Uncovering Langsville Creek, Part 4 – Something to do with death

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Langsville Creek, which was Western Creek’s upstream neighbour on the Toowong/Milton Reach. Before reading this post, you may like to look at Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series.

Previously, on Uncovering Langsville Creek . . .

The first three episodes of this little mini-series have unfolded much like a daytime soap: the plot has thickened, but not much has happened. Well, without giving too much away, this is the episode where things happen. It is the murder-mystery end-of-season thriller. Characters will die, secrets will be revealed, and lost worlds discovered. But first, a brief recap.

The previous episode introduced the map that you see below, which dates from 1929 and is the only one I have found that shows the upper reaches of Langsville Creek. We explored the stream that runs from the upper-left corner of the map into what is labelled as Anzac Park. Today, the area at the top-left is the Treetops on Birdwood estate, and the area labelled as Anzac Park is the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens (hover your cursor over the image to see the modern landscape). In the slopes below Birdwood Terrace we found the headwaters of Langsville Creek more or less as they have always been — as gullies running through dry scrub. Immediately across the road, however, we found lush rainforest streams flowing into large lagoons, all part of the regulated water cycle of the botanic gardens.

Part of a map of Brisbane dating from 1929 (available online via Brisbane Images). The watercourses shown are the upper reaches of Langsville Creek. (Note that some distortions and artifacts emerged in preparing the map for Google Earth, most notably the giant crack running along Mount Coot-tha Road.)

At the end of the Western Freeway, where the entrance to the Legacy Way tunnel is still being built, the trail ran cold, and the Gardens stream came to an end. It is time, then, to move onto the other two streams — or one of them anyway, as I intend to drag this series out to a fifth installment (check back for it in six months or so). The stream we will look at today flows right through another of Toowong’s famous landmarks: the cemetery. Continue reading

Guppies & Geysers – Stories from the drains of Western Creek

At about 10.30am on Saturday morning, a freak storm raced through Brisbane. The rain was so heavy that parts of Gregory Park went underwater, bringing back memories of the lead-up to the 2011 flood and reminding us again of this park’s swampy origins. Unfortunately I was not in a position to take any photos, given that I was viewing the scene through the window of an ambulance, having just broken my wrist after slipping on the flooded kitchen floor. But that’s another story.

Gregory Park starts to fill (January 11, 2011)

Gregory Park starts to fill (January 11, 2011)

Unlike in 2011, the water in Gregory Park on Saturday came not from the rising river (though the high tide certainly played a role), but from the stormwater racing through the catchment upstream. It’s easy to forget how much water gets channeled through the drains that are tucked away beneath our roads, footpaths and backyards. The fact that we so rarely think about them is a testament to how well these drains have been engineered: they’ve been sized to the right capacity, built to the correct gradient and constructed to withstand the pressure of the gushing water.

But that’s not to say that our drains were all built right the first time around. In the pages of The Brisbane Courier from the late 1800s and early 1900s there is no shortage of Council minutes and letters to the editor complaining of ineffective, faulty and smelly drains. And as you can read in this brand new page contributed by Steven Cowley, some drains in the area were still a work in progress even as late as the 1970s. Steven has recorded some wonderful stories recalled by his friend Rhonda, who grew up in Herbert Street in the 1970s. A brick drain used to run through Rhonda’s backyard, and in heavy rain the drain would often burst, sending geysers of water into the air. This was no doubt an exciting spectacle for a child, but a big nuisance for the council workers (and sometimes Rhonda’s father) who had to repair the damage.

The drain pit in Norman Buchan Park, after rain. This was once a favourite spot for the kids of the neighbourhood.

The drain pit in Norman Buchan Park, after rain. This was once a favourite spot for the kids of the neighbourhood.

In drier times, the neighbourhood drains were also a place of exploration and discovery for Rhonda and her friends. The big pit in Norman Buchan Park was teeming with guppies, tadpoles, and even eels (I can verify that there are still eels in this drain!). The boys, being somewhat more adventurous — and much less sensible — than the girls, ventured some distance into the drain, getting as far as Gregory Park before the water got too deep and smelly. Rhonda now acknowledges how dangerous all this was, and advises against anyone doing it today. I find it interesting though, that without a creek to explore, kids often turn to the next closest thing: the drain that replaced it.

Rhonda also remembers the lower end of Western Creek before the old bridge was replaced and the banks were concreted over. ‘It used to be a place where you could sit’, she recalls. You could even catch a fish or crab for dinner.

The new page is called Guppies & geysers: memories of playing around and under Paddington in the 1970s. I am hoping that Rhonda’s stories will be familiar to some of you. I get the impression that exploring the drains in Norman Buchan Park was once something of a rite of passage for kids in this neighbourhood. Or perhaps you remember the old bridge and creek banks where Western Creek met the river. If you have any stories to tell or memories to share, I’d love to hear from you.

What’s in the Governor’s backyard?

Last Sunday was open day at Government House, the big white mansion at the top of the hill on Fernberg Road. These events only happen once or twice a year, so they are a rare opportunity to see inside the Governor’s backyard — and the Governor’s house, of course, if that takes your fancy.

This was the first open day since I started working on this website (there would have been one on Australia Day but it was rained out), so I did not want to miss the chance to explore and photograph those parts of the grounds that you can’t see from the outside. Along with the weedy scrub up around Tristania Drive and Stuartholme, these grounds contain the only substantial remnant bush in the Western Creek catchment. They also contain three ponds (one natural, two artificial), some steep overgrown gullies and even (thanks to the wet weather) a running stream.

I’ve put the results of my little expedition in a new page called Fernberg from the inside (Fernberg, meaning ‘distant mountain’, is the name given to the property by its first owner, Johann Heussler). I’d be interested to know what other people think about the Fernberg grounds, and particularly whether they could be improved or made more accessible to the public.

The lower of the two ornamental ponds at Fernberg

The lower of the two ornamental ponds at Fernberg