which are wearing a TShirt emphasising the fact, are, um, emphasising torn down, mulched trees disguised in the form of pretty coloured inks and fancy fonts on paper. Oodles of paper. Not sure how this goes towards cementing their motto in saving the environment? And I watch several people before me grab at least 7 sheets, walk into the hall, check in, vote and walk straight out. Not once having even glanced at the pamphlets they’ve aimlessly taken and soon to be discarded. It just seems like such a sad sorry waste.
I make my way to the counter to check in and get my piece of paper to contribute to history and as the process evolves, I go through a few surprisingly shocking realisations, with underlying humours tones.
First being, the young lady trying to locate my surname in her monstrous bound journal (yes, an amazing massive book with thousands of names in teeny tiny print), looking for my surname, gets stuck at ‘Si’. For about 30 seconds I wait while she toys with the alphabet. I see confusion brimming all over her face as she pages backwards then forwards. I silently point out in my head, ‘Sp’ comes waaaay after ‘Si’.
So again, I spell out my surname, slowly this time. S-P-I-T-Z-E-R. Imagine if I’d opted to sprout Sierra, Papa, India, Tango, Zula, Echo, Romeo instead… oh the poor darling. Sweet little thing. She looks at me, a little smile alights her face and turns the page again with uncertainty. I realize it’s a big book and a whole heap of names, but come on, just head to the back of the alphabet. ‘Sp’, it’s somewhere toward the end. I encourage her by saying ‘a few more, further, some more’. Low and behold, together we finally make it to Spitzer. Yes this was a humorous exchange, but I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised. An alphabet.
She looks at my name, looks at me and asks me where I live. I answer Miranda. She then spells out my entire address and I nod where she happily proceeds to check me off the list. No from of identification need be produced to actually confirm I am who I claim to be and live at the address she read to me, of which I simply noded confirmation. One stranger to another and the solemn nod of ones head, it seems is sufficient to confirm legal identity. Shocking.
My next shock comes in the form of some monstrously long Senate Ballot paper. Seriously, I’m astounded and she then explains about voting above and below the lines. I look at her and say ‘do you really think I’m feeling inclined to waste time numbering every box below the line, that’s absurd.’ Ok, I feel only marginally bad at my rudeness as she’s momentarily stunned into silence. But come on, this really is ridiculous.
I head to a voting booth only to have a silent chuckle in realizing my ballot paper is literally 4,maybe 5 times the width of my booth and the sweet old man adjacent to me looks at me with a big grin on his face motioning to the length of this ballot paper. I smile and shake my head in understanding. This keeps getting better.
I have a small confession to make. Senate vote No 1 to 3 above the line easily done. But I run into an obstacle deciding on my remainder 3 parties, all minority. So I did the next best thing I could think of. Picked my favourite line from one of my favourite songs and counted the words. Each word of the line represented one party and so on until I’d reached the last word and whomever I landed on, that’s my vote. Not very intelligent I realise this. But hey, I wasn’t exactly left with trust and thought provoking options.
My last grind concerning elections. We’ve moved into 2016. In a day and age where our very lives are intertwined in a digital signature, shouldn’t voting be the same. Log on to a myGov account or create an app. Cast your vote. Log off. No need to leave the house, queue up, put pencil to paper (which already questions the legality of this vote) and minimize the vast waste of printed brochures handed out and discarded by voters as quickly as they were received, containing a babble of false promises. Let’s move with the times. An online vote should not only be reserved for the few who are physically unable to make it to a polling booth on election day. I’m not saying abolish in-person voting, but let’s have the best of both worlds and give the rest of us an option of electronic voting. Efficiency is key.
On a brighter note, I would like to express my delight as it seems I had a good polling station in terms of wait times. From the vast number of people I’ve spoken to post voting and perusing social media, it seems many waited for an obscene amount of time to vote. Queue upon queue upon queen. Me, well I’ve gotta give Miranda a little salute, as I waited all of 4 minutes. It could be due to the fact I arrived around 9am and thought I’d beat the rush. Probably.
Now to await a verdict …
What can only be described as an extraordinary eclectic dress up party like none I’ve ever witnessed before. It rivals the concept of wacky. It’s bizarre, yet strangely normal in the setting. It’s enthralling, mesmerising, exciting, eccentric and everything in between.
How to describe this event to one who has never heard of or witnessed before is somewhat of a conundrum. I can only stress ‘you had to be there’ is the one true piece of advice I can bestow upon any curious soul who might want to make a trip up to Lithgow in 2017 if you’re in the near vicinity.
There are several words that spring to the tip of my tongue, when writing and reminiscing about my first time attending the Lithgow Ironfest. The talk leading up to this event over 12 months ago, naturally leaves one with certain expectations in mind coupled with your own conjuring’s of what you imagine such an event might entail, when all you have are photos to go on from past festivals to complete your picture. It definitely leaves one with anticipations of the highest kind.
This year another road trip up to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, around 2 hours away, with my trusty friends, Myrza Muller and Yolande Wright (pictured below) saw us making a weekend out of it. Thankfully for us, on the same weekend half an hour away from Lithgow in a beautiful tucked away suburb called Mount Wilson, the Autumn Festival was supposedly in full bloom and worthy of a visit (more of this in a separate post).
And so our plans for the weekend; Saturday to visit Mount Wilson and surrounds and Sunday, the Lithgow Ironfest, where our Photography Society would also be meeting to witness this surreal event. Some would have ventured there on Saturday, others, like us on Sunday.
Ironfest has been talked about with many a description in an attempt to convey all that this event entails and all I can surmise is it’s an artistic medieval festival exploring the interactions between humans, past and present, the birth and history of metal, design makers, historical re-enactors, performers of all kinds of all possible realms, steampunk’ers, blacksmiths, cosplay, musicians, falconry displays.
Here, we were witness to several staged battles from different periods of history. Numerous armoured vehicles firing off hundreds of rounds of ammunition and setting off explosive devices and tanks firing canons. A bevy of excitement and deafening noise and we had front row seats to the action. A mere 5 meters away. One got a small inkling of what the atmosphere on an actual battlefield might have been. The ground rumbles and reverberates through your body in a tremor of excitement, fear and bewilderment. There’s chaos and a rollercoaster of sounds from bombs going off, gunfire spurting, an exploding car, screams as soldiers attack, also dressed in period-themed armour, charging their enemy using swords, axes, and a plethora of other weapons. It’s a sensory overload.
Following the war, it was a surprising and refreshing sight to see soldiers, cosplay characters and volunteers, literally walk the showgrounds/battlefield picking up all the shells that had been fired. Great practice.
One of the targets for destruction in our mock war, a car literally exploding in a symphony of flames followed by a solid screen of smoke – it’s almost indescribable, and I can attest that it’s nothing like you see on tv, which pale in comparison.
And of course, safety first in Australia. Can’t have a car left burning in the middle of a field with people around. Firefighters sadly did not fit with the theme of the festival and last I checked, the 18C were not prone to using state of the art fire hoses. They should have had everyone rally with buckets of water. Now that would have been authentic.
Theatrics and costumes aside, visitors to the festival could also enjoy browsing a multitude of stores for medieval merchandise and enjoy watching blackmiths at work creating beautiful art and everyday objects.
Below, Melbournian born Aerial Manx (a.k.aJason Loughron), in 2008, aged 22, performed the worlds first sword swallowing act while doing a handstand. And we had the opportunity to view his act at Ironfest. Crazy.
Whilst many volunteers take their roles very seriously and spend months sourcing authentic outfits and get into character, some are also there to have a jolly ol time. One such vega bond (pictured below) an actor belonging to the Katoomba Amusements Company formed a group for the day called ‘The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Holy Snail’ that came complete with an amusing ‘holy chant’ – “We are the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Holy Snail, the most sacred of the escargots …
Over the years, inception of the Lithgow Ironfest began as a mere art exhibition in a number of shops along the East End Main Street attracting around 400 people. The following year expanded to Museums, the Blast Furnace and Talisman Gallery, attracting around 700 people.
In 2002/2003, growing bigger, it moved to the State Mine Museum, where for the first time, metamorphosed into a real festival to include artists, performers and re-enactors, attracting 3,000 visitors. 2004 saw it change venues again to where it now currently resides annually at the Lithgow Showgrounds, now attracting over 15,000 visitors.
It truly was a sensory overload and eye candy to boot. Activities ranged from Live War Re-enactments of different periods, Live Wrestling Matches, Circus Performances, Jousting Matches, Archery competitions, a real live Gothic Wedding, a Contortionist and sword swallowing act to name a few, but the true magic of the event I have to say goes to the participants whom we discovered spend months in advance planning their costumes, sourcing various aspects from ebay, to home-made contraptions or self-haberdashery creations, local costume stores, overseas purchases. The creativity that went into some of the costumes, something to truly marvel at.
Below, we were witness to a legal marriage. Yes legal and somewhat bizarre considering most brides imagine themselves walking down an isle lined with exotic flowers, the bride adorned in flowing white and the groom, dressed in a well tailored, sleek sexy suit. This one, a wedding with a difference. A bit of goth, a bit of medieval and a whole lot of non tradition. Here the bride walks down a large and still beautifully green grass patch dressed in black and not to a waiting groom. No siree, the groom in this scenario had to fight a battle of swords to prove his worth to his bride. A mock sword fight of course.
Below, the celebrant/Knight who performed the ceremony.
Image below, some of the characters that paraded over the days ranging from The Joker, vegabonds, rouges, Knights of the round table, Jedi, Freddy Kruger, 1800 century wenches. It’s a bevy of colour and characters.
And so in closing, I highly recommend anyone who is in the area in 2017, to make a stop at the Lithgow Showgrounds for the Ironfest 2017 as it’s an event that one can’t truly describe in words that could even remotely do it justice. Although having said that, I was somewhat disappointed at my trip on Sunday. Granted it was the last day of the event and the weather to most would have been depressing and overcast and drizzling, which could possibly attest to the somewhat meagre turnout of characters. It seems those who attended the day prior, had a far broader range of characters visitors and atmosphere. And so for 2017, a two-day trip for me will be in order.
Thank you to all the organisers and volunteers who spend months planning and executing such an outstanding event.
Click HERE for my full gallery of Ironfest 2016.
Imagine yourself cruising down avenues tucked away in the Blue Mountains, where you’re enveloped by the grandeur of trees hundreds of years old with colours that amaze you with their vibrancy and beautiful sense of comfort. One such location known as Mount Wilson, synonymous of its gardens, natural bush land, rainforests, lookouts, walking trails, historical houses and canyons.
Only 2 hours west of Sydney, as you veer onto Mount Wilson Road, the next 3km’s you find yourself travelling along a long and winding road of turns and inclines, all the way comforted by the vast amount of flora of varying colours and textures. Some parts overwhelmingly beautiful, others vast and flat. Often at times you feel utterly alone travelling amongst such beauty. It brings with it a strange sense of peace and solitude. And even at the start of your journey en route to Mount Wilson Village, already you feel as if the trip has been worth the 2 hour drive.
Heading back onto The Avenue, the streets are lined with rows of limes, elms, beeches and horse chestnuts. The is probably the avenue with the most character and variety with such a gorgeous sense of comfort and a strong sense of solidarity.
Still careening along The Avenue, just as you pass the turn off to Church Lane, glance to your right, you pass the entrance to the Bebeah Gardens with that famous little red gate. Extremely photographic and rather quant and also very easy to miss as you’re drivingast and not specifically looking out for it. But well worth a stop to get out and wonder about, even if just to step among the leaves and hear that tell tale autumn crunch beneath your feet and feel the unmistakable urge to want to dive down into a dense bed of leaves that litter the ground.
This year Autumn is certainly the time to visit Mount Wilson, where the local community, run by volunteers host the Autumn Festival, held on Saturday 16 April, in the village of Mount Wilson, the heritage garden village. It’s an occasion where a handful of locals open their estates to the public, some of which are over 120 years old. We made a stop to stroll through the Breenhold Gardens, comprising of 40 hectares of gardens, bushlands, fountains, stone walled gardens and thousands of exotic trees.
However we were somewhat disappointed. Whilst it was Autumn, Australia has had a prolonged Summer this year, resulting in Autumn not quite reaching its peak as expected, and so the gardens were not quite what we imagined. But still lovely to stroll through.
A few additional photos of Mount Wilson
A hive of atmosphere where sights, smells and sounds tantalize the senses. It’s 5:45am, the sky above is still a dark haze with the odd star still burning surprisingly bright. The air is fresh with a delicate crispness and you can feel yourself slowly waking up, naturally with the aid of a great warm latte thanks to the plentiful vendors set up and ready to fortify visitors with a warm cup of coffee and brecky.
Just off the main road through Goulburn NSW, you turn into a quiet road that leads you up an uneven street for a short distance before stopping before No 52 Mundy Street on your left. In the peak of a NSW Summer, the ground is sparsely covered with barely a blade of grass that ordinarily would be lush with growth. There’s an air of desolation when you look around you and for the purpose of my visit to this particular property, this feeling of desertion is exactly what I was hoping for.
From the street, one cannot see much beyond 2m ordinary brick walls. For an orphanage, I was expecting a beautifully intricately designed front wall with pillars and etchings. Yet I’m somewhat disappointed at the lack of detail. Yet inside the walls, tells a complete contrasting story to the state of vegetation on the street.
The Angel City Chorale based in Las Angeles performs an acapella rendition of Toto’s Africa that will make you cry, reminisce and sing at the same time. As you listen you find yourself shedding a silent tear at the sheer beauty of the performance whilst swaying to and fro from the tranquil melody, and smiling and clicking your fingers in tune to the beat. … Read More An acapella African thunderstorm like no other
On the banks of the Parramatta River at Homebush Bay, you’ll find yourself gaping in wonder as you gaze upon 1140 tonnes of a beautiful rusted steel-hulled steam collier, a mere few meters from where you’re standing on the bank. The SS Ayrfield, one of the four shipwrecks that currently reside permanently in a state of gorgeous decay at Homebush Bay that served in WWI and WWII. The SS Ayrfield can essentially be classified as a floating rusted relic forest. It truly is a sight to marvel at.
Anyone out there ever feel some days that you’re life is overwhelming, you’re drowning in your space, and feel like you need a serous overhaul on de cluttering your life, which let’s face it, are all interlinked; home, personal and work and life can get in the way and tend to be overwhelming, even for those who are super organised and OCD, might still sometimes feel unmotivated, stressed and need a little outsider ‘kick in the backside’ to re energise you again and give you some motivation and a fresh pair of eyes to get your life and home reorganised and back on track.