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Majestic tree-topper at Hydro party palace

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

A piece of Australian sporting and cultural history has been brought back to life at the grandest of the grand hotels of the Blue Mountains this Christmas.

Standing taller than 6m, Candy the Kewpie doll has taken her position under the grand chandelier in the famous Casino Lobby of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.

Along with Scarlett, who now lives at the Powerhouse Museum, and Betty who resides at the National Museum in Canberra, Candy is one of 12 giant Kewpie dolls that twirled around Stadium Australian during the unforgettable Sydney 2000 Olympic Games closing ceremony.

Candy and her Kewpie sisters were designed by Brian Thompson based on the Marcella Kewpie, a flapper-girl Japanese version of American magazine illustrator Rose O’Neill’s cowlicked, roly-poly original.

O’Neill created her first Kewpie doll in 1907 for Ladies Home Journal.

The name refers to “little Cupid, spelling it with a K because it seemed funnier’’.

The characters were an instant hit and O’Neill drew them for magazines and advertisers for more than 25 years, with the dolls spawning a range of merchandising and given as popular carnival prizes.

Characterised by big eyes in shy, sideways glancing expressions, a single topknot of blond hair, splayed “starfish’’ hands, and an exaggerated potbelly, the mischievous baby-like elves were children’s guardian angels in her stories (specifically, they protected the human girl Dottie Darling).

While Cupid “gets himself into trouble. The Kewpies get themselves out, always searching out ways to make the world better and funnier’’, O’Neill said.

Visitors to the Hydro Majestic can see Candy as they assemble for hotel history tours and enter the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant for high tea or fine dining meals until early January.

Escarpment Group Christmas theming creator Greg Tomkinson said Candy was right at home in the flamboyance of Mark Foy’s “Palace in the wilderness’’.

Candy, Betty, Scarlett and friends were the centrepieces of artistic director David Atkins’ backyard-themedparty to end all parties’’ and the Hydro Majestic is the original Blue Mountains party palace.

“The Christmas tree in the Casino Lobby must fill one of the grandest spaces in the country and competes with the famous dome in scale and design. Needless to say, it has to be fabulous.’’

Along with elaborate decorations throughout the hotel, the Hydro Majestic will celebrate the festive season with a schedule of music and dining events beginning with an opera dinner concert on December 22, Christmas lunch and dinner, a global fusion evening on December 29 and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book events, accommodation and dining.

 


Creative fire unleashed at Talisman Gallery blacksmithing workshop

An example of what participants will make. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill for Talisman Gallery

Unleash your inner creative fire, work off some energy and learn an ancient art under guidance from an experienced artisan at Talisman Gallery this festive season.

Burgeoning metal artists will create their own piece of art in the 30-minute blacksmithing session on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape of a fire poker, decorative wall hook or small sculpture.

Extra decorative elements such as crystals may also be added.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work. Photo submitted by Talisman Gallery

Talisman Gallery metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick of Blackheath said the activity would interest beginners as well as those who had previously taken the Fire Poker Challenge at the gallery, located in the historic woolshed behind Hartley Historic Site.

“Creating metal art is very satisfying. It’s quite physical and people love the fact they can make something with their own hands, which we don’t do a lot of anymore in this modern society.’’

While the location amid undulating pasturelands with the dramatic backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment helped, Fitzpatrick believed the attraction to lay in the metal itself representing the romantic notion of a lost era; a simpler lifestyle; clearly defined values; and endurance and quality.

“It’s an ancient material that comes straight from the earth. That you can make something so beautiful out of something with such strength fascinates me and draws me to it. I think it’s the same for a lot of other people.’’

An example of what participants will make. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Fitzpatrick’s artistic journey began in the early 1980s, creating handmade knives and Tai Chi dancing swords in a small shop in Melbourne.

Since moving to Sydney in the late 1980s, his art and business has evolved from a need to provide for his family by making his own furniture from scrap metal to trendy inner west wrought iron work to finally settling in the Blue Mountains and Hartley.

He and Lithgow-based metal artist Steve Cunningham will be on hand to guide you through the process.’’

“You remove the red hot steel from the fire, bringing it to the anvil you begin to beat the hot metal. You watch as it changes shape, yielding under the blows. Working quickly before it cools, you wrap it around a form into a spiral shape. Before you know it you have created your first piece of metal art.

“So put your phone down and come and make something!’’

A great family activity available to anyone aged 13 years and older, the Creative Fire experience will be held daily from December 27 to 30. Cost: fire poker $35, decorative wall hook $40, sculpture $65, additional elements costs vary.

A participant in action. Photo submitted by Talisman Gallery

Visitors to Talisman Gallery can browse the collection of large high-end pieces along with signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders and an extensive collection of imported jewellery and new crystal pieces.

The gallery, Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details and bookings: Ron 0407 723 722 or Facebook page Talisman Gallery Hartley/events, website: www.talismangallery.com.au.

 

 


KCC considering options after DA refusal

By Ellen Hill for Katoomba Christian Convention

Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) management is considering its options after a Sydney Western City Planning Panel refused its development application to upgrade its site.

KCC executive director Jonathan Dykes said: “We’re disappointed.

“We were willing to be flexible with various aspects of the design and had hoped to work with Council and the Rural Fire Service further for a mutually beneficial outcome, but that didn’t happen.’’

While the panel chairman, who acknowledged the excellence of the design, voted in favour of deferral to allow KCC time to work with Blue Mountains City Council and the RFS further and present amended plans, the four other panel members voted for refusal.

The development application was submitted to Council in February and outlined a $63 million staged plan over 30 years to revamp outdated facilities at the bushland property next to Scenic World in Cliff Drive and Violet St.

The proposal for an environmentally-considerate overhaul of a portion of the property included a 3500-seat auditorium, new bookshop, toilets, meeting rooms, dining hall and café, revegetation and landscaping and replacing existing accommodation buildings with eco lodges.

The improvements would have benefited both Christian and secular groups who use the site, the largest conference facility in the Blue Mountains.

“We would simply like to improve our existing old assets by upgrading buildings,’’ Mr Dykes said.

“Our use of the property and number of people we have there would not increase.

“In fact, the upgrade would reduce the current noise impact on neighbours and the fire safety of the buildings would be improved.’’

An improved KCC facility would also create more jobs and ensure visitors kept coming and spent money locally while they took part in events at the site, Mr Dykes said.

“This will allow KCC to support sustainable tourism in the Blue Mountains, which is a primary economic driver for the area.

“KCC’s development aspirations are responsive to a significant number of local, regional and state strategies for increasing overnight visitation to the area.’’

A not-for-profit interdenominational Bible-preaching convention ministry that relies on volunteers, donations and financial support of visiting delegates, KCC was founded in 1903 in the tradition of the Keswick Convention in England.

“We’ve been around for nearly 120 years and we plan to be around for the next 120 years,’’ Mr Dykes said.

While “we’ll be considering our options’’, with the usual busy-ness in the lead up to Christmas and the need for meetings among the KCC board and consultants, a pathway forward would not be decided until next year.


Asperger’s syndrome explained in Noah’s Story

By Ellen Hill for Grace Kim       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

How does a child with Asperger’s syndrome experience everyday life? How does it feel to be child who is different?

New children’s book Noah’s Story answers those questions and more, and gives children with the condition a tool with which to explain their condition, their symptoms and how they feel.

Bullaburra resident Grace Kim wrote the book to help her son Noah Hylkema, his friends and teachers understand his Asperger’s diagnosis in 2016 after a long period of challenging experiences at school.

Noah illustrated the book.

Written in Noah’s “voice’’, it uses examples of behaviours a person whose brain works differently and offers practical suggestions for how others can respond.

Ms Kim wrote the book after Noah’s diagnosis after she and husband Teije Hylkema had read numerous books and attended workshops and seminars about autism to understand the condition and find a way to disclose the information to Noah and his classmates.

“After reading a mountain of books, I still couldn’t find a book that resonated with us personally,’’ she said.

“So one desperate night, I decided to write a story from Noah’s perspective to help him, his friends and teachers understand him and his diagnosis.

“I showed it to Noah to check with him if I represented his feelings correctly (thankfully, yes!) and asked if he would like to do some drawings for it to take it to school the next day.

“This ended up being a wonderful way to introduce the subject and for him to be fully involved and in control of his `coming out’.’’

Hazelbrook Public School student Noah, 9, who has written stories and illustrated since he was four years old, said the book was a way to explain Asperger’s to his classmates in a format they would understand and relate to – “my class likes stories’’.

He summed up Asperger’s in one sentence: “I have a brain that’s a bit different to yours – I find some things easy that other people find hard (like computer coding and haiku poems) and some things hard that other people find easy (like handwriting).’’

Endorsing the book, Friends and Ben Bumblefoot author Teena Raffa-Mulligan said Noah’s Story “presents the message `Sometimes I will make mistakes but I am learning just like you’ with beautiful simplicity’’.

A concert pianist, artistic director and Churchill Fellow, Ms Kim said she never intended to write a book for public publication but hoped Noah’s Story would encourage others to share their own stories.

The book complemented the Sensory Concerts she instigated last year to provide access to quality live music to people with sensory issues that prevent them from attending public events such as concerts.

Run by the Your Music Inc registered charity and always featuring Ms Kim and often cellist Mr Hylkema, the concerts have been designed for people of all ages, especially families with sensory or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, physical or intellectual disabilities who experience feelings of being overwhelmed by crowd, noise, light, smell and touch.

Performed to small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, they have a range of seating options and a retreat space where audience members can self-regulate or seek support from the onsite occupational therapist and psychologist.

Your Music Inc also holds tailored concerts in aged care facilities, hospitals, schools and private homes.

Noah’s Story ($37.80) is available on Amazon and from publisher Karen Mc Dermott ($26.77).

The free Noah’s Story book launch will be held at Bullaburra Village Green (wet weather option Bullaburra Progress Hall), Noble St, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Sunday, December 16. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase, and there will be live music, reading and a playground for children. RSVP.


Queen of Hearts Foundation closure final

By Ellen Hill for Queen of Hearts Foundation

A proposal to continue Penrith-based child sexual abuse and domestic violence support service the Queen of Hearts Foundation under a revised business plan has been declined by the board.

The final decision was made “with heavy hearts’’ by the four-member board at a meeting on Tuesday [November 27].

It follows an approach to operate the charity service under a revised business plan with a new CEO after the notice to Queen of Hearts Foundation members in October of the board’s intention to wind up the charity.

Last month it was reported that the foundation established in 2014 had become increasingly financially unsustainable.

A planned restructure from a service orientated not-for-profit charity run almost entirely on community donations to a pre-funded program model with timeframes and monitored outcomes could not be successfully implemented by a board of volunteers, all of whom were small business owners in the Penrith community.

Despite the generosity of the Penrith community, the growing number of charity organisations in the area had broadened the giving pool, meaning less available funds for each worthy cause.

The proposed revised business plan was seriously considered by the board and discussions held with Penrith Council.

However, a board spokesperson said it relied on community funding and grant success as well as charging for counselling services.

“Whilst considerable effort would be required to continually fundraise to meet the financial obligations set forth in the proposals, a fee for service model is not in line with the stated mission of the Queen of Hearts Community Foundation.

“Unfortunately, given the parameters of the current economic climate, the inability to rely solely on fundraising and the generous donations from our community and the chance of being successful with any grant applications, the board did not feel that the proposed plan would ensure long-term success of the foundation.’’

The proposal was discussed at length at a November 15 meeting, which was adjourned until this past Tuesday [November 27] to allow further time for the proposal to be worked through.

“Given the experience of the board and the member in attendance, we did not believe it would be a viable long-term solution given the struggle it has been the past twelve months to fundraise funds.

“Should Queen of Hearts stay trading, we believe it would likely be in the same, if not worse, position than it is now in another twelve months’ time.

“On that basis, and with heavy hearts, the board resolved to place the Queen of Hearts Foundation into the hands of a liquidator to wind up.’’

Surplus funds will be donated to the national Bravehearts Foundation and unfulfilled grants will be returned to their respective government agencies.

The Queen of Hearts Foundation board encouraged the Penrith community to continue to support similar organisations such as the Bravehearts Foundation, The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter and Penrith Women’s Health Centre.


Silent Night fills majestic Blue Mtns venue

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group        Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Indulge in a feast of the senses this festive season as the Konzert Kollektiv fills the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels with majestic Christmas music on December 22.

(l-r) Tenor Brad Cooper and soprano Catherine Bouchier

Accompanied by fine food and sublime sunset views, soprano Catherine Bouchier will join tenor Brad Cooper and concert pianist Katherine Day for an unforgettable evening at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains to mark the 200th anniversary of loved Christmas carol Silent Night.

The event will include well known pieces by Adolf Schulz-Evler, Percy Grainger, Richard Strauss, Peter Alexander, Peter Cornelius, Franz Lehár, Erich Korngold, Adolphe Adam and more.

As well as favourites such as Joy to the World and The Holy City (Jerusalem), the great carol of peace will receive special attention on its 200th anniversary.

According to legend, Silent Night was sung for the first time on Christmas Eve 1818 in a little church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf outside Salzburg. The story goes that the choirmaster hurriedly penned the hymn to be played on a guitar when it was discovered mice had chewed through the bellows of the church organ.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The story of Silent Night pefectly complements the Hydro Majestic, with that just right blend of magic, mischief and majesty.’’

The program will be accompanied by a five-course “taste of Christmas’’ degustation dinner of fresh regional produce showcasing the culinary talents of an international team of chefs.

Tickets: $145pp includes welcome cocktail, dinner and concert. BOOKINGS.

The Silent Night event will open a Christmas and New Year’s season of operatic proportions at Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels.

Christmas Eve – December 24

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Inspired by the sparkle of Christmas lights and the warm glow they bring to the festive season, the Wintergarden Restaurant will host a decadent five-course degustation with all the trimmings overlooking the spectacular views of the Megalong Valley. Cost: $125 adults, $65 children (3-12 years), children aged 0-2 years complimentary. BOOKINGS.

Christmas Day – December 25

ECHOES RESTAURANT

Lunch: five-course lunch infused with Asian flavours overlooking the Jamison Valley. Cost: $189 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).

Dinner: five-course Asian-inspired degustation with a glass of sparkling cocktail on arrival. Cost: $169 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).

DARLEY’S RESTAURANT

Lunch: seven-course contemporary Australian degustation featuring the freshest seasonal local ingredients served in the historic multi award-winning building. Cost: $229 adults, $119 children (4 – 12 years).

LILIANFELS RESORT & SPA

Lunch: five-course degustation featuring hot and cold traditional Christmas fare including a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks). Cost: $199 adults, $179 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $90 children (4 – 12 years).

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Lunch: sumptuous three-tier feast featuring fresh seafood, charcutier selections, carvery and traditional Christmas desserts as well as a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks) in the understated elegance of the Wintergarden Restaurant. Cost: $199 adults, $149 teenagers (13 – 17 years) and $85 children (4 – 12 years).

Dinner: lavish five-course degustation featuring an elegant array of seafood, traditional Christmas roasts and dessert, with a glass of sparkling on arrival while enjoying the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $159 adults and $85 children (4 – 12 years).

  • Each venue will be decked in traditional decorations, with bon bons on the table and even a visit from Santa for the children. Children aged under 4 years complimentary.

Boxing Day (Wednesday, December 26)

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

High Tea: Take advantage of the holiday season and extend celebrations to a three-tiered indulgence in the Wintergarden Restaurant against the backdrop of sublime panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults and $45 children (4-12 years old).

BOILERHOUSE CAFÉ, Hydro Majestic Hotel

Lunch: Two-course casual meal in a funky venue with a glass of sparkling on arrival and views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75pp.

Rio to Rome – December 29

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Celebrate global fusion with an evening of world music, a five-course degustation meal featuring outstanding fresh seasonal produce and the culinary talents of our team of international chefs. Tickets: $135pp includes glass of sparkling on arrival, degustation dinner and performance. BOOKINGS.

New Year’s Eve – December 31

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Retro Grooves: Dust off those platform shoes and Motown moves for a night of `70s DJ dance music. Make your New Year transition unforgettable with an extravagant five-course degustation, glass of sparkling on arrival and live entertainment and panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Smart casual dress code applies. Cost: $159 adults, $85 children aged 4-12. BOOKINGS.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book events, accommodation and dining.


Memorable send-off aboard Penrith river icon

(L-R) Nepean Valley Funerals owner Jim Mueller and Nepean Belle owner Chris Bennett have teamed up to offer Funerals on the Water

 

By Ellen Hill for Nepean Valley Funerals         Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

A new business partnership between two Penrith mates has created an opportunity for local residents to celebrate the life of a loved one aboard the iconic Nepean Belle paddlewheeler.

Exclusive to Nepean Valley Funerals, the closed coffin funeral and wake package includes exclusive use of the Nepean Belle paddlewheeler, a non-denominational funeral service, coffin, flowers, celebrant, printed orders of service and condolence pack, with further additions such as a photographic tribute available.

After a memorable and respectful farewell ceremony, the coffin will be removed from the paddlewheeler and friends and family then continue to remember their loved one during a catered wake on a calming river cruise into the private nooks of the Nepean Gorge.

Nepean Valley Funerals owner Jim Mueller partnered with long-time mate and Nepean Belle owner Chris Bennett after the St Dominic’s College old boys sought to combine their love of Penrith, community, the Nepean River and their respective businesses in a joint venture.

Mr Mueller and wife Janet had identified the changing trends of funerals. Although traditional church/chapel funeral services will always remain important, some families now seek a non-denominational “celebration’’.

Incorporating the iconic paddlewheeler on the tranquil waters of the region’s most recognised geographic feature was the ideal solution, offering a unique weekday option for up to 150 guests with traditional customer service and values.

(L-R) Nepean Valley Funerls owner Jim Mueller and Nepean Belle owner aboard the paddlewheeler.

Everyone knows the river,’’ Mr Mueller said.It has so much meaning and holds so many memories to so many people with associations with the Nepean region.

“It might be a case of Dad always loved being on the water’ orMum always wanted to go on a cruise’.’’

While Mr Bennett worked on the Nepean Belle as a deckhand when it was first launched as a tourist attraction in 1982 and bought the business in 2013, Mr Mueller was “kind of born into the funeral business’’, cared for when his mother was at work by an aunt who worked at a local funeral business.

“There are few services that are as sensitive or as personal as those provided by a funeral director,’’ he said.

“We’re helping people through the worst possible time in their lives.

(L-R) Nepean Belle owners Chris and Carol Bennett with Nepean Valley Funeral owners Janet and Jim Mueller

“We aim to make this challenging time as bearable as possible, and our new funerals on the water option on the Nepean Belle will offer family and friends an opportunity to celebrate their loved one’s life at a personal, unforgettable event.’’

Like all services arranged by Nepean Valley Funerals, Mr and Mrs Mueller arrange and attend each one after liaising with all relevant parties including hospital, doctors, coroner, clergy, civil celebrants, cemeteries, newspapers, Births Deaths and Marriages, order of service and DVD providers.

“From the moment you contact us, we will be there for you,’’ he said.

All customer families receive a complimentary online memorial through Heaven Address.

Go to funeralsonthewater.com.au or phone 4722 8222 for more information about this unique celebration of life.

  • Nepean Valley Funerals and the Nepean Belle are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media

Blue Mountains: Life-changing journey

(L-R) Urban Caves owner Guy Brown with Nova client Wayne Marmion

By Ellen Hill for Urban Caves       Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

For the past five months, Wayne Marmion and Guy Brown have traversed a shared path of self-discovery, reflection and challenge.

Their journey has earned Mr Brown and his business, Urban Caves, a place among the finalists in the 2018 Blue Mountains Business Awards in the Employee Inclusion Award category.

Mr Brown employed Mr Marmion under a Nova Employment and Training subsidy program he learned about after meeting a Nova representative at a Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber event.

It has been a life-changing experience for both of them.

Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, former navy marine technical hull specialist, Mr Marmion struggled to leave his Wentworth Falls home before becoming a Nova client and being placed in a job at the Katoomba-based Urban Caves.

These days, he works alongside Mr Brown installing pre-fabricated cabins (urban caves), micro shelters and glampervans between Glenbrook and Lithgow.

“I like to give people a go,’’ Mr Brown said.

“It’s been a really good experience for me because I had a lot of prejudices about hiring people who were older, but Wayne is a bloody good asset to the business.’’

As well as having a wealth of experience and maturity, Mr Marmion was well presented, friendly, reliable and confident making suggestions.

“I’m definitely happy and proud to have Wayne onsite with me and I’d recommend people be open-minded and give people a go.’’

As well as investing again in his tool kit, Mr Marmion has regained his passion for building, creating, drawing, playing guitar and writing stories, pastimes he was emotionally unable to engage in for years.

“I’m reconnecting with who I was even before I was in the navy. I’m using my hands again,’’ the father-of-five said.

“Guy says he doesn’t want to take credit for this, but he should. There’s been a lot of benefits for me working for him that I don’t know how to quantify.’’

  • Urban Caves is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    (L-R) Wayne Marmion and Guy Brown work on another Urban Caves cabin


Penrith: Queen of Hearts Foundation to close

Penrith-based child sexual abuse and domestic violence support service Queen of Hearts Foundation will close.

The four-member board has distributed a proposal to its members to fold the organisation at its next meeting and anticipates majority support.

The decision was a difficult one for the board and took some time to reach. However, the Queen of Hearts Foundation has become increasingly financially unsustainable.

A planned restructure from a service orientated not-for-profit charity run almost entirely on community donations to a pre-funded program model with timeframes and monitored outcomes could not be successfully implemented by a board of volunteers, all of whom are small business owners in the Penrith community.

Despite the generosity of the Penrith community, the growing number of charity organisations in the area has broadened the giving pool, meaning less available funds for each worthy cause.

The board has been unable to fill the part-time volunteer CEO position vacated when Queen of Hearts Foundation founder Michelle Ellery resigned from the role in March. The major fundraiser, a charity ball in July, also failed to raise sufficient funds.

Surplus funds will be donated to the national Bravehearts Foundation and unfulfilled grants will be returned to their respective government agencies.

Queen of Hearts Foundation was established in 2014 by current Penrith Citizen of the Year Ms Ellery and operates from the old Penrith Council chambers building in Henry St.

A board spokesperson thanked Ms Ellery for her tireless efforts and passion in raising awareness for the needs of survivors of child sexual abuse and domestic violence: “Everyone involved in the Queen of Hearts Foundation is proud to have been part of such a high profile organisation and is disappointed to have to make this decision.

“However, we are realistic and know that a charity that struggles to keep its doors open week to week cannot provide the ongoing support and services our customers need.’’

The Queen of Hearts Foundation board encouraged the Penrith community to continue to support similar organisations such as the Bravehearts Foundation, The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter and Penrith Women’s Health Centre.

  • Queen of Hearts Foundation is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Discounts, deals & specials reward Greater Blue Mountains locals

Locals are rewarded for dining at Leura Garage

 

Free rides, discounts, two-for-one deals, birthday bubbly – just some of the perks handed out to residents by some of the region’s most popular tourist businesses just for being a Greater Blue Mountains local.

Bilpin Cider Co, Leura Garage, Miss Lilian’s Teahouse and Blue Mountains Explorer Bus reward locals for living in a tourist zone that attracts an estimated four million visitors from around the world every year.

Here are some special offers you are entitled to simply for choosing to live here:

 

Locals ride Blue Mountains Explorer Bus free with a paying passenger

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. Operates 9.15am – 5.30pm every day. Details: explorerbus.com.au.

The fleet of red double-decker sightseeing buses operates 15 times a day between 29 stops around Leura and Katoomba. Passengers can stay on the bus for the entire one-hour circuit or hop on and hop off anywhere along the route, which takes in retail strips, tourist attractions, lookouts and bushwalking tracks leading to secret waterholes and hidden picnic spots.

Managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “We know that lots of residents have visitors from outside the area, and we want to reward locals for the fantastic job they do promoting this region to their visiting friends and family.’’

Locals deal: Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon residents ride free when accompanying a paying passenger.

 

Choose from a menu of locals deals at Leura Garage

Leura Garage, 84 Railway Pde, Leura. Open all day, every day from 12pm. Details: 4784 3391 or leuragarage.com.au.

The converted mechanics workshop, now award-winning funky eco café/restaurant, serves a menu of seasonal, regionally-sourced produce accompanied by regional wines and craft beers.

Owner James Howarth said: “Most locals want to avoid the weekend tourist crowds and we rely on our resident community during the week, so everyone wins with our locals deals.’’

Locals deal: 10 per cent discount off the final bill Monday to Thursday or two pizzas for the price of one; a free meal for the birthday person and free glass of bubbles on arrival for the table group when the party table is booked BYO (birthday cake allowed); free bottle of wine per couple with every main meal or large share meal (unconsumed open bottles may be taken away); or a free chef’s choice dessert per person with every main meal or large share meal. Conditions apply.

 

Receive 10% off your Miss Lilian’s Teahouse bill just for being a local

Miss Lilian’s Teahouse, Echo Point Rd and Panorama Drive, Echo Point. Open 11am – 7pm Sunday to Thursday, 11am – 8.30pm Friday and Saturday. Bookings: misslilian.com.au or 4780 1200.

Decorated with bamboo screens, colourful teapots, antique urns and myriad bird cages, the newest dining venue in the area offers an immersive culinary journey to the Orient blending the freshest local produce with generations-old recipes in a dine-in and takeaway. Guests can savour Asia’s favourite comfort foods infused with cinnamon, star anise, cloves, chives, chillies and lemongrass and elegantly served in a refined setting within the grounds of the magnificent Lilianfels Estate.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “You can be an international tourist right here in your own backyard. And your culinary journey will be so much tastier when we roll out our new locals loyalty program soon.’’

Locals deal: a 10 per cent locals discount after the venue opening in August/September will be followed by a new loyalty program soon.

 

Locals get 10% off everything at the Bilpin Cider cellar door

Bilpin Cider Co, 2369 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin. Open 10am – 4pm Monday to Sunday. Details: 4567 0704 or bilpincider.com.

Nestled in the “land of the mountain apple’’, the Bilpin Cider cellar door is a great rural activity for the whole family. With alpacas and lambs, outdoor games and picnic spots, the property is ideal for leisurely moments. Grab a gourmet picnic hamper and a drink and pause from everyday life to take in the view of rolling hills and orchards before stocking up on the range of seasonal local fruit, vegetables and honey, and fresh ciders crushed and bottled on site.

Owner Sean Prendergast said: “There’s nothing better than a relaxed natter over a drink with family and friends. We want to make that pastime as affordable as possible for the locals who are so loyal to us.’’

Locals deal: 10 per cent discount on any items sold at the cellar door.

  • All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus: Locals Ride Free

By Ellen Hill for Blue Mountains Explorer Bus    Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

What’s big, red, the only one of its kind in the world in a national park and the only one that doesn’t live in a city? The hop-on/hop-off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus.

And Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon locals can use it to explore their own backyard for free for one weekend only – September 22 to 23.

The Locals Ride Free weekend will be a chance to check out secret swimming holes, waterfalls and lush rainforest as well as cafes and restaurants offering special locals-only deals along the route of 29 stops around Katoomba and Leura.

Owned by the Katoomba-based Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT), the buses run 15 times a day between 9.15am and 5.30pm, 365 days of the year.

FAT managing director Jason Cronshaw, whose father John started the Explorer Bus in 1986, said the free weekend would also help locals connect with community and familiarise them with facilities and attractions available to them and their visitors within their neighbourhood.

“The Blue Mountains has seen a mass migration of new residents, mainly from Sydney, and this is an opportunity for us to extend a hand of welcome and show our new neighbours around,’’ he said.

“It’s also a chance to experience what the four million tourists from around the world do each year and appreciate the fantastic blessing of living within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

“I recommend bagging a seat on the top deck for a truly inspiring perspective, and make sure you jump off at Echo Point to see the Three Sisters rock formation to remind yourself of the extraordinary patch of earth we all call home.’’

Environmentally conscious locals can trundle the highway and byways with a clear conscience after Blue Mountains Explorer Bus became the first tourism operator in Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a big fat zero last year.

It was the first tourism operator in the country to be certified under the Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program as 100 per cent carbon neutral. The company also signed the pledge to join the Climate Neutral Now initiative run by the United Nations.

Locals Ride Free will be held during the September 22 – 23 weekend. Simply show proof of residency (eg: driver’s licence, rates notice) when boarding. Register your interest on the Locals Ride Free event on the @bmexplorerbus Facebook page.

  • Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    Explorer Bus promo pics. Client: BMAG.


Blue Mountains: Majestic entertainment line-up at Hydro

 

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group         Main photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Australia’s first tourist destination – the Blue Mountains – has wooed and wowed with luxurious romantic hideaways, fine food and sophisticated nightlife for more than a century.

Hundreds of the Sydney well-heeled poured off the steam trains and motorcades into the upmarket guesthouses and grand hotels to “take the air’’ on exhilarating bushwalks through untamed wilderness, indulge in spa treatments and embark on automotive adventures to charming picnic spots and thrilling cave systems.

At night they retreated into the opulence of sumptuous restaurants and lounges filled with exotic furnishings and artwork from around the world to indulge in cigars, cocktails, gossip and mischief.

The smoke has now cleared but the essence of that halcyon era remains in the dining rooms, ballrooms and discretely lit nooks under ornately decorated vaulted ceilings and domes of heritage establishments around the upper Blue Mountains.

The grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels (the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath), which once hosted legendary costume parties and opera performances by the world-class likes of Dame Nellie Melba, is again gearing up for a vibrant spring entertainment line-up accompanied by a host of seasonal food offerings.

First to command the iconic venue under the Live@theHydro banner will be Havana Nights, an evening of authentic Cuban music and seductive Saturday, September 29. Musical globetrotters can journey to Havana as they sway to the soulful sounds of Cuba, dance the salsa, rumba, mambo and cha cha cha and sip on rum mojitos and daiquiris in the Majestic Ballroom.

Then, on Saturday, November 3, the original Blue Mountains party palace will be taken over by retro grooves when The Australian Bee Gees Show – A Tribute to the Bee Gees performs the greatest hits of the adored `70s sibling trio. Straight from Vegas, the covers band featuring lookalike Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb will rock the Blue Mountains escarpment when it recreates hits like Staying Alive, You Should Be Dancing, How Deep Is Your Love, and Jive Talkin’.

Guest services manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Meagan Iervasi said: “Combined with fortnightly live music gigs in our Boiler House Café space, fine dining and opulent architecture and décor, the Hydro Majestic is fast becoming THE place to be for anyone looking for sophisticated weekend nightlife at reasonable prices in a seriously upmarket venue.’’

Tickets for both shows: $40pp entertainment only includes complimentary welcome cocktail; $135pp three-course dinner and show package featuring the freshest seasonal produce sourced by an internationally-trained team of award-winning chefs.

Dinner, show and accommodation bookings: hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885.


Workshop: Create Your Post-media Success

Journalists, photographers, researchers and sub-editors who have been made redundant, retired or otherwise farewelled from a media outlet can learn how to re-establish themselves at a workshop at Parramatta RSL Club on Friday, August 24.

Through practical exercises, Create Your Post-media Success will help participants understand the fundamentals of business, discover the numerous career options available in a changing landscape and pinpoint their focus.

Deep Hill Media photojournalist David Hill

They will leave with practical tools such as a simple business plan, a required income calculation and a rates card tailored to their needs.

Participants will also learn where to find commercial clients and freelance story leads, how to pitch PR leads and editorial articles to media and where to find further ongoing support, training and resources.

The full-day Create Your Post-media Success workshop will be presented by Deep Hill Media, the Blue Mountains-based communications consultancy and freelance journalism business of photojournalist David and journalist Ellen Hill.

“We know exactly what our colleagues are going through because we’ve been through it ourselves – and we’ll be sharing honest, sometimes excruciating anecdotes of our mistakes and achievements along the way,’’ Mrs Hill said.

Deep Hill Media communications consultant & journalist Ellen Hill

After taking voluntary redundancy from a multinational media company in 2009, the couple banked a small fortune; self-published a book; sold fine art prints, books and natural laundry products at market stalls; and mowed lawns while chasing ever-elusive business rainbows.

In the process, they have been hurt, burnt, humiliated, ripped off and faced poverty too many times to count.

“We want to help others leapfrog years of mistakes, heartache and financial ruin,’’ Mrs Hill said.

“We also want to help preserve an industry many have said is dying.

“Journalism and media is not dying.

“It is merely adapting and we want to help shape the future that was – and is – our life.

“Society and culture needs the skills and experience our colleagues have, but to continue working in their field may require a little creative thinking.’’

The Create Your Post-media Success workshop will be held at Parramatta RSL Club from 9am to 5pm on Friday, August 24. Cost: $347 includes lunch, morning/afternoon tea and resources. Bookings essential: Click HERE.


Blue Mountains, NSW: Snow-dusted Yulefest

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The enchantment of opera performed within a legendary party palace, fine dining, the intimacy of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes this Yulefest with Escarpment Group.

High tea with a view at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

Locals and sojourners are warmly welcomed into any of its boutique hotels for steaming drinks, fireside dining and rousing entertainment to celebrate the season for which the Blue Mountains is most famous.

Walk up an appetite by wandering sumptuously refurbished, exotically-named spaces like Cat’s Alley and Salon du The on a guided history tour of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath while listening to saucy tales of indiscretion on a luxurious scale.

Then, indulge in a traditional high tea repose featuring nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley.

Alternatively, sink into the refined surrounds of the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa lounge at Echo Point to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.

High tea in plush comfort at Lilianfels Resort & Spa

The decadent Yulefest theme continues with degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July in the historic Darley’s Restaurant on the Lilianfels property, as well as in the adjacent Echoes Restaurant and the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged locals to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by attending an event.

Hatted decadence at Darley’s Restaurant

“Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside with roaring fires, hot food and drinks, traditional decorations and festive music, but without the stress and frosty relatives.

“It’s also a great way for people who have made a recent tree change to mingle with their neighbours and make new community connections.’’

On July 21, one of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will celebrate with a special performance at the Hydro Majestic, 30 years since he literally stepped off the bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only.

Tenor Brad Cooper brings to enchantment of opera to the Hydro Majestic Hotel

On August 18, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s golden age with a program of crowd favourites from the best Viennese waltzes, gorgeous Wienerlieder (Vienna songs) and operetta to the wild world of the 1920s and `30s Berlin cabaret with a splash of comedian harmonists.

Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper and Johann Strauss Ensemble Vienna leader, violinist Russell McGregor, will be joined by Austrian accordionist Pavel Singer in the Wintergarden Restaurant performance, which will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.

Then, on August 25, experience opulence and history on a grand scale when the Hydro Express vintage train returns to the Blue Mountains.

Travel from Central in your choice of class carriage (standard, premier or lounge) aboard a heritage train hauled by restored 1950s diesel locomotive 4201. After a scenic two-hour rail journey to the Blue Mountains, be guided to the beautifully refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel for a luxe afternoon high tea.

Go to escarpmentgroup.com.au or phone (02) 4780 1200 for more information about accommodation packages, dining options and events.

*Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Fireside dining at Darley’s Restaurant


Blue Mountains hospitality apprenticeship opportunities

Free 5-star training available for would-be hospitality workers in some of the best hotels in the Blue Mountains

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group     Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Would-be hospitality workers can receive 5-star training in the region’s top hotels for free after the State Government scrapped TAFE fees for 100,000 apprentices, saving students about $2000 per course in order to combat the national trades drought.

Escarpment Group of hotels will contribute to the training investment, to be facilitated by the Skilling Australia Fund from July 1, and has invited applicants to submit their details.

The company operates the most awarded resorts in regional NSW including Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges in the Blue Mountains. Further north, it also owns the historic Convent in the Hunter Valley and the multi award-winning paddock-to-plate restaurant Circa 1876.

Apprenticeships are available in various roles

With 10 busy dining outlets, the need for skills is significant.

Escarpment Group operations manager Adam Holmes said training trades and tourism workers under an apprenticeship enrolment with TAFE would help top up falling worker numbers in the industry.

“Over the past five years the numbers of apprentices has reduced year on year to almost nil and we need more motivated skilled staff for regional tourism to thrive.

“Escarpment Group is a dynamic operator of premium hotels and resorts and needs trainees to future-proof the region for economic growth.’’

Apprenticeships are available in the roles of chef, housekeeping, food and beverage service, customer service and reception.

Mr Holmes, originally from Cronulla and recently returned to Australia from Mauritius, said: “Escarpment Group is the largest tourism employer in the Blue Mountains with numerous staff with experience in some of the top restaurants and hotels in the world, ready and willing to share their knowledge and skills with trainees.

“With five luxury properties across two mature tourism regions, there is plenty of opportunity for growth and diversity in a versatile career that can take you anywhere in the world.’’

Potential apprentices have been invited to submit details to recruitment@escarpmentgroup.com.au.

*Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Apprentices will learn on the job from experienced staff


Aussie Outback cruising with purpose

Experience the amazing Horizontal Falls on the Kimberley Coast cruise

 

By Ellen Hill for Christian Fellowship Tours

Towering waterfalls, rugged Outback landscapes, ancient Aboriginal art and abundant wildlife. Discover the remarkable Kimberley Coast on the Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) cruise of the West Australia area in August.

Tour passengers will see the most recognisable natural and manmade attractions of the Kimberley Coast during 10 escorted, unforgettable days cruising between Darwin and Broome.

King George Falls is an awe-inspiring part of the trip

In the north, discover the majestic King George River with its towering 80m twin falls and the mysterious Bradshaw paintings of Bigge Island.

Explore the Mitchell plateau and cruise the Kimberley’s “big’’ rivers before experiencing beautiful King Cascades, remarkable Montgomery Reef and the amazing natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls in the south.

With two landings most days by the unique “Explore’’ excursion vessel or inflatable zodiacs, passengers will have more opportunities to fully immerse in the spectacular setting.

Each evening, passengers will retire to comfortable accommodation with private facilities after dining together.

Immerse yourself in Aboriginal art

The tour will include a Christian tour leader throughout the entire trip, daily devotions and Sunday worship, a 10-day cruise, accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers.

CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw, who will lead the tour, said: “Exploring the remarkable Kimberley Coast by small ship helps you grasp the majesty of the landscape and the awesomeness of our Creator’s handiwork by being amongst it.

“It’s such a privilege to be walk across the salt flats to view the wreckage of a US Air Force DC3 which crash landed on the beach during World War II and visit secluded spots not many other people get to see.’’

Recharge in comfortable accommodation each night

More than a leisure cruise, the Kimberley Coastal Cruise will be an opportunity to learn about the history, culture and landscapes of each location visited through on-board commentary, presentations and briefings.

Past travellers have come from varied backgrounds and churches, yet enjoyed the shared experience of travelling with likeminded people.

One said they appreciated the care and support they received on tour, while another enjoyed the bond they formed with fellow travellers.

“The drivers and tour leaders are always helpful especially for those who have physical or other issues or who travel alone.’’

See towering waterfalls amid rugged Outback landscapes

Others also commented that travelling with CFT was an excellent way for single people, especially women, to explore the world in a safe group where they could make new friends.

Travellers on the Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour will have the opportunity to worship together on board the ship on Sunday and take part in the daily devotions for which CFT has become renowned.

The Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour departs from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane on August 1 and returns August 14.

Bookings and information: www.christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.

  • Christian Fellowship Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    Marvel at the Creator’s handiwork at locations such as Mitchell Falls


Great fat rail coup for Blue Mountains tourism

A Fantastic Aussie Tours bus at Echo Point Lookout

By Ellen Hill for Fantastic Aussie Tours

Rail riders can experience a great fat look at the Blue Mountains when the Indian Pacific pulls into Mt Victoria each week.

The optional off-train excursion for passengers travelling from Perth is the result of a new partnership between Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT), Great Southern Rail which owns the iconic Indian Pacific touring train, Scenic World, Blue Mountains Guides and the Trippas White Group which owns The Lookout Restaurant at Echo Point.

FAT managing director Jason Cronshaw said the Blue Mountains excursion would be an option each Wednesday, with passengers alighting the train at Mt Victoria after breakfast.

A FAT bus would then transport them to Scenic World to experience the range of thrilling rides or a trek through awe-inspiring landscapes along Prince Henry Walk with Blue Mountains Guides.

All passengers would then assemble for lunch at The Lookout Restaurant near the Three Sisters rock formation overlooking the Jamison Valley before being returned to the Indian Pacific in a FAT bus and continuing their rail journey to Sydney.

(l-r) Fantastic Aussie Tours managing director Jason Cronshaw, Indian Pacific manager Penelope Milne and Jay Yip from Trippas White Group celebrate the official tour package launch at The Lookout Restaurant overlooking the Jamison Valley. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

“For many years, Indian Pacific passengers caught glimpses of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as they hurtled through the bush and the villages,’’ Mr Cronshaw said.

“Now, whatever activity they choose to do here they will experience what we are blessed with every day.’’

The package had taken five years to finalise, with the main challenge reserving a rail pathway in the increasingly busy Blue Mountains rail line timetable.

“This is a fantastic coup for the businesses directly involved in this package including us of course, but it has the potential to bring hundreds of visitors to the region who will hopefully return to stay at least one night in a hotel or B&B, eat out in our cafes and restaurants and visit the attractions and retail outlets throughout the area,’’ Mr Cronshaw said.

Each train had a potential load of 252 passengers.

Indian Pacific manager Penelope Milne said the daytrip option would be expanded to an overnight stay by 2019.

In the meantime, the excursions would encourage longer return visits among passengers.

In fact, one passenger on the inaugural trip on April 4 spent the night in the Blue Mountains before returning home via the public rail network.

Click HERE to book a seat on the Indian Pacific. Click HERE for information about Fantastic Aussie Tours.

  • Fantastic Aussie Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    (l-r) Fantastic Aussie Tours managing director Jason Cronshaw and Indian Pacific restaurant manager Stacey Chau celebrate the official tour package launch. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Blue Mountains, NSW: KCC redevelopment to solve parking, noise

An artist’s impression of the proposed redevelopment of the KCC auditorium and bookshop space

By Ellen Hill for Katoomba Christian Convention

A multi-million dollar upgrade of the Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) site would solve parking and noise problems and provide a state-of-the-art venue for large conferences and sporting events for Christian and secular groups alike.

A development application before Blue Mountains Council outlines the plan to revamp outdated facilities at the bushland property next to Scenic World in Cliff Drive and Violet St.

Costing an estimated $25 million, phase one of the redevelopment would replace the existing 2100-seat auditorium with a 3500-seat structure, re-orientated to funnel noise away from neighbours.

There would be a new bookshop and modern toilet facilities and seven breakout spaces/meeting rooms.

Future plans include a new reception, administration and laundry building; replacing the 200-seat volunteer-built dining hall and kitchen with a 500-seat one; and a new café fronting Violet St.

Existing accommodation buildings would be replaced and include six eco lodges each with 56 beds and three 18-bed eco chalets, boosting accommodation capacity by 170 beds to a total of 390 beds.

There would also be new internal access roads and 75 car spaces, landscaping and revegetation.

The development application before the council only seeks approval for works at the Cliff Drive section of the site.

The KCC property also includes Clairvaux Oval in Cedar St, which is used for car parking and has three dormitory-style accommodation buildings, a playground and basketball court.

(l-r) KCC executive director Jonathan Dykes and operations manager (functions) Shelley Taylor in front of the existing bookshop. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

KCC executive director Jonathan Dykes said the upgrade was needed to bring the “tired’’ facilities up to standard and visitor expectation.

“Things have been adapted and updated as finances and resources have allowed, but we can only stretch that so far for so long.’’

Works conducted over the years to ensure standards compliance (including asbestos removal) had reduced the capacity of the site yet still did not deliver accessible accommodation for people with a disability, he said.

The redevelopment would actually lessen the site’s impact on surrounding residents – aside from its long-time alcohol ban which ensured more moderate patrons, Mr Dykes said.

A larger auditorium with breakout spaces and seminar rooms would contain such events to the property and lessen the number of traffic movements coming and going from the site.

The new facilities had been designed to be respectful of the location and its significant environmental values and the upgrade would be a more environmentally sensitive facility.

“We are pleased that a staff report to the council recommends approval of the DA subject to conditions,’’ he said.

As well as being the largest conference venue in the Blue Mountains, the property was a valuable resource for the region, used as a staging base for emergency services and community information meetings during the 2013 bushfires.

The proposed upgrades would expand the site’s potential as a venue for secular not-for-profit organisations like schools and events such as the annual Ultra Trail Australia running event and corporate groups seeking low-cost accommodation, although its main purpose would remain as a place of worship for Christian groups.

KCC also held seven worship events a year, the largest being its Easter Convention (3100 people attended last year) and the KYCK youth events.

A not-for-profit interdenominational Bible-preaching convention ministry that relies on volunteers, donations and financial support of visiting delegates, KCC was founded in 1903 in the tradition of the Keswick Convention in England.

​Growing from a small gathering of Christians in a children’s playroom in Katoomba, the first convention was held at Khandala, a house at the end of Katoomba St.

By the 1930s, 800 people attended the annual gatherings each Christmas.

In the 1940s KCC operated from a site in Forester Rd near Echo Point and in the 1950s the current site was acquired and several developments have taken place.

The site was zoned Special Uses 5ACU (Church) in 1985 and includes a baptismal pool carved out of rock.

* Katoomba Christian Convention is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 


Concert to calm the senses

Sensory Concerts are designed for anyone with sensory needs, particularly children on the autism spectrum. Photo: Jenny Wu

By Ellen Hill for Grace Kim

People with sensory issues that prevent them from attending public events such as concerts can immerse themselves in a specially designed live music performance at Glenbrook on April 23.

Concert pianist Grace Kim. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

To be held on a weekday during school holidays to cater for aged care facilities, centres for people with a disability and families, it will feature internationally acclaimed musicians Erica Kennedy on violin, flautist Lisa Osmialowski and Bullaburra concert pianist Grace Kim.

Part of the Sensory Concerts series, it has been designed for people of all ages, especially families with sensory or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, physical or intellectual disabilities who experience feelings of being overwhelmed by crowd, noise, light, smell and touch.

Performed to small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, there will be a range of seating options and a retreat space where audience members can self-regulate or seek support from the onsite occupational therapist and psychologist.

“We really don’t mind if people need to move around, lie on a crash mat or take time out from everyone else for a while,’’ Ms Kim said.

Violinist Erica Kennedy will perform at the Glenbrook concert

“We select music especially so that everyone benefits from the power of the music without feeling overwhelmed or restricted.’’

As an internationally renowned professional concert pianist and music educator Ms Kim knows firsthand the benefits of music to health and wellbeing, and strives to make it accessible to everyone who needs it.

A mother of two young children, one with Asperger’s syndrome, Ms Kim said: “Young children are especially sensitive to their surroundings and tend to react in certain ways like moving or making noise, to cope.

“That’s why families with children tend to shy away from traditional concerts for fear of disrupting others.

“But we all know that music is one of the best things for the brain development, and these families miss out on the crucial time when their brain are developing.’’

Flautist Lisa Osmialowski will perform at the Glenbrook concert

Subsidised through a Blue Mountains City of the Arts grant, Sensory Concerts are offered at affordable prices to ensure they are accessible to all.

The next Sensory Concerts will be held at Lower Mountains Anglican Parish, 1 Wascoe St, Glenbrook, at 10.45am and 12pm on Monday, April 23. Tickets: $25 adults, $65 families (2 adults, up to 3 children), $15 children under 16 years. Click HERE to book.

  • Grace Kim is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media 

    Concert pianist Grace Kim. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Blue Mountains, Penrith: Job opportunities for nannies

By Ellen Hill for Faeriestorm Nanny Service        Photo: David Hill

An influx of families making the tree change to the Blue Mountains and Penrith areas has resulted in a spike in demand for professional nannies to care for children which in turn, has led to job opportunities in the sector.

Faeriestorm Nanny Service owner Brenda Edwards said: “We are seeing a lot of families moving to the area from Sydney for the lifestyle and more affordable housing which they love, but then parents have to make the daily commute to city offices and are away from home for long hours or, increasingly, need child-free quiet to work from home offices.’’

More than just a babysitting business, Faeriestorm Nanny Service did everything a favourite aunty or grandma would do with clients’ children, from educational play, personal care, supervision and transporting to activities and appointments to light household chores and meal preparation.

The aim of the whole-family approach was to help parents create time to foster healthy, positive relationships with their children.

“It can be tough juggling work and family life, so it’s our job to help alleviate that stress a wee bit by tidying the kitchen and preparing a basic meal or school lunches,’’ Mrs Edwards (Miss Brenda to her charges) said.

“Other tasks like stripping and making beds, dusting, ironing, folding clean washing, baking, gardening or window cleaning can be negotiated between individual families and nannies.

“I like to say we bring calm to the faeriestorms for our families.’’

Apart from requiring her team to wear branded uniforms on duty and have current qualifications, police and working with children checks, banning the use of phones, computers and social media, Mrs Edwards said the ideal Faeriestorm nanny and manny was respectful, discrete, unflappable and, above all, loved children and the ideal of family.

“It helps if you’ve run a home for the little things – you won’t step over the toys, you’ll ask the children to help pick them up or you will pick them up yourself; you’ll wipe the kitchen counter over; you’ll fold the washing. You won’t have to be asked to do those things.’’

The service was tailored to each family’s short or long-term needs and nannies were matched to families, Mrs Edwards said.

The mother-of-six became a nanny in 2009 and for two years worked six days a week, rarely seeing her own family before employing other nannies.

Today, Faeriestorm Nanny Service operates in private homes throughout the Penrith, Blue Mountains and Sydney region, can cater for children with special needs and has experience with children under welfare care and in high profile families where security is an issue.

Faeriestorm nannies also care for tourist children in hotels during holidays and at conferences and events such as weddings, functions and parties.

Contact Brenda Edwards on 0417 448 318 or at nanny@bluemountainsnanny.com.au for more details.

* Faeriestorm Nanny Service is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media


Tree change for wildlife at Everglades, Blue Mountains

By Ellen Hill for Everglades Historic House & Gardens

Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Possums, bats, birds and other native critters can make a tree change with million dollar views, thanks to new nesting boxes carved into a dead tree at Everglades Historic House & Gardens.

Financed by a grant from Greater Sydney Local Land Services through NSW Government funding, the habitat tree is located in The Glades at the edge of the Leura property, famous for its magnificent 1930s art deco house and set amid spectacular gardens and formal terraces overlooking sweeping views of the Jamison Valley.

Arborists using a chainsaw fast-tracked the natural process in the bush when tree hollows are formed by limbs dropping from trees, creating a hole in the tree trunk or limb.

Over time (sometimes more than 100 years), these holes become larger and eventually form tree hollows.

Land clearing and urbanisation has led to a shortage of hollows across the Greater Sydney area, meaning there are fewer havens for small animals to shelter, hide from predators, breed and raise their young.

Of the 174 native animal species in NSW which rely on tree hollows, 40 are listed as threatened.

Everglades manager Guy McIlrath said: “Because tree hollows are becoming increasingly rare and their formation slow, it is very important to retain habitat trees, so when this big gum tree died it was an opportunity to provide a safe haven for some of the small animals who live at Everglades.’’

The Blue Mountains ash (Eucalyptus oreades) was pruned so it was safe for the many visitors to wander the tiered gardens and picnic under the tree canopy in the cool glade.

Experts from Sydney Arbour Trees, who have carved similar habitat hollows in dead trees across the Cumberland Plain area of Western Sydney, then created three artificial nest hollows for birds in the upper limbs and trunk and two openings for bats in the lower portion.

The arborists first sliced off a “faceplate’’ before using new chainsaw techniques to carve habitat chambers into the tree branches and trunk and reattaching the faceplate to protect the resident animals which enter the readymade homes through custom-designed slits and holes.

Birds can still perch on the remaining branches while hollow-dependent animals such as Crimson Rosellas, Southern Boobook owls, Owlet-nightjars, Eastern Rosellas and Chocolate Wattled bats can move in to the new hollows.

While the creatures may be too tiny, timid or nocturnal for visitors to Everglades to see, an interpretive sign at the base of the tree explains the purpose of the habitat tree.

“What we’re doing here at Everglades to help provide shelter and food sources for native animals is an example of what everyone in the Blue Mountains can easily do to help conserve wildlife,’’ Mr McIlrath said.

As well as plant a native garden, residents could retain safe dead trees with hollows, install nest boxes or become involved in Blue Mountains City Council’s (BMCC) Bushcare Program.

National Trust, which owns the Everglades property, and BMCC Bushcare volunteers have worked for years to ensure exotic plant species do not escape into bushland.

However, that is not always easy to do along cliff edges so, as part of the grant, specialist teams used rope access techniques to scale the cliffs around Everglades and remove weeds, thus preventing the spread into the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura, is open from 10am to 5pm daily during daylight savings and from 10am to 4pm during autumn and winter. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Contact: (02) 4784 1938 or email everglades@nationaltrust.com.au.

This project is supported by Greater Sydney Local Land Services through funding from the NSW Government. For further information phone 4724 2100

* Everglades Historic House & Gardens is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Habitat Creationists: (l-r) Sydney Arbor Trees aborist Peter Bowles, Everglades head gardener Dave Gray, Sydney Arbor Trees consulting arborist Michael Sullings, BMCC community conservation officer Linda Thomas, Greater Sydney Local Land Services officer Linda Dedovic and Everglades Historic House & Gardens manager Guy McIlrath


Festive arrival for Santa at Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blue Mountains

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

The naughty and the nice will soon be revealed as stockings are opened around the world, but it appears Santa Claus is paying special attention to Blue Mountains locals and visitors.

A TV weather camera last week captured what appeared to be Santa reverse parking over the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath. The above image was taken at 4.05am last Monday [December 11] by the unmanned camera and has generated much interest on social media.

The unknown element above the building on the left side of the photograph could be interpreted as a herd of reindeer reverse parking in formation, while the light in the middle of the picture above the spire atop the Belgravia accommodation wing is an unidentified flying object (Santa’s sleigh perhaps?).

Neither of those objects are usually in the night sky over the Hydro Majestic and appeared for just a minute.

Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “No one has actually seen Santa in the past few days but the Hydro Majestic has so many rooms, even a couple that have been boarded up, and a rumoured secret passage that he could very well be roaming around upstairs unbeknown to us.

“The reindeers have eight kilometres of bush from the back of the hotel right down to the Megalong Valley to hide in.

“Our chefs have noticed a slice of Christmas cake missing from the fridge and a used glass with traces of milk in the sink each morning though.’’

In any case, visitors to Mark Foy’s legendary “Palace in the wilderness’’ can experience the magic of Christmas from the moment they enter the Casino Lobby under the famous Hydro Majestic dome where they are greeted with snow domes, sparkling sentinels and an enormous tree twinkling with baubles, while the Wintergarden Restaurant has been adorned with wreaths and table decorations, watched over by two massive golden reindeers.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Roaring 20s Festival: art deco weekend at Hydro Majestic Hotel

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group                   Photos: David Hill

The Hydro Majestic Hotel will revive its most mischievous traditions and host the ultimate day-long vintage revelry on Saturday, February 24.

The Roaring 20s Festival celebrations will high kick off with a community Charleston Challenge for Charity dance in front of the Majestic Pavilion at 11am.

The naughty knees-up will be an opportunity for art deco buffs to don their most sophisticated 1920s-inspired costumes befitting the elegant venue (eg: feather boas, spats, fedora hats).

There will be prizes galore for best dressed lady, man, couples and hats. Cost: gold coin donation towards Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service.

The Charleston for Charity will be followed by a decadent regional food and wine showcase of shared plates featuring the culinary skills of the Hydro Majestic kitchen team as well as other exceptional local producers.

A fashion parade of exquisite 1920s clothing will add an extra course to the long lunch menu. Cost: $95pp.

Sumptuous high tea will be available in the Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley throughout the day, along with history tours of the world-famous hotel.

That evening, the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels will again resound with the likes of Al Capone, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel when the Hydro Majestic holds a Gangster Casino Night in support of Katoomba Hospital.

Guests can play all the traditional games at casino-quality tables with professionally trained casino standard croupiers.

There will be an array of prizes, and money raised at the 18 years plus-restricted event will go towards refurbishing the waiting room in the local Katoomba Hospital emergency department. Cost: $55 per person general admission to Casino includes welcome cocktail.

Visitors are encouraged to fully immerse themselves in the Roaring 20s Festival by staying for at least one night at the Hydro Majestic Hotel or one of its nearby sister properties Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Echoes Boutique Hotel or Lilianfels Resort & Spa.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book any/all of the Roaring 20s Festival events, accommodation and dining.

  • The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Blue Mountains, NSW: Springwood High School 50th anniversary reunion

 

The first intake of Springwood High School students in 1967

By Ellen Hill for Springwood High School P&C

Reminisce over the detention books, catch up on who married whom, what happened to such-and-such and where the maths whiz ended up when Springwood High School celebrates its 50th anniversary on December 8-9.

Students past and present have been invited to a function in the school hall on the evening of Friday, December 8, where childhood friends and schoolyard foes can cram into the souvenir photo booth, pore over the commemorative booklet, pick out faces from the photo montage and memorabilia displayed while the school’s current hospitality students serve light refreshments.

Then, on Saturday, December 9, the school will hold an open day from 10am to 2pm, during which visitors can explore classrooms and sit in on modern lessons to experience how school and teaching has changed during the past 50 years.

There will be cooking displays, the archives will be open and the canteen will sell refreshments, while a jumping castle and slushy machines will operate for children.

Built in 1967 to relieve overcrowding at Katoomba and Nepean High schools, Springwood High School’s original six building plan was constructed in three stages at a cost of $1.2 million.

The first classes for the 124 students and nine teachers under principal Mr H. Watkin-Smith were held at Penrith on February 1, 1967. Lessons continued there until the new Springwood High School was ready for occupation that September.

The school’s population swelled to more than 1600 students before Blaxland High School opened in 1977.

Springwood High School alumni includes actress and singer Amie McKenna, former Australian cricket fast bowler Nathan Bracken who opened the new cricket nets in 2009, Pacific Magazines home and food magazines general manager and former House Rules judge Wendy Moore, award-winning photographer David Darcy and ABC Open North Coast producer Catherine Marciniak (new Ragen).

A Springwood High School student from 1978 to 1981, Edward Versteeg was one of the first students with a physical disability (congenital spina bifida) in Australia to be integrated into mainstream schooling.

Reunion organizer Belinda Collings said: “The weekend will be a wonderful opportunity for ex-students to `walk down memory lane’ and for current students to be inspired by those who have gone before them. Who knows who you’ll bump into.

“With so many new residents moving into the area, the open day will also be a good chance to visit the school, see what facilities it offers, chat with some teachers and see how the school is part of our community.’’

School principal Dr Mark Howie said: “Springwood High School has yielded a professional Australian cricketer, a Disney cartoonist, a singer, an army major, a magazine editor and an award-winning photographer, to name just a few high profile professions.

“Our classrooms have also nurtured numerous plumbers, academics, teachers, nurses, barristers, policemen, retailers, chefs and everything in between.

“Many of our current crop of students are children of former students and several of our teachers were inspired to teach from these classrooms.’’

SHS had a proud history of academic excellence along with creative and performing arts success, and its combined senior curriculum with concentrated studies was a noteworthy feature of the school, Dr Howie said.

Ms Collings encouraged visitors to stay in the Blue Mountains for at least one night to fully immerse themselves in the event and give themselves time to reconnect with old friends. Go to bluemountainscitytourism.com.au for accommodation and dining options in the area.

The Springwood High School 50th anniversary function will be held at the school, Grose Rd, Faulconbridge, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Friday, December 8. Tickets: $20 adults over 16 years, $15 pensioners include souvenir photo, commemorative booklet, light refreshments and entertainment. Bookings: click HERE or phone Springwood High School office on (02) 4751 2111.

Celebrations will continue at the school throughout Saturday, December 9. Cost: free. Details: Facebook.

Springwood High School staff in 1970