If you’ve been following this blog you may be thinking, “Wait a second. Wasn’t your last beach number 54 Newport?” And if you are thinking that – well spotted. Number 55 is North Cronulla. In a couple of weeks, I’m attending a 1st birthday party near Cronulla. That party is on a Sunday and I hope to visit North Cronulla then. It’s cheating, yes, but they are my rules so I can bend them when I wish.
Rain showers are predicted for the afternoon but it’s sunny, hot, and humid when I leave home.
I’m happy Google has suggested a train-ferry-bus route. I arrive on the Macdonaldtown platform as my train pulls in. At Circular Quay I join a moving queue of the usual summer masses heading to Manly by ferry. Moments after arriving at Bus Stand C at Manly Wharf the #136 to Chatswood arrives to take me to Beach Number 56, North Curl Curl.
The heat and humidity are like a presence, an element, of their own. A thing to move through. Weather is only like this at its extremes. And, today, I am swimming through the air.
My first stop is for coffee and lunch at Cooh Organic Café.
The space is open to the hot air but I camp beneath their wall-mounted air conditioning which bathes me with cooler air every few seconds. I have their falafel plate ($18) and an iced long black (which I order with sugar but comes with none) ($4). The meal is tasty and filling but later in the day, I have a bit of an upset stomach – which may or may not have been the falafel plate.
I climb the steeply sloping Pitt Street towards an ocean clifftop. I follow a grassy right of way between houses into Ian Avenue and turn right on Phyllis Street which leads to a bush track going down to the cliff edge. To the left, the path goes to Dee Why (No 21) and to the right towards Tea Tree Lookout, and North Curl Curl Rockpool.
There are easier, more direct routes to North Curl Curl but when I saw the trail and lookout on Google Maps I decided to enjoy the walk. I love that these little pockets of bush exist all over Sydney and that wee trails are set up within them. And that – as with this pocket – it’s a public space, a public buffer between private homes and the sea.
It is also a good way to go as my first stop is the North Curl Curl Rockpool. I do love Sydney’s rockpools and sea baths.
As I’ve said before, I’m not a confident surf swimmer so rockpools are just about perfect for me – I’m in the ocean, I can hear the waves crashing, but here it’s calm and I can float and paddle to my heart’s content.
It’s beautiful – the water refreshing, the sand underfoot soft, the sky blue. I can hear children in the surf some 200 metres away and the low-level nattering of a pair of older women resting in the shade of the cliff.
If the tide were low, I could walk along the shore from the pool to the beach but it’s not so I take the path back up the headland and over the top before descending to the beach. On the way, I spot the North Curl Curl cenotaph out on the cliff edge memorialising men who’d camped at the beach there before 1914.
The beach is solidly full of umbrellas and shade tents, marques and sunbathers on their spread blankets and towels. The scene is vibrantly colourful. I can see the Surf Life Saving Club has a member in a dinghy well out beyond the surf break as well. The water is clear and turquoise.
Visual definition of summertime in Sydney.
I find a rock, on which to perch, in the shade of the cliff and drape my sweaty clothes over my bags before tiptoeing through the crowd to the sea. I’m in quickly and jumping and bobbing. After having to make a last-minute move to avoid being smashed by a kid on a boogie board I am dumped a bit and get a seawater rinse of my sinuses.
I sit on my rock and dry in the hot air. I look and listen. The sound of the surf and noise of the people echoes softly off the smooth sandstone cliff behind me.
Clouds gather and I remember the prediction of storms. I don’t want to have to walk to the bus in the rain, so I gather my stuff and go.
Only later do I realise that I hadn’t seen anyone else on the beach who appeared to be there by themselves. I guess I’m so used to going alone now I don’t even notice that it’s unusual.
A BIT ABOUT NORTH CURL CURL
My visit to Curl Curl Beach feels like a lifetime ago. It was beach number 19 and we (this was then a we project) visited on New Year’s Day 2012. Looking at that post now I see we spent time on South Curl Curl beach. I’ll still go there properly when the time comes. North Curl Curl is more clearly separated from Curl Curl than its southern sister beach – the mouth of Curl Curl Lagoon bisects the beach, the area to the north is North Curl Curl.
The name Curl Curl first appeared on a parish map in 1842 but at that time it referred to an area to the south – what is now Manly Lagoon was then Curl Curl Lagoon and what is now the headland separating Queenscliff and Freshwater was then Curl Curl Headland. The shift in names probably began with the naming of Queenscliff during the reign of Queen Victoria. I read about this in a nice little history of the area and the North Curl Curl Surf Lifesaving club found here, on their website.
The name Curl Curl may be derived from the Aboriginal phrase curial curial meaning river of life according to the New South Wales Geographical Names Board. However, they also note that the name is probably of Dharuk origin but it’s meaning is unknown.
Let me say a little about the monument to World War I soldiers found on the cliff about the beach. It was erected in 1918 by C. G. Martin – who designed and made the memorial – with the assistance of Unk Roberston and several other local surfers in memory of men who had spent their weekends camped at Curl Curl in the years before they enlisted. The materials for the monument were carried from Manly, “round the beach” as that was the only means of getting them to the site. This according to a report in the Sun newspaper on 12 May 1918 and recorded on the Monument Australia website.
Regular readers of my blog will know I have a very deep soft spot for the Australians who served in World War I and the people who mourned them when they failed to return home. See my writings from the Western Front in France and the small town of Taralga near Goulburn south of Sydney for a sampling.
As such, yes, of course, I went looking for information about the young men who used to hang out on this beach and here’s a bit of what I found about a couple of them:
Lance Corporal William John Goode – with the disturbingly small service number of 44, died aged 25 of a gunshot wound to the head he received at Gallipoli on 4 May 1915. He survived long enough to be evacuated to Egypt where he died on 8 May and was buried at the Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria. His brother would later be killed in France.
After William’s mum died his sister, Barbara Matthews, became his next of kin. Barbara seems to have had an interesting life – a series of mundane correspondence found in William’s records chases her back and forth from Sydney to New York City and back again. Then the last item in William’s file is a letter Barbara sent in 1968 (a year before I was born) seeking a Medallion under the War Services Estates Act of 1942-43. She was then living at The Caravan Riverside Farm, Moorebank. (No such place can be found today, but it was, presumably along the Georges River south of Liverpool.)
Captain Samuel Edward Townshend, held a bachelors of arts and law from Sydney University. He was 29 years old when he enlisted and sailed in December 1914. Samuel served as a transport officer at the landing at Gallipoli. He needn’t have landed himself but wished to join the firing line so led a group of men to charge a section at Quinn’s Post occupied by the Turks. He was shot and killed on the edge of the trench. That much is known. But he is listed among the 4,900 soldiers who died in the Anzac Area whose graves are not known but are inscribed on the Lone Pine Memorial.
Daniel Robertson, a 37-year old Private, was wounded twice before being killed in action in France on 4 May 1917. His death made a widow of his wife May Robertson. Like Samuel, Daniel’s remains were never recovered. He is one of the 10,729 Australians with no known graves listed on the Memorial Wall at Villers-Bretonneux. One would presume, perhaps, that Unk Robertson who helped C. G. Martin build the memorial was related to Daniel.
THE PEOPLE OF NORTH CURL CURL
On the 2016 Census night, 4,117 people were in North Curl Curl. Of these, 70.3% were born in Australia and 84.7% only spoke English at home. There were more Americans living in North Curl Curl (55) than people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage (42).
The median personal income of $926 per week is nearly 40% higher than the NSW rate of $664. Most homes are either owned outright or are owned with a mortgage (78%) and most homes have four or more bedrooms (53%). For those renting they are paying a median rent of $750 per week.
North Curl Curl is in the Northern Beaches Council LGA, the State electorate of Manly (James Griffin, Liberal), and the Federal Division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal).
In the 2017 Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey 84% of Warringah voters returned their ballots with 75% voting Yes and 25% voting No. Across NSW it was 58% to 42%, and nationally 62% to 42%.
North Curl Curl Beach is 21.4 kilometres (13.3 miles) from my home.
To get there I walked to Macdonaldtown Station and took the train to Circular Quay where I caught the ferry to Manly and the #136 bus to North Curl Curl. The trip took about 1h45m and cost $2.70 (because it was Sunday – on any other day it’s $9.64 each way using an Opal card).