It’s Show Day!


Of course, after one of our longest, driest periods in ages, those wonderful carnies brought the rain clouds with them.


When the creek was flowing the other day and the water stretched from bank to bank, The Wife described it as a “banker”. “Pshaw!” I replied. Surely to classify as a banker it has to be up to the top of the concrete. Well, at about 9.10 am this morning it was as close to being a banker as I feel comfortable with.


Fingers crossed for the show for Saturday and Sunday.


Follow-up rain


When you’re in the city it’s easy to forget the travails of life inland, and by “inland” I only mean somewhere as close by as Cessnock or Kurri. The start of this year has been dry around town, but a few kilometres west it’s been very dry. Our friends in the Watagans were >this< far away from having to cart water for only the second time in a couple of decades. When the rain did come to the coast it was a slow, soaking rain with little run-off.


The litter and mulch and goo floated gently and responsibly down to the litter boom and sat there like a lid on the water, ready to be scooped out. I saw herons walking along it, it was so densely packed.

On the radio, farmers talked about the need for a decent follow-up rain. This is the farmers’ mantra, but I don’t think anyone expected quite such a deluge when it did come. The Styx filled and my wife described it as “a banker”, though for some reason I only consider it to be a genuine banker if the water’s up to the top of the concrete. The stuff by the boom hadn’t yet boon scooped out but, after the rain had stopped, the creek was clean as a whistle. All the bad stuff had gone away, or at least gone away as far as the Carrington mangroves.


I’ve so come to expect the creek to be wreathed in its garland of litter that the scoured concrete beds felt barren and lifeless. How topsy-turvy is that?


The grasses and reeds and sedges that occupy the cracks in the concrete beds were utterly flattened by the flood but, within hours, they began unfurling themselves and casting off the decorative petals that had become lodged amongst their tips.


In the days that followed, and this may be coincidence, I saw a couple of Works guys in the creek looking at the some of the big holes that have appeared in the creekbed, exposing the ancient reo mesh. Every time I see things like this have to revise my understanding of how quickly Nature could reclaim the creek, or even the city. It wouldn’t be a couple of hundred years; more like one person’s lifetime, or less.


One item that hadn’t been washed away was this … thing. I thought at first it was a mouldy old orange. Luckily I didn’t kick it as it’s solid steel! Is it a cannonball? A shot putt? What?


Kidney disease


Apparently the collective noun for cormorants is a flight, but what happens when they’re just standing still?


The ownership of waterways within Newcastle’s Throsby Creek and Cottage Creek catchments is about as mixed and varied as you can get. Hunter Water owns most of it, but Newcastle City Council owns chunks and other parts are in private hands, or pass through buried channels with easements over privately owned properties.

The result is that our waterways’ maintenance is divided between many different parties. Hunter Water relies on rates and catchment contributions for work on major stretches of the Hunter River and its tributaries, with larger works (such as the work on Throsby Creek’s banks in recent years) coming from federal government. Smaller grants are available for community groups, and I was pleased to see this one from Islington Public School:

Islington Public School is located in the Newcastle City Council area and its student population take an active role in serving their local community. Hunter Water’s grant will go towards raising awareness about the conservation of Styx and Throsby creeks with a project that will use recycled materials to filter runoff from the school playground and surrounding area before entering Styx Creek. This project will help keep Styx Creek and ultimately Throsby Creek clean.

I also got a newsletter from Council with my latest rates notice. In it was information on two rehabilitation projects Council has funded and carried out: one at Coal Mine Creek (Richley Reserve) and another at Gunambi Reserve, Wallsend.

This is heartening stuff. My stretch of the Styx works non-stop on its own rehabilitation. I sometimes wonder how long it would take for Nature to reclaim the drain. Imagine that the zombie apocalypse has come and gone and there are no more clean-up crews to cut back the grass and poison the reeds and shrubs and grasses that occupy the skinny cracks in the concrete bankings.


Some trees were cut down on Bates Street a year or so ago. Their response? Get the root ball to send a few suckers down into the creek.


It really does make the place look a bit prettier. Not much, but a bit. The interesting aspect about this is that Hunter Water and the Hunter – Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority has over recent years produced several publications that encourage landowners to protect reed beds and filtering plants on their properties as these plots are “nature’s kidneys” and reduce the inflow of pollutants and agricultural fertilisers into the water system. I suppose the sad fact is that, by the time we get to this stretch of the Styx, we’ve all given up on any chance of pollutants being filtered out. Nature’s kidneys are, by Hamilton North, effectively knackered.


I hope the kids at Islington Public School have some success in turning attitudes around. I look forward to seeing what they get up to.

And here’s a rat who was so perfectly camouflaged that I nearly stood on him. I don’t think he’d mind though; I have a feeling he might be a bit under the weather.


High tides and onshore breezes


I’m not sure if the combination of higher tides and onshore winds is a seasonal phenomenon or not. It happens on occasion but I haven’t been able to pin it down to a particular time of year, but this last week’s been a classic example of what happens to the litter when the two come together.

Only a week ago this was the litter boom down by the TAFE, doing its job (i.e. looking bloody awful).


This morning, the same scene on an incoming tide.


The clean-up crew hasn’t been down. The difference is the onshore wind which, coupled with the higher tides, has sent the drink bottles, syringes, lumps of styrofoam and nerf bullets skittering back upstream. (If there is anything seasonal about this photo it might be the discarded Christmas tree bauble, but that’s debatable. Baubles dance to their own tune and turn up at all times of year, as and when it suits them.)


The litter floats upstream on the incoming tide, gets stranded as the tide recedes and then gets blown further along by the wind. The result is weird groupings of stuff that throws itself together in the manner of a Rembrandt still life. Well, kind of.


Of course it’s not just litter that gets blown around. The edges of the banking are thick with leaves that interlock; when the tide arrives they’re gently lifted up and the float around in beautiful swirling rafts.


And the not so beautiful. Here is a deeply philosophical conundrum: Does a green bag need the agency of a consumer to become ‘green’ (even though it is still, evidently, green)? Is it still green when once it’s been discarded? Or sitting in the cupboard under the sink? It’s green – I can see that with my own eyes – and yet …  it is not.


Or, as Jambo might ask, is an Esky still an Esky when it has no sausages in it?


He knows that they’re in there somewhere. If he just sniffs harder they might appear.