I’d been wanting to do this ride for a little while, and in fact attempted an alternative route a few months ago, but abandoned the mission when I reached the 59km mark due to fading light and lack of a headlamp. This time I took a more direct path. Or at least I had intended to. It seems that inevitably I will take at least one “intuitive” wrong turn. It never turns out to be a catastrophic wrong turn, taking me in totally the wrong direction, for a long time, with no chance of every finding my way. The route for this ride was supposed to be, south to the Cooks River Cycleway, west along the entire length to Rookwood Necropolis and then over the highway to the M4 Cycleway (which follows the M4 motorway). As it turns out, I took a right somewhere that lead me away from the Cooks River. This is kind of daft because I’ve done the ride so many times before! My problem being I never want to take the same route there twice, so I try to mix it up through back streets, so I ended up a lot further north much earlier than expected.
In the backstreets of Dulwich Hill, a suburb of mixed fortunes on the edge of the Inner West, I found this “free shop” which seemed to be run by a local “independent community group” which I am going to translate to mean a clique of anarchist kids. I tend to put anarchists in the same basket as Christians. Easily persuaded, generally well intentioned people who don’t do a particularly good job of living their philosophy. I’m not entirely sure leaving your crap on the side of the road and calling it a shop is really sticking it to hierarchical power structures. But I wholly endorse their activities, regardless! http://dustmonster.net/ They also have a Facebook page, which I entirely do not endorse!
I eventually reached the M4 cycleway, but I had missed a good two thirds of the path. The cycleway is at its best when following alongside the motorway, as pictured below, but these sections become less frequent the further west you head. For the most part the last third is a mixture of the below and single lane concrete-slab pathway. As is so often the case, corporations and local councils can designate what was formerly pedestrian only as cycleway without making any kind of structural change (other than painting a friendly cycleway symbol on the concrete). That said, it was better than riding along Parramatta road which may as well been a series of spiked pits and lava furnaces.
Heading further out west I made it to the beginning of the interface between built up suburbia and tracts of land which were until recently semi-rural/urban environments. Greystanes was once one such area, large land holdings with some industrial warehousing has given way to large amounts of industrial and heavy commercial centres (warehouses, distribution offices, light factories etc) and medium density housing estates. These have the polished look of newly created communities (without the commune!). It is interesting to think of how these new communities are created. The developers do not simply sell land for homes anymore, but they sell a lifestyle to go alongside your home. So each of these communities has a town centre where the needs of the community will be met. A cafe, supermarket, DVD/Music store and maybe a cinema or some such. These are not established as growth demands but are built into the initial design. Which has an interesting similarity to the way in which central planning in communist Europe would occur. Apartment blocks with a view to the entirety of the workers needs. Common areas and parklands as well as entertainment and shopping would be integrated into the design of living spaces. Inevitably, as the initial polish disappeared and the money was no longer there to spend on keeping things running, it’d all fall apart. As with the modern capitalist communities, what these both lack is the community that can develop in and over a particular time and space. One cannot simply “establish community”. So when the money runs out, the community, which was created and bound by that money, runs out. I’ll give the new Greystanes a few years before the parklands and lake are overgrown and full of rubbish, the benches are broken, the bike paths are cracked.
A final note. While the area is historically been known as Greystanes, the new development has acquired a name of its own – Pemulwuy. Pemulwuy was one of the key leaders of Indigenous resistance to the British invasion of what is now Sydney. The naming of this site which colonises already colonised land brings a natural tension. Through naming comes recognition but is this recognition a branding technique or a reflexive recognition of the absurdity of establishing in a few months “a community” on land that had previously developed community and held commune over centuries. Only to be obliterated by violent and bloody imposition.
Just over the hill from Greystanes is an old quarry. The Boral quarry was only recently closed down to give way to the aforementioned developments. Inside the whole that the quarry has left is a kind of mid-industrial wasteland. Box warehouses and offices flat in the middle of the terraced walls of the quarry. It is a real world realisation of what happens in Sim City when you place building. Land flattens, buildings arise.
I eventually made it to Prospect Reservoir. The reservoir is not really that interesting! Ha! Since it is only just off the motorway, whenever my parents drove to the city, we’d pass this place and I’d see the quarry and signs and never quite knew what it was. But those distant memories of something “just over the hill”, so I always had it in the back of my mind to go exploring in this area.
This is the most interesting building in the entire place! It reminds me of Hoover dam, which also have these buildings in the water. Maybe every dam has one.
This sign was so shiny it was really hard to read!
After visiting Prospect I had intended on riding around its edge and then follow the Orphan School Creek down to Guildford train station. But the trains weren’t running! So I had to ride to Blacktown, which I thought would be a nightmare, since I never think the Western Suburbs as somewhere that would have good biking infrastructure. But I keep getting pleasantly surprised. The entire ride through Blacktown was on dedicated cycling track. What a bunch of awesome!