Bithry Inlet, at the mouth of Wapengo Lake, on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, is another favourite beauty spot in Summer. Its shallow waters are perfect for families with young children, as well as fishermen (who catch bream, salmon, mulloway and flathead) and birdwatchers. In the photo above is a lone puffer fish, while the photos below shows a congress of Pied Oystercatchers, discussing the latest weather! Here is a photo of our map to give you an idea of its location!
This area also has an interesting historical component, of which we were unaware on our first two visits. We always knew that the land adjoining Bithry Inlet, the property called Penders, had been donated by Ken Myers and Sir Roy Grounds to the New South Wales Government for incorporation into Mimosa Rocks National Park, but did not realize that it contained a number of significant structures and areas that the general public could explore, as indicated by the map on the interpretive signs at the site: They include: the Myer House and precinct (though this is off-limits when booked out in holiday times); the Barn and Geodesic Dome; the Bum Seat, The Point, the picnic table and various sculptures and structures like the old Wind Tower; the Forest Plantation; the Orchard and Lake; and the various coastal walks, including a 2 Km walk to Middle Beach. Each area is well-signposted with interpretive signs seen above (which were produced by The Interpretive Design Company, based on NPWS brand templates, and can also be accessed on http://interpretivedesign.com.au/portfolio/wayfinding/wayfinding-signs/. They give maps and information about the history and all the personalities involved. Here is a brief summary!
Kenneth Baillieu Myers (1921-1992) was the Director and Chairman of the famous Myer Emporium, which had been established by his father Sidney, a Russian immigrant, in Melbourne in 1911. His background and the development of this iconic business is an amazing story in itself. See: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/myer-simcha-sidney-7721.
Like his father, Kenneth was a successful businessman, a patron of the arts, humanities and sciences and a great philanthropist, being heavily involved with and donating to a wide number of institutions, including:
The Howard Florey Institute for medical science research;
Canberra’s National Library, of which he was chairman from 1974 to 1982;
The National Capital Planning Committee;
The Australian Universities Commission;
The Australian Broadcasting Commission, of which he was chairman from 1983 to 1986; and
The National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre, which he chaired from 1965 to 1989.
For more information about Kenneth, it is worth reading his biography, The Many Lives of Kenneth Myer by Sue Ebury 2008. See: https://www.mup.com.au/books/9780522855463-the-many-lives-of-kenneth-myer , as well as : http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/lifestyle/life-in-the-business-of-giving/news-story/89849fe8aa80c5bcc133ba4bc4e5e074.
During his time at the National Gallery of Victoria, he developed a close friendship with Sir Roy Grounds, the architect of the Victorian Arts Centre, built in 1968. They shared each other’s visions and design philosophies, as well as a love of nature, conservation and creativity.
Sir Roy Burman Grounds (1905-1981) was a pivotal figure in the development of Modernism in Australian house design. See: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grounds-sir-roy-burman-12571. Famous for the design of the Victorian Arts Centre, which won the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture Gold Medal in 1968, he received a knighthood in 1969. He was fascinated by idealistic geometric forms and strongly believed in nature as a central influence in his creative process, both tenets which he was able to fully explore in the building of his structures at Penders.
Roy Grounds initially purchased the 544 acre (224 hectares) property in May 1964, but he and Ken Myers became tenants in common with equal shares in 1966. The land, which stretched from Bithry Inlet south to Middle Beach, was predominantly covered in spotted gum and mahogany forest with an understorey of macrozamias, though much of it had been cleared to graze dairy cattle. For historical information about the property, see: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/cmpFinalPenders02Historical.pdf. By January 1965, the Myers and Grounds families were camping at Penders.The first structure built at Penders was a simple slab seat at The Point, affording panoramic views over the sea and entrance to Bithry Inlet (first photo) and back over the inlet to Wapengo Lake (second photo). The seat was built from 1964-1965 from slabs, salvaged from an enormous tree felled before their arrival at Penders, with small log rounds acting as low stools and tables.In 1965, Roy Grounds submitted plans for a barn,which was built with the help of locals, Bob Hunter and Nev Whittle, and which Roy and his wife, Betty, then proceeded to use as a holiday house. It’s a delightful structure and is also known locally as The Tepee! Based on a nonagon (nine sides), The Barn was built from spotted gum logs, cut on site and treated with an early version of the Tanalith process, while the floor is made of small timber rounds from off-cuts, thus reducing waste (second photo below).The walls and ceiling are formed by bright yellow blinds, which were raised and lowered with ropes and pulleys, to control light, weather and cross-ventilation and allow a harmonious union between nature and the built environment. They billow like sails in the wind and at night were a canvas for red and gold reflections from the flickering fire!Originally, the barn had a sod roof of yellow daisies in amongst Kikuya grass, but unfortunately, it became a home to bush rats and the weight of the roof in wet weather caused sagging of the roof and splaying of the barn supports, threatening imminent collapse! This is a photo of the original sod roof from the interpretive board. It was replaced by a corrugated yellow fibreglass roof, which acted as a permanent beacon of golden light, which could be seen from Wapengo Lake, until it too was replaced with the current roof in 1993. Below is a photo of the inside of the roof:Inside, there was a wood stove and hot water service; a septic system; a sunken bathroom; a battery room, housing a dozen 12 volt car batteries, storing power from an 11 metre tall wind tower beyond the Point; and even a kitchen sink! The Wind Tower was built by Nev Whittle in 1964 from untreated stringybark poles in a tripod construction, braced at intervals, with a ladder attached and 3 wind blades on the top. A 32 volt DC generator was housed in a shed at the base of the windmill, with wires leading underground to the battery room of the Barn. Water was pumped in from tanks and dams.Outside the Barn is a outdoor table and bench, the Marr Bench and Table, so called because they were designed and built by Marr Grounds, Roy’s son, also an architect, sculptor and educator, being the Senior Lecturer in Environmental Design and Art in the Department of Architecture at the University of Sydney until 1985. See: http://www.marrgrounds.com.au.
We ate our picnic there, accompanied by a rather quiet swamp wallaby.Nearby is the Bum Seat, also designed by Marr, another wonderful spot to dream and contemplate and admire the stunning Bithry Inlet! The Bum Seat is a simple timber slab, inscribed with the imprints of two large and two smaller female and male bottoms. Marr also erected a number of statues around the grounds, as well as a few utility buildings.The nearby Geodesic Dome was constructed by Roy after the Barn to house his carpentry tools and then, Betty’s vegetable and herb garden. Its form is based on the repetitive use of a single geometric shape, the triangle, with the three ends of tanalith-treated saplings, each meeting another 5 triangles, the hub giving the dome its structural stability and protected by galvanised Tomlin garbage tin lids. Eighty percent of the dome was enclosed using panels of yellow sail cloth, the north facing aspect glazed with clear acrylic and was heated by the battery system, allowing the cultivation of pawpaws!Being passionate about conservation and environment, the Myers and Grounds planted many trees to revegetate the previously logged site and in 1966, started a small scale commercial timber production, using a Tanalith treatment process (using Copper azole). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_preservation. By the mid-1970s, eucalypt plantations were established on one third of the property, being cared for and maintained by John and Mary Cremerius, who were originally employed to clean up the degraded site, with a team of seven foresters under the supervision of Lindsay Pryor, a botanist and expert in eucalyptus taxonomy, who founded the Australian National Botanic Garden. By 1982, there were 1050 trees planted to each hectare and today, there are over 60 000 trees in various stages of growth.The Myer House was designed by Sir Roy Grounds for Ken and his first wife, Prue, and their five children, and built between 1969 and 1970 by Kingsley Koellner, with the help of George Hoylands, of Bega. Below are some photos of the Myer House and Precinct, including the tennis court, outdoor table and path down to the beach. Ken and Prue divorced in 1977, Ken remarrying a Japanese artist, Yasuko Hiraoka (1945-1992), later that year. Ken and Yasuko modified the house by adding a series of infilled spaces to the perimeter verandah. They also moved the kitchen from the entrance hall, which was refitted to allow the Japanese practice of removing one’s shoes before entering the house.Yasuko shared Ken’s passion for the natural world, working on the vegetables and herbs, while Ken pruned the fruit trees and roses. I love the netted Orchard with its huge old camellias and old gnarled fruit trees,
although it’s all a bit the worse for wear these days, allowing previously prohibited access by kangaroos like this huge fellow! While they lived there, they were virtually self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit, with supplies topped up by the produce of the Cremerius garden and the odd spot of fishing. The orchard was watered from the nearby dam, a very peaceful spot covered in water lilies. In 1983 and 1985, Yasuko’s father, Masa Suke Hiraoka, laid out a small nine-hole golf course nearby, the first tee marked by a timber block with his initials, MH. The area is slowly regenerating since revegetation work was carried out in 1993. Unfortunately, Ken and Yasuko died in a light airplane crash, when on a fishing expedition, in Alaska at the end of July 1992. There is a lovely memorial site to their memory up on the ridge in the forest. Joanna Baevski, Ken’s daughter, became the lessee of the Myers precinct on their death and from 1993 to 1994, added a bedroom for her daughter on the north-east corner of the house.Sir Roy Grounds and Kenneth Myer had offered Penders to the New South Wales State Government back in 1973, on the basis that it would be reserved as National Park. It was officially gifted to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in 1976, being incorporated into the 5802 hectare Mimosa Rocks National Park. Marr Grounds and his daughter became the lessees of the Ground’s precinct after Roy’s death in 1981, with Marr being the primary occupant and caretaker till 2011. The blinds of the Barn were replaced in 1984 after 20 years of gales and Marr dismantled the windmill in 1996, leaving three inclined posts as a sculptural relic and installed a series of commemorative lead plaques across the site after Ken’s death.In 1981, the Barn was placed on the Register of the National Estate. In 1991, it was classified by the National Trust and included on its register and in 1998, the Barn, Geodesic Dome and the site of the former timber preservation works were added to the NSW State Heritage Inventory as an example of coastal forest regeneration, a plantation timber production and experimental architecture.The final parcel of land of 20 hectares was handed over to NPWS in 2011 on the expiry of the Myer and Grounds’ leases. In 2012, the Myer House underwent extensive renovation work, restoring the interiors to their original style, and is now available to the general public for short-term stays for up to 12 people. See: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/accommodation/myer-house. In 2013, Penders was added to the State Heritage Register.
We loved exploring the history of the area, as well as doing the 2 Km walk south to Middle Beach. See: https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/middle-lagoon-walking-track. The track follows the coast through grassland (first two photos) and into the forest with its beautiful misshapen tree trunks (3rd and 4th photos), across cliff tops, ridges and gullies, past the Middle Beach Trig (5th photo) and Stinking Bay, so called named for the dead fish which accumulate in the bay, to the lovely ocean beach (6th photo), lagoon (7th photo) and rock platforms (8th photo). Here are some photos from our walk in July 2017. En route, we were lucky enough to see, not just one, but three echidnas! According to the National Park Ranger, who we also met along the way, echidnas mate in Winter, often forming trains of up to 10 male echidnas following a female, and their sighting often foretells rain and yes, we did indeed get rain two days later! For more on Penders , see: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5053623.
There is also an audiotape on : http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/05/21/3507120.htm.
Next week, we return to my craft library with a post on my favourite Drawing and Art books!