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Favourite ‘excursion’ destination

PICTURES: (Clockwise from above): Outlook over the north eastern shoulder across Macquarie Road, South Cardiff to the suburbs beyond,: Early stages of development for Lakelands, View from the main northern ridge to Lake Macquarie with Warners Bay centre left, View across the Biddabah Creek catchment towards Warners Bay, taken from the northern ridge. All images supplied by Heather Brezmen.

Munibung Hill a favourite ‘excursion’ destination in the 80s.

“MY FIRST MEMORIES OF MUNIBUNG HILL were cows and fires”, said Heather Brezmen, as we begin a conversation about her earliest memories growing up in a northern creek catchment of Macquarie Hills.  It was before the suburb became the sprawling residential area it is today.  We are talking the 70s, 80s and early 90s – residential development was just taking off.
Heather was born in 1973 and spent many years in close contact with Munibung Hill. Her family moved into the area in 1980, when she was seven.
The hill, or for some people the mountain, featured prominently in her childhood days extending into her late teens.
“Back in the earlier days there were no fences or boundaries defining one property from another, which allowed us children to roam freely around the local area”, said Heather.  “Cattle roamed just as freely.”
Heather was a student at Cardiff Primary School from Year 2 and later Cardiff High. She had two younger sisters who were just as adventurous as she was, so there was no lack of incentive to go exploring around their neck of the woods, so to speak – and explore they did.
“Munibung Hill was the playground for all us local kids”, recalls Heather.  “It was where we spent hours and hours. You couldn’t keep us away. By us I mean not only my sisters, there were lots of us, at least four or five and sometimes eight or more in a group. I mean there was so much we could do.”
“After rain we’d collect mushrooms – there was no shortage back then.”
“There were always plenty of blackberry bushes for us to collect from. I remember my Dad making fruit pies – they were simply delicious.”
“We’d catch tadpoles in the dam, and play in the water.  It was all good clean fun that occupied us for hours on end. We weren’t distracted by screen devices and social media like kids are today,” Heather said.
“Then there were the caves on the north eastern cliff face.  You’d often find us there – it was a popular spot and still is today for lots of young people.  They are the ones visible from Lakelands and the end of Fairfax Road, Warners Bay.“
“It was thirty years ago now, but I still have vivid memories – fond memories – of Munibung Hill.”
“And the hill was more than a playground, I would take my homework from school and sit overlooking the lake. It was a special place and not many people could or would do that these days. This was before laptops and tablets.”(1)
Heather tells us there was a track from Rutherglen Place up to Taranaki Place that they sometimes used, but most of the time it was “from the back of the houses at the end of Rutherglen Place that we had access.”
“In fact there was no shortage of tracks to choose from, but we had our favourites, such as the one that people would identify now as starting from the end of Lucilla Ridge going up to the first shoulder before the last steep slope up the crest – not far from where the telecom towers are”, said Heather.
“It was in this part of Munibung Hill that we used to create giant slippery dips, sliding down the hill on big pieces of cardboard sheets.  It was also in this area that the boys raced down the hill on their home-made billy-carts.”
“But it was right at the top that we got the best winds for kite flying. That’s another fun thing that we kids did but you don’t see much of it these days.”
“There were places we visited a lot, such as ‘the dam’ not far from where we lived. It must have been part of the creek back then, but we didn’t know that.  In fact we didn’t realise that in preparing the area for houses, a pipe had been installed for what is now a lengthy section of Lawson Road, in the bed of the valley where the creek would have run originally.  So even back then, we were becoming separated from what the indigenous people would have lived with for thousands of years.”
“We knew the hill as Hawkins farm. We never met them. We saw the tractor working and workers putting in fence posts, things like that, but the Hawkins didn’t seem to mind us roaming around. Our movement was never restricted. It was all open initially, but over time fences were put up to keep the cattle in. But this didn’t block off access for us kids. We’d just climb the fence and go just about anywhere.  While we didn’t give it much thought, I suppose we didn’t abuse the privilege – so the Hawkins had no cause to keep us out, is one way of looking at it.”
“We didn’t know that Munibung Hill had such a long geological history or that the lake was relatively new in geological terms.  But knowing this makes it all the more special. (2)
“There were lots of rabbits,” Heather recalls, “and kangaroos, but I don’t remember coming across any bandicoots. But then we didn’t go there after dark when they would be out.  The same for possums, but it was different for kookaburras, we heard them laughing all the time.”
We mention that these days trail bike riders are a real problem, which prompts Heather to note that motorbike riders were an issue and the farmers didn’t like them being up there. “People horse-riding didn’t seem to ever be an issue,” adds Heather.
There were no school excursions to Munibung Hill.
“You could say that Munibung Hill was my personal favourite excursion destination. So much so, that I chose Munibung Hill for the subject of my final year 12 school project. I did an environmental impact study for geography.”
“With so much land clearing and urban development going on at what was to become Lakelands, there was no lack of material to write about,” said Heather.
“Munibung Hill back in my day was much more open then than now.  There were a lot more grassy areas and less trees then.  It seems to have become very overgrown with plants like lantana, so there is certainly a lot of rehabilitation work that needs to be done.”
We mention that there is a Management Plan for Munibung Hill. 
“Munibung Hill deserves to be protected and conserved, to make it more accessible. The plans for dedicated trail entry points at the end of Blaxland Road, Macquarie Hills and Quarry Road, Speers Point will help to set visitors up for some great visits,” Heather said.
“It will be good to have the top of Munibung Hill set aside for a lookout – a place where people can get to really appreciate the beauty of the area, and the spectacular views across the lake as well as towards Newcastle.”
1. The PC was just getting started in the 70s. The first portable commercial computer was the Osborne introduced in April 1981.
2. Munibung Hill is 251 m years old and Lake Macquarie began to fill 12,000 years ago, stabilising at its current height 6,000 years ago.

MMM … Issue 36, February – March 2023