Friday 29 May 2015

Little Sandy, more than a footbridge and a water view

Public art at Little Sandy

The Little Sandy Bridge has an Aboriginal inspired artwork lining the steps adjacent to the bridge.
Press reports stated that it pays tribute to the Camden Council logo of a platypus and celebrates flora and fauna of the area.

Artist Danielle Mate, who grew up in Camden and has Aboriginal heritage, is pleased with the work.
She consulted, according to reports, the Mygunyah Camden Aboriginal Residents Group before starting the project.

Mayor Symkowiak was reportedly said it was a 'great addition' to the area.

Read more @ Macarthur Chronicle Camden Edition 19 May 2015

New Little Sandy footbridge across Nepean River May 2014 (I Willis)

2014 Opening of Little Sandy Bridge 

The Little Sandy footbridge was officially opened on 4 May 2014 with another community event.

The weather gods were kind, and while there were a cool breeze and an overcast start, the sun came out, and the crowd turned up with families of mums and dads and the kids.

Camden Council organised a family fun day in Chellaston Reserve where there were stalls, a free train ride along the bike track and information stands.

The day opened at 11.00am and wound up in the afternoon at 3.00pm. Camden Rotary provided a sausage sizzle which sold out early in the day. An information stand was provided by Camden Historical Society which was staffed by volunteers John and Julie Wrigley, Bob Lester and Rene Rem, while others turned up later.

This was another community event that has been typical of the popularity of the site for the Camden community.

Little Sandy Footbridge across the Nepean River at Camden c.1950. Diving board in the foreground. (Camden Images)

Little Sandy Footbridge

The new pre-cast concrete 43-metre footbridge at Little Sandy on the Nepean River was completed in April 2014.

Camden Council let contracts for the completion of a new footbridge in September 2013.

The new structure replaced a wooden footbridge that was damaged in flood in 2012. The new footbridge was jointly funded by the council and the state government.

The finished footbridge is part of the Nepean River cycleway that joins Camden with Elderslie, South Camden and Narellan. Local resident Kevin Browne stated in  2012 (Camden Narellan Advertiser 31 July) that:
the bridge was part of the unique attraction of living in a rural area [and] the availability of serene, natural beauty.
After the 2012 damage to the footbridge and its closure, local residents started to campaign for its replacement. This culminated in a community meeting in the mayor's office in August 2013 when 19 local residents attended an information session with the mayor, the Member for Camden,  and the council's general manager and engineering staff.

The original footbridge was constructed in 1943 as a military training exercise by the AMF Engineering Corps stationed at Narellan Military Camp. Camden Council agreed to fund the cost of the materials while the engineers provided the labour (40 men), supervision and vehicles. The original footbridge was 120 feet long and 4 feet wide.

Read more in The District Reporter 17 August 2012.

Little Sandy footbridge over Nepean River at Camden in 1943 (Camden Images)

Little Sandy on the Nepean River at Camden

Little Sandy on the Nepean River at Camden has been concerned local residents in recent times over the re-construction of the footbridge by Camden Council. Little Sandy has been a popular spot with locals for many decades for swimming, picnicking, boating and fishing. It is rich in the memories of local folk played out their childhoods, experienced the pangs of youth and enjoyed time with their families. Today thousands of local residents enjoy the same rituals at Little Sandy on their jaunts along the Nepean River bike path with the friends and family.

Nepean River swimming carnival 1917 Little Sandy (Camden Images)

Little Sandy swimming carnivals

In the early 20th century Little Sandy was a favourite swimming spot. In the 1920s the Camden Swimming Club built galvanised iron dressing sheds painted green in an area now known at Kings Bush Reserve.

Swimming became one of Elderslie's earliest organised sporting activities after the Nepean River was dammed in 1908 with the construction of the Camden Weir. Water backed up behind the weir for four kilometres through the Elderslie area and provided relatively deep water suitable for swimming. The Camden Aquatic Sports carnival was organised in 1909 and attracted over 1000 spectators and was the location of the Camden Swimming Club in the 1920s.

The area was divided into Big Sandy, which was a deep hole, near Kings Bush Reserve. About 100 metres upstream was Little Sandy, where the water was shallower. Learn to swim classes were held for a short time and Boy Scouts would go swimming there, according to Milton Ray.

"In the 1950s the area was used for swimming by pupils from Camden Public School', said Len English. 'The girls went with the female teachers to Little Sandy, while the male teachers and boys went downstream to Camden Weir.'
Olive McAleer says 'Little Sandy was a popular spot for family picnics between the 1920s and 1940s'.

The river stopped being a swimming spot when it was condemned because of pollution by medical authorities in the early 1960s. It was replaced by Camden Memorial Swimming Pool in 1964. (P Mylrea, 'Swimming in the Nepean River at Camden', Camden History, March 2006)

Little Sandy footbridge 1943

Little Sandy footbridge over Nepean River Camden in 1943 (Camden Images)

In  1943 military authorities from the Narellan Military Camp were anxious to undertake a practical training exercise for engineers. In September they sought the view of Camden Municipal Council on erecting a footbridge and the council immediately agreed with the proposal.

The council covered the cost of some of the timber so that the bridge remained the property of the council.

The  Australian Military Forces Engineers supplied the labour, supervision, transport vehicles and operators for the transport of stores and construction material.  

The site at the bottom Chellaston Street connected two reserves on either side of the Nepean River. One on the Chellaston Street side and the other at River Road Elderslie.

In late September 1943, 40 troops started building a wooden footbridge 120 feet long and 4 feet wide. Construction took around four weeks and was finished by 28 October.

Observers commented on a 'fine piece of workmanship...that would be much appreciated' by the local community.  (Camden News, 16 September 1943, 23 September 1943, 28 October 1943).

Camden Weir and the aesthetic of a water view

The Camden Weir pondage created an aesthetic water feature that runs through the Camden township. The aesthetic has moral, experiential, spiritual and well-being aspects to it.

The picturesque scene at the Camden Weir on the Nepean River c.1917 (Camden Images)

The Camden Weir was constructed by New South Wales Public Works Department after the completion of the Cataract Dam from 1907. The compensation weir was one of number been built along the Nepean River to safeguard the 'riparian rights' of landowners affected by the interruption of flow to the river, according to John Wrigley.

A riparian right is the ability to take water from the river. The water supply dams of the Upper Nepean  Scheme reduced the flow of the tributaries of the Nepean River, and the weirs were to 'compensate' for the loss of water flow.

The other weirs near Camden were Menangle, Bergins, Thurns, Camden Sharpes and Cobbitty. The weirs were eventually transferred to the management to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board as part of the Sydney Water Supply system.  

Read more @ John Wrigley,' Nepean River Weirs', The District Reporter 3 August 2001

 Water has a calming effect on the mind and takes the account to a quiet, tranquil and peaceful place. Some say it can dim our internal chatter and calm some people. Water provides a degree of serenity and the purifying effect it can have on the soul.

Water can have a soothing meditative effect on some people. People need to re-charge and re-vitalise in the tranquillity of the environment provided by the calm and serenity of the pool provided by the weir. For others, a visually attractive water feature can also be a source of healing and relaxing in a man-mad environment.

Those that went swimming at Little Sandy had an experiential relationship with the water. Water is used to nourish and replenish man after exertion. Swimming carnivals were a time of community celebration and strengthening community resilience.

The pondage at Littles Sandy also has a scientific value for the marine ecosystem it supports. It supports a range of life from eels, to perch, birds, reptiles and other life. The Little Sandy pondage creates an attractive water feature that circles the township.

The beauty of the scene attracts visitors. The trees along the water's edge provide a frame for the quiet pond. People doing simple tasks like fishing, picnicking, walking and re-engaging with nature on the water's edge.    

The surface of the water is a mirror that reflects the images of the trees and bushes on the water's edge. At dawn on a cold frosty morning, the vapours of the steam rise of the water's surface as the walker's feet crackle under the frozen grass on the water's edge.  

There is a splash as a kingfisher dives into the water after a fish, that breaks the silence of the space. The world disappears momentarily as you sit on the water's edge taking in the serene quiet surroundings of the pond.

Nepean River before the Camden Weir 1900 

Nepean River below Cowpasture Bridge 1900  (Camden Images/CA Poole)

This image of the Nepean River is taken in the vicinity of the Camden Weir. It gives an indication of the degraded state of the river around 1900. Sedimentation, streambank erosion caused by hard hooved animals trampling river banks were evident. These issues were typical of Australia's inland waterways in the late 19th century after extensive clearing of the catchments for forestry, farming and other activities.

Sue Rosen, in her book on the environmental history of the Nepean River, quotes from James Atkinson's 1826  An Account of the State of Agriculture and Grazing in New South Wales. Atkinson states that even by the mid-1820s, the river banks were undermined and collapsing into the stream.

There were deposits of sand in the river channel, and clearing practices had caused increased run-off,  accelerated the degradation of the river channel and increased obstruction in the river bed. All evident in the 1900  photograph of the river channel at Camden.

Atkinson felt that the original European settlers had failed to 'improve' the land for farming and that its farming potential had been compromised. The colonists had in Atkinson's terms was unable to fulfil the original objectives of opening up the land and favoured, according to Rosen, 'the cultivation of a landscape reminiscent of British romantic pastoral scenes'.

The earliest reports of the Nepean River date from 1795 and Alan Atkinson's Camden reports that after a wet spring-early Europeans,

David Collins's impression in his An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (London, 1798) was a picture of

'large ponds, covered with ducks and the black swan, the margins of which were fringed with shrubs of the most delightful tints'. 

After a dry spell, the river at Menangle was reported by George Caley in his 'Report of a Journey to the Cowpastures' (1804, ML) to be 'reduced to a small compass' and the water having 'the foul appearance of a pond in a farmyard'. 

Read more @ Sue Rosen Losing Ground An Environmental History of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995.

Alan Atkinson, Camden, Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Melbourne, OUP, 1988.

Kings Bush

King's Bush is the reserve adjacent the river's edge and is named after Cecil J King, the rector of St John's Church between 1893 and 1927. According to John Wrigley, King kept his horse in the paddock next to the river and swam at the same spot in the river.

Reverend King was a keen sports fan and played for the Camden Cricket Club and was the team's wicketkeeper for several years. In 1927 he was the patron of the Camden Golf Club and president of the Union and St John's tennis club. King was ordained at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney in 1887 by the Bishop Barry of the Sydney Archdiocese. (Camden Advertiser 2 June 1949)

Read more  @ John Wrigley, Place Names on the Camden Area, Camden, CHS, 2005.

Chellaston Street and Reserve

Chellaston was a single storey brick residence at 38 Menangle Road built by Camden builder John Peat and used as his family home. Chellaston Street was part of land releases on the south side of the township in the 1920s.

There were several land releases in the area during the Inter-war period including Victory Ave and Gilbulla Ave that run off Menangle Road.

Read more  @ John Wrigley, Place Names on the Camden Area, Camden, CHS, 2005.

Originally posted 29 May 2015. Updated 29 July 2020

Sunday 24 May 2015

Camden Park springs into bloom

2015  Open Day

Camden Park Garden
Camden Park Garden Open Day 2011 in the Cool House with Garden Group volunteers. (Picasa/Leahwyn)

Camden Park Garden historian Colin Mills stated in 2011 that the 'historic value of the Camden Park gardens is almost inestimable' and 'the basic framework of the gardens remains with many historically significant trees and shrubs surviving'. 

The principle founder of the garden was William Macarthur around 1840 as a nursery. According to Mills 'he certainly sought to create a pleasant gentleman's garden at Camden'. Although Macarthur's 'real interest was in growing useful, unusual, exotic and beautiful plants for their own sake as well as for their utility'. He established the first garden in 1820 and up to 1961 grew 'more then 3000 species, hybrids and cultivars'.  

Mills has stated that Macarthur grew many more species in the decades following the 1860s. Macarthur was an 'innovator' and experimented with acclimatisation and sought the knowledge of groups like the Queensland Acclimatisation Society (1862).

The post-war period was not kind to the garden. The estate was under financial pressure and the garden suffered from lack of attention. The present owners John and Edwina Macarthur Stanham have done much to arrest the decline of the garden, with the assistance of the Garden Group volunteers.

Read more about the history of the garden and  its botanical details @ . Inspect the gardens in September 2014. 
This webpost is dedicated to the memory of Colin Mills.

Colin Mills inspects the garden needs in 2012 (L Seed)

Colin Mills investigates the needs of the Bidwell Garden near the Bush House. Colin was the founder of the Camden Park Nursery Group in 2005 which aims to propagate and re-introduce plants that have been lost from gardens of William Macarthur between the 1840s and 1860s.

Camellia Garden at Camden Park (Camden Park)

The magnificence of the lower garden is clearly shown in this early 20th century image of the Camellia garden below the main house. The Camellia garden is one of the areas that the Camden Park Nursery Group has been restoring in recent years. There are a number of early plantings that show promise for the future. It is anticipated that more work is required in the garden to bring it back to the state shown in this image. The Orchid House is shown below with a number visitors in this early 20th century image.

Orchid House in the Camden Park Garden (Camden Park) 

In the early 20th century Camden Park employed a number of garden staff to look after the extensive gardens. During the time of Sibella Macarthur Onslow and Enid Macarthur Onslow the gardens were regularly used as the site of community fundraisers for the Red Cross and other charities. Visitors always spoke glowingly of the magnificence of the gardens, especially in spring. The gardens were always compared to the English style estate gardens.

Clivias in the garden at Camden Park open day 2013 (I Willis)

Open Day 21 September 2013

Visitors today enjoyed a wonderful day at Camden Park with beautiful sunny weather with a temperature of 22 degrees. The mild conditions gave the many people who visited the historic property pleasant conditions to walk around the garden or inspect the colonial mansion. Visitors lined up to inspect the house of James and William Macarthur that was built between 1831 and 1835 and designed by architect John Verge. The house is Palladian style flanked by symmetrical pavilions. Other occupants of the house have included Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow in the late 1800s, her daughter Sibella Macarthur Onslow in the early 20th century and son James and his wife Enid in 1932.
Garden tour open day 2013 (I Willis)
The current occupants of the house John and Edwina  offered the visitors the opportunity to enjoy an atmosphere of an English-style country fair on the lawn with sausage sandwiches, devonshire teas, plant stalls, souvenir stalls, and other stalls. With the backdrop of the colonial mansion. A tour of garden of was led in the afternoon by horticulturalist Euan  who spoke to a large group of visitors who inspected the clivias and a host of the plants in the historic garden. Enthusiastic gardeners could buy a souvenir of a rare plant that had been struck by members of the garden group. Members of the garden group had worked hard to prepare the garden for a wonderful show of colour and charm.

Camden Park Nursery Group

The nursery group has undertaken the restoration, conservation and preservation  of the  19th century garden of colonial identity and horticulturalist William Macarthur. This is  a significant heritage project in the historically important Australian  colonial property of Camden Park.   

Heritage Importance
The New South Wales heritage branch inventory states that parts of the garden are of unusual industrial and historical archaeological significance and have the potential to reveal much about the 19th century practice of nursery gardening and horticulture on a large scale.

The Nursery Group
The group was established in 2005 with a grant from the Camden Park Preservation Committee. The work of the group and its volunteers is supplemented through the sale of heritage plants propagated on site.
Colin Mills leading garden tour on Camden Park Open Day 2009 (IWillis)
The group was led by Colin Mills, until his untimely death in late 2012, and has regular monthly working bees of volunteers who undertake a variety of projects in the garden.

The nursery group won the 2011 NSW Government Heritage Volunteers Award for their ground-breaking effort in the restoration of this important colonial garden. 

Camden Park Open day
The work of this voluntary group has meant that in recent years the colonial gardens have become an important part of the Camden Park open days where the members of the general public can gain an understanding and appreciation of this historic asset. 

Members of the nursery group lead tours of the colonial garden on open days and other occasions and explain their work and the historic, social, economic, technological and archaeological importance of the conservation and restoration work of the garden.

Colin Mills leading a garden tour on Camden Park Open Day 2010 (IWillis)

Hortus Camdensus, A web-based catalogue
The work of the Camden Park Nursery Group has been  supported by Colin Mills’s  ground breaking work in  developing the website Hortus Camdensus, An illustrated catalogue of plants grown by Sir William Macarthur at Camden Park NSW Australia between 1820 and 1861.

Ian Willis, Reference Supporting Nomination for NSW Government Heritage Volunteer Awards 2011, Submission, Camden, 2011

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Colonial Camden as a settler society

John Hawdon of Elderslie

In 1929 Mrs Madeline Buck the grand-daughter of an Elderslie pioneer James Hawdon published a series of his letters written in 1828 to friends in England. Hawdon had lived in the Elderslie area for five years from 1828.
Hawdon’s letters surfaced in England in 1929 amongst old family papers and have many interesting insights into life in the early days of the colony.