Posts Tagged ‘College’s Crossing’

After the Flood – Colleges Crossing

February 6, 2011

Colleges Crossing

The Mt Crosby Road runs between the western edge of Brisbane and the northern edge of Ipswich, and crosses the Brisbane River at Colleges Crossing.  It’s a pretty drive, through bushland and some small settlements, now gradually being subsumed into the conurbation that is Brisbane.  Years ago, the Mt Crosby reservoir served Brisbane’s needs for water, but it has long been replaced by the much larger Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams.  There is a village of Mt Crosby, where nowadays you can get a decent cup of coffee, but it will still be from the little corner shop that also does fast food and bits of groceries and is (I think) the local post office.  That might give you some idea of how much it is still the old place, and how it is also moving with the times.


We used to drive out to Colleges Crossing in hot weather when I was a teenager living in Ipswich in the sixties, just to find a cool place.  Not to swim or to picnic – just to be.  I remember doing my homework in places like that, memorising swatches of ‘As You Like It’ – there, or at Savages Crossing, or sometimes for a change at Kholo Crossing.  I guess we also swam, and picnicked a little. 


This picture is from a website for canoeists: looking back upstream to Savage's Crossing.


 Memory is a funny thing: I associate the word ‘flying fox’ with those places.  In my mind’s eye I can see that piece of wire rising up to the steep wooded bank opposite. – It’s a clever device for swinging goods across a valley when there is no bridge, or when the bridge is flooded out, as often happened.  (There’s a terrific rant by a bloke in Gympie, that mentions that kind of flying fox: his voice and strength of opinion comes through strongly: it’s a great piece of reporting. It’s dated March 2010.)  

 But maybe it referred to those bat-like creatures, the flying foxes, that lived in huge colonies in the trees. 

tree full of flying foxes

The bank opposite where we parked the old Holden was steep und unspoiled, with tall trees.  The colonies of flying foxes love this kind of environment.  In the air they look beautiful: large and graceful, but also a little bit scary and creepy.  I guess it was our mother who told us they were dirty creatures.  But then, most creatures seem dirty to her.


a flying fox in the air.

Usually you see them at dusk, when they look black against the sky. We used to see lots of them from the verandah of the old place at Yeerongpilly.

 Or maybe the crossings had both kinds of flying fox – maybe both memories are real.  How much more pleasant not to have to give up either.

For a long time, though, College’s Crossing has had a pretty grassed area with picnic tables, barbecues, lots of wildlife, and a nice café with genuine Ipswich staff.  Their voices and their sharp practicality carried me straight back to the town of my youth. – (Never let anyone tell you that there is only one Australian accent – the regional variants are utterly distinctive.)  I have a few placid photos of ducks and swans dating from my visit eighteen months ago. 


ducks at Colleges Crossing recreation ground - Feb 2010

a black swan at Colleges Crossing - Feb 2010


Of course it didn’t occur to me then to take pictures of the café buildings, or the loos or the carparks.  I wish I had, because the flood swept everything away (except the portable buildings, which were towed to high ground in time).  It smashed the trees off a couple of feet from the ground, tore out the grass, re-shaped the river bank.  It destroyed the man-made structures leaving unrecognisable fragments of concrete.  It is hard to get a photo of the destruction, as the road is very narrow, so we couldn’t stop, and behind safety fences there are graders working at smoothing out the rubble.  I imagine that in a fortnight or so they will have re-seeded the grass and re-planted trees: the bush works very quickly to recover from these natural disasters, and so does the City Council.  But the demolished landscape is amazing – a moonscape, a post-apocalyptic devastation that is quite stunning in its totality.  The place is overwhelmingly brown and sepia, as if it belongs in a different world altogether, or in a different time.

River bank at Colleges Crossing, 5th Feb 2011

from the road

We hope the ducks had the sense to take the advice offered below:

view of the recreation ground from the road bridge

The bank on the left is roughly where the ducks were.

On the Road again: Sunday 14th-Tuesday 16th Feb

February 16, 2010

 – or at least, up in the air.  On Sunday I arrived in Brisbane – with the usual sense of the crazy awfulness of those last ten hours of flying, and the usual frantic self-questioning:  Why on earth do I do this?  Wouldn’t I rather be dead?  After all that sleep deprivation one is in no situation even to attempt to answer this kind of question and I suppose I am fortunate to have reached a level of experience where I more or less dimly know that.  From the plane and then on the ground the country is looking so amazingly green and lush; the waterholes look full, the trees are confident in their pride of leaf.  It all looks its true  bestself after so many years of drought and struggle – as if the imagined ideal form of Queensland vegetation made manifest.  Not incarnated, I guess, but in-leaf-ated

And so from the airport once gloriously titled ‘Eagle Farm’ but now the meaninglessly pedestrian ‘Brisbane Airport’, I got myself onto a local train that trundled out to Helensvale.  An hour and a half, much of it in the company of a pair of desperately dim and attention-seeking louts.  They were grubby, repetitious, obscene, and eventually faintly disturbing.   I practised the policy of ignoring them until they went away: it took a while.  Aren’t such people usually sleeping it off on a Sunday morning?  These were making the lovely morning hideous in so many ways, not least the sense that this was all the life they had, and their capacity to do anything with it seemed so desperately limited.

On to Mum’s at the coast: such joy to see Ross and Dad at Helensvale station, and such anxiety that I might not stay sufficiently compos mentis to make the day with Mum worthwhile.  And it all worked out.  At least this time I was sufficiently battered pale and sleepless for her to believe it was me. [Last year I turned up in good clothes and makeup – trying to look my best – and she could hardly credit it.  Muttered about ‘the Englishwoman’ to Ross in the kitchen and speculated on her motives for visiting. ‘I think she’s looking for a family.’ I ought to know better than to let it rock me as it did.] In the evening a return (too late for the ferry) to Moggill, and Ross’s flash new house, and his fun swimming pool.  Just the thing in this heat. (32 degrees on Monday). Varnee served wholemeal pasta and a great veggie sauce .  I spent the evening with my head falling off intermittently and by nine I gave up and went to bed.

Monday and a long, deep sleep.  Wonderful. A pottering day, visiting the shops twice with Dad, making a massive salad for lunch.  In the evening there were All of us: Dad, Ross, Varnee, Dave, Maddy, Vidya and even Evie – all here for the evening meal of chicken and salad, and wine. Lovely to see everyone.  And the evening closed late, with a big thunderstorm and family catch-up chat.

Tuesday. I woke in the dawn and raised the blind to see an an animal – a big hare – on the opposite pavement.  He (he?) stopped and looked around – cautious but confident.  I suppose he had heard the rattle of the blind.  Long hind legs, small ears tupped with black, above a white strip, but basically a fulvous pale fawn, yellow-brown colour.  A Kipling colour, and a perfect match with the footpath.  Perhaps half a minute passed while I watched him, and then he moved on – not exactly hopping but stretching and closing those long hind legs – a gentle scissor movement a little faster than a walk.  (What do they call that scissoring lower leg? – it’s not exactly a shin -).  With a calm purposeful dog trot he followed the curve of the footpath along into Nook Place.   I’ve always known that the early settlers idiotically introduced rabbits to Australia, but even so I was surprised to see it.   I can still see him clearly  in my mind’s eye.

This is not my hare – but it’s the nearest image I could find:…/Brown_Hare.jpg 

In the afternoon Dad and I drove to College’s Crossing – along the Mt Crosby road and up the Brisbane River a little way.  It hit me between the eyes and in the chest – I had been here before, but probably forty five years ago.  Behind the extensive greensward and the bridge, the carparks and the picnic tables I could just see the lineaments of the old bend and the shallow river crossing where I memorised  ‘All the world’s a stage . . ‘ one bored, hot Sunday afternoon, while my brothers swam.   Now there is a little cafe with old school staff.  Nice, direct women from Ipswich.  They make a good burger and excellent coffee, which they carry out to you, precariously, without a tray.  There is a kookaburra who runs a protection racket: the women throw him bits of meat (which he kills efficiently with a sharp sideways shake).  Otherwise, we are told, he swoops the customers fearlessly to steal food, even from their hands and mouths. I think those thin, sharp, practical women rather like him.

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