I walked every street in Woy Woy

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Walkies #39 - Longest Street

(Walked 29th of July 2005)

The longest street on the Peninsula is Ocean Beach Road. It runs from Woy Woy Inlet to the beach and is 6 kilometres (3.73 miles) long. (The Long March was 9k (5.59 miles).)

It’s mostly straight and made a good plodding walk. I deviated from it only once, to polish off a couple of small streets missed on The Long March. They didn’t take long but long enough for a very unattractive drunk sitting on a rubbish bin to hit on me.

I’d covered about six blocks of Ocean Beach Road weeks ago but I started from the start and went over that bit again for the sheer satisfaction of walking the whole street in one go. So now it makes a nice black line down the middle of the Peninsula, making the areas of unwalked streets look smaller.

I’ve now walked a bit over a third of the Peninsula. I’ve been walking since March and my planned finish date is the end of Spring. Which is the 1st of December in Australia. It’d be good to finish at the beginning of Spring (1st of September) but looking at how far along I am now, that seems unlikely to happen. I could pile on the speed but that would take a lot of the fun out of it.

Anyways, back to Ocean Beach Road. The two little streets were 100% seventies, including that unlovely block of flats with the drunk out the front. But Ocean Beach Road was quite an architectural delight. Didn’t start out that way though. There were some nice forties houses at the Woy Woy Inlet end but also quite a lot of seventies places.

As I walk the streets of the Peninsula I think a lot about the settlement patterns and it seems likely the pre-1940s housing would’ve been fairly scattered. There would’ve been some clustering around the main parts. Up near the station, at Booker Bay and at Ettalong. But other than that, there was the whole Peninsula to spread out on.

Around the station there’re few pre-war buildings left. The old Woy Woy pub is still there, preserved in alcohol no doubt, a pleasant house a few doors down which may or may not have been the original cop shop and a few shops with high facades and the dates on them. The rest was bulldozed between the forties and seventies to make two small shopping centres, the Clock Tower Centre (mostly offices) and various small shops.

So I’ve been looking closely at rooflines and down the sides of houses in the hope of spotting the oldest houses. Usually I find one or two a week. Today I saw dozens.

At the beginning it was mostly the seventies and forties. Just one pair of old cottages, one well-maintained and the other looking rather careworn. Then after a dozen blocks, the thirties set in. Then I started noticing some older rooflines.
Classic roofline
Left: Cumberland Street Sydney circa 1879.
Right: Australian farm house around the same time.

These two drawings are versions of the same roofline. I’m not yet sure exactly when they were replaced by other styles but I’m thinking 1890.
They're the sort of older rooflines I was seeing on Ocean Beach Road. Almost all were partly disguised by forties building. Additions mainly, add-ons on the front and back of tiny pre-war cottages. I spotted a few under seventies reno’s too. Had to stop and have a good long stare at the first one to see if I was seeing what I thought I saw. Yep, there it was. I stared hard enough and the outline became obvious. A cottage like the one on the right above, side on to the road, with an addition on each end in the forties or seventies, a hideous layer of render and a beigey-yellow paintjob. The delightful little sunroom on one corner I couldn’t date. Might’ve been 1980s, might've been quite recent. Another block down and another cottage facing the same way, an addition on each end and another one a block after that.

Cottage
(Big versions)

On the right hand side of the road they faced Ocean Beach Road. There was one with a bullnose veranda I wasn’t sure about. Hard to tell if it was a pre-war cottage with a forties roof and a brand new bullnose or a forties holiday house. I’ll go back for another look and also see if I can find it in the library.

No reno
(Big version)

A lot of them down past McMasters Road had lean-to additions on the back and in the classic forties style on the front. Sometimes the original cottage windows had been replaced with wider forties ones. Sometimes they were replaced again with tacky seventies aluminium windows. Way to spoil the symmetry and balance.
Right down the beach end there was a cottage with its roofline intact. It was in good nick and had yuppies living in it so I’m guessing there was a sizable addition out the back. It was beautiful. Couple of nice bottlebrushes in the garden, lovely soft green paintjob, bullnose veranda.

From there I went down to the beach. A motorbike was changing gears up on the hairpin bend on Patonga Ridge, three surfers were sitting astride their boards on the flat surf and a class from the local primary school was poking around in the sand in their sunhats. A couple of sand dunes along a guy was asleep on his back with his mouth open and his tackle box by his side. The sun was almost hot on my back. I started to get sleepy. I jumped up and headed for the busstop.

On the way back the bus passed a couple of magnolia denudata in full flower. Beautiful.

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