Grandchildren, autumn colour, mountains, fresh air, lyre birds, walking tracks . . .

Grandchildren, Autumn colour, mountains,  fresh  air,  lyre birds,  walking tracks  and an Old World Guest House

How special to be invited to join the family for a few days to play again in the Blue Mountains,  all of us staying at an ‘old world’ Guest House in Katoomba and returning to  Blackheath to reminisce and remember the playground our family  enjoyed in the young years..

The Dharug and Gundungurra Peoples welcome you
to this special place and ask that
you acknowledge, respectand appreciate its story
and sacred beauty

Day 1  

The family left for Katoomba early as they were booked in for the Scenic World Experience  which included the Scenic Railway down into the Valley and a Valley walk to see the amazing interactive  sculptures,  to see the old coal mine, then up the cliff and across on the  Scenic Skyway.  It was a fun  morning for them. Edison was excited about the waterfalls, and being in the front row going down  in the train the steepest train in the world, into the valley and Darcy loved his map and kept showing us where he went. 

Michael and I took our time  and stopped for a picnic lunch at one of our nostalgic venues Wentworth Falls Fall Lookout . The air was electric, the sky so blue and each deciduous tree was turning in their perfect timing.  There was a helicopter going back and forth and a National Parks woman explained they were dropping material along tracks for maintenance and taking out rubbish. It did take away from the serenity I was wanting so much but suddenly they took a break and the silence was hypnotic Not even the Falls could be heard where we sat. 



We arrived at the Guest House . . very old world with a breakfast room, dining room, games rooms and piano and had the character of a well known jazz lounge in its younger days.  At least the many  posters  decorating the walls were nostalgic for those  heady days.

We all went then to see the Three Sisters and we walked down about 80 steps with some metal ladders and out across the bridge to the first sister. We had a great picnic in one of the original caves.  Everything was so quiet . . .  by that I mean not many people . . .they had a quiet morning at Scenic world and we had no trouble parking at the Three Sisters. We were spoilt as it was not a public holiday and  little could we predict the Easter crowds.

On face book Jessica wrote of their day

What a perfect first day of holidays in the Blue Mountains. We spent the day at Scenic World Blue Mountains. We went down the steepest railway 🚃 , walked the long track for the Sculptures in the Valley and then came back up the cableway  🚡 then we took the skyway out over the valley and stopped over Katoomba Falls before heading to The Three Sisters. We walked down to the First Sister and then back up the very steep steps. Only 80 of them 🥵 back up the top we had our picnic waiting for us in one of the caves. I loved watching the kids explore, especially Edison who climbed, jumped, poked, questioned everything he came across and was so determined to try everything. Nothing was too much for him. I don’t know where he gets his energy 



Day 2    Blackheath

We woke to a glorious day and down in the dining room to meet the family for breakfast at 8 am as our plan was to get on the road early to travel the 10 minute drive to Blackheath for the day.  (that became closer to an hour with the crazy  Easter traffic that appeared.)

Michael and I have gone to Blackheath hundreds of times and never , ever experienced a traffic jam!  on this road, so funny . We surmise people were on their way to Mudgee or Dubbo . and we heard the Bells Line of Road was closed due to landslides I think or fires or flood  or as a result of all three  . . these days you can choose the catastrophe andyou probably wont be too wrong.

How to describe the morning.

Firstly the air had a crisp tingle to it. . .we all needed our trackie top
but we felt invigorated by the tingle.
No-one can beat John Keat’s words:
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
yet I couldn’t help whispering,
leaves of russet golds and brown
and flaming fire red
tatter the emerald sky and burnish our tracks
willowing air blow gently on the trees
leaves spilling,
pitter patter down
as flaxen autumnal raindrops


In Blackheath, as pilgrims, we headed to our old home in Burton street where we had spent so many fun holidays  and like pilgrims we retrod our footsteps down Porters Pass  to Keating Rock, around to the lane to the warm Sunset rock  so tiny now which seemed to fit us all snuggled into watch the sun set.and we laughed about the quiet street  where the kids rode up and down with ice-cream bowls on their heads teasing the magpies who joined in the game swooping each time.

We chose the Fairfax Heritage walk because it was suitable for Pa to walk with the boys and we arrived at the view of Govetts Leap .


The Bridal Veil Falls  was the best I have ever seen it after the rains it flowed and pounded wildly down into the valley its spray soft lifted  by the winnowing wind sometimes caught the rays of sunlight flashing a rainbow veil. I couldn’t  catch it on film it was momentariy,  fleeting and spectacular .

To the Red Rocket park where the boys had a lot of fun and Jessica was reminded  about the many times she played there with her brothers and sisters and sometimes cousins and the near escapes they had.

Back to the Guest House and a takeaway Thai meal we shared in the recreation room while the boys watched TV and played.


Jessica wrote,

Down memory lane yesterday.
Keating Rock.
Govetts Leap.
Bridal Falls.
Memorial Park. Still the same equipment since 1964, just safer!
We had to keep a tally of how often Mum and I said “Be Careful!!!”
When I was young we were trusted down these walks on our own!

I lived to tell the tale 😂

Day 3  

A stunning autumn day  . . blue sky touches of lifting mist , falling russet and gold  leaves 
the walkways beginning to crunch but still early autumn days.

We were the baby sitters for three year old Darcy, as his older brother  Edison had begged to do the full Giant Staircase down into the Grose Valley and to walk around to the Scenic railway to ascend .  So the three of them Nath Jessica and Edison drove off after an early breakfast left their car near the Three Sisters and set off down the close to 1000 steps that Edison can now say he did. We breakfasted with Darcy and then set off for a walk to get some postcards and brochures  to make a project of the Mountain adventure  for his preschool  and to help his language. 

Great photos  of Lyre Birds . It is good to know they are surviving down in the valley.

They arrived back pretty tired but very proud they have achieved this challenging walk. 

It is a great achievement for a seven year old.  Congrats Edison. Mum and Dad did well also .

When they arrived back we set off for home and made it easily dodging the Easter traffic.

We seemed to be going in the opposite direction to most!!! Maybe that is the story of our days.

Safely home after an invigorating pre easter time.


VARUNA WRITERS’ HOUSE – Poetry Residential Masterclass

Poetry Residential Masterclass  VARUNA  WRITERS’ HOUSE



As I roll my car into the Varuna Writers Centre, a sense of tranquillity settles. 

Leaving a hot, busy, noisy city and winding my way up into the Blue Mountains is in itself for me, a meditative journey, even inhaling the mountain air is a reminder of what breathing is all about.  

My excitement hardly contained to have a one week writers residency. 

IMG_0212 IMG_0136

The poet Vanessa Kirkpatrick is our convenor for the week, with four other committed poets we look forward to an enriching, rewarding time of learning, writing and sharing. Vanessa shares three stimulating WORKSHOPS,  that make us think both of the structure and content of our poetry.  Having two sessions of ‘one on one’ with Vanessa crafting our words helps us step up to a new level.  Vanessa is so generous with her time and sharing her expertise.


For those who are not familiar with Varuna,  this Writers’ House was the home of Eleanor and Eric Dark,  who bought the land in 1923 and built their home over the next years with the piece de resistance  The Studio set in the garden built for Eleanor as her writing studio.

IMG_0040 2studio IMG_0003 IMG_0007my desk in studio for a week

Varuna is surrounded  by a mature rambling garden of a few acres in Cascade St near the beginning of the Katoomba Falls.

IMG_0028 2 IMG_0065 IMG_0035 2 IMG_0029 IMG_0157 IMG_0033


A bush walk takes you to a lookout to enjoy the falls and a vistas of The Three Sisters and the majesty and solitude of the Jamison Valley. The Scenic Skyway glides silently between cliff tops.


IMG_0203 IMG_0021

Eleanor was a  prolific writer and Eric was a medical doctor .



Eleanor is best known for her trilogy  The Timeless Land  which was on the School Curriculum for some years and which was made into an  ABC series   Her books:

The Timeless Land (1941) 

Storm of Time (1948) 

No Barrier (1953)    these 3  make up the trilogy

Slow Dawning  (1932) 

Prelude to Christopher  (1934)  

Return to Coolami   (1936)

Sun Across the Sky (1937) 

Waterway (1938) 

The Little Company (1945)

Lantana Lane (1959)



After their death, Mick Dark ( their son) established the house  as a Writers’  Centre in order to protect the land from possible sub division and to allow the literary spirit of the space to  continue. Writing residencies began in 1989 making next year 2019 the Centre’s 30th anniversary.   It is a  space of solitude, silence called for rom 6am to 6 pm and then writers gather to share their day and writing  over a beautifully prepared meal by  the wonderful chef Sheila. ( Her Varuna recipe book is coming out in the next six months ) 


img_4596 IMG_0096

I believe all places are filled for next year. How vibrant and healthy is our writing world .



Our writing world, our poetry world might be grass roots but that’s where the real growth begins and spreads.  Thank you Eleanor Dark Foundation for your contribution to this.




Poetry Residential Masterclass – exciting news

Poetry Residential Masterclass  VARUNA National Writers House


At Varuna Writing Centre set in reflective gardens on the edge of Katoomba




Congratulations, we would like to offer you an invitation to participate in the Poetry Residential Masterclass with Vanessa Kirkpatrick.  There was significant interest from a diverse range of poets to participate in the week and we were delighted with the range of creative proposals submitted.

The dates of the Residential Masterclass are Monday 3 December to Sunday 9 December.

Your residency week includes accommodation, meals, workshops and private writing studio..

Please confirm that you are able to accept your invitation by midday 26 September. Once you have confirmed your place Vera Costello will be in touch with further details.

I look forward to seeing you at Varuna soon!

All the best,





writers_at_work  house-lounge house-garden


Varuna, The National Writers’ House is Australia’s national residential writers’ house in the former home of writers Eleanor Dark and Dr Eric Dark. In 1989 their son Mick Dark gifted their home to the Australian public through The Eleanor Dark Foundation. Due to this extraordinary act of philanthropy, Varuna has become Australia’s most eminent residential program for writers.[1][2]

Since 1989 Varuna the National Writers’ House has inspired the creation of new Australian writing and provided support for a thriving writing community and growing Alumni. Along with its Residential Program, Varuna also has a lively literary program, including the Varuna & Sydney Writers Festival, Varuna Open Day and various workshops and consultations.

Located in Katoomba two hours from Sydney, in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales Australia, Varuna is a short walk from the centre of town, and a short walk from the edge of the escarpment looking down into the magnificent Jamison Valley.[3][4]