I nestled myself in amongst the pine needles that covered the ground beneath the amazing old pine trees and tucked my knees up high under my chin. The view spread out before me and I could see the farms and houses far below, so miniature in appearance that for a moment they could be mistaken for toys. The wind gently caressed my cheeks and the whip birds cracked in unison with the bellbirds. All was at peace with my world as I gazed in sheer delight at the wonder and enchantment below. The old property was no longer mine but on each visit I would climb the barricade and walk to the top of the hill to sit in this spot as I did as a child. The old trig marker was still there, as were the old pine trees that Papa planted back in 1930 – little else was there now to remind me of the wondrous times spent in my youth but somehow I always felt welcomed, I felt the strong hands gently around my shoulders, the smiles, the laughter, the joy as the wind murmured gently, confirming my presence was needed to keep the old property alive in my memories.
In days long gone I can recall the excitement as the old pontiac climbed its way up Warks Hill, that last climb to the top. It was often as if the jalopy knew where to go, it would always stop on this last climb and beg for more water before we turned into the sandstone pitted narrow track that led to the sign on the gate that declared the destination as “Panorama Point”, the highest point on the mountain and the picnic grounds within. Papa would be at the gate feeding the fire that kept the huge old drum of water hot so that the day trippers could make their cups of tea and admire the view. Nana would hear the car and the laughter and come running down the track from the house to meet us, her steel grey short hair blowing in the breeze and rubbing her apron to rid it of flour, a certain hint that she was baking scones, or pies, or biscuits … and the mouth would start to water.
My grandparents had moved their family and all their possessions up the mountain by draught horse and wooden sled in the 1920s. They originally occupied the workers cottages there and this is where my father and his siblings grew up, went to school, fell in love and married. In the 1940s my father with the help of his brother and brother-in-law built a more modern structure however my memory was that this house was never lined and was very basic. Nana cooked on an old black iron stove, there was no internal plumbing, not even a bathroom. There was a well at the side of the house and the water was pumped up into a can and carried inside. The laundry was done in the open at the side of the house. The thunderboxes were across from the front entrance, hidden in the trees.
There was a huge garden around the back of the house and this was always a buzz with bees and butterflies and smelt like heaven. Mixed with this wild array of flowers and trees was a vegetable garden and somehow I never thought it strange that the two were combined. Across the whole top of the mountain were daffodils that bloomed in September and it was always a joy to be allowed to run wild and pick a huge bunch. There were blackberry bushes running wild along fence lines and my mouth still waters in remembering the exquisite taste when Nana baked them into pies. She stored all the baked biscuits in big old Arnott’s tins at the back of the fireplace and often I would sneak in and pinch one or two … or three, hoping she wouldn’t notice.
The property was quite isolated, they never had the phone, the power wasn’t connected until the 1930s, they never owned a car but Papa walked down to the village on the Bell’s Line of Road each day to collect the mail and bread. It was his little escape and opportunity to swap stories with the locals and catch a quick beer before making the steep hike home. I often followed behind him, skipping along the dirt road, chatting to anyone who would listen to me but generally acting as his shadow – he never seemed to mind and despite giving the appearance of being a gruff man, he actually would invite me to go with him. Papa was a real Walter Brennan type gentleman, always wore his grey suit everywhere, his grey flannel hat pulled down on one side to hide the missing eye – lost when he was hit in the eye with a nail as a young man. He kept his false eye in a box in his bedroom and would always delight in asking me to go into the drawer to bring him a hankie, knowing full well that when I opened the draw I would see the eye and let out my usual little scream and giggle afterwards!!
As a child I ran wild with my brothers or cousins or just by myself. I followed the only milking cow, “Daisy”, everywhere and decorated her with flowers, sitting for hours just talking to her – I would like to think she understood … she never objected to my company.
There was what we called the ‘back lookout’ and this sandstone outcrop had a view right across the valley to the Blue Mountains – it was equally magnificent as the main view to Sydney however today is overgrown and wild. Likewise the property is overgrown, the huge pine trees are nearly at the end of their life, the old house has been bulldozed to the ground, there are no signs of Nana’s garden or the daffodils. I cry each time I go back and try to accustom myself to the day when I will find a new development on the land – this will then signal to me that “Panorama Point” is no longer mine, the ghosts will sneak off to the valley and I will no long make the journey or return! I have acted as guardian for all these years but one day it will be no more!!
© copyright Beverley Woodman 2008
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An ode to my grandparents old property at Kurrajong Heights. I keep being drawn back there at least a couple of times a year to sit and remember my past and to feel the presence of those who have been before me.