Caringbah, Sydney wasn’t on my list of Sydney Suburbs to visit. Well, not until I learnt about their “Walk the Walls” street art project. Having a soft spot for Street Art in Sydney, I am exploring Caringbah today.
Getting to the Woolooware Bay Shared Pathway
Leaving the station, I have difficulty orienting myself. Juggling two maps, sunglasses and reading glasses I feel conspicuous and out of place. I walk past a little white hatchback, look at my maps, look at the road signs and retrace my steps.
A woman sitting in the hatchback calls out “Excuse me are you lost?”. I chuckle, embarrassed. She points me in the direction of Parraweena Road saying “it’s a fair way away”.
Here, like in other parts of Sydney, the small simple cottages are making way for two storey houses. It’s not like days gone by when homes were smaller. These days, people want more room.
Many fibro and weatherboard homes remain. Some have taken advantage of their deep blocks to build a second home behind them. My mind wanders, thinking about the folk who have probably lived here for years, seen their families grow up and leave home.
In this street at least, there is a sleepy beach side feel. A couple of boats on trailers are parked in driveways. There are a few palm trees and one home even has a “Beach House” sign.
Captain Cook Drive
When faced with the busy six lanes of Captain Cook Drive, it makes more sense to walk out of my way to a set of traffic lights and cross safely.
Captain Cook Drive is lined with light industry and small businesses. A removal truck for Shire’s Family Removals is familiar. I met “them” in Taren Point. Often exploring one suburb reminds me of another.
My mind wanders again. Who in their right mind would spend time walking through an industrial estate? I have done so more times than I can remember….in St Peter’s, in Marrickville and more recently in Taren Point. It’s all part of discovering and exploring Sydney’s suburbs.
Woolooware Shared Pathway
I have strayed into Taren Point, to the newly opened section of the Woolooware Bay Shared Pathway. Pedestrians and cyclists are already making good use of the pathway. A passerby tells his friend “it took them an awful long time to get it done”.
Returning to the Caringbah section of the walkway, I stop to watch a willy wagtail hopping back and forth, pecking at the concrete path. He is completely unconcerned by my presence.
Mangroves and Warehouses
The mangroves on my left give off an unpleasant rotten egg smell. A sign explains what I already know. That the smell is completely natural, caused by bacteria breaking down fallen leaves and detritus into nutrients. That makes it more palatable.
Warehouses line the path on my right and the sounds of reversing trucks and workers calling each other drifts over the fence.
The hum of fast spinning wheels warns me to step aside for cyclists who never seem to warn of their approach from behind. Another thought comes to mind. “Oh dear, some men should not wear lycra.”
An older woman wearing an orange peak walks towards me. She is red in the face from exertion, and stops to tell me “It’s a long walk, isn’t it? I’ve come all the way from Alexander Avenue and back”. She has no water and I offer her some of mine. She gratefully takes a long drink before bidding me farewell.
A tiny brown wren flits around the mangroves. The more colourful male remains hidden. Semaphore crabs inhabit the mangroves and are an important part of the estuarine ecosystem. I stop to watch them, noticing the orange claws of the younger crabs.
Towards the end of the track, two mums and four boys on scooters come towards me. One mother looking at her phone says “OK, we’re going to go on the bike path and turn left”. I hope they have water with them.
Back to Caringbah Village for the “Walk the Walls” Street Art Project
Now, I zig zag through suburban streets back to the village of Caringbah. A few caravans stand in front yards. Grey nomads perhaps, preparing to go north when the cold weather arrives.
The “Walk the Walls” Street Art Project is my main reason for visiting Caringbah. First up is an obviously Aboriginal piece. A series of coloured dots on a black background, it is the work of Zachary Bennett-Brook of Saltwater Dreamtime and is the feature picture of this post.
An older woman sits on a bench watching as I photograph the piece. She tells me that “It’s so much nicer now. There was so much graffiti” adding that “an Aboriginal person did that one”. She goes on to show me the way to the next artwork.
The pedestrian crossing across Kingsway to Westpac leads to a little laneway and much of the “Walk the Walls” project. The project was curated by Phibs, a well-known street artist. Twenty-three artists participated in the project which aimed to stop graffiti and vandalism and to revitalise open spaces by decorate walls with large scale murals.
One woman stopped me to tell me that “I really like the seahorses. I’m crazy about them, so I love that one around the corner” She digs out the pendant around the neck to show me a little gold seahorse.
Come See for Yourself
Rather than show you all the pieces, I’ve included a small selection. To see more, take the train to Caringbah and wander around and through the little lanes. Most of the works are in the area around Park Lane. Not all are large so do look out for the little pieces too. Many of these are by Camo.
Beware of cars entering and leaving the car park. I found myself dodging cars and delivery vans to get these photographs.
More than one person stops and says something like “they’re amazing aren’t they”. A young girl points to a piece saying “Wow”. Her mum replies “Yeah it’s good isn’t?”
This project has certainly received the community tick of approval.
The walk to the Camellia gardens takes a little longer than ten minutes along President Avenue. My head is throbbing. It is hotter than I’d expected, and I hope the teahouse is open for lunch.
Kareena Park, also known as EG Waterhouse Camellia Gardens, is a little oasis in Caringbah. I settle down at a table overlooking the gardens in the teahouse, appreciating a brief respite from the heat.
Revived by lunch and plenty of cold water, I take a stroll through the gardens. The sasanqua camellias are just about finished while the buds of the other varieties are getting ready to bloom. In a couple of months, these gardens will be in full bloom.
Ducks and Fruit Bats
Water flows besides the path through beautiful greenery and into a duck pond. Nearby a colony of grey headed fruit bats draw the attention of a group of visitors.
Glenn McGrath Oval
The return to Caringbah centre, takes me via the Glenn McGrath oval. Not dissimilar to the many cricket ovals found on my suburban explorations, this one has a pale-yellow picket fence and quaint looking clubhouse. The field is set up for the soccer season.
Reflecting on Today
The Book Station proves to be the perfect place to have a cool drink while waiting for my train. Seated in a comfortable old-style chair, surrounded by well-thumbed books I think back on today. A pleasant walk, great street art and newly discovered Camellia Gardens made the two hour each way train journey well worth the effort.