Friday foto


Your correspondent has temporarily taken off to the Red Centre.

Alice Springs is built on the floodout plains of the Todd River, just where the water backs up as it hits the gap in the Macdonnell Ranges. An absolutely bonkers place to put a town, but back in the day they didn’t seem to worry too much about that kind of thing. (Maitland, anyone?)

It’s a bit dry around the traps at the moment. When rain does come it can come in ferocious downpours that thunder off the rocky hills that surround the town. I came across this on the outskirts of East Side; perhaps its an ironic postmodern installation, “Visiting Chair in Erosion Studies”.



How long would it take to all fall apart?


Newcastle is very good at contrasts. I was thinking how crisp and glorious and beautiful the creek was this morning, after the foaming brown slurry that it was yesterday. Cloudless blue skies after banks of dull grey; warm sun after none. But even as I thought all this I was reminded that I’ve thought it many times before. In fact, almost every time we get a downpour  the days that follow are   the most perfect imaginable.

When it did finally give up raining yesterday evening I took Jambo upstream and round about because he was totally stir crazy. The underneath of a bridge after rain is a strange, dank and other-worldly place.


There’d been a bit a litter build-up at the TAFE, but in general terms it wasn’t too bad.


But by this morning it had all gone. The brown goshawk was being mobbed by a pair of black-shouldered kites. Not as spectacular as the peregrines when they’re in full acrobatic show-off mode but it still made great viewing. Who’d be a goshawk? As soon as he rolled his eyes, gave up the territory and sloped off across the gasworks the family of magpies that have taken up residence on the naphtha tower decided that they’d have a go too. And then a flock of noisy minahs! What a life.


The gasworks is looking pretty wild at the moment. There’s a tall kind of grass that takes over the place if it’s left uncut. At the moment it’s two metres high in places; the last time it got this long was a couple of seasons ago. The owners sent in a tractor slasher and worked the place over, probably after pressure from the people at ELGAS, who must look across the fence and think “FIRE!” The result was short grass, an influx of rabbits, and a huge number of dead blue-tongue lizards.


This big water tank  seems to have no use any more other than to act as a gigantic reedbed and frog nursery. Which is fine by me!


But it made me wonder what the area would look like if we all stopped maintaining everything. If Dave and the boys stopped coming down with their whipper-snippers, the grass didn’t get slashed, the weeds poisoned, the concrete repaired.

This fig tree near Chinchen Street bridge typifies Nature’s spirit. It’s been pained over, someone’s tried to tear its roots away from the wall, it’s in a poorly watered, over-shaded position, and yet if it were left to its own devices it would probably break that wall to pieces in a couple of decades.


Virtually every outlet you look down has some kind of flora bursting from it. Each plant on its own doesn’t look particularly threatening, but it’s the endless, attritional way that Nature just throws one small fern after another, one raindrop after another, one sunbeam after another, that give it such remarkable power. All things must, in time, succumb.


The bankings were concreted in the 1920s or thereabouts, slightly later in some places, but to look at them you’d be forgiven for thinking they were built in the time of the Pharaohs. All that smooth concrete surface has gone; the beach pebbles hauled up for the mix are exposed, many of them breaking away and washing downstream.


I reckon that within two generations, three at most, the place would be barely recognisable.

Oh, how much I would love to see that.

Floody detritus


If a week is a long time in politics (just ask Ted Baillieu) then it’s a lifetime down the drain. A couple of weeks ago I was standing amongst bottles, litter and garbage in the mangroves by the Carrington boardwalk, bemoaning the state of the estuary and the lack of action by The Authorities to the eager journo from the Herald.

Then … spladoosh!


By the time I took this picture the creek was on its way down. I’m not actually in the water here; there’s a ledge and, from here on downstream it was beginning to ebb. And I had Jambo looking out for me.


The poor old show copped it again. I was out and about on Saturday night and snapped this pic of the ferris wheel while waiting to turn out of Chatham Road. I was so glad to hear that Sunday picked up for them.


We’re still feeling the aftermath of the flood as the creek bed is still saturated and slippery and drainage pipes that come out of the fuel depot, the gasworks and all the roads are constantly running. This slab by the railway bridge is just about worn through.


And the litter boom by the TAFE gave up the ghost. But the result was a beautifully clean creek, if only for a day or so.


There have been quite a few casualties around the banking. Jambo caught an exhausted pigeon near Chinchen Street bridge, but this welcome swallow managed to slip into a crevice before he met the jaws of death. I’d actually walked right past it, and I think Jambo had too, and it was only a flutter of tail feathers in my peripheral vision that brought it to my attention.


Sadly, the next day I found this.


If a week’s a long time for a Victorian premier, then 24 hours is a lifetime for a swallow.