The force is strong with this one


I’ve been watching the growth of vegetation in the little Styx (aka Chaucer Street Drain); lots of reeds, rushes, hyacinth, cress and all sorts of other things I don’t know the names of. Great habitat for dragonflies, ducks and poddy fish.


Up around Lambton Ker-rai Creek I’ve seen bobcats clearing this stuff but down here it’s kind of forgotten about. Which suits me. However, in the last-big-flow-but-one the force of the water barrelling out of the bridge beneath the rail track was such that it tore entire sections of reed bed up and out into the main creek where, for a few weeks, they bobbed up and down with the tide like islands.


Eventually they became stranded on the concrete bed by the receding tide where they broke up into smaller clumps, before being washed away completely by the last flood.


A walk up the little Styx shows just how powerful the flush of water through the narrowing of the channel there could be. The remaining reed beds are torn at the edges, the root mat of soil that holds them in place having been peeled away from the banking.


This section hung on after the first deluge but was weakened enough to get ripped up with the most recent pour through.


This is how it looks now; compare and contrast with the photo at the top of the post.


It’s already in the process of growing back, the roots of the lilies and bulrushes gripping the tiny cracks in the concrete. By 2039 you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was even a concrete drain ever there.

Peppa Pig hits the airwaves


I had the extraordinary pleasure of spending half an hour in the company of ABC Radio’s Richard Fidler. Richard was in Newcastle for ABC 1233’s Night At The Wireless and held some of his Conversations with people from round these parts; it’s worth following up the link and listening to the podcasts.

But after my brief moment of fame it was back to work, and back down the drain. The onshore wind is blowing the litter into places it rarely goes. The little stream that’s officially knowns as Chaucer Street Drain (but is, in fact, the original Styx Creek) is choked at the point where it joins the Styx proper. I know that Dave and the crew will be out on Friday but their workload’s ridiculous and they can only do so much.

They must have pulled these trollies out the other day. Franklins closed down and was replaced by Richie’s IGA; there’s a trolley from each which is a kind of trolley equivalent of the way that Time Team dates trenches. “This shard of pottery’s from the late Roman period!” Phil will declare, and immediately they’ll conjure up an entire history for some sodden patch of Pommie Land.

One of the things that Richard asked about was creek graffiti. The stuff down the drain tends, on the whole, to be of poor quality. The concrete bankings are palimpsests, constantly painted over and over, but with very little forward development or improvement in quality. When kids do get to a certain stage of ambition, that’s when they hit Your Suburb. But, till then, they make blah like this.

I saw the young lad who made this blah the other day, slithering along the wet silt towards the railway bridge, and knew straight away what he was up to. He tried to make himself scarce but there’s no fooling Wile E. Coyote. I look forward, young man, to watching you improve.

I found a pig, too. My kids are too old for cartoons but for some reason I think that this might be Peppa Pig.

Why do I know it’s Peppa and not Pepper? I have no idea. It’s just another piece of dross that’s taking up space in my brain, space that could be filled by something useful such as … um … yeah.

Not again!


Under no circumstances be tempted to stand next to this street sign: it’s the most knocked-over in Newcastle.

Sublime mornings and a waxing moon have brought high tides and millpond conditions to the creek.

The litter’s building up again, but the recently repaired boom by the TAFE is doing its job.

All it needs now is for the men in waders and armed with nets to actually pull the stuff out.

I’ve started noticing more and more Asian food containers appearing. What’s going on? Is there a new Asian supermarket upstream, or is this stuff that’s come off the boats and has bobbed all the way up to here from the coast?

I arrived at the Chaucer Street Drain junction just as the tide was coming in this morning, a powerful, steady surge.

Half a dozen cormorants were dipping and diving in the deeper water, with a heron and a couple of egrets stalking behind them. A new duck and her single duckling has recently arrived in the tidal pool. Jambo went to wish them a formal welcome to country.

The other duck still hangs around the Chatham Road bridge. I’m bewildered by this fellow. He either (a) is some kind of ninja duck who is so powerful he can afford to let me get so close I can almost touch him, (b) has been hit very hard with the stupid stick or (c) has some kind of death wish. Whatever, he’s also the happiest duck I’ve ever seen. I think he actually smiles.

There’s new graffiti in the gasworks. I don’t know much about art, but I do know that I’d rather look at this stuff than 90% of the mind-numbingly juvenile tagging that graces most of the area.

Oh, and this. Perhaps the most redundant labelling I’ve seen since “Caution: contains hot liquid” on the lids of McDonalds coffee cups.

Is that in case the kids think it’s some kind of lolly and try to eat it?

Following the (not) Styx


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.