A Walk Around Lake Pillans, Lithgow

Named for the first Labor mayor of Lithgow, Lake Pillans is located near the Blast Furnace park area in Lithgow. I recently came across it quite by chance whilst looking for something else. It was my intention to take some photos of the blast furnace site, as it had been a year or so since I had been out around the area. But there are extensive works underway and there is limited access to the ruins.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I took the turn to Lake Pillans and followed the track around to a parking area. This urban wetland was constructed in the 1990s with a number of functions in mind. It provides a place for recreational and educational activities, along with beauty and solitude. It also cleans and filters water as part of the larger ecosystem of the area. And it provides a place for wildlife, including frogs, birds, reptiles and fish.

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Wetlands views with Blast Furnace park in the background

The lake is also a great example of repurposing an old industrial site. It was created in 1911 by the construction of a weir across Vale Creek to provide cooling water for the Hoskins blast furnace. From its early days, it was used for recreation and was a popular swimming and boating venue. The site fell into disrepair when the steelworks relocated to Port Kembla around 1928 and it became an industrial dumping site.

In recent years, a mixture of local and state government funding has contributed towards the establishment of pathways that link the wetlands and the Blast Furnace park.

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One of the walkways around Lake Pillans

This link provides another viewpoint as it touches on the experience of one of the engineers involved in the creation of the wetlands project in the 1990s.

A quick aerial tour of the lake can be seen here, and there is a great photo of the lake in its earlier years in a blog post by Pauline Conolly featuring some Lithgow characters here.

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Looking towards one of the lakes with a sculpture in front

Walking around the lake is an absolute delight, from the wetlands and reeds to the water thrumming with tadpoles. Pathways circle the lake and nearby wetlands, and one path winds up towards the Blast Furnace park. There are a couple of metal sculptures along the way, including one which I think looks like an elephant. There is a boardwalk over part of the wetlands and there was a rustle of reeds before I realised that the birds darting about were purple swamp hens. There were also ducks and brown thornbills, magpies and peewees, to name just a few of the birds around the lake.

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Purple swamp hen at Lake Pillans

I’m very pleased to have found Lake Pillans and will return many times I’m sure to enjoy the walk around a pocket of nature circled by the history and modern realities of an industrial town.

Have you stumbled across a hidden treasure recently?

[Photo: wetland views]

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My I Spy: something beginning with ‘P’

Plenty of possibilities for things beginning with ‘P’ have presented themselves. Parrots, people, plumes of clouds, pets, just to name a few. Here are a few things I managed to photograph.

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Paragon Cafe, West Wyalong

Paragon Cafes

The Paragon Cafe in Katoomba celebrated 100 years this year. But it is not the only Paragon Cafe around by a long shot. These cafes, typically started by Greek migrants, were dotted all across the cities and small towns of Australia. When travelling through the central west of the state, I managed to spot these two. The first, in West Wyalong, is still trading as a cafe. The second is a shopfront in the town of Harden in the south west of NSW. Lately there have been some interesting podcasts and books about this cafe culture.

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Paragon Cafe, Harden

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Phrenology Head, North Rocks Markets

Phrenology

The ‘study of external conformation of cranium as index to development and position of organs belonging to the various mental facilities’, as defined by the 1911 Concise Oxford Dictionary, no longer holds the sway that it once did. It is now a rather discounted theory of how one’s mental powers are influenced and indicated by the shape of the skull. My earliest recollection of this theory was when I stumbled across it in one of the Bony books. Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte was the literary invention of English born writer Arthur W Upfield. Upfield worked and travelled extensively across Australia, and he wrote a series of books based around Bony solving mysteries in various locations. Many of the books were set in the outback and Bony brought insights from his mixed heritage into solving crimes. Titles included ‘Death of a Swagman’ and ‘The Bone is Pointed’.

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Possum the Locomotive at Eskbank House, Lithgow

Possum the Locomotive

Possum now resides in the grounds of Eskbank House at Lithgow. It was one of several engines that worked the train line between the Blast Furnace and the steelworks. Possum arrived in 1919 and worked the line until 1928; it was relocated to Port Kembla when the steelworks closed in Lithgow. It worked through until 1967 when it was retired and relocated back to Eskbank House, which was then a relatively new museum. The little engines that worked the line between the furnace and steelworks all had animal names including Wallaby, Wombat and Bunyip.

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Sunset over the Kanimbla Valley

Pink

I love a good sunset. Sunrises are good too, but I like the fading of light at the end of the day. This sunset was spotted over the Kanimbla valley.

What possibilities have you spotted beginning with P? Pop over and see what Autumn is spotting here, along with photos on Instagram by atman.art.studio. Next week, I’m questing for things beginning with Q …

 

Down in the valley, the valley so low*

I have a bit of a thing for old places. Places with a history, regardless of whether they are in current use or not. The Australian countryside is host to thousands of ruined and abandoned sites, including places where entire towns have been left to slip slowly back into the soil. When driving beyond the city limits, sooner or later you will come across properties where there is little more than a chimney left standing in an enclosed space that once held a home where people lived.

But it isn’t just homes that are left in this state. It can be industrial sites that are left behind when their usefulness has come to an end due to changes in technology or productivity. They can be schools or boarding houses, factories or power stations, convents or hospitals.  I recently came across a blog post by Alien Shores with some beautiful photographs of ruins which you can find here.

One of the notable industrial ruins in the mountains area is the Blast Furnace in Lithgow. The Australian iron smelting industry began here, and it was an important industrial development as well as being a major employer and support for the mining industry. There is a detailed analysis of the significance of the site here. It was constructed between 1905 and 1913, and operated until it was relocated to Port Kembla in 1928. The site was opened in 1907 when Lithgow was the fourth largest town in Australia. To understand the sheer scale of industrial activity in Lithgow at the time, have a look at the historic photographs assembled here by John Paix.

The historical importance of the Blast Furnace has been acknowledged, and there is currently preservation work being carried out in order to make the location more accessible for tourists following government and council funding grant approvals. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this site.

Do old places capture your imagination?

*Taken from the lyrics of Industrial Town by Weddings, Parties, Anything

[Photo: Blast Furnace Park, Lithgow]