While enjoying pre-dinner drinks and waiting for dinner to be served I found myself flipping through one of those glossy magazines swanky B & Bs have lying about the place. I enjoy magazines but prefer other people to buy them especially this kind … Hunter Lifestyle magazine gave one of the national parts in our region – the Wallarah Peninsula – a good rap. As a bush lover I took particular note of the park’s whereabouts to be sure the MOTH (man of the house) and I did a day trip to enjoy first hand the quirky points of interest mentioned.
This afternoon we headed down that way towards Catherine Hill Bay which is a small village on the Wallarah Peninsula. 100 cottages form the village which is settled in two areas a kilometre apart. The old timber cottages date late 19th early 20th century and there is evidence of remnant coal mining infrastructure from 140 years ago. The village overlooks a beautiful beach, one of the many along the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Catherine Hill Bay was named after a ship ‘Catherine Hill’ that was wrecked in the bay in June 1867. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that
The ‘Catherine Hill’ was travelling from the Richmond River port to Sydney with a load of timber. ..it blew a heavy gale from NE to E, with heavy squalls, thunder and lightening; the ship was hove-to under single-reefed fore trysail, there being a high confused sea at the time; ship labouring heavily and shipping a great quantity of water. On Friday morning made the lee bow, close in shore, between two reefs of rocks; tried to make sail on ship to get her off shore, but the attempt was unsuccessful. Kept her away from the beach, and while doing so, shipped a heavy sea, which took overboard the mate [Thomas Raywood] and cook [John Dooring], who were never seen afterwards. All the other hands reached the shore in safety; stayed on shore all night and the next day without clothing or food, when a settler [Mr Taaffe] came and made a fire and provided us with provisions…’
Catherine Hill Bay is largely untouched by development, and the coastline looks as it would have 100 years ago, with a stunning beach, popular for fishing, surfing and swimming. The beach also has the unusual icon of a large coal-loading jetty, which has only recently been decommissioned. We rolled out the quilt on the sand close to the swimming flags and settled in to watch the beach wedding.
The surf was particularly rough this afternoon with a dangerous rip which cut my swim short. Ocean swimming is one of my favourite things to do but despite the beach being patrolled by lifeguards the big dips and hills on the sea bed didn’t make for a great swimming experience. Stumbling uphill one minute and disappearing into a great hole the next was no fun. So I sat on the beach with the seagulls and watched
adoringly as the MOTH was pummelled by the surf.
In October of last year a series of bush fires were deliberately lit and ravaged the bush and razed a number of buildings to the ground … beggars belief don’t you think! Some of the buildings were heritage listed and like Wallarah House, built in 1887, irreplaceable. While it was devastating to listen to news reports of the damage to homes, buildings and the bush, as well as the wildlife, it is wonderful to see how nature has begun to regenerate her bush. Yes there are vast tracts of haunted-looking blackened tree skeletons but there is evidence of abundant new growth.
Exploring the bush walks and places of interest along the Wallarah Peninsula National Park walkways has been set as a Winter activity. It will be interesting to revisit in a few months’ time and notice how much more the bush has regenerated.