Monday, March 22, 2010

The folly at Tambourine Bay

Things I like about Sydney No. 16: the folly at Tambourine Bay.

Whilst the systematic eradication of foxes continues apace at Berry Island and in Balls Head Reserve, Sniff and I have had to find some alternative pleasure-grounds in which to go rambling. Our current favourite is the sweetly-named Tambourine Bay and its finest attraction: a peculiar mauve and yellow folly...

To reach Tambourine Bay you drive in the opposite direction to the fox murder crime scenes along the winding River Road, through a large stretch of nature reserve (forbidden to dogs), past an enormous Catholic boys school and into a small car park in front of the bay. A house is being built just on the edge of the bay and the car park usually has a few builders vans in it but otherwise it's often empty and we rarely encounter anyone else on our walks.

There are two directions you can go from the car-park: left along the waterfront, past a Sea Scouts Hut and a derelict open-air pool into the woods and a walk along a creek just like that at the bottom of our garden, or right along the waterfront towards a place called Riverview. Sniff and I prefer the latter direction for its boat sheds, strange rock formations, Crimson Rosellas and scuttling crabs.

The first thing of note you come across is the Tambourine Bay Well. This is essentially a square hole carved out of sandstone in 1883 by one Thomas Duckworth to collect water for the locals from a natural spring. I bumped into Mr. Duckworth's great-grandson here one Saturday -  I have a feeling he lingers about the well on weekends specifically to buttonhole unsuspecting walkers, to tell a long-winded story about his petitions to the local council to get the well uncovered in 1991, about his great-grandfather's hard life, about the local council's stupidity in getting things wrong on all their plaques etc. etc. In fact, Mr. Duckworth's great-grandson followed me and Sniff on our perambulations for over half an hour pointing out Aboriginal middens and the like in order to tell us how the council had destroyed this that and the other, about his great-grandfather's hard life, about the local council's stupidity in getting things wrong on all their plaques etc. etc. I was secretly cursing Mr. Duckworth for having any children at all let alone great-grandchildren after only ten minutes of his company. Therefore I cannot pass on any of Mr. Duckworth's great-grandchild's riveting information to you as I was simply thinking: Go away, go away, go away you annoying little man and not listening at all...

Here's Sniff in imitation of Narcissus, standing at the edge of the well and staring at his beautiful self:

Beyond the well there is a lovely grove of trees to meander through before descending to the shoreline and passing a couple of boat sheds. I do vaguely remember Mr. Duckworth's great-grandson telling me a complicated story about all the local boat sheds being burnt down once by an arsonist who was never caught by the police but who he was convinced was a student at the Catholic college nearby. He started drawing a map in the dirt with a stick to explain all his theories whilst complaining about the stupidity of the police, the local council and the local government etc. etc...I was by now thinking very violent thoughts about Mr. Duckworth's great-grandson and as he continued on and on and on I started pondering the possibility that if he was right and the police were so stupid perhaps I'd get away with doing him in...

Anyway, back to our idyllic ramble, for normally we are, after all, alone. And we're coming up to the subject of this week's blog: a folly.

Past the Macquarie University boat shed which is always locked and devoid of activity, past the St. Ignatius College boat shed where you may encounter the occasional sea-faring type polishing an oar or oiling an engine or tying a complicated knot, as well as the occasional catholic schoolboy clambering into the boat he sails to school each day (it's another world, really), down an elevated pathway taking you back amongst the trees and the lizards and before your eyes appears this:

It's perched, as you see, out upon the water, a folly with no discernible purpose (which is after all the definition of a folly is it not?). Painted in yellow and a maroon that speaks of congealed blood its vaguely Moorish appearance sits strangely in its Sydney surroundings. There are no plaques (probably just as well because the local council apparently get everything wrong - ask Mr. Duckworth's great-grandson...) telling us who built it, who owns it, who looks after it. It's a mystery. And that's why I like it.

I also like to think that the blood-red paint, which looks fairly new, was chosen specifically to reflect a local natural phenomenon which I photographed just round the corner....the bleeding of gums...

The folly has two pillars standing sentinel to guide you towards its centre, except they are only a couple of feet high. Methinks that someone somewhere ran out of money or possibly inspiration. Or perhaps pesky local catholic schoolboys have stolen whatever originally rested atop the two pedestals...

The folly is a great shady spot in which to sit and read the odd chapter of one's latest book leaving Sniff contentedly meandering about sniffing, sniffing, sniffing. (Unlike the other dogs we have encountered he is not enamoured of the sea and refuses to take a dip, content with simply listening to the waves beat against the shore. He's a lot like me in that regard...) Looking up from your page, if you turn your head back the way we've come, you can see the towers of central Sydney in the distance, framed by our folly's  arches.

But do not fear, the bustle of city life cannot be heard here. Instead it is the sudden stillness of midday when all of nature seems to pause for breath and the only sound is that of the water gently lapping against the shore. I shall leave you there sitting with your back against the folly, shoes kicked off, reading. There you are, look, I can just see you...


  1. There indeed I am. Thank you. I have to say I am finding the blog almost too painful to bear. It's not enough that my friend is living on the other side of the world in a time zone that sleeps when I wake, and wakes when I sleep. Despite said friend's gallant and heroic efforts to insist he's really not being treated too badly, the truth is plain to apprehend: he is in fact living a life of sheer unadulterated hell. A tortured, loathesome, Bosch-like existence devoid of light, warmth, leisure, or interest.

    Now for your weekly pedant's run-in: I think the stray apostrophe from last week may have found a home or two in Tambourine Bay.

    And what on earth is the bleeding gums phenomenon? It looks like a bad make-up job from ER! Is it just the one or are there more?

    Reluctant Sydneysider Songbook? With chorus of oar-polishers and complicated knotters? (on second thoughts, maybe Britten already did that)


  2. what's wrong with my eyesight, why can't I see Sniff in the first picture? Love the bleeding gum, more of that please. I also like the sound of Mr Duckworth's great grandson, lurking about. MISS YOU WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK? xxx

  3. Do the bleeding gums belong to Mr Duckworth's great grandson? A result of you smacking him on the kisser perhaps?

  4. Surely you weren't (NB apostrophe) in the water when you took the last photo. It's a fine folly, may it last for ever and never have a plaque to explain its existence and confine imagination beneath its dome. Very Mughal/Lutyens.