Following the (not) Styx

21/02/2012

I’d been to the dentist and it was bucketing down and so I thought, as you do, today is the day I’ll follow the Styx as far upstream as I can. I was in town and so headed out along Glebe Road towards Adamstown. The first point where I hit the creek was where it crosses Moonbi Street, just behind Alder Park.

At this point it’s nowhere near as wide as it is in Broadmeadow but, other than in scale, it’s very familiar to me: angled concrete bankings and gun-barrel straight course. A city drain at work.

The water was a churning, silt-laden brown, testament to the force of the downpour. I was only out in the weather for a minute but it was enough for me to get soaked.

I drove past the bowlo and hung a left onto Bridges Road, through the roundabout and onto Northcott Drive. The Styx cuts through the playing fields at the back of St Pious X before angling westward, under Northcott Drive and through the middle of Blah Town – the huge conglomeration of mega-businesses just before Kotara shopping centre. Given what else they’ve done to the landscape around here I’m amazed that they haven’t simply built over the creek. It takes up a fair stack of real estate and cuts Bunnings off from Joyce Mayne, which must be Bad For Business. But there it is, plugging along under Park Ave and on into Kotara proper.

If you’re travelling by car, as I was, you lose sight of the creek for a while here. You can see where it should be – where it is – behind the houses on Grayson Ave, but you have to wait till you get to Vista Parade (a rather grand name for a non-descript street) before you cross it again. But it’s worth it: you see the Styx without concrete bankings, beginning at last to look less like a drain and more like an actual creek.

There is still some concrete but there’s also been an effort to rehabilitate other stretches, and it makes an instant impact. It was only when I walked around the corner that I realised where I was; my son played cricket on this oval (Nesbitt Park?) a few times, and I do remember that behind the scorers’ bench was a section of (then dry) creek that had had a good amount of work put into it.

I drove around the oval to the clubhouse, and here I finally got my first glimpse of the Styx as it should be.

It was spectacularly beautiful. Though my trousers were wet to the knee I was sheltered from the rain by the huge eucalypts that lined the banks. Dense patches of those vines that I don’t know the name of – the ones with a purpley-mauve trumpet-shaped flower – grew between and up and over the lilies and ferns. A lone whipbird lashed out its call against the steady drum of raindrops on broad leaves.

I must have missed the heaviest flow as, a little further downstream, banks of reeds had been completely flattened.

I carried on a little further but the terrain got steeper, the road started pulling away from the creek proper, and my windscreen was steaming up from wet clothes plastered against human being. I’d gone as far as I could up the Styx today: or had I?

This is not the Styx. Styx Creek, as it appears on maps of the late-nineteenth century, runs through Gregson Park. When the drainage canal that became Styx Creek was dug out around 1910 the old Styx Creek was relegated to “Chaucer Street drain” and the main channel that ran into the big canal came, by extension, Styx Creek. So while I’d followed a Styx Creek, I hadn’t followed the Styx Creek.

That’ll have to wait for another day.