Saturday, April 22, 2006

Travel: Once there was a hill.... a modern fairy tale

Once upon a time our suburb had a hill.

It was a fine hill rising to 60 m above the surrounding country and 122 m above sea level. It is 2.4 km long and 1.4 km wide.
Our hill is Jurassic doleritic laccolith and shale - blowed if I know what that is but it sounds pretty old and dinosaurish.

Our hill had a little spring which fed a swampy area at the bottom of the hill where ducks frolicked and mosquitos bred.

Prospect Hill, NSW

We couldn't climb the hill because it belonged to a quarry and was fenced off, but it had lots of trees, was nice to look at as we drove past, and the sun did a very nice sunset behind it.

In 1789 Captain Tench observed the barrier of the Blue Mountains to the west from the summit of our hill.

In 1790 Governor Phillip and Captain John Hunter, commander of the HMS Sirius, took an after dinner stroll from the new settlement at Rose Hill to our hill about 4 miles away.

In 1791 Governor Phillip granted land to 13 people at our hill.

In 1800 the population around our hill was 16.

Between 1790-1802 the local aboriginal Pemulwuy led his people against the white settlement around this area, he thought himself unable to be killed by bullets because he was shot seriously twice and survived both times. He was proved wrong.

In 1830 Nelson Lawson, son of the explorer William Lawson, built a house on the hill and called it 'Greystanes'.

In 1836 Charles Darwin noted the basalt of our hill and mentioned it in his writings on the voyage of the Beagle.

In 1839 geologist Rev. W. B. Clarke (who baptised my gt. grannies children)pointed out the columnar nature of the basalt to J. D. Dana when the American Fleet moored in Sydney Cove that year.

Since the 1830's road surfacing material has been taken from our hill, long before Government Geologist C. S. Wilkinson reported on the economic potential of the deposit in 1879.

In 1883 Prospect Quarry was opened and over the years has had several changes of ownership until the 330-hectare estate was aquired by the present owners.
These companies proceeded to mine the western side of our hill, demolishing the fine old historic house 'Greystanes' but keeping the house gates for their entrance way.

Then the shale was all used up, so the mining company sold our hill to developers.

Our council wanted to have some control over what happened but the big bad developers took them to the Land and Environment court, who told the developers they could have their wicked way with our hill.

Prospect Hill, NSW

So now our hill has a brand new Woolworths and lots of McMansions and will soon have a new set of little lego box apartments.

Our little mosquito swamp has become the "Lakewood Estate" (free can of bug spray with each half million dollar block)

Prospect Hill, NSW

Prospect Hill, NSW

Our little stream now has a charming faux colonial bridge, which has already been tagged by the local artistically challenged.

Prospect Hill, NSW

We can now stroll like Governor Phillip to the top of our hill, being careful not to fall in the quarry on the other side. One day I'll take a walk up there and take some photos.

And poor old Pemulwuy has a suburb named after him, on the land he fought so hard to protect.


Alice said...

I refrained from looking at all of the photos before I read your posting, with in increasing sense of foreboding. Yes, it was about as bad as I suspected.

However, I don't know the solution - I guess people have to have somewhere to live, and much as we would love to preserve all of our beauty spots, it just doesn't seem possible. Perhaps at least these houses, with hopefully sufficient room to actually have a GARDEN will look better than crowded blocks of highrise apartments.

I do sympathise with you about the loss of such a beautiful spot. It's not only the visual beauty that is lost, but I think it also leaves the spirit a little more depleted.

Erica said...

I know it's progress and we have to accept the urban sprawl, but once you moved to the suburbs to have space - these places have virtually no yard, just courtyards and are so huge inside, then they wonder why there is a childhood obesity problem, when everyone has their own passive recreation area within the house.
At least this estate has included walkways and bike tracks around the hill - and a dog park where we can let the dog from the hell dimension have a run and sniff -
(and the Woolies does stock my favourite chai tea LOL)

Alice said...

Ah that damn Chai tea will get you every time...lol.

It's a funny thing, but everyone I talk to hates the fact that we have small blocks, large houses, no eaves, no room for garden or for the kids (which no-one's having anyway) to play, and yet the same thing is being repeated over and over. I know that land is being divided into ever smaller blocks because more money can be made from it; people are spending all their spare time in their houses because there's no room to relax outside, or have a garden, or they don't like gardening, or they don't have time. And those who have children can't afford to let them go to the park alone in case they never see them again, and there's nowhere at home to exercise, and we have a major obesity and lack of fitness problem in Australia, and stop the world - I want to get off ......... etc.

Perhaps I'm just getting old and cynical, but it's not the sort of life that I would like to lead.