History opens up to the public in rare tours of Sydney’s Tank Stream

The Sydney Tank Stream is still an active stormwater drain. Photo: Steven SiewertIt quietly winds its way through Sydney’s heart – underneath offices and crowds, landmarks and traffic – to emerge just handful of times a year as one of the most sought-after tickets in town.
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The Tank Stream was opened up to a lucky few on Sunday – more than 226 years after Captain Arthur Phillip identified it as the lifeblood of the future colony, which, in turn, soon contaminated the fresh water source and eventually drove it underground.

About 160 people from among the thousands who typically try for a spot on a Tank Stream tour were granted access to a small section of the tunnel near Hunter Street, where the pick marks left by convicts during a 1791 drought can still be seen hewn into Sydney’s bedrock.

“It’s one of the least accessible tourist spots in Sydney,” said Sydney Water’s archaeologist Yvonne Kaiser-Glass, who led the tours organised for Sydney Open through what now largely functions as a stormwater channel.

“If, when you leave this space and you can get that image in your mind as to how it would have looked 200 years ago, then I’ll feel: job done.”

Swamp land near Hyde Park originally fed the stream, which coursed down a 30-metre drop towards Circular Quay. The swamp was drained in 1850.

But the water trail that shaped Sydney still flows through the tunnel, even though successive development has often similarly cut off – or at least diverted – some of the stream’s other sources.

“That lines up perfectly with Spring Street,” Ms Kaiser-Glass of water seeping into the tunnel through its sandstone wall.

“And Spring Street was called that because it had such active flows around it.”

Alongside convict maker’s marks, there are also more recent signs of the life that endures in the darkness: paw prints of rodents have been preserved in what was once wet cement.

Ms Kaiser-Glass said many of the cockroaches, which also share the tunnel with “albino grasshoppers”, appeared to have been cleaned out by Saturday’s downpour – along with the typical high-water mark of polystyrene.

“The most ironic thing you’ll see after heavy rain is the little soy fish,” she said. “So fish have come back into the Tank Stream, just not in the way we wanted.”

It was hoped that more tours, or in future even a webcam, could help teach Sydneysiders about the water cycle, she said.

The Tank Stream was one of about 50 venues and spaces usually off-limits to the public made accessible for the Sydney Living Museums’ Sydney Open.

Airdrie Martin travelled from the Blue Mountains to take part in the underground tour after a spare ticket became available on Saturday.

“I think it’s just amazing, the history of it,” she said. “And the fact that it’s still flowing and doing its job.

“I hope it serves Sydney forever.”  

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Family’s third brush with bushfire claims their Blue Mountains home

A bushfire rages out of control. Devastated: The Beattie family’s home. Photo: James Alcock
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Carl Beattie stands on the Katoomba street where his family home stood. Photo: James Alcock

Saturday was the Beattie family’s third brush with a destructive fire in a year.

This time it claimed their Blue Mountains home.

Little more than a year ago, a bushfire at Winmalee also ripped through 17-year-old Frieda’s school, St Columbas. Another fire, thought to be deliberately lit, struck again just last month. The HSC student’s major work was destroyed.

Then on Saturday another bushfire climbed without warning over a Katoomba cliff face and loomed over the Beatties’ street.

They escaped minutes before the street was engulfed, leaving only their home gutted.

The fire that destroyed their home was one of at least 76 blazes which burned across the state at the weekend.

On Sunday, RFS firefighters worked to contain 40 out-of-control fires including a blaze at Kurri Kurri which at one point burned perilously close to properties.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said some fires were sparked by natural causes but others were deliberately lit.

One fire, in the Garigal National Park, started from four separate ignition points.

The Beattie family thought they were safe when a fire burning in the Megalong Valley, appeared out of sight by lunchtime on Saturday.

But by four-o-clock Chris Beattie decided to check what was happening outside after hearing a hovering helicopter.

“He got home from work and was going to have a shower,” his brother Carl said.

“He could only see a little bit of smoke across the road. But it jumped over the cliff so  fast. He ran back inside, got the car and drove.”

A trail of smoke turned into flames engulfing gum trees 15 metres high, within five minute, witnesses said.

They were pushed over the cliff face by swirling hot winds strong enough to knock over a neighbour’s fence kilometres away.

Some veteran firefighters described the conditions as the worst they had seen in decades.

By 3.45 pm, the flames were on their verandah and the neighbouring Grabham family had no time to escape with any more than the dog.

“We thought we were going to be burnt to death,” Greg Grabham said.

The Beatties returned to their Brougham Street on Sunday.

Corrugated roof sheeting lay contorted on the ground, next to a burnt Hills Hoist and amongst shattered window glass and a screen door off its hinges.

“We’re sad to lose all our stuff,” Mr Beattie said. “But that can be rebuilt. We’re just happy to be safe”.

Police were investigating the scene of the blaze on Sunday, amid suspicions it was deliberately lit.

“When there’s a lack of lightning it always gives rise to that suspicion,” said Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill.

“Three weeks ago we had snow.”

About a dozen fire truck crews stood watch on the other side of the ridge on Sunday, as the  six hectare blaze remained burning out of control, beyond them at the bottom of the cliff face.

Helicopters dumped water with regular flyovers. But firefighters were unable to do much more than stand watch, in case of another sudden change of wind that might bring the fires back over a thicket of gum trees again toward the centre of Katoomba, about three kilometres away.

Controlled hazard reduction burns were cancelled on Saturday after a total fire ban was put in place for most of NSW.

“Almost everything got postponed. The amount of fire we were dealing with, we weren’t going to introduce any more,” Mr Rogers said..

“Our official fire season comes in on the first of October, so I don’t believe this is an earlier fire season for NSW,” he said.        

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Thieves disappear with thousands of bicycles

This Brunswick family, Daisy Wilson, Nic Kocher, Joanna Wilson, Rollo Wilson Kocher and scar Wilson Kocher have had 8 bikes stolen over the past 4 years. Photo: Paul JeffersBicycle crime has hit a five-year high in Victoria as opportunistic thieves active in inner-city hipster hotspots disappear with hundreds of cycles every year.
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In the past financial year more than 5000 stolen bikes – or almost 100 every week – were reported to Victoria Police, data obtained by The Age show.

In some postcodes the numbers of stolen bicycles now outstrip stolen cars. These areas include the central Melbourne suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Parkville, and the Victorian towns of Wangaratta, Sale and Horsham.

With some high-end bikes now valued at as much as a car, victims can be left significantly out of pocket. A Ballarat Scenic Cyclists Group member recently had his  $5000 racing road bike pinched during a home burglary.

The state’s bicycle groups say cases of bike thievery rarely end happily for the victims.

“It’s very uncommon for people to get their bikes back,” Melbourne Bicycle User Group spokesman Nicholas Dow said. “Because people are [stealing them] for profit, the bike is going to be sold.”

In Melbourne’s CBD, almost 1600 bikes have been pilfered in the past five years, at a rate almost 50 per cent higher than that of car thefts.

In the suburbs, Brunswick is Melbourne’s hub of bike crime, with the number of missing bikes almost doubling in five years, to 143 last year.

Thieves have stolen eight bikes from one Brunswick West family since 2010.

Joanna Wilson said brazen criminals often targeted their home during hard-rubbish collection periods, when they used bolt cutters or other implements to unshackle the bikes locked up at the front of the house.

It is a crime spree that has probably cost the family of five about $5000,  because none of the bikes had been recovered. The family’s three children now store their bicycles in their bedrooms.

Ms Wilson, who owns Brunswick cafe John Gorilla, said she knew people in her neighbourhood who owned bikes valued up to $18,000 and families that used bicycles as their only form of transport. “They’ll even take their bikes on the train to go camping,” she said.

Throughout  the state there have been 22,271 cases of bikes being stolen in the past five years, in comparison with 76,076 reports of stolen cars.

Police and the Bicycle Network stress that riders should use a good-quality lock – and a sturdy fixed object to chain their bike to – when parking in public.

Mr Dow said he was aware of a case in which bikes chained to a no-standing sign in Melbourne’s CBD had routinely disappeared, because thieves would simply pull the loose sign from its foundation.

And even paying for additional security may not be a guaranteed solution, as Lewis Spears, 20, found out when his $600 wheels were stolen from a so-called secure bike facility near Flinders Street Station. After the incident he noticed a laminated sign warning patrons of a bike theft gang operating in the area.

Police say they have difficulty returning stolen bikes to their owners, partly because they struggle to identify the cycles found in recovered loot.

“Bikes can be returned to their owners if engraved with your licence number,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

“Alternatively, take a photo of your bicycle.  This will greatly assist police in being able to return it to you.”

Authorities also say bike owners should have their cycles insured.

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Red Cadeaux looking to make it fourth time lucky at Melbourne Cup for Ed Dunlop after two near-misses

Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all RacingFull coverage: Melbourne Cup 2014Melbourne Cup sweep
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Red Cadeaux’s trainer Ed Dunlop jokes that his men on the ground in Melbourne are “like an old married couple” caring for a spoiled only child. But they are the secret to Dunlop’s international success and Red Cadeaux’s two near-misses in the Melbourne Cup.

His constant travelling companions are foreman Robin Trevor-Jones and rider Steve Nicholson, both 52 and genuine horsemen.

“I’m just here for the race,” Dunlop said when he arrived for a fourth shot at the Melbourne Cup with the twice runner-up.

“The trainer is in there [he points to the Werribee track and Trevor-Jones]. He knows the horse and knows what is going on.

“Steve and him are a good team and they do it well.”

For the three years Red Cadeaux has hopped around the world – Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan – If he had frequent flyers he could upgrade to first class but that wouldn’t be necessary.

“He travels in a box by himself, we pay extra for that,” Nicholson said. “You do this, you do it right.

“Everything right has to be done right.”

Before him there had been Lailani, Ouija Board and Court Masterpiece for Dunlop and his team. Mare Snow Fairy was the latest star from the Dunlop yard, winning in England, Ireland, Japan and  Hong Kong.

“I have been very lucky, now I have travelled 29 group 1 winners in seven countries over 18 years,” Trevor-Jones said in a matter of fact way. It is not boasting but he could be the best traveller of horses in the world.

Red Cadeaux accounts for one of those, the Hong Kong Vase, but his seconds in the Dubai World Cup and in two Melbourne Cups have his prizemoney at more than $6.3 million. He is a favourite of Trevor-Jones.

“When you go aboard with them as much as we do with him they become special. You know them,” he said.

The former National Hunt rider is the benchmark for travelling.

“You learn a massive amount doing this,” Trevor-Jones said.

“You see other trainers that are coming here and they are using 90 per cent of my stuff. They are saying where’s this, where’s that and they haven’t got it.

“It is the experience of me going around the world. I know what you need normally to keep a horse going when they are aboard.

“And you need so much. That’s why I have a truck full of medical gear and a truck full of other gear. You just need so much stuff.”

While having the right horse is the starting point, the right man on the ground is just as important. Timing is imperative.

“The hardest thing is having them right on the day and it is only one day,” Trevor-Jones said.  “You don’t want them getting there the week before or having them there the week after.”

Watching Nicholson and Trevor-Jones work together with their old horse is amazing. Trevor-Jones walks out out with his going stick to test the ground then Nicholson arrives on Red Cadeaux.

“Look,” Trevor-Jones said.

“All right,” Nicholson replies.

“It gets firmer as you go out, so be careful and stay around here,” Trevor Jones says moving to the centre of the track.

Red Cadeaux does his work and the men are pleased as they try to line up their hopes in the Melbourne Cup.

“Things have gone quiet smoothly. You always have your little issues but things have gone well. Things have gone pretty well,” Trevor-Jones said.

“You have to respect the lad that rides him all the time, you got to take his word for how he is going.”

Nicholson thinks about it for a minute and gives a measured response.

“He seems no different to the other times but you have to realise he was five, six in your terms, the first time we came here. He is nine now and it does catch up with us all,” Nicholson said. “He still seems fine but you notice more and more as they get older niggly little problems.”

“The closer the race gets the more problems you see. Your eyes start playing tricks on you,” Trevor-Jones adds. “He has 57kg and is older but gee I would like to get my hands on that Cup. I saw it the other day and it is beautiful.

“He is ready. We are happy.”

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