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Nature play paradise

PICTURE: Foot bridge over Hawkins Creek 2022. Oil on Canvas 35 x 28cm

Munibung Hill is a nature play paradise
Back in the mid 70s and early 80s Munibung Hill was a children’s paradise. One of those children was Luke Adams, now an artist living in Melbourne, who shares the story of his virtual neighbour – growing up next door to Munibung Hill – with MMM editor, Stuart Carter.
The family home was in Quarry Road, Speers Point. “You couldn’t get much closer than that,” says Luke, as we start our conversation about his memories of living in the area and visiting Munibung Hill more times than any other place around Speers Point.

“Munibung Hill was great for adventurous kids who loved to explore.”
To give readers some context of this location, at the end of Hopkins Road, Speers Point, the Hawkins family operated two large gravel quarries.
A child of Generation X, 1974 to be exact, Luke has distant memories of the quarry being blasted to break up the rock for new gravel supplies, with stones peppering the roof of the family home. (That wouldn’t be tolerated today).
“My mother remembers the trucks constantly going up and down our quiet street,” said Luke.
Shortly after, Lake Macquarie City Council took over the operations of the quarry. For years prior to this, not only was the quarry active, there were cattle grazing across Munibung Hill. The top section of the Quarry Road ridge had a couple of cows, but there was a larger herd towards the Hawkins Road Quarry. Anyone walking along the ridge from Speers Point towards Macquarie Hills would have a series of cattle gates to open and close.
Luke recalls spending a lot of time exploring Munibung Hill with his school mates. Living so close, he was in a privileged position to know where to go and what to do, so heaps of his mates would join him on these regular adventure trips.
The earliest of these times was when his mother was getting ready to play squash.
“I was 4 years old at the time,” says Luke. But that didn’t deter him from checking out of the house yard to go on a spontaneous adventure. Joined by a mate who was a year younger, they decided to hive off into the bush.
“We clambered up the steep gravel track above Quarry Road and across the east-west ridge. We then headed down the east side bushland towards Fairfax Road where a random hiker heard my 3 year old friend crying.”
Luke directed the man back to their home, returning the two missing children, to the great relief of the distraught parents who had had a 2 hour ordeal looking for missing toddlers.
“Munibung Hill seemed to inspire independence at an early age,” said Luke.
Another of his memories was the bonfires at cracker night, the 11th June. It was held at the base of the old quarry at the end of Quarry Road.
“The whole neighbourhood would turn out for a huge bonfire and let off their crackers,” Luke recalls.
He was part of the set up team, collecting fire wood and building the pyramid that would funnel the flames high into the night sky to keep everyone warm on what were often chilly nights.  For those old enough, this brings back memories of the penny bungers, rockets, Catherine Wheels, Throwdowns, and the ever popular Sparklers for the little kids and the more elderly grown-ups.  Pocket money was saved for months, in anticipation of this community event. 
“This time was filled with excitement, community spirit and a slight sense of danger. There are many fond memories”.
But we digress.
There were less restrictions in those days, says Luke. (We will find out about these next month.)

Part 2 of the Luke Adams story will be published in the November Issue # 34.
MMM … Issue 33, Sept. 2022