Bronte is next on my journey of discovery. A strange choice maybe, but I’ve discovered that Waverley Cemetery has a Bronte address. I’ve never been there and am keen to visit. I also want to see the sea again. And hopefully a whale.
I alight from the train at Bondi Junction and only wait a few minutes for the 440 bus to Bronte. I try to only use public transport on these trips and so far it has worked well. I have a short walk to the cemetery. Propped up against the metal gate is a box of flowers generously left by a local florist for visitors help themselves.
I stop to look around me, to take in the atmosphere. A sombre place but strangely beautiful and steeped in history. The cemetery dates back to 1877. Located on the edge of cliffs near Bronte beach, the views are superb. It’s a place for a quiet peaceful reflection. I hear doves cooing and the occasional drone of an aeroplane.
I am looking for the graves of four well known identities using a rough map I prepared. At first I seem to be alone, but as I make my way downhill, I see a man sitting near some fresh flowers. He is lost in thought. I discretely walk past. White marble shines in the sun. It is a solemn place but an interesting one to wander through.
Henry Lawson’s Grave
Henry Lawson is buried here. I soon realise that my map, is inadequate. There are rows upon rows of graves. Fortunately, a rough sign indicates the aisle where I can find his resting place. The simple grave, once in a state of disrepair, was restored with a government grant. A ring of shells has been placed near the modest headstone.
Continuing down the hill I realise that there are more people around. Rather than visiting departed loved ones, they are enjoying the coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee. The boardwalk, built to separate walkers from the graves, is closed due to storm damage and the coastal walk now diverts through the cemetery.
I pause to look out to sea. A couple of container boats and a whale watching tour boat are on the horizon. In the distance I see a spray of water. I am pretty sure there’s a whale out there, but it’s too far out for me to see clearly. I return my attention to the headstones, looking for Dorothea Mackellar, of ‘I love a sunburnt country’ fame. There she is, together with her brother.
I notice other headstones. They remember a sailor, a judge, an artist. Young and not so young. The draped urns are thought to symbolise immortality. An unexpected death might be represented by a broken pillar. I see an Eastern Orthodox cross. It has two extra cross beams. There are wreathes and angels.
I search for Fanny Durack, the Olympic swimmer, to no avail. I do find the test cricketer Victor Trumper without too much trouble.
I have been wandering around for over two hours, totally absorbed by my surroundings. It’s time to leave. There is still more of Bronte to discover. The coastal walk towards Bronte Beach is easy to follow. I look back at the cemetery hugging the cliff face and then make my way to the beach.
There’s a problem with the swimming pool and it’s empty of water and closed until further notice. The naturally formed rock pool or bogey hole provides a good alternative. I greet one of the hardy swimmers who has braved the cold water. He’s happy to tell me that he’s been in the water and is now going home for a few drinks.
The winter swimming club, founded in 1921, claims to be the oldest in the world. Bronte Surf Life Saving Club has a similar claim but this is disputed by the Bondi Surf Lifesavers. The calm looking sea can be treacherous. There are some dangerous rips.
I walk past the covered picnic tables and grassed area towards Bronte Gully. A group of young men are playing football, others are cooking lunch on the BBQ and children are enjoying the well-equipped play area.
Following the path, I hear the tinkle of water as I approach the small waterfall. Another place to sit and relax away from the busyness of everyday life.
Bronte House is next on my agenda. The house is behind a high fence and it,s difficult to get more than a glimpse of this oldest known residence in Waverley. Owned by Waverley Council, it is open to the public a number of days each year. Leo Schofield lived here for ten years and is credited with restoring the garden.
I make my way back to the Three Blue Ducks on Macpherson St, for a late lunch. A man walks past with fresh bread from nearby Iggy’s bread. They apparently make the best sourdough in Sydney. Conveniently my bus back to the city stops right there.
No Whales Today
I’ve had a very pleasant day photographing and exploring Waverley Cemetery and discovering Bronte. I must return soon to do more of the Eastern Coastal Walk. Perhaps I’ll see a whale.