The Newington Armament Depot and Nature Reserve is located within the Sydney Olympic Park precinct at Homebush. I have passed by this spot on various trips down the Parramatta River on a Rivercat, and recently took the opportunity to have a wander around the area.
Newington Armory was an active armaments site from the 1890s until 1999. It was selected in part for its relatively isolated location at the time. It was part of the former Royal Australian Navy Armament depot:
Armaments used by Australian, British and United States Navy ships were received, inspected, tested, stored and distributed at the Depot. These armaments included gunpowder, explosive shells, cordite, fuses, depth charges, torpedoes and rockets. (Source: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage)
Part of the site was resumed for the construction of villages for visiting athletes during the Olympic Games in 2000. Over recent years, this precinct has evolved to offer a range of recreational activities including extensive bike and walking tracks, playgrounds and picnic areas. There is a cafe right on the old wharf, close to a large play area.
There remains a large number of buildings from the armory days on the site, and it forms one of the largest Department of Defence heritage collections. About 100 buildings remain, and many of them seem to be tucked behind embankments like the one shown above. At its peak there were 191 buildings at the depot across 259 hectares.
Quite a few of the buildings are very modest in size, and it makes you wonder as to their original purpose. There is a mixture of styles across the decades, including administration and residential buildings.
The armory had its own narrow gauge railway which has been upgraded for tourist purposes. Near the railway line there are bike and Segway hire options available. There are also some displays of equipment from the site. Most of the buildings open to the public include the original signs on doors which reminded staff to earth themselves on a plate in the door before entering the building to minimise the impact of static electricity.
The site incorporates a number of ecologically significant forest and wetland areas, and it is a popular spot for birdwatching. A couple of buildings are home to Birdlife Discovery Centre. There are lots of birds around the precinct, and the Discovery Centre provides the opportunity to get to know the local birdlife.
This is a very popular location, offering lots of physical activity in a pleasant space alongside the Parramatta River. This old Ford was spotted near the cafe.
Newington Armory is a place that will continue to evolve and offer a recreational space in what is now a busy commercial, residential and sporting area. It is well worth a visit.
[Photo: visitor entrance to Newington Armory, Sydney]