Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk: A Walk to Remember

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

A friend once remarked of the Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk, "This is Heaven on Earth!”.  I agree.  I would even compare it to the Garden of Eden.  To believe it, you have to see it for yourself and experience its serenity.

For no images or words can totally capture its breathtaking beauty or describe the tranquil feeling it evokes in you.  As you walk through its winding paths, take the time to appreciate the shimmering blue-green sea and the golden morning sunshine dancing on the emerald foliage.  If you are up for it, take a dip in the lovely ocean pool and picnic on the green grass.  Do not forget to stop at the Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens, sit on a green park bench and listen to the birds chirping, while reflecting on the sublime beauty of nature all around you.  

I will now walk you through the Cremorne Foreshore Walk, solely through the story told via its well-placed signposts and plaques [1].  But remember, reading is not enough.  You must actually take this walk - at least once in your lifetime...

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

Map of Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk [2]

“3km loop walk, easy grade, around the Reserve linked at the northern end via Hodgson and Bogota Avenues.” [2]

Cremorne Reserve

Cremorne Reserve main signpost

“Cremorne Reserve stretches around the entire shoreline of Cremorne Point in a mix of bush and formal gardens which provides exceptional public access to the harbour shores.  It is a special reserve with a fascinating history in a spectacular environment.

The full walk takes you in a loop right around the Point.  Along the way you will find signs which help you delve into Cremorne Point's past, present and future.  You can discover something of its original Aboriginal inhabitants, the early Cremorne Gardens, a land grab which almost took the Reserve from the public forever, a close shave with a coal mine and the ferries and trains of bygone days.  You can also find out about the fine architecture of the Point, the impact of development on the Reserve's flora and fauna and the work being done to bring back the bush.

You can also swim in its harbourside pool with an amazing view.  Or you can take a break to contemplate an array of outstanding panoramas of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores, from the soaring city skyline and dramatic bridges on the west to quiet bays and wooded slopes on the east.” [2]

MacCallum Pool

MacCallum Pool Cremorne Point Sydney

“C.B.P. emblazoned in red across a navy blue shield was the cloth badge which, sewn on your costume, was your entry to Cremorne Bathing Pool in the 1920s.  Five shillings (50c) a year kept the badge current and paid for the upkeep of the pool.

Long-time residents tell us that there were once quite a few rock pools around the Point.  They were built by locals in convenient places where they could form some rocks together, including three pools on the east side near the area of Lex and Ruby's Gardens.

The pool here was started by an early Olympic swimmer, Fred Lane, using rocks from nearby.  Taken on by Mr Hugh MacCallum, a highly-regarded local resident, it was enlarged and had considerable work done around it under his care.  He also organised the badges so that swimmers belonged to the pool and contributed to its maintenance." [2]

“A summer's day at Cremorne Bathing Pool in 1929.  Almost all those who swam here were locals.” [2] 
Photo Credit: Plaque near MacCallum Pool

In 1930 North Sydney Council took over the pool and renamed it Hugh J MacCallum Pool (later shortened to MacCallum Pool) in recognition of his work in promoting and looking after the pool.

Major restoration and improvement work was done in 1985-86 and included the timber deck, picket fence and extensive landscaping above the pool.”  [2]

The Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"The Garden that Grew from an Elephant's Ear" [2]

Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"Created with love" [2]

"Below here is a simple rock pool built many years ago by local residents from boulders found along the water's edge.  One day in 1959 as Lex Graham enjoyed his daily swim after a jog in the Reserve, an elephant's ear bulb floated by.  He fished it from the water and planted it between the roots of a nearby coral tree.  To his surprise, it grew.  He had recently met Ruby and together they watched the growing plant.  They began to add other plants and cuttings to that first one.  And so began this amazing garden which now covers more than a hectare.  The gardens have been built from so little, as an enormous labour of love. 

The steep slopes had been used as a tip for decades.  Thickets of privet and lantana, and masses of vines grew over the rubbish.  Gradually Lex and Ruby cleared the weeds to discover all manner of junk - mattresses, refrigerators, hundreds of bricks, thousand of bottles, whalebone corsets and a kitchen sink.  The rubbish was reburied and used as a base for plants and paths.  Logs and rocks were positioned to form beds along the cliff and the weeds broken up and used as mulch or fill.

They planted whatever they could find that might grow happily and hold the soil. The tree ferns, less than 15cm high, came from crevices in the rocks along the foreshore.  Clivias and agapanthus discarded by local gardeners were very effective in clumping and holding the soil.  Without these plants the erosion caused by torrents of stormwater, which still rushes through the garden would be greater than it is.

Friends gave cuttings from their gardens.  Some plants were donated for special reasons.  Others had simply outgrown their pots.  The soil on the steep slopes was thin and poor, so Lex collected barrow loads of leaves from the pathways for mulch.  Water was carried down in containers and neighbours, above the garden, assisted with their hoses.  Council installed taps in 1978 and Lex then set up a permanent network of hoses and sprinklers.

To Lex and Ruby the garden became a special place with each path and corner given a name, favourite spots to sit and watch the moon rising over the water, delightful birdlife and a feeling of great peace.  Others say they find the same peaceful feeling in the garden.

For ten years Lex and Ruby spent most weekends in the garden.  In 1969, when semi-retired, they spent weekdays in the garden instead.  Lex died in 1988 but Ruby continued to work several days a week in the garden they created together.  Ruby passed away in February 2009.

The descendants of the first elephant’s ear bulb still thrive in their garden.”  [2]

The Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens Plaque

“Lex and Ruby's garden has won a number of awards over the years, including the 1998 Keep Australia Beautiful, Council's Sydney in Spring competition.

Wander the gardens' winding paths, climb down to the water's edge and the pool where  it all started.  Enjoy the peace, the birds and the flowers in this lovely environment.” [2]

Lex Graham in the Garden - 1998.
Photo Credit: Plaque near Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

Ruby Graham in the Garden - 1998.
Photo Credit: Plaque near Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"Cammeraygal Water Views" [2]

“Painted between 1788 and 1792, this is one of over 250 unsigned early drawings and paintings of NSW Aborigines, coastlines, flora, fauna and events in the first years of the Colony, held in the Natural History Museum, London.  Although these pictures could be by more than one person, the artist is collectively known as the Port Jackson Painter."

“Native going to fish with a torch and flambeaux, while his wife and children are broiling fish for their supper.” [2]  
Photo Credit: Plaque near Shell Cove

"Before Europeans arrived in 1788, Aboriginal people enjoyed these wonderful waterside locations, with magnificent views across the harbour and ready food supplies of fish and shellfish.

Local Aboriginal people generally lived and moved about in family groupings.  This painting shows their harbour based lifestyle as the man goes off to fish from a cove very like Shell Cove in front of you.  He takes his three pronged spear and a flame to set a fire in the bottom of the canoe for warmth, or to cook his fish.  He may also have a supply of cockles (common shellfish found along the rocks of the shoreline) to chew up and spit in the water for bait.  

The women and children light a fire in a nearby rock shelter, like the one above the path at this spot.  After cooking and eating the catch, they throw the bones and shells out onto a heap (now called a midden), usually just outside the overhang.

Drawn from a European perspective, this picture catches one aspect of Aboriginal life, but gives no inkling of the real division of labour in Aboriginal food gathering.  The men fished and hunted larger animals, but most of the food, including seafood, was gathered by the women."  [2]

“A Wisp of Sydney Sandstone Bushland”  [2]

Our Bushland is in Our Hands

“Once the steep slopes of Woolwarra-jeung (Aboriginal name for Cremorne Point at the time of European settlement) rose in tiers of grey-green bush punctuated by the twisted pink limbs of Sydney Red Gums, and low cliffs of mellow golden sandstone.  The sandy soil was thin and poor and the bush dry, open and prickly, with animals and birds dependent on the very nature of that scrubby environment.  From time to time fire raced across the Point, reducing the bush to grey ashes and blackened trunks.  Soon after fire, plants sprang back into life, fauna moved in to feed on flowers and shoots, and a new cycle began.  

Now, so much has changed.  Most of the bush has gone, and all the larger animals as well.  In the remnants left in the Reserve, the dry open bush has been flooded with extra water and nutrients from the housing above, choked by weeds and prevented from burning.  Weeds and native plants, once found only in moist areas, form dense canopies shading out shrubs which used to shelter small animals and birds.  Many species have given up the competition and can no longer be found here.

Yet it is still possible to picture Woolwarra-jeung from the wisps of bushland left in this narrow foreshore reserve.  Look for the wonderful colours and shapes of eroded sandstone, smooth pink red gums, creamy Sydney Peppermint branches, gnarled and hardy banksias.  Listen and watch for birds such as lorikeets, cockatoos, magpies, scrubwrens, honeyeaters and wattlebirds.  Possums and Blue-tongue Lizards live happily between bush and gardens (if there are no dogs and cats).  Various other reptiles, as well as frogs and bats, might also be found.

We can also bring back the bush by gradually removing invading plants and restoring suitable conditions for the bush to regrow.  As well as weeding, work may include redirecting stormwater, repairing erosion, conducting burns, and planting areas which cannot regenerate naturally.  North Sydney Council, aided by a grant from the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning's Greenspace program, expanded its regeneration program in Cremorne Reserve in 1997 to focus particularly on providing good fauna habitat.  With better habitat, we can expect to see a lot more animals, even in this narrow reserve.

Look for changes in the Reserve as areas are weeded or planted and vegetation changes from moist and shady to open and dry with plenty of shrubs and bushes for those small birds and animals.” [2]

"Dead or Alive?" [2]

"The trunk of a live tree is smooth and pinkish-grey.  A dead tree trunk is brown, dry and often cracked.  Have a look as you walk around the Reserve but please help by staying on the path in bushland areas." [2]

Sydney Red Gum Tree.  Photo Credit: Signpost near a dead Red Gum tree,
Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

"This dead tree is a Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata).  There are many similar Angophoras around Cremorne Point which look very sick indeed.  As you walk around the reserve you may notice brown leaves, sparse foliage, or even total leaf loss.  But some trees which seem dead, may not be.  Look closely - the trunk may be quite healthy.

Sydney Red Gums, with their smooth pink bark and contorted limbs, are an integral part of Sydney's harbour foreshores.   They are found in rocky sandstone areas from shady gullies to exposed ridges.  Our bush would not be the same without them, and the dying trees on Cremorne Point are of great concern to many people.

Cremorne Bushcare Group (community volunteers), assisted by North Sydney Council, has been funded by Coastcare to address the problem.  Work will include research to find out why the trees are dying, such as testing the soil for diseases and other problems.  New trees will be planted and measures taken to save existing trees." [2]

"What Makes Cremorne Point Significant?" [2]

“Sandstone” [2]

“Here the built environment rises out of the steep rocky core of the peninsula.  Structures are built on and into sandstone, tiered up the slopes, and they incorporate many sandstone elements.  The mellow golden rock forms solid house foundations or repeating arches for lower storey windows and doors.  Gardens have retaining walls or edging in the stone.  Along streets, cut rock faces meet kerbing and fences in sandstone.” [2]

Sandstone Building and Steps
Image Credit:  Plaque near The Laurels, Cremorne Point

"You can see sandstone in many features around the Point, from natural rock outcrops to fences, steps and building blocks." [2]

“A complete foreshore reserve” [2]

“Cremorne Point's foreshore reserve sets it apart from other settled harbour peninsulas.  Compare the natural mix of tumbling vegetation, rock-strewn foreshore and shallow waters, to be seen along the Reserve edge in front of you, with the tightly controlled and walled foreshores of Mosman across the bay on your left.” [2]

“Fine architecture” [2]

"Federation Arts and Crafts is one of the main architectural styles found on the Point.  It featured informality and homeliness with craftsmanship integrating art into everyday life.  Rambling and asymmetrical, these houses are set close to the ground or on a base of stone blocks with tall tapering chimneys, long steep roofs and a variety of window forms.  Look for these features as you walk around the Point." [2]

The Laurels, Cremorne Point

“Cremorne Point's buildings represent some of the best of early twentieth century Australian suburban architecture.  The first residential subdivision on the Point was in 1903.  From then development of the Point was rapid and largely complete by the 1930s, although there has been later redevelopment.  Buildings were in Federation and Inter-war styles and consisted of a mix of houses, residential flats and some large guest houses catering to visitors drawn by the Point's status as a tourist attraction.

The fine buildings of the Point were designed by a number of Sydney's well-known architects, including J. Burcham Clamp.  Clamp designed and lived in The Laurels, the impressive Federation Arts and Crafts style residence to your right, actually consisting of two houses built in 1907, now linked together.  

Most buildings look over the water but there are differences between the east and west sides of the Point.  On the west looking across the harbour to the city are larger blocks of flats and former guest houses, often set high above the Reserve with large bay windows to catch the view.  On that side recent redevelopment intrudes on the area's integrity of character.  On this quieter east side overlooking Mosman Bay are large detached houses, often fronting and close to the Reserve.

North Sydney Council has identified Cremorne Point as a Conservation Area to be retained in its current form and character.  Council also has policies to protect significant heritage buildings and to preserve its overall qualities." [2]

"Explore more of the built heritage of Cremorne Point with Heritage Leaflet No. 29, available from North Sydney Council or Stanton Library in Miller Street, North Sydney." [2]


[1]  Not in order.  Please follow the map when walking.  
[2]  Source: Plaques and signposts along the Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

Gallery of Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk 

Robertson Point Lighthouse (1910) at the tip of Cremorne Point, Sydney
Image Credit:  Plaque near the lighthouse

Stunning harbour views from Cremorne Reserve

Playground near Robertson Point Lighthouse, Cremorne Point

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Summer in Sydney: Have Yourself a Sizzling Christmas

Christmas in Sydney means prawns

The only thing cold about Sydney’s Christmas is the beer.  For Sydneysiders Christmas comes in the sizzling summer Down Under.  Sunshine, seafood barbecues on the beach, flip-flop clad men in shorts, women wearing wide brim straw hats and white summer dresses, barefoot boys and girls in their swimmers frolicking on the sandy beaches - and of course, lots of beer chilling in the esky are the typical images of Christmas here rather than the snow, the winter-woolies and the roaring fire in the living room.  Nevertheless, the sizzling Sydney Christmas is just as wonderful and magical as any of the white Christmases celebrated in the northern hemisphere.  

Christmas in Sydney is unique - and special.  Over the years, Sydneysiders have lovingly embraced their glorious balmy summers, the fresh and abundant local seafood, summer fruits and vegies and developed their very own summer Christmas traditions.  Some small and intimate, others grand and spectacular.  Like the lone boy playing beautiful Christmas tunes on his saxophone at the street corner.  Or the awe-inspiring Lights of Christmas animated light show at St Mary’s Cathedral, an elegant English Gothic style church in the heart of Sydney.  Or the Sydney Fish Market’s 36-Hour Christmas Seafood Marathon that drives its crowds into a frenzy to grab the freshest seafood for their Christmas lunch.  And the massive and dazzling Swarovski Christmas tree at the iconic 19th century Queen Victoria Building shopping centre that heralds the arrival of the festive season to the Sydneysiders.     

Here is a round-up of some of the things that make Christmas in Sydney unique and special.  Try and check as many of them off your list of of things to do the next time you are in Sydney at Christmastime.   You will be thankful for the wonderful memories you will have of a magical Christmas spent in sizzling Sydney.  A Christmas like no other on Earth...      

Slip an extra prawn on the barbie

First things first - we will start with the traditional gastronomic delight of the Sydney Christmas lunch - Prawns on the Barbie (Australian slang for barbecue).  Yes, prawns.  The rich and moist King prawns, the beautiful and delicious Tiger prawns or the sweet and mild Banana prawns - it is your choice.

There is nothing like prawns hot off the barbecue.  Just make sure you grab the freshest and the best-quality prawns you can find.  Wash it down with a glass (or two) of champagne or any other good quality sparkling wine.  Prawns love wine.   

Join the fun and frenzy of the 36-hour Seafood Marathon at the Sydney Fish Market

The annual 36-hour Seafood Marathon at the Sydney Fish Market is another favourite Christmas tradition of most Sydneysiders.  Retailers stay open for 36 hours from 5am on 23 December right through to 5pm on Christmas Eve.  People flock to the Sydney Fish Market to grab their seafood, especially prawns, for their Christmas lunch.  This year, a whopping 120 tonnes of prawns were sold within 36 hours!   

Be enchanted by the QVB Swarovski Christmas tree - Sydney’s tallest indoor Christmas tree

Every year from late October to early January the following year, the iconic Queen Victoria Building (QVB) displays the QVB Swarovski Christmas tree.  The beautiful glittering tree stands at 24 metres over three floors, residing under the magnificent stained-glass and copper-sheath dome of the 1898 Queen Victoria Building.  The elegant beauty is adorned with over 82,000 sparkling Swarovski crystals and 65,000 twinkling lights topped by a 2.2m wide crystal gilded star weighing over 6.5 tonnes.

For many Sydneysiders, the QVB Swarovski Christmas tree is the first reminder that the festive season has arrived in the city.  It takes over a hundred people and 44 hours to install this gigantic tree.  Once installed, it starts attracting both visitors and locals that want to admire its beauty and take selfies next to it

To fully appreciate the dazzling elegance of this impressive Christmas tree, start at its base which itself is a work of art made out of glass, lights and crystals. Then go up the stairs to the first floor to take a closer look at thousands of sparkling crystals adorning the tree.  Finally, on the second floor you can see the jaw-dropping 6.5-tonne star under the stained-glass dome.  And don’t forget that selfie!                      

Watch the Lights of Christmas animated light show at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

This spectacular light and sound show is held annually at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney - an elegant English Gothic style cathedral situated in the heart of Sydney.  In December, every evening until Christmas the Lights of Christmas show is projected onto the Cathedral facade from dusk till midnight.  This is an outdoor event held at the Cathedral Square and draws large crowds from all over Sydney.  Enjoy a balmy Sydney summer evening watching this glorious light show under the stars.         

Stop and listen to the Christmas street performers in the city

Around Christmas time you find them at almost every street corner and market square in the city.  Carol singers, saxophone players and sometimes even bagpipe players playing happy Christmas tunes on their instruments and spreading festive cheer.  They help to give the city of Sydney a special vibe.

Take the time to stop and listen to them - you will discover that some of them have real talent.  Some do it for a living. Others, especially primary school children and teenagers, are trying to recoup the cost of their band instruments.  Support their entrepreneurial spirit and throw in $5 (or more if you’re feeling generous) for them.  

Experience the magic of Christmas at Martin Place

Every year at Christmastime, Martin Place, a pedestrian mall in the central business district of Sydney, is transformed into a magical summer wonderland.  The street choirs singing carols perform every night leading up to Christmas.  Then there is the 21 metre tall interactive Christmas tree - the tallest outdoor Christmas tree in Sydney.  You can share your special Christmas message via text and watch it light up the tree for everyone to see!    

Grab your picnic rug and flip-flop over to Carols in the Domain

Carols in the Domain is Sydney’s biggest free Christmas concert, held in the Domain, Sydney annually.  This iconic Christmas celebration pulls huge crowds that picnic on the grass and sing-along to Australia's popular artistes and favourite Christmas songs, under the stars in the warm summer nights.

Sydney Christmas Gallery

The QVB Swarovski Christmas Tree Sydney
Lights Of Christmas Sydney - Madonna and Child

Lights Of Christmas Sydney - Madonna and Child

Lights Of Christmas Sydney - Madonna and Child

Lights Of Christmas Sydney - Madonna and Child

Nativity at Cathedral Square - St Mary's Cathedral Sydney

The Interactive Christmas Tree at Martin Place, Sydney

Martin Place, Sydney - Christmas 2016

Monday, 12 December 2016

Centennial Park, Sydney: Here Come the Emden Geese

Emden Geese at Centennial Park, Sydney

Head to the Duck Pond at Centennial Park in Sydney this summer and you will see more Emden geese there than ducks.  If you decide to have a picnic near the pond these large birds will flock to you demanding your food! Try moving away with your picnic and they will follow you, honking loudly.  They are huge, voracious and persistent but they are  also lovely and cute.  

Emden geese - pretty but pests?

The Centennial Parklands management however does not think very highly of the Emden geese.  In fact they consider them pests that compete with the native bird species for food and other scarce resources.  The Centennial Parklands website mentions that these and other pests ‘contribute to environmental degradation, contribute to the spread of disease and give rise to safety issues through their impacts on the environment’.  

Most likely these domestic geese have been brought to the park and released there by the park visitors.  The Emden goose is the most popular domestic goose breed in New South Wales.        

A goose by any other name:  How to tell if it’s an Emden Goose

The origin of the Emden goose

The Emden goose is believed to have originated from Emden, a town and seaport in Lower Saxony, Germany.  Another theory is that it was created by crossing the German White goose with the English White.  Whatever its origin, the Emden is a prolific breeder and it is the most popular domestic goose breed in Sydney.

What does the Emden goose look like?

  • Plumage - Pure glossy white.
  • Eyes - Bold and ocean blue.
  • Bill - Bright orange.  Short and stout at the base.
  • Head - Long and straight.
  • Neck - Long, graceful and swan-like.
  • Body - Bulky and well rounded with a long back and a short tail.
  • Legs -. Bright orange.  Short but strong.
  • Feet:  Webbed and bright orange.
  • Wings - Long and very strong.

Overall, the Emden geese are a large, heavy breed and the tallest of all geese, reaching up to one meter in height (3.3 feet). 

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

At a glance both the Emden goose (female) and the gander (male) look alike. However telling the male and female Emden geese apart is not as simple as the proverb.  

The males tend to be much larger and their behaviour much cockier.  They strut boldly towards you with their chests puffed out demanding food. They might even challenge your leashed dog!  The male also has a shrill high-pitched and piercing honk.  The female usually sounds more hoarse and low-pitched.  

The Emden goose normally weighs between 9kg and 11kg (20lb - 24lb) while the gander weighs between 11kg and 14kg (24lb - 31lb).

Day-old hatchlings can usually be accurately sexed as the females have a darker down than the males.  However, after a few days this difference in feather colour disappears.  

To feed or not to feed, that is the question

When it comes to feeding the birds at the park, the Centennial Parklands website has this piece of advice for you.

‘If you love these birds, don't feed them!’

But why not?  After all, going to the park to feed the ducks (or geese) has been a family tradition for many generations of Sydneysiders.  The parklands website further elaborates on their advice.

‘Rangers understand that visitors enjoy feeding the birds. However it is requested that when feeding birds visitors think about the food that the birds would normally eat in the wild and feed them accordingly – remember that the birds in Centennial Parklands are not pets.

Bread does not contain all the nutrients that these wild birds need, so try feeding them grass and seeds instead.’

Now remember that we are talking about feeding the Emden geese, not the native species of ducks at the Duck Pond.  As mentioned before, Emden geese have been brought to the park by its visitors and they are considered pests by the Centennial Parklands management.  Therefore we are facing a double dilemma here. 

Emden geese are good foragers and look for tidbits in the grass and water.  In addition to grass, seeds and various greens they also feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks as well as small fish, snails and crabs.

But who doesn't like an easy meal?  Emden geese are no different.  They are also not choosy and will eat almost anything that you feed them.

However, sharing your tuna sandwich with the Emden geese can cause them more harm than good.  Human food, specially bread, can be very unhealthy for the geese. This is because bread is low in nutrition. It will fill up the bird and leave little or no room for more nutritious food.  In turn this will leave the bird sluggish and malnourished. 

Human food is a fast and easy option for these geese.  However, over time they will lose their ability to forage for natural food.  It is important to remember that feeding them human food will eventually make them lazy and dependent on humans for their food, which can result in starvation and perhaps death if and when that food source stops. 

If you do decide to feed them, it is a good idea to limit the quantity so the Emden geese retain their natural ability to forage for food themselves.  Also, feed them nutritious food such as collard, turnip greens, spinach and kale.   

They look quite aggressive - will they attack me?

A flock of large Emden geese chasing you around the Duck Pond while honking loudly can certainly be a rather intimidating experience.  My advice to you is, if a gaggle of Emdens is chasing you, DO NOT RUN - specially with food in your hand.  It will bring out the exact behaviour in them that you fear.

The Emden can be an aggressive breed and they tend to bully other geese, specially the weaker ones.  However, they are a domestic breed that is accustomed to the presence of humans, so as long as you keep a safe distance from them you should be okay.  If threatened or provoked, however, they will use their bills and strong wings as weapons to attack you.  So be careful!  

Spend an afternoon with the Emden geese at Centennial Park this summer

Pack a picnic and head to Centennial Park on a sunny summer afternoon.  If you have decided to feed the Emden geese, remember to pack a bit of kale or collard for them, but not too much.  Although the grassy area around the Duck Pond is great for picnics, it is best to have your picnic elsewhere away from these hungry birds!

After you finish your picnic, walk over to the Duck Pond and wait for the Emden geese to find you.  Normally it does not take long, specially if you offer them food.  Often, you find them congregated on the little island with a lot of trees that is in the middle of the Duck Pond, resting and sunning themselves.  It is enough to get the attention of just one goose - all the rest will follow her to you in a straight line.  

Gently throw the greens at them from a safe distance and watch them flocking to the food honking noisily.  You can also try walking away from them slowly to see how they follow you.  And remember do NOT RUN no matter what you do!

Have fun.   

Emden Geese Gallery

The Emden goose has a long, graceful, swan-like neck and short but strong legs.

The Emden gander (male) is much larger than the goose (female).

The Emden is a prolific breeder and it is the most popular domestic goose breed in Sydney.

 Emden geese and other birds foraging for food at Centennial Park, Sydney.

Emden geese and other bird varieties at the Duck Pond, Centennial Park, Sydney.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Blooming Sydney: Jacaranda - November’s Purple Haze

Purple Haze in Sydney

Every November a purple haze engulfs Sydney and transforms the city into a magical lavender-blue wonderland.  It is Jacaranda, a blossoming tree that is not native to Australia, but brought here from South America in the 20th century by growers as part of a city beautification project.  It is a deciduous tree and loses all of its leaves before flowering, so in November there is a full explosion of bright purple with very little green.  

Jacaranda blooms first appear in early October and peak in November.  At this time of the year you can walk under a lilac canopy on a purple carpet along Sydney’s beautiful tree-lined streets as the Jacaranda blossoms start raining down on the footpaths.   Make the most of spring in Sydney and fully experience this short-lived annual splendour and explosion of colour.

The best way to experience the Lilac Magic in Sydney

Spring is a lovey time to be out and about in Sydney and it is also the Jacaranda season.  Take advantage of the generally mild spring weather and the clear blue skies in November to experience the lilac magic of Jacaranda. 

In wet weather

Although bright sunny weather is best for viewing and photographing Jacarandas, a walk in the rain can be equally exhilarating if you are the adventurous type.  Wear a clear rain poncho or carry a see-through umbrella (available at most dollar stores in Sydney) so as not to obstruct your view.  

Caution: Do be careful not to walk on the fallen Jacaranda flowers as they can be quite slippery when wet!

Choose the best times of the day to see Jacarandas

I would recommend either early morning from 7:30am to 10:00am or late afternoon from 04:00pm to 05:30pm.    

Sydney’s best Jacaranda hotspots

North Shore

Lavender Bay

No, Lavender Bay does not take its name from our lavender-blue blossoms.  However, it is one of the best spots in Sydney to see and experience Jacarandas.  In the November peak season Lavender Bay has a stunning display of the purple flowers on its steep harbour foreshores.  As an added bonus the suburb has a delightful cafe culture we well.  So don’t forget to enjoy a great cup of cappuccino or latte while you are  there.  


Kirribilli is one of the oldest suburbs of Sydney and it contains Kirribilli House, the official Sydney residence of the Prime Minister of Australia.  It is also a great Jacaranda hotspot.  The Jacaranda tree-lined McDougall Street becomes a purple-blue haze in the months of October and November.  Every year tourists flock to McDougall Street to photograph the purple blossoms.  Don’t forget to check out the lovely Kirribilli markets while you’re there - you may be able to grab a bargain or two!

Hunters Hill

Hunters Hill is a leafy peninsula that sits between the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers.  The Aboriginal people appropriated named it Moocooboola - ‘meeting of waters’.  It can also be called Sydney’s Jacaranda tree capital.  In fact, the Hunters Hill Council offers a series of guided Jacaranda Walks and Cruises in early November every year.  Book early to enjoy the magnificent Jacarandas in full bloom in historic Hunters Hill.


Jacarandas paint the lovely Mosman purple every spring.  According to a local legend, in the past century the hospitals on the north shore handed out Jacarandas to all new mothers and asked them to plant them in their backyards and watch them grow as their their babies grew. If that is fact or fiction we do not know.  What we do know is that the Jacarandas on the north shore are simply spectacular.  So pick a bright sunny day and catch an early ferry to Mosman for a leisurely walk along its Jacaranda tree-lined streets for a stunning view of the blossoms.  

Eastern Suburbs


Oxford Street in Paddington is one of the best Jacaranda hotspots in Sydney.  Grab a takeaway coffee and stroll down Oxford Street on a spring weekend and enjoy its magnificent purple-blue Jacarandas. And don’t forget your camera...

Double Bay

This posh harbourside enclave is also affectionately known as Double Pay due to the high income of its residents.  Double Bay is a beautiful upmarket European-style shopping village packed with exclusive designer boutiques, stylish cafes and trendy beauty salons.  It also boasts a stunning collection of Jacaranda trees that paints the suburb a lovely lilac every spring.  For a great Jacaranda walk in Double Bay that does not disappoint you, start at the corner of New South Head and Wolseley Roads and finish at Guilfoyle Avenue.  

City of Sydney  

The Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney was established in 1816.  It is the oldest botanic garden in Australia.  It is open throughout the year and access is free.  It is home to a large collection of plants from around the world.  It also has a good collection of Jacarandas, including a unique white flowering variety.  Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon at the Royal Botanic Garden enjoying the lovely purple hues.

Circular Quay

Vibrant and buzzing with activity, Circular Quay is absolutely stunning in the Jacaranda season of October and November.  The lilac blossoms against the backdrop of Sydney’s bright blue sky, beautiful harbour views, its iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge are simply picture-perfect.   Enjoy a leisurely brunch at one of many Circular Quay restaurants with outdoor seating that offer an array of delightful seafood dishes.  Then take a walk all the way to the Rocks, taking in the breathtaking lilac views along the way.

Plan your Jacaranda Walk for 2017 now

As I publish this blog post today it is almost the end of the Jacaranda season in Sydney for 2016.  It is not too late to catch the last few moments of Sydney’s Jacaranda spring although most of the lilac blooms have already fallen to the ground and disappeared.  Most Jacaranda trees in Sydney are now sprouting their soft green fern-like foliage and shedding the purple flowers, getting ready for the warmer summer months ahead.  

But now is the time to plan your Jacaranda walk for next year.  Go ahead, pull out your mobile and add a date or two to your 2017 calendar - just make sure it is in early to mid November so you can experience the spectacular purple haze in its glorious full bloom.

Good luck!

Jacaranda Gallery

Jacaranda canopy and carpet

Lilac blooms against Sydney's blue sky
Jacaranda flower