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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.


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.


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

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.


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, 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


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


Blue Mountains bush Christmas with altitude

By Ellen Hill            Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The chirp of cicadas competing with Christmas carols, an awe-inspiring backdrop of towering golden escarpments and dramatic valleys and a cooling breeze carrying the subtle scent of eucalyptus. Welcome to an Aussie bush Christmas and summer holiday season in the Blue Mountains.

PRE-CHRISTMAS:

Begin the Christmas countdown early with lantern-making workshops for kids aged four to 12 at Leura Garage funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13 in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival. Cool prizes from upmarket local shops. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult) includes lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Bookings: (02) 4784 3391, info@leuragarage.com.au or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.

GIFT IDEAS:

 

Give your adult loved ones some grown-up time with a Faeriestorm Nanny Service voucher. Available in hourly blocks (minimum two hours *conditions apply), the fully qualified nannies will care for their kids while the adults enjoy some down time. Purchases: Brenda Edwards 0417 448 318 or nanny@bluemountainsnanny.com.au.

A night away with a day spa pamper package at a blissful retreat such as Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges or dinner at a swanky restaurant such as the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic Hotel are always popular.

 

 

A truly unique way of sightseeing in style is with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs from within a vintage Cadillac car. Dressed in formal attire, your local driver will collect you from and return you to any location in the Blue Mountains. Bookings: info@bluemountainslimo.com.au or Donald on 0455 352 976.

CHRISTMAS DAY:

Tuck into a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings, decorations, bon bons, beverage package and even a visit from Santa for the children at the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa near Echo Point or a seven-course degustation at the multi award-winning hatted Darley’s Restaurant. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.

NEW YEAR’S EVE:

For an unforgettable Auld Lang Syne moment, feast in the New Year at the chic Echoes Restaurant at Katoomba or the world-famous Cat’s Alley at the Hydro Majestic Hotel after watching a sublime sunset over a blue haze-shrouded valley while sipping a cocktail and resolving to take more time out in 2018. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.

SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES:

Talisman Gallery, Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west): Try your hand at the time honoured art of blacksmithing and make your very own fire poker on the forge and anvil on January 26 and 27. Cost: $25 includes materials and tuition. Decent footwear required. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722 or info@talismangallery.com.au.

 

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Kids aged three to six can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment in one of the most enchanting historic properties in the Blue Mountains through the My Adventure at Everglades activity book ($10 and $5 per subsequent book). Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Details: (02) 4784 1938 or email evergladesgarden@nationaltrust.com.au.

* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media

 


Hydro Majestic gangsters raise funds for Katoomba Hospital

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group            Photos: David Hill

The original Blue Mountains party palace will again resound with the likes of Al Capone, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel when the Hydro Majestic Hotel holds a Gangster Casino Night on Saturday, May 27, in support of Katoomba Hospital.

Guests can play Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, The Money Wheel with Majestic Money at casino-quality tables with professionally trained casino standard croupiers.

Prizes on the night will include accommodation packages, dinner and show tickets, day spa, high tea packages and more.

Money raised at the event will go towards refurbishing the waiting room in the Katoomba Hospital emergency department.

An 18 years plus age restriction applies for this event, which will begin with a three-course dinner in the Wintergarden Restaurant from 6pm-8pm during which there will be entertainment, followed by the casino in the Majestic Marquee from 8pm-11pm.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said Escarpment Group was pleased to help Katoomba Hospital, which had a 92-year-long history of caring for the health and wellbeing of locals and visitors.

“While we do enjoy reliving the decadence and party lifestyle made famous by the first owner of the Hydro Majestic, Mark Foy, Escarpment Group is very much involved in the Blue Mountains community.

“The staff at Katoomba Hospital work tirelessly for the good of others including, occasionally, our guests, so if we can help make their job easier and have fun along the way, then everyone wins.’’

There will be no cigars or opium like there was in the gangster era of course “but there’s no prohibition in 2017 so our bars will be open and serving a range of exotic cocktails’’.

To look the part, gents could wear a three-piece suit (pinstriped if possible) accentuated by a contrasting tie (never a bow tie) and suspenders, with a dark overcoat, a fedora hat, black dress shoes with white spats, a pocket square, watch chain with a watch and a thin, straight moustache.

“Gangsters were most definitely criminals but the mob bosses weren’t ruffians. They always looked snazzy – Al Capone was just as sophisticated as Rudolph Valentino,’’ Mr Bruegger said.

Flappers sported short sleek hair, shorter shapeless shift dress, a flat chest, dramatic makeup (often applied in public) and exposed limbs accessorised with a long string of beads; a beaded skullcap, fascinator headpiece or scarf; long satin gloves; stockings rolled down just below the knee; and Mary Jane-style shoes. Hair was worn in a bob, a chignon; or waves or kiss-curls around the hairline.

Tickets: $55 per person general admission to Casino includes welcome cocktail; $150pp includes three-course dinner in Wintergarden Restaurant plus entry to Casino event. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s wife visits Hydro Majestic

(l-r) Professor Cheng Hong accepts a gift from Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen during her visit

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

The Blue Mountains was the destination of choice for the wife of visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday [March 25] when she made a surprise trip to the region.

After an endless cavalcade of police escort, Professor Cheng Hong and her entourage of Chinese media and advisors retreated to the glamourous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, where she was welcomed and presented with a hamper of local wines, gourmet jams, teas and honey.

The heritage hotel unveiled spectacular views over the Megalong Valley from the Wintergarden restaurant, matched by a palate of pasties and sweets.

With military precision yet a surprisingly relaxed pace, the delegation sampled the regional produce and sipped freshly brewed teas while taking in the views and history which has made the Hydro Majestic famous.

Taking time out from the trade-drive visit to Australia with her husband, Professor Cheng Hong then visited Echo Point Lookout overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation and lunched on grass-fed Australian Angus beef tenderloin at the nearby Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant, which overlooks the lush valleys from where the meat was sourced.

Modest and reserved, preferring to keep a low profile, Professor Cheng Hong is more interested in tranquility and natural environment than politics, business or fashion.

An English professor specialising in naturalism in American literature, she has translated many books in the field including Wake-Robin, The Singing Wilderness, and The Outermost House.

In the abstract of her book Tranquility Is Beyond Price (2009), Professor Cheng Hong wrote that she developed her interest in American and British writing on nature and the environment when she was a visiting scholar at Brown University in the US.

The university website lists her as one of its “renowned scholars’’ and a member of the institute’s academic committee.

Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen said while the visit was very tight lipped, it was not a surprise given that China and Australia were keen to extend tourism and cultural exchanges.

With more than 1 million Chinese visitors to Australia, tourism was an area of tremendous economic growth in terms of tourism and hospitality related employment, vocational training and education, she said.

“Professor Cheng Hong was mesmerised with the ever-changing views of the Blue Mountains escarpment and seemed happy to relax and enjoy a leisurely lunch featuring regional beef, wines, cheeses and chocolates.

“It was a great opportunity for the management team at the Hydro Majestic and Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant to highlight cultural diversity, language capacity and vocational education and training focus in the Blue Mountains.’’

The Escarpment Group team welcomed the visiting Chinese delegation to the Blue Mountains in Mandarin and gave Professor Cheng Hong a brief history of the Hydro Majestic, reflecting on its eccentric and entrepreneurial beginnings including a glimpse of early Chinese heritage and in the Blue Mountains.

Premier Keqiang, Professor Cheng Hong and their delegation’s visit to Australia marked the 45th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was “an opportunity to reflect on how much we have achieved and take steps to ensure our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continues to strengthen into the future’’.

* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Professor Cheng Hong and her party enjoyed high tea and a spectacular view during their visit


Blue Mountains: Cheeky fun returns to Hydro Majestic

Opera singers (l-r) Damien Whiteley and Brad Cooper will perform at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group            Photos: David Hill

Seat-swapping, hand-crossing bravura, drama, passion and cheeky fun will return to the original Blue Mountains party palace as a string of musical events rolls out during the next few months.

Tenor Brad Cooper performing at the Hydro Majestic Hotel last year

The music program will see the return of popular opera and classical instrumental performances, reviving the traditions established by original Hydro Majestic Hotel owner, Mark Foy, in the early 20th century.

General manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic and Foy himself were famous for their revelry and decadence and we’ve reignited the celebration by filling the calendar with festivals, events and performances and an endless round of public and private parties.

“Guest are welcome to swap seats, cross hands and indulge in cheeky fun but please keep the passion and drama to yourselves.’’

Choose one or more from the following performances:

Cellist Teije Hylkema performing at the original Blue Mountains party palace recently

 

Le Grand Tango, June 11: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra principal cellist Teije Hylkema and internationally-awarded pianist Grace Kim will present a program to ignite passion and fire featuring Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.

4 hands, 2 pianists, 1 piano, August 19: One of the busiest pianists in Australia, Kristian Chong, will team up with Grace Kim to present a brilliant program of seat swapping, hand crossing bravura. You will see why four hands are better than two.

 

 

 

There will be plenty of operatic humour from bass Damian Whiteley

2017 Blue Mountains Opera Festival, September 30 – October 1:

  • High tea, Saturday: Mozart’s magnificent masterpiece, his Clarinet Quintet, will begin the weekend on a high note featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra clarinettist Frank Celata with the Enigma Quartet.
  • Opera Gala Dinner Concert, Saturday: After a glowing inaugural success last year, Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper, mezzo/soprano Sally Wilson and bass Damian Whiteley will take guests on an evening of drama, passion and cheeky fun.
  • High tea, Sunday: The festivities crescendo when eight of the finest string players perform with the ever popular Mendelssohn Octet.

Teije Hylkema will return to the Hydro Majestic

Each high tea concert package ($85pp) includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival with a sumptuous three-tier offering including an indulgent selection of gourmet sandwiches, warm fluffy scones, delicate pastries and the finest selection of handmade desserts served with Vittoria Coffee and La Maison Du The teas. The concert will be from 12pm to 1pm.

The Gala Dinner Concert package from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, October 1, will include drinks and canapes on arrival followed by a two-course dinner with beverages. Cost: $150pp.

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

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 


Majestic fashion tips for Roaring 20s Festival

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group        Photos: David Hill

Roaring 20s Festival events at the original Blue Mountains party palace will be majestic opportunities to promenade art deco fashion to maximum elegant effect during the February 24-25 weekend.

Retro revivalists can dress to impress for three festival events at the Hydro Majestic Hotel:

Arrive at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in style with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs

 

 

  • Majestic Journey on Friday, February 24: Couples will be collected from Penrith railway station at 10.30am in a fleet of vintage Cadillacs in the spirit of Mark Foy’s original cavalcade and proceed to the world-famous hotel, pausing en route at several historic landmarks. Once at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, guests can tour the splendiferous “Palace in the wilderness’’ before a three-course dinner overlooking the magnificent Megalong Valley. Cost: $2,000 per couple includes vintage car ride, light luncheon, entry to Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum and Everglades Historic House & Gardens, three-course dinner, accommodation and Majestic Long Lunch. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885 or hydromajestic.com.au.

 

Take part in the retro dance take-back

 

 

  • Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge, 11am on Saturday, February 25: The annual public dance-off will attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston. Registration and dance tutorial: www.charlestonchallenge.com.au.

 

Indulge in the most decadent regional gourmet food and wine in the Majestic Marquee

  • Majestic Long Lunch, 12.30pm-4pm on Saturday, February 25: Once the excitement of the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge has quietened and retro revivalists promenade to glamorous effect, diners will graze on decadent regional fair and glimpse exquisite fashion from yesteryear from the Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture. Cost: $95 per person. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885 or www.hydromajestic.com.au.

Long-time festival ambassador, fashion expert and owner of the Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture, Charlotte Smith, said 1920s fashion was diverse, allowing people to wear outfits which suited their personal taste, social standing, financial state and moral beliefs.

The era was renowned for the emergence of the newly independent worldly-wise “flappers’’ with their flattened chests and shapeless sheath dresses.

 

However, Ms Smith encouraged festival-goers to look to fashion designer Coco Chanel and legendary stars of the silver screen Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo for jaw-droppingly beautiful eveningwear, the likes of TVs Miss Fisher and Agatha Christie murder mystery shows for everyday wear inspiration and the Downtown Abbey series for sophisticated upmarket attire.

Hair was worn short and slicked back or in a bobbed style. Those with long hair could create finger waves at the front and sweep the rest into a low chignon at the back to look like Mary Pickford or Fay Wray.

A modern style example would be television personality and festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw, whose personal wardrobe is heavily influenced by the `20s era.

Men liked to look dapper for every occasion and wore pure cotton or woollen clothes such as a pin-striped cricket outfit or cream linen suit accessorised with silk cravats (not matching but complementary, no ties), cotton or silk handkerchief, a walking stick or umbrella and a hat (golfing caps and fedoras were popular). Rolled up trouser cuffs showing a little bit of sock, a pair of braces and plain or tartan patterned vest completed the look which modern people might identify with The Great Gatsby or New Hamptons collegiate style.

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw with a Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs car at Everglades Historic House & Gardens

Egyptology was all the rage, after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The 1920s was a time when people went adventuring to distant, exotic lands such as cruising the legendary River Nile.

Particularly relevant to the Hydro Majestic, people of the `20s (including original hotel owner Mark Foy) were fascinated with the Orient.

“Think cinnabar jewellery, turbans, zodiac starburst designs, that Greek key pattern, gold and lapis, red and chrysanthemum motifs, tiaras, vintage brooches, beaded or sequined bows, headbands with feathers or a jewel,’’ Ms Smith said.

As well as outside the world-famous hotel in front of crisp white walls and breathtaking valley views, retro buffs can show off their costumes when sipping a cocktail along the dramatically decorated Cat’s Alley, within the beautiful Majestic Marquee and against the enormous windows of the Wintergarden Restaurant during dinner.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 for more Roaring 20s Festival information and to book accommodation and dining options.

* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw with a Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs car at Everglades Historic House & Gardens


Hydro Majestic, Blue Mountains: Final Metropolitan Orchestra concert for 2016

Cocktails and Serenades 07

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group             Photos: David Hill

Celebrate the onset of sultry summer evenings, dusky sunsets over breathtaking views and mouth-watering regional fare to the sublime strains of The Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) when the Hydro Majestic Hotel hosts its final Majestic Concert for 2016.

Winter Ball 12A 55-piece showcase will include a program of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture, Kats-Chernin’s Ornamental Air (for Basset Clarinet and Orchestra) and Andrew Doyle displaying the exceptional range of the clarinet in the virtuosic, lyrical Symphony No 7 by Beethoven.

The concert program will be accompanied by a lavish cocktail and dining package.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We’ve had two Majestic Concerts and some of the biggest stars of the modern opera stage perform at the Hydro this year, so I’d say the grand traditions of culture and elegance that the Hydro Majestic is renown have well and truly been revived at the original Blue Mountains party palace.

“The music, the dining, the view and the magnificent heritage building itself combine to create unforgettable occasions.’’

Winter Ball 13Under the baton of founding artistic director and chief conductor Sarah-Grace Williams, TMO comprises Sydney’s most dynamic musicians and is recognised as one of the country’s most versatile orchestras delivering accessible and vibrant concert experiences.

The orchestra’s seven-year history features a star-studded array of highlight concert and/or album performances with the likes of Sumi Jo, David Helfgott, Marina Pior, Anthony Warlow, Elaine Paige, John Farnham with Olivia Newton-John, James Morrison, Kate Ceberano, Vocal Ensembles Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Chamber Choir, Figaro and members of Opera Australia and Children’s Entertainers Lah-Lah and Buzz.

Winter Ball 14The orchestra has been involved in special events such as BBC’s Blue Planet and Planet Earth in Concert, Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, Opera in the Vineyards, the National Rugby League grand final; and sailing the high seas as resident orchestra aboard the Bravo! Cruise of the Performing Arts.

TMO has commissioned, presented and recorded world premieres by several Australian composers and has workshopped new works by Paul Stanhope, Stuart Greenbaum, Matthew Hindson and James Humberstone.

Meanwhile, principal TMO clarinettist Andrew Doyle has performed with many bands, orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout Australia including the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Royal Australian Navy Band.

Symphony Under the Stars will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, November 19. Cost: $150pp includes cocktails & canapes, two-course dinner, four-hour beverage package and concert; $55pp show only. Go to hydromajestic.com.au for more dining, event and accommodation details and bookings.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill MediaWinter Ball 30

Back to Hartley offers fresh look at Australian history

(l-r) Lithgow Living History members Robyn Burton, Vicki Hartley, Ian Rufus and Alexa Burton bring Hartley Historic Site to life.

(l-r) Lithgow Living History members Robyn Burton, Vicki Hartley, Ian Rufus and Alexa Burton bring Hartley Historic Site to life.

By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site                                                  Photos: David Hill

Explore one of the best examples of colonial history afresh when Hartley Historic Site holds its annual Back to Hartley family fair on Sunday, October 25.

Be entertained with live music by Lithgow Folk Club; take a trike or pony ride; have a close encounter with a furry friend at the petting zoo; make a fire poker with metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery; and hit a bullseye at the archery.

Lithgow Living History member Ian Rufus in front of the old Hartley Courthouse.

Lithgow Living History member Ian Rufus in front of the old Hartley Courthouse.

There will be the Galloping Gumnut travelling playgroup for pre-schoolers, face painting, sheep shearing, a reptile show, locally-made handmade arts and crafts stalls, vintage cars and dancing demonstrations. New this year will be a rock climbing wall.

This year’s Back to Hartley will also commemorate the first 100 mile motorcycle race in the Hartley Valley and motorcyclists are invited to submit their bikes for judging by Lithgow Motorcycle Club with a range of prizes and categories up for grabs.

The Hartley Vale Circuit was originally marked out on public roads in 1915 just south of Lithgow. The circuit was first used by the Sydney-based Canberra Motorcycle Club to hold its first annual 100 mile race. The circuit was 6km long and a gravel surface. Racing was conducted in a clockwise direction and later controlled by Western Suburbs Motorcycle Club. It closed in 1936.

Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said funds raised from the day would go towards Paxton – MPS Journey to help pay for treatment for Lithgow one-year-old Paxton who was diagnosed with the rare and incurable MPS II disease also known as Hunters Syndrome when he was nine months old.

“Back to Hartley is a good chance for NPWS to work with the community to raise funds for a local charity or causes we both feel are important. This year we are pleased to be helping young Paxton.’’

Hartley Historic Site is managed by National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and buildings tell the story of the village from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.

Set among pastures, orchards, native plants and 19th and 20th century cottage gardens, the village’s sandstone buildings preserve an important piece of history – the settlement of inland Australia.

(l-r) Lithgow Living History members Vicki Hartley and Robyn Burton bring Hartley Historic Site to life.

(l-r) Lithgow Living History members Vicki Hartley and Robyn Burton bring Hartley Historic Site to life.

The settlement began when a need for a police centre in the Hartley Valley led to the construction of Hartley Court House in 1837.

During the next 50 years a bustling village grew around the courthouse, the judicial and administrative centre surrounded by churches and accommodation, a post office and staging facilities.

The village served travellers and settlers west of the Blue Mountains until it was surpassed by the Great Western Railway in 1887 and became stagnant and fell into decline.

In 1972 the village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS.

Today, it includes 17 buildings of historical significance, two privately owned, including Old Trahlee (1840), Post Office (1846), St Bernard’s Presbytery and St Bernard’s Church (1842) still operating as a Catholic church, Shamrock Inn Cottage (1841) and the Court House (1837).

“We have recently completed many improvements and added new attractions to the site including an Aboriginal art gallery, café, the Kew-Y-Ahn walk and modern toilet facilities, new gardens and fences,’’ Mr Ring said.

He also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.

“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’

Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.

Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.

Back to Hartley will be held at Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, from 9am to 4pm Sunday, October 25. Cost: $5 per vehicle. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or hartley@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Alexa Burton from Lithgow Living History steps back in time at Hartley Historic Site.

Alexa Burton from Lithgow Living History steps back in time at Hartley Historic Site.

 


Blue Mountains: Warwick Fuller artists’ retreat on the edge

Artist Warwick Fuller at work

Artist Warwick Fuller at work

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

Artists can take their talent right to the edge with one of Australia’s top painters at a workshop retreat at Parkland’s Country Gardens & Lodges in September.

Renowned landscape painter Warwick Fuller will lead an intimate three-day outdoor oil painting workshop for a select group of 10 energetic artists with experience in oils at the luxurious Escarpment Group property at Blackheath from September 15 to 17.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Blue Mountains has been recognised as a `city of the arts’ and Escarpment Group properties have featured in artworks for decades, especially Darley’s Restaurant at our Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and the very famous Hydro Majestic Hotel.

“So we are delighted to continue that tradition and offer the Parklands property as a luxurious artists retreat.’’

Fuller, who lives at Little Hartley, has had more than 60 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally, has received numerous awards and is represented in prominent galleries in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and London.

The plein air painter and Fellow of the Royal Art Society of NSW has paintings hung in private, corporate and institutional collections throughout the world.

Fuller’s style of landscape painting was emotive yet sincere, he said.

Cloud to the West, Blackheath, by Warwick Fuller

Cloud to the West, Blackheath, by Warwick Fuller

“You can read ad infinitum of the landscape painter trying to paint his feelings’,capture the light’, `render the mood of a scene’. There is nothing particularly new or unique in this ideology, developed in part through a natural progression of a very strong landscape tradition in Australia. It is sad to see these expressions misused, abused and over used to the point of becoming almost meaningless with insincerity.

“Those statements are though, I believe, some of the more important aims and ideals at the core of the genuine landscape painter’s psyche. I, like others, do search for a means of expressing these qualities. I know for me these are genuine and worthy goals. In this, there is a dilemma I feel will test me.

“It has been a long-held opinion of mine that too often the work of the traditional landscape painter has been seen in an over-familiar sort of way. That is, known objects in the picture being seen superficially and assessed according to a preconceived understanding of those objects. How do I express my vision of the subject unambiguously? It’s not a technical thing as for example, in composition. It’s far more elusive than that.

“I am doubting more often whether the direction I am taking can adequately reveal, for example, the thrill of gazing at the last rays of sunlight in the tree tops. I can paint something of what it looks like but I am trying to paint how I feel! I want my pictures to sing the songs I sang when I painted them. My hope is that if I can paint with the joy of that moment, something of my emotional responses to the moment will shine through.’’

Mr Bruegger said: “We look forward to seeing how the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area location inspires each artist under the tuition of one of the greatest Australian landscape painters of our time.’’

Warwick Fuller will host an artists’ workshop at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, 132 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, from September 15 to 17.

Workshop cost: $400 for three days. Special accommodation packages available: $259 per room per night for twin share with hot breakfast for two adults; $200 per room per night single share with breakfast plus $25 for working lunch including fruit and juice.

Phone (02) 4787 7211 or go to www.parklands.com.au to book accommodation and dining options.

 


Lithgow NSW vamps it up for Halloween 2015

Halloween at Lithgow will be freaky fun for the whole family

Halloween at Lithgow will be freaky fun for the whole family

 

By Ellen Hill for Lithgow Tourism                    Photos: David Hill

Macabre monsters, creepy clowns and scary skeletons can venture from the shadows and into the light when the town of Lithgow celebrates Halloween with a night of ghoulish glee on October 31.

Halloween dress-up fun for all ages

Halloween dress-up fun for all ages

Featuring spectacular Vivid-style lighting displays and spooky decorations, the main shopping strip will be transformed into a fun-filled pedestrian zone with five themed precincts packed with market stalls selling local produce, dining options for every budget and non-stop entertainment across two main stages.

The event will be organised and hosted by Lithgow City Council, with support from local sponsors.

Dress as your favourite fun or frightening character

Dress as your favourite fun or frightening character

 

 

Lithgow Mayor Maree Statham said: “Our Halloween event is for the people of Lithgow to celebrate their community, to support our local shops and provide a safe Trick or Treat environment for our children at 4.00pm.  We have had such a wonderful time in the past few years and want to share our community spirit with others and invite visitors to join us on October 31.”

Visitors and locals are encouraged to immerse themselves in the spirit of the occasion and dress up as a fun or frightening Halloween character such as a vampire, Dracula, a fantasy personality, goblin or fairy.

 

 

Lithgow Mayor Maree Statham welcomes visitors to the town

Lithgow Mayor Maree Statham welcomes visitors to the town

 

The top section of Main St will be dedicated a Family Friendly zone sponsored by Centennial Coal, with plenty of activities for children.

The `Flavours Long Lunch’ catered by CJ’s Good Food Restaurant will be held in the second section near the Old Exchange Hotel, which will also have a fashion parade sponsored by Treeview Estates and market stalls with local produce.

Spooks and zombies of all kinds will over-run Main St

Spooks and zombies of all kinds will over-run Main St

 

A `Dining with the Dead’ area will be set up in the Cook St Plaza, and McDonald’s Lithgow will sponsor a Funky Zone for youth between Cook St Plaza and the National Australia Bank building.

The Fangtastic outdoor dining area with a maze and presided over by a large vampire will be at the bottom of Main St.

 

 

The Energy Australia-sponsored main entertainment stage will be opposite the Grand Central Hotel between the Family Friendly and Flavours precincts, while the Funky stage will feature a fashion parade.

The John Joseph building will again be a feature

The John Joseph building will again be a feature

 

 

There will be circus acrobats, magic and the Waratah Drum Corps,’’ Mayor Statham said.There will be plenty of special effects and vampire antics, and be sure to keep an eye out for werewolf waiters and chefs on stilts lurking in the crowd.

“I am looking forward to meeting Countess Pamela Pire, esteemed Doctor of the Ology of undying at the University of Bram Stoker and champion high jumper at the 1926 Transylvanian Olympics, and learning how her history is interwoven with Lithgow.’’

 

Meet all manner of weird and wonderful characters

Meet all manner of weird and wonderful characters

 

 

 

Lithgow has a range of accommodation options available, as well as in neighbouring areas. Contact the Lithgow Visitor Information Centre on 6350 3230 for help with your accommodation needs.

“We have the best of everything in Lithgow: the majestic Greater Blue Mountains escarpments glowing in the afternoon sun, the rolling pasturelands of the central west, the industrial heritage of our nation and some of the best examples of colonial Australia to be seen anywhere,” Mayor Statham said.

 

 

Developing innovative promotional activities for the enjoyment of the community which encourage an increase in business activities in the town centres is part of the council’s strategy to strengthen our economy in the Community Strategic Plan 2026.

* Lithgow Tourism is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

Have a fangtastic time at Lithgow Halloween

Have a fangtastic time at Lithgow Halloween


Hawkesbury, NSW: Delishus a tasty Spanish experience in Richmond

Delishus ... a taste of Spain in the Hawkesbury.

Delishus … a taste of Spain in the Hawkesbury.

 

By Ellen Hill for Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant                            Photos: David Hill

Naming your restaurant Delishus sets high expectation but it is one which Richmond restauranteurs Jose and Sally Fernandez consistently exceed.

Since opening Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant in the Hawkesbury in October 2009 with no restaurant experience, the couple has won the Foxtel I Love Food Award for Best Spanish Restaurant in NSW 2014 and the Dimmi Awards for Best Rated Spanish Restaurant in Australia and Best for Parties & Groups twice in 2013.

Maitre'd Jose Fernandez explains each dish

Maitre’d Jose Fernandez explains each dish

With the flavours of Madrid emanating from the kitchen, the fire of matadors in the red and yellow décor and the suave maître’d Jose greeting every diner at the door, it’s hardly surprising.

We try to give people the full Spanish experience,’’ Jose said.After visiting us, people who have never been to Spain want to go. For Spanish people, it reminds them of home. Many customers bring us things back from Spain for the restaurant.’’

Dining at Delishus is to visit a destination. To partake of Delishus tapas is to sample Spain.

People can eat at home but they come here for the experience,’’ Jose says.People have become friends after meeting here.

“Spain is a melting pot for many of the old world empires. Beginning with the Phoenicians who came to Spain about 400BC, then the Romans and then the Moors, who all brought foods and spices from their respective empires. Finally, all the new produce brought by the Spanish Conquistadores from the Americas has been blended together over the centuries to produce what is now a distinctive and wonderful Spanish cuisine with many of the Spanish colours featured in the foods such as the yellow of saffron and the red of peppers.

“We are passionate in Spain about food – we don’t eat because we have to eat, we eat because we want to eat. We even celebrate our food with festivals for different food dishes and produce.’’

Head chef Sally Fernandez overseas every dish

Head chef Sally Fernandez overseas every dish

Food from the Delishus kitchen is as fresh as possible, with as many ingredients sourced from local and regional suppliers as possible.

But the Delishus experience is also infused with the spice of life – Jose and Sally’s life.

Born in Madrid, Jose never knew his father, was tormented at school and raised by his beloved grandmother Pila, only for her to die when he was 11, leaving him virtually alone to fend for himself.

Amazingly, “I have had a wonderful life really – I wouldn’t change it for the world,’’ Jose, who enjoyed a successful business career before opening Delishus, says.

Former health industry professional Sally began cooking in earnest at the age of 10, a skill learned from her mother Neta who was raised on a farm near Orange and cooked meals for up to 40 farm workers from the age of 15.

Delishus offers a a friendly atmosphere

Delishus offers a a friendly atmosphere

In many ways, the couple’s restaurant is an extension of their own kitchen and dining room – Spanish-style, she says. “This is like the ultimate dinner party.’’

Everywhere at Delishus is grandmother Pila’s influence, beginning with the Croquetas de Jamon made by Sally to a secret family recipe only she knows.

This is food I was raised with,’’ Jose says.In some ways I am chasing my own heritage by doing this, and then sharing it with others.’’

Delishus delivers true tapas food and dining. Although customers do sit at tables rather than stand around the bar or high tables in the traditional way, they are encouraged to move around and mingle.

It’s not just about eating – you can eat at home,’’ Jose says.Tapas is about being looked after and having a bit of fun.

“The idea of tapas is to taste a lot of things but not fill up on any one thing. Food is about taking your time and enjoying it. It’s not about quantity but quality. I would like people to take their time, come here at seven o’clock and leave at ten. After you’ve had tapas you’re not bloated but the senses are going `Wow’.

Apart from the exceptional food quality, diners at Delishus will notice outstanding customer service beginning with Jose’s personal welcome at the door following by the serving of a drink and nuts and olives within five minutes of being seated.

Food is inspired by Jose's Spanish heritage

Food is inspired by Jose’s Spanish heritage

The wait staff (often Jose himself) will then describe dishes on the menu: “I say things in Spanish and then I paint a word picture of the dish so that by the time I have finished they want it – it’s about creating desire.’’

Diners should allow between 90 minutes and two hours to fully savour a famous Delishus 10-course degustation with matching wines.

For an average $40 a head for lunch and $60 for dinner (most diners order two entrée-sized tapas each and share), customers can be assured of quality. Produce is bought fresh and as needed, hardly anything on the extensive menu is pre-prepared. All desserts are made fresh daily.

Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant, 122 Windsor St, Richmond, is open from 12pm to 2.30pm and 6pm to late Wednesday to Friday, 12pm to late Saturday and 12pm to 4pm Sunday. Bookings: (02) 4578 6999 or www.delishus.com.au.

* Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

Delishus is a popular establishment in the Hawkesbury

Delishus is a popular establishment in the Hawkesbury


Artist call-out: Join original Blue Mountains art show

Janet Andersen, Contemporary Still Life

Janet Andersen, Contemporary Still Life

 

By Ellen Hill for Springwood Art Show

Painters, sculptors, photographers, woodworkers and craftspeople have been invited to showcase their work at the first and longest running art show in the Blue Mountains from August 28 to 30.

Springwood Art Show will once again showcase the best established and emerging talent in the area.

Held at Springwood High School and co-ordinated by the Parents & Citizens Association (P&C), the event directly supports students of the school with 25 per cent of all sales including admission, café, raffle and artworks used to buy educational resources.

P&C president Rod Murray said: “The Blue Mountains has long been recognised as a melting pot for artists and Springwood Art Show helped the region become a recognised `city of the arts’.

“The show is a staple on the arts calendar, known as an event where artists can expect to be noticed by some serious collectors.

“I encourage all local artists wanting to come to the attention of the arts world to join our feature artist landscape painter Guenter Barth and submit a work.’’

Principal Dr Mark Howie said: “There has traditionally been a fantastic selection of artworks from students at the art show, which showcases the rich talent at the school and boosts the confidence of emerging young artists who are thrilled to have their work hung alongside established artists.

“I look forward to seeing what creativity has been evident in our classrooms this year.’’

Artists may also enter an impressive array of art prizes including the $1000 Rose Lindsay Art Prize, $500 highly commended prize and landscape, photography, portrait and viewers’ choice awards.

There is also the Youth Art Encouragement Award and Springwood High School student recognition prizes, while the Environmental and Ecology Award will encourage reuse in art.

Springwood Art Show will be held at Springwood High School, Grose Rd, Faulconbridge, from August 28 to 30, with an official opening program on the Friday evening and activities throughout the weekend.

Phone Rod Murray on (02) 4751 8245 or go to www.springwoodartshow.org.au for more information and to download a contribution form.


Ballooning in the Aussie Outback

Outback Ballooning

 

By Ellen Hill                          Photos: David Hill

(This travel story won the 2008 RovingEye Expose Your World Competition, Travel Story category. All prices and contact details have been updated.)

 

BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.

Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground smack bang in the centre of Australia just outside the town of Alice Springs.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.

On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo is carried along with it.

Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot on our Outback Ballooning experience pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.

We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.

The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.

My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.

G-free aerial adventure.

G-free aerial adventure.

He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.

Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.

This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.

Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue – 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.

The Australian Outback ...one of the most arid places on Earth.

The Australian Outback …one of the most arid places on Earth.

Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The “Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.

Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.

But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. The rains don’t always come and then the Todd River remains a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.

Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of deep orange-coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.

Back on terra firma.

Back on terra firma.

Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt. Reality hits when we’re all summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag.

Nothing less than breakfast of honey glazed chicken drumsticks, quiches, fresh fruit, cheese and chocolate cake washed down with fruit juice or champagne would be good enough to end such a civilised experience.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

Cost:
30 minute flight: $AUD290

Children 6-16: $AUD237

60 minute flight: $AUD385

Children 6-16: $AUD313

Adult balloon chase: $AUD40

Child balloon chase: $AUD32

Separate mandatory insurance fee: $AUD25 per passenger payable on the morning of the flight.

 

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

What to wear:
It can be dusty in the bush and balloon riders are welcome to help rig and pack away the balloon so enclosed shoes and warm casual clothing (don’t wear light colours) is suitable.

How to get there:
Passengers are collected from their accommodation and dropped back after the flight. Qantas has regular flights to Alice Springs from most Australian cities.

Bookings:
Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia), +61 8 8952 8723
or sales@outbackballooning.com.au.

Ellen and David Hill received a complimentary Outback Ballooning ride thanks to Tourism Northern Territory.

© Deep Hill Media

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.


Ebb and flow of the mighty Hawkesbury River

Autumn leaf floating on the surface of the Hawkesbury River at Hanna Park, North Richmond.

Autumn leaf floating on the surface of the Hawkesbury River at Hanna Park, North Richmond.

 

By Ellen Hill                     Photos: David Hill

(Continuing the story of the Hawkesbury River, we re-publish here an article that featured in the April-May 2009 edition of Blue Mountains Life magazine.)

 

THE last tendrils of fog swirl up to meet the golden rays of a weak winter sun, mirrored on the still surface of the water.

The occasional jumping fish makes a quiet “blip’’ noise. Birds twitter in the trees and skate across the gentle ripples before settling on the surface to float aimlessly with the tide.

The Hawkesbury River has always been part of Ted Books life.

The Hawkesbury River has always been part of Ted Books life.

This is Ted Books’ favourite time of day to cruise the Windsor section of the Hawkesbury River in his boat, the Montrose. He’s alone.

By mid-morning, the water twinkles in the glaring sun, the river a silver thread pulsing through colonial Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s kingdom with the monotony of routine.

Given the majestic Hawkesbury River has supported his family for five generations, you understand Books’ attachment to it.

As the boat gently bobs along the water, Books’ shares his memories and tells the history of the stretch he knows best _ the strip of water his famous colonial ancestors eventually learned they could not tame.

Ted Books is known for expressing a strong opinion and enjoying a chat. But he’s not known for being an emotional man. A former wrestler and retired excavator, he tends to say his bit in his no-nonsense way and leave it at that.

River stones in the Hawkesbury River at Yarramundi near Navua Reserve.

River stones in the Hawkesbury River at Yarramundi near Navua Reserve.

But aboard the Montrose, I not only see a different side to Books, but the river I have known most of my life.

“Sydney’s salad bowl’’, “Sydney’s playground’’, the Hawkesbury River has supported Australia’s largest city since European settlement.

For the handful of free settlers desperately trying to survive with virtually nothing in a foreign environment, the river was their transport, it watered them, their crops and animals.

In colonial times while chain gangs of convicts were still cutting roads by hand, the Hawkesbury River was the natural highway to Sydney Cove.

In fact, ships including the 101 ton Governor Bligh were actually built on the river. Two of Books’ ancestors _ Captain John Grono and Alexander Books _ had a shipyard at Pitt Town on Canning Reach, the remains of which can still be seen at low tide.

Among the 200 cargo vessel movements on the river each year were tall ships which took three inward tides (about 20 hours) to travel from Brooklyn at the mouth of the river to Windsor.

The 100 ton SS Erringhi was the last of the big ships to trade on the Hawkebsury River between the 1920s and 1937.

“I used to dive off the Windsor bridge and there used to be 30ft of water there,’’ Books says. “We used to dive off the bridge and go with the tide to Pitt Town, about 4 miles by water.’’

Deerubbin Park at Windsor.

Deerubbin Park at Windsor.

The Hawkesbury Nepean River is part of the vast 22,000 sq km Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment, stretching from Goulburn to Lithgow, Moonee Moonee, Pittwater and Singleton.

Its tributaries and creeks begin in the higher land of the Great Dividing Range, others in the highlands to the west of Wollongong and south of Sydney.

The Nepean begins in the Camden Valley near Moss Vale and becomes the Hawkesbury at Yarramundi after being joined by the Wollondilly River, on which Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main drinking glass, was built in the 1950s.

From the 1870s, a series of dams was built on the Upper Nepean, south east of Camden and its tributaries the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon Rivers.

The mighty Hawkesbury Nepean River ends at Juno Point at Broken Bay.

“Sydney would never survive without this river,’’ Books says. “This river is the playground for the city.’’

The Hawkesbury River has been Sydney's playground for generations.

The Hawkesbury River has been Sydney’s playground for generations.

Every now and again Books stops the boat, points out a landmark, pulls out yet another packet of black and white photographs and tells the story of the place.

“See that place up there? That’s where Thomas Arndell (the first surgeon to the colony, he came out with the First Fleet) settled when he came to the Hawkesbury. His homestead’s still there.

“They built next to the river because it was clean water and there was fish.’’

The oldest church building in Australia is at Ebenezer, built from stone in 1803 by a small band of free settlers. The church used to run a punt across the river to transport people to church.

The water is deepest _ about 90ft _ nearby, opposite Tizzana Winery at Sackville Reach Wharf.

Glancing at the river banks from the boat, it seems not much has changed apart from technology. Irrigation pumps spew water across enormous paddocks of turf, veggies and flowers. The staccato bark of a dog sends drifting ducks into a flurry. The sun’s rays highlight the fur on a lowing cow staring with lazy interest at the boat. The ghostly figures of farm workers can be seen inside a row of greenhouses.

Remains of an old punt at Sackville.

Remains of an old punt at Sackville.

But then Books’ tale of how his dad and his mates used to catch more fish than they could eat up this stretch of the river is broken by the roar of a power boat towing a skier.

Books pauses and waits for silence to return before pointing out another historic property on the hill.

He revs up the engine and the Montrose slips on.

The river remains a great source of seafood: flathead, bream, mullet, hairtail, mullaway, whiting, flounder, tailor, snapper, trevally, blackfish, leatherjackets, kingfish, John Dory, shellfish and prawns.

It is also home to much bird life: shags, cormorants, kingfishers, ducks, sea eagles, pelicans and terns.

And down in the salt water near the river mouth at Brooklyn there are sharks, sea snakes, jellyfish, stingrays and fortescues.

The Hawkesbury River has ebbed and flowed for millenia.

The Hawkesbury River has ebbed and flowed for millenia.

Today, the Hawkebsury, Penrith and Baulkham Hills region along the river generates a whopping $1.86 billion worth of produce (not including the equine industry). Sydney chows through 90 per cent of it.

The vast quantities of fruit, vegetables and turf grown in the Hawkesbury have fed the entire Sydney population and beyond for generations.

The river is also a major tourist attraction used extensively for recreation (the annual Bridge to Bridge boat race attracts thousands). Tourism and recreation reap $2 billion a year, thanks to the river.

Private moorings along the Hawkesbury.

Private moorings along the Hawkesbury.

Three car ferries and several bridges provide crossings over the waterway.

Crowds of day trippers are drawn to popular swimming, fishing, water skiing and boating spots each weekend.

A startling white glare suddenly burns the retinas of our eyes. Deck chairs blindingly white in the sun, emerald green manicured lawns and landscaped yards, expensive boat sheds. The property listings at the local real estate agents would reveal that river frontages are also becoming private paradises for the wealthy.

But later, in the golden after glow of sunset, the birds and fish replay their evening ritual as the mist settles like a gossamer blanket over the water surface, melding with the gloom of dusk. The river continues to beat its slow rhythm of life just as it always has.

Ducks in flight on the Hawkesbury River.

Ducks in flight on the Hawkesbury River.