I walked every street in Woy Woy

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Walk #40 - A Maze Of Lanes

(Walked 2nd of August 2005)

Today was dogs, lanes, the sun, the sixties and sheep.

Wattle Against The Sky
(Big version) Not a strictly relevant photo but I don't know what walk it originally belonged to.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a house with forties add-ons is a holiday house turned retirement house or a pre-20s cottage. When people build a holiday home they build simply and cheaply and sometimes used recycled windows.

So you find yourself staring down the side of someone’s house for ten minutes trying to work out which it is. This leads to curtain-twitching from suspicious neighbours and the local stray comes to see if you’ve got anything to eat or steal. And you go away none the wiser. What you really need is some old maps from the local Town Planning office.

As well as the stray there were plenty of dogs out and about today. I walked mainly in the heart of the Peninsula, the older side streets in the centre.

Dear Old Things were out for a walk with their Dear Old Dogs trailing wearily behind them. Some sort of small terrier with short white hair and black spots chased a car down the road with vigour and vim then came back for a sniff at me. A couple of large silent dogs sat together in a hole in their front yard. They gazed at me with mild interest then shut their eyes again. The grey one raised its muzzle to the sky to get the sun on its throat. An middle-aged Staffordshire terrier gazed at me hopefully as I went past. Not sure if it wanted food, a scratch or a new owner. Down at the beach an elderly balding dog of unknown breed sat sedately with its retiree owners and watched younger dogs gambolling in the surf and biting each other on the leg.

I sat at the beach for a while. The sun was warm, almost hot. A chubby guy sat on his tackle box and fished off the beach, a small power boat zigzagged past through the deep water channel, a couple of parents chased their toddler and made it spit up the handful of sand it was eating.

It’s a narrow stretch of water just there on the corner where Ettalong Beach ends and the ocean beach starts. I was sitting directly across from Half Tide Rocks on Wagstaffe Point. There was a light white haze over Barrenjoey Head and beyond that the faint brown haze that hangs over Sydney (Barrenjoey Head is the northenmost point of Sydney). That was to my right.

Between Barrenjoey Head and Half Tide Rocks was the Tasman Sea, Box Head, Lobster Beach and Little Box Head. I can name them all now without the aid of a map.

To my left was Kourung Point on the other corner of Wagstaffe, Ettalong Beach opposite Hardy’s Bay and along to Memorial Avenue. Nothing at the ferry wharf. The Excrescence Formely Known As The Memorial Club was partly obscured by some nearby bushes and, beyond them, the tea tree forest. It looked very neat and dense and shady from a distance. Reminded me of the illustration of the hundred acre wood in one of my old Winnie-the-Pooh books. It’s tea trees instead of whatever-they-ares but it looked that tiny grove Where The Woozle Wasn’t.

There are lanes between the older streets. In the wide part between the ocean beach and the lagoons where the streets are laid out long and straight. You can pick the lane streets pretty quick. No driveways. All the garages are at the back with access off the lane.

Between the streets the lanes form I-beam shapes laying on their sides. They’re pretty much all connected. Bet they’re a real bastard for the police chasing some swine on foot on a dark night.

The lanes are a network of almost-secret streets covering half the Peninsula. You can walk by lane only from McMasters Road to Whatsit Street. That’s a bit over 3 kms (1.86 miles). All up there would be over 20 kays (12.43 miles) of lanes that I know of. At a conservative estimate. Walking them will give me a quite different experience of Woy Woy.

So far I’ve seen little of the sixties in the architecture of the Peninsula. The forties and seventies are the predominant types. There’s the older houses, sometimes partly obscured by forties and seventies renovations and additions, and clear but quiet thread of fifties houses. But before today I’d seen only a handful of sixties houses and all of them along the beach streets.

Today’s streets were very mixed. Fairly steady building from the twenties (or further back) through to the present, with the two big population increases of the forties and seventies. There were more fifties houses in five middle-length streets than in the whole length of Ocean Beach Road & Bourke Street and a good dozen sixties houses. There’s another three streets between today’s lot and Whatsit Street and I’d put good money on finding the fifties and sixties there too.

The sheep I can’t find a picture link for. They were horned sheep and sheep of any kind were not what I was expecting to come across on a quiet street in suburban Woy Woy. Thought they were a dog at first. One was laying on the grass just outside the fence of a house. It had a brown head and a white body and short sharpish horns and floppy ears. The other one was the same breed. It was inside the fence. The house was a rather scruffy place. A rental perhaps. One half was two-storeys with thirties windows upstairs and fifties ones downstairs. The other half was pure fifties. The sheep just stared at me and enjoyed the sun.

That was the last street of today’s walk. I was getting v-e-r-y sleepy in the sun and also very hungry. I marked the last street off on my map then tottered off to get some lunch and put some more films in for developing. (Can’t hardly wait to get my digital and cut the photography budget back down.)

Just one final word for today: please, for the love of God, if that’s your pleasant fifties house on Ocean Beach Road, get rid of the iron lace and that rather twee lamp.

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