Recently I conducted a little social history survey on how the various towns and villages of the Blue Mountains are perceived. Do they have a distinct character? Well certainly most of them do.
Most surprising of all to me was that Glenbrook is considered by many to be the Double Bay or Mosman of the Mountains. I honestly had no idea. Not everyone agrees of course, so I thought I should investigate. By the way, the village was originally called Watertank, as it grew up from a watering stop for steam trains on the Great Western Rail Line.
Anyway, as a resident of Mosman for over twenty years before moving to the Mountains I felt I was well placed to make a judgement. Shamefully, I had never been to Glenbrook village. I had to check whether I could walk to the centre of town from the railway station (I could).
But first, here is a photo taken in June 1978, long before any ‘gentrification’ took place. My thanks to Kathy Dwyer for sourcing this. Note the Kodak Film sign.
Deciding what to wear on my visit was a bit of problem. When venturing down the Mountains from my home in beautiful Blackheath (aka ‘Bleakheath’), one needs a warm layer that can easily be removed.
It was lunch time when I arrived. Hmm, where to go? Plenty of choice. 2773 in Ross Street looked inviting on such a lovely day. With play equipment out the back it’s very child friendly and being school holidays it was pretty crowded.
I decided on nearby Vincent. It was named in honour of the old St Vincent-de-Paul shop which originally occupied the site. I thought that was a nice touch.
Following advice from the Blue Mts community FB group I ordered the sweet potato chips. When front of house Nat told me her cousin makes the restaurant’s cakes I ordered one of those too; lemon, lime, ginger and pistachio. The bill was $20.50. Too many chips of course, and I scoffed the lot. Had to take the cake home.
As a writer I couldn’t bypass the bookshop; just the right degree of literary jumble.
Further along I had a chat to Kathy Dwyer at Foothills Eco. Lots of locally made clothes and gifts here. I bought a little mirror with a design of grevilleas on the back. Kathy’s husband produces the beautiful pottery on sale. I loved the gorgeous colours in the glaze, clearly inspired by our wonderful landscape.
There are also the prerequisite ’boutique’ shops; fashion, interior decoration, home wares etc. Oh yes, and a beautician’s. We certainly don’t have one of those in Blackheath. As a passionate gardener, I was more interested to see a nursery and attached café in Ross Street.
No surprise that the park/playground was the main centre of activity. It’s located close to the shops, which is great for young Mums. Does that giant eucalypt behind a picket fence have special significance I wonder? I couldn’t find a plaque and no-one seemed to know..
Glenbrook definitely has a lot to offer. It’s family friendly, close to the city of Penrith and an easy commute to Sydney. It has a distinct village atmosphere away from suburban sprawl. I guess this is why, when I checked the windows of the real estate office, there was little local property available. A four bedroom, character cottage had an asking price of well over a million dollars.
On the Rainbow Brick Road in Glenbrook‘Comparisons are odious’, someone wrote in the 15th century. It’s still true. Glenbrook is affluent, but there is none of that often pretentious ‘old money’ feel of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Not a single small dog in a designer handbag to be seen. either.
Mind you, as an Upper Mountains dweller I can suggest one similarity. If it ever snows in Glenbook it would probably be snowing in Double Bay as well. In fact, whether Glenbrook even qualifies as the Blue Mountains is open to debate. Yes, it’s within the National Park, but that self-styled slogan ‘Gateway to the Blue Mountains’ says a lot. If you are at the Pearly Gates you are not exactly in heaven are you? (Only teasing.) Would I be rude enough to dub it Penrith Heights? OF COURSE NOT!
After my visit I received a complaint that I hadn’t mentioned the local theatre. Also, the owner of the bookshop, Yan Hope, was upset because I didn’t make myself known to her. She said she would have made me a cup of tea and had a chat. Clearly I will have to go back.
The story of the giant eucalypt is that it’s a ‘widow maker’, given to dropping branches. When the council decided to remove it for safety reasons the community objected; so strenuously that a compromise as reached via the picket fence.
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