A Self-Guided Walk in Tempe
Having heard about the Tempe Salvos Store, I’ve been meaning to explore the small Sydney suburb of Tempe for quite some time. Today that plan becomes a reality.
Arriving in Tempe
Stepping off the train at Tempe Railway Station, I look for the heritage listed 1918 footbridge. The white railings are rusting and there’s a general state of disrepair. It’s difficult to distinguish the original footbridge from newer additions.
The Concordia German Club
The Concordia German club over the road from Tempe station, is a simple low building. There are a two or three croquet lawns and heavy wooden tables on the verandah could have come from a German beer hall.
This could be the place to visit when you feel like a dose of German Culture. They offer steins of German beer and traditional German meals and sometimes music too. Open on weekends, cyclists riding the Cooks River Cycleway often stop here for a meal or drink before returning home.
Ducking into Edgar Street provides a welcome relief from the trucks and traffic on Unwins Bridge Road. Narrow little cottages line the street. As always, I enjoy checking out the verandahs, so close to the footpath, I can almost touch them. “The Quarry”, a townhouse complex controversially built on the Tempe Quarry site in Edgar Street looks quite different from other houses in the street.
Back in busy Unwins Bridge Road, two sandstone cottages stand side by side, their sandstone probably dug from the Tempe Quarry that is no more. A tall eucalypt grows in the tight space between the front retaining wall and the rusted filigree porch roof of the double storey cottage. What stories these homes could tell.
Looking up the hill over the rooftops, I can see the chimneys of Hurlingham, a mid-Victorian Villa in Union Street. Standing at the gate to Hurlingham now, I can’t see very much, hidden as it is behind a high wall.
One of the remaining examples of such villas in the area, Hurlingham is heritage listed. A Tongan Church (identified as such by the Tongan signage) neighbours the double storey villa. Fun fact: the 2016 Census states that 15 796 Tongans live in Greater Sydney.
Tempe Public School
Bright cheerful ceramics decorate the Tempe Public School wall. They commemorate the sesquicentennial (150 year) celebration of the school in 2013.
The school’s double storey red brick structure features sandstone detail and arches over the windows and there are at least two copper structures (towers or chimneys) on the roof. I would love to know more about what these copper structures are called and their purpose.
Tempe is almost next door to Sydney Airport and planes coming in to land regularly fly low overhead. The noise is an unobtrusive low rumble, but the cloud cover may have something to do with muffling the sound.
Tucked between the modern buildings in Tempe High School grounds, a sandstone cottage formerly part of the primary school, was built in 1874. Today the building probably houses the Principal’s office and/or the reception area.
A long articulated semi-trailer stops in the two-lane road, the driver standing behind his vehicle looking nonplussed. He seems uncertain as to how to manoeuvre his unwieldy vehicle around the narrow corner. Meanwhile, cars bank up behind him, unable to pass safely across the double white line. Trucks and suburbia do not mix well.
Exploring the side streets, is much more pleasant. I take time observing the various features (old and new) of the little cottages. Lymerston, in Hillcrest Street, is another Victorian Georgian style villa. The house was named after the family property, Lymestone, on the Isle of Wight.
An older woman wearing a house coat hangs washing in her garage, taking no chances with the weather. I wave and she returns the favour. This is one of the few suburbs I’ve explored where people are home with front doors open behind closed screen doors.
In Lymerston Street (perhaps the original carriageway to Lymerston House), a former corner shop is undergoing renovation. There are a few past corner stores in this area, probably typical of suburbs built at a time when people walked rather than drove.
Why People come to Tempe
People come to Tempe for one of two things, the Concordia Club and IKEA (or so the Station Master tells me). The striking yellow and blue building of IKEA contrasts with the older blonde brick building alongside it.
The clock tower of the older building sports a faded blue IKEA sign. Inside, rows of employees sit behind their computer screens. They work for the furniture retailer. Interestingly, the building was once part of the Penfolds [Wine] Head Office and known as Tempe Cellars.
A large Singapore Airlines plane flies directly above me yet the traffic on busy Princes Highway is noisier and more intrusive to my ears.
Walking past a massive sports goods and clothing warehouse, I notice a “Little Library” in the front yard of a house. I love this little library initiative which contributes so much to creating community.
Tempe Salvos better known as The Tempe Tip
Cars pass me on the driveway entrance to Tempe Tip (the affectionate moniker for Tempe Salvos). They’re looking for a bargain or dropping off unwanted goods. Opposite, a fully loaded goods train snakes out of a container depot.
The fitting room doors inside the Salvos, continue the blue and red Salvation Army colour scheme. People pick through rows of clothing sorted into categories: long dresses, wedding attire, shirts, shorts and more.
Pictures line partitions surrounding still good dining suites, lounge chairs and coffee tables. Shelves groan with crockery sorted by colour and shape. There’s plenty of red and less of black or green to choose from.
You could quite easily and reasonably furnish a home from the Tempe Tip. In fact, a friend tells me that she did just that when she started out after University.
My plan is to follow a walking track from here to Tempe Reserve (once the real Tempe tip). Trucks bearing containers roar past me, coming to a halt in a long queue. Runway guiding lights flicker on tall yellow poles.
Walking past the container trucks, I feel small and rather out of place. All I can see are high fences and gates and no path. Eventually I give up and retrace my steps. After a couple more false leads, I walk back past the Salvos, Sports Warehouse and IKEA to a side street which I hope will take me to a path in the reserve. The noise is getting to me and I haven’t had a coffee yet.
A girl walking her dog passes me at the end of the street. Hopefully she has just come from the Tempe Reserve. It seems so. A sign warns of a “Golf Ball Hazard” (there’s a golf driving range here) and tells me not to enter. I hesitate and then take the path on the right.
The traffic noise has given way to noisy cicadas. The path meanders past peaceful pools with ducks paddling and feeding. A bird rests on a signboard. It takes off as I approach, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Goshawk. How special.
Following the path beside the river, I now pass a sports field and indoor sports centre. A family picnic riverside watching their fishing lines. They haven’t caught anything yet. A homeless man packs his swag and goods onto a trolley and moves on.
Unlike many suburbs I have explored, I’ve passed no cafés so far. Tempe’s Harry’s Café de wheels may be my only option for lunch, but sitting amongst tradies and eating a pie for lunch just doesn’t appeal right now.
Fortunately, there is coffee shop over the road. The coffee revives me and the salad is passable.
When the tram came to Tempe, people used to come to Tempe and the surrounding area for swimming and boating. Busses replaced trams and the Tram Depot is now a bustling bus depot.
Continuing along the Princes Highway in the so-called commercial area of Tempe, the strip of shops is tired and sad. The Newsagent is open but dark and the shelves empty. Other shops are closed or for lease. The picture framer and brass and louvre shops are open, but who would stop on this busy road?
Timber Slab Cottage
Number 44 Barden Street is an old timber slab cottage. Originally a two roomed worker’s cottage, the home has been changed but historic elements remain with the timber slabs apparently still visible inside. Constructed in the mid-1800s, the cottage is one of the oldest in the area and heritage listed.
My thoughts on Tempe
Well that takes me to the end of my day in Tempe. One thing that struck me when wandering the side streets (the best part of this walk) is that there must have been a great community feel here in earlier times.
Now the streets are lined with parked cars and people prefer to drive. I wonder what the community is like today.