I am cheating here and listing the towns and villages of the Blue Mountains alphabetically rather than by elevation. This is pure indulgence on my part so that I can begin with;
Blackheath, aka Bleakheath – Ranks first in this list and first in my own Blackheathen heart. Who lives here? Artists, writers and gardeners. Contrary to popular belief we are not all old (well I am, but….). Visited by leaf-peepers from around the world in Autumn (Wentworth Street) and Spring (Memorial Park…..just don’t look at the ghastly new gates). Accidentally named twice by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1815.
If you are looking for a policeman, for heavens sake do not follow this sign in the main drag. It definitely doesn’t lead to the police station.
So where would you end up? The answer can be found here…. ASK A BLACKHEATH BOBBY
Bilpin – OK, I know it should come before Blackheath, but I claim author’s prerogative. Think Bilpin, think fruit, especially APPLES. Mr Bill Shields found a chance seedling twenty odd years ago that he hopes will rival the famous Granny Smith seedling in popularity. He called it Julie, in honour of his wife.
The boys are picking apples,
And likely lads to boot.
And comely girls at Bilpin,
Are packing all the fruit.
Blaxland -Named for explorer Gregory Blaxland, a member of the expedition which made the first European crossing of the Mountains. And (oh dear), the only village to have a MacDonalds. But those of us who call in for a snack on the way home from Sydney should be grateful it’s there. And what is in the carpark? A wonderful piece of history; the ruins of a colonial inn. Hold up your heads and hash browns and be proud, Blaxlanders.
Bullaburra – They say nothing much changes in this little village. I wonder if the shop below is still there? Might be a café by now.
In the old days Bullaburra (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘blue sky’ ) was a request stop only on the train line. People had to hold up a STOP sign, or wave a lantern at night.
Faulconbridge – One of the earliest residents here was The Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes. The village name honours his mother, whose maiden name was Faulconbridge. It was also the name of Sir Henry’s residence. There he is on the veranda. And yes, I know I gave Norman Lindsay to Springwood, but to be accurate…. he does belong here.
UPDATE – I have been reminded that Faulconbridge contains all the vowels, half the alphabet and no repeated letters. I wonder whether Sir Henry and his Mum knew that?
Glenbrook – Gateway to the Blue Mountains. Hmmm…..does that really qualify? After all, if you are at the Pearly Gates you are not exactly in heaven are you? Known by many as the Double Bay of the Mountains, a characterization violently disputed by others. I went on a research trip to find out recently……click HERE if you want to know my findings.
Hawkesbury Heights – Included only under extreme pressure and duress. However, residents assure me it’s part of the Blue Mountains. I have heard it’s home to a very early example of Aboriginal rock art, created by the local Darug people. It’s an etching in sandstone known as The Flight Of the Great Grey Kangaroo. I must admit that sounds rather wonderful.
Hazelbrook – Home of the mysterious and beautiful ‘Fourth Sister’. Hazel can be spotted from the train by eagle eyed travellers.
Katoomba – The largest town, with the most visited tourist site; The Three Sisters. It’s alternative, arty and a bit edgy. Most people agree that the tired main street needs attention. The biggest question right now is…..will the historic Paragon rise again?? Did you know that St Hilda’s Church has a fine new peal of six bells? I was invited to be a bell ringer, but I have read too many murder stories about ropes and bell towers.
Lapstone – First train stop after the ‘flatland’ of Emu Plains. Described as Upper Penrith by those living higher up the line.
Lawson – as in William, not Henry. Originally known as Blue Mountain. Imagine how many international visitors would arrive if the name could be changed back.
Leura – Oh beautiful Leura! The ‘biscuit tin town’, with her avenue of flowering cherries, boutiques and expensive cafes. Is it Mosman in the Mountains? Comparisons are odious, but it’s definitely a little bit posh! At certain times of the year a whale can be spotted in this village. It likes to eat a native shrub called lilly-pilly
Linden – A pile of stones in this village is known as Caley’s Repulse. They were placed in the erroneous belief that it marked the spot where explorer George Caley was forced to give up an attempt to cross the Blue Mountains circa 1800. Apparently he hadn’t even attempted a crossing. Oh well, we all make mistakes.
Medlow Bath – Only really known for the rejuvenated Hydro Majestic Hotel. Mind you, that should be enough. It’s where an ex Prime Minister died, Melba sang, and Tommy Burns prepared for a famous fight against the black boxer Jack Johnson.
Mount Riverview – There were once ambitious plans to create a model village here for ex-servicemen after WWII, but it did not eventuate and investors lost their money. It was to be built around the famous ‘stairway up a gum tree’, also known as The Crow’s Nest. This spectacular lookout was built by a Mr Cummins in 1931, but destroyed 13 years later in a huge bushfire.
Mount Victoria – Since it has the highest elevation. it’s hard to argue with Mount Vic residents who insist they are closer to heaven than the rest of us. Best known for its wonderful old movie theatre.
Springwood – You can’t separate this village from the artist and writer Norman Lindsay, He left us with a ‘cut ‘n come again’ Magic Pudding, voluptuous nudes and the word ‘wowsers’. By the way, Albert the pudding turns100 this year.
Valley Heights – Now there is a contradiction in terms. Back in 1933 a Mr and Mrs Shaw found themselves plunging from the Heights to the Valley
‘We were going along beautifully at between 25 and 30 on a short, level tar-strip between two short rises at Valley Heights, when, with extraordinary suddenness, the car took one short, sharp skid and went straight over. It first turned over a few feet, on Mrs Shaw’s side, then dropped on my side a sheer 20 feet to a ledge of rock, and then turned over a couple of times down to some 50 feet. The 20 feet drop put me out of the picture, as my side of the car crumpled, and I got a crack over the right eye and cheek, and took the count. I knew nothing more until I heard Mrs Shaw’s voice calling if I was alright.’
Well he wasn’t alright of course, and had to be cut from the car. ‘ A doctor and cop were waiting at my release and we whisked off to Springwood where I was fixed up.‘ His main complaint was that leg injuries would keep him from the golf course a while.
Warrimoo – The home of author/illustrator Dorothy Hall, creator of the koala character Blinky Bill. She lived at Warrimoo during her most productive years (1934-1937) Divorced and hard-up, Hall once said; ‘I’ve never cared for the honour and glory of seeing my name in print. £.s & d. are what matter to me.’ Oh yes, Dorothy, I’m with you there. In pursuit of £. s. & d. she instructed her publisher to buy lottery tickets on her behalf. I’m sorry to say that she never won a prize of any significance. However, she (and Blinky Bill) are remembered on a 2010 one dollar coin, which I suspect would have pleased her.
Wentworth Falls – Favoured by retired judges and barristers I hear. Another of the ‘explorer’ villages. Conservation Hut might just be the best café to take visitors for lunch. This village was the scene of one of the Blue Mountains’ most enduring mysteries….the disappearance of David Joel in 1918.
Winmalee – An Aboriginal word, the meaning of which is unclear, but possibly ‘to the north’. Renamed from North Springwood after a competition in 1972. The winner was a 14 year old boy. If that competition had been held today we would be getting out of the train at Village McVillageface. I wonder who that boy was?
Woodford – Once the home of geologist and Antarctic explorer T.W. Edgeworth David. He reached far greater heights than Woodford geographically speaking, when he climbed to the summit of Mt. Erebus with Sir Douglas Mawson, in 1908. He put his stamp on the village with a house he called his hut, but it burned down. You might find the chimney if you look around.
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