Chris and I lived in the Valley for 22 years, from 1997 to 2019. For the first couple of years, whilst we were still working, we were weekenders, living in a shed whilst we built our house. Once we had partially retired we thought we would divide our time between Sydney and the Valley, but we quickly found we just never wanted to go back to Sydney, so moved down to Kangaroo Valley permanently in the early 2000s.
We loved our acreage in the rainforest of Upper River. The land that had already been cleared we eventually turned into a garden and paddocks for our horses, but it was the wildness and rainforest, and the birds and animals that were our daily companions that really spoke to us. I, particularly, had a great feeling of belonging.
We found being part of a small community was very special, and that community we found quite extraordinary in the way people constantly banded together to support each other in all sorts of circumstances. We were both active in Valley activities and that, of course, provided a great framework of cohesion. There was always something happening, and we particularly enjoyed all the opportunities to experience music and the arts in far more intimate settings than normally occurred in Sydney.
But we were getting older and, by the time Chris had turned 80, trying to maintain our place on the side of the escarpment, keep the road clear of fallen trees and fend off a periodically flooding hillside, was all becoming too hard. That last year in particular, 2019, it was so difficult seeing all the hard work we had done disappear in the drought and heat, and we just didn’t have the energy to do what was needed.
Our grandchildren were devastated at the idea of us selling. They had all grown up loving the lifestyle that the Valley offered them. But we knew it was time to go. We tried to find a suitable place closer to the village because we really didn’t want to leave the Valley and our friends, particularly the wonderful Upper River community. However, there was nothing suitable, our house had been sold, so we moved up to Bowral. As we had a daughter in both Sydney and Canberra, it was the ideal location.
We moved two weeks before the fires hit, and felt like rats leaving a sinking ship. Although our place was safe, we were absolutely overwhelmed by the devastation in so much of the Valley. As I write this, you are all cut off by the floods and it is hard to imagine all that the Valley has had to deal with in the last couple of years since we left. I do know we would have found it very hard to cope.
We left the rainforest for suburbia, but we did manage to find a quiet little cul-de-sac where we are surrounded by trees, even though they are of the exotic variety. More importantly, we have sun all day, an absolute godsend after having been in the shadow of the escarpment from 1pm, particularly in winter.
Our life up here is very different, but we are enjoying it. We are both very busy; we have both joined Probus (Chris is now President and I write the newsletter!), and Chris spends a couple of days a week at the Men’s Shed, which he really enjoys. Before we went to the Valley, Chris sold his MG to buy a ride-on mower. When we came up here he sold his mower and promptly bought another MG, and has joined the British and European Automobile Club, which has fortnightly runs. He plays bowls again and has re-established his brewery, so he keeps very busy. I’m involved in lots of U3A courses, one of which I’m now finding myself running, and have joined a walking group. The Southern Highlands has a lot to offer and a great variety in types of lifestyle. We’re still getting used to how easy it is to get around to everything.
So, life in Bowral is good, but it’s not the Valley. We miss our friends and the community and I, particularly, miss that sense of connection I always had, and being surrounded by the rainforest and wildlife. However, we do not miss the lyrebirds tearing up the lawn and garden all the time!
Our decision to leave was the right decision at the right time. I think you really know when the time is right, hard though it may be. My advice to anyone who is contemplating making the same hard decision is: don’t leave it until it is too late.
Our memories will always remain, and it is amazing how sustaining they can be. I often find myself thinking of the nightly walks I always used to take with Toffer. It was always a chance to really commune with nature. There is so much magic in Kangaroo Valley.
Kangaroo Valley Night
My old dog and I, each night for a walk go
down the path, round the shed, through trees hanging low,
into the paddock, up the hill to the gate,
where we pause and we breathe, a good chance to wait.
His nose to the ground and mine to the sky,
Far different visions for my dog and I.
Sometimes mist clouds and the stars they hide deep,
Or furtively, fleetingly outwards they peep.
But, oh, whenever the heavens are clear,
The magic and mysteries of night time appear.
Like fires of ice, stars spark and they flame,
A million flashes caught in the frame.
An arch full of brightness holds up the sky
From low in the treetops to way up on high.
The scale and the weight presses down through the air,
Takes my breath, takes my pain, and my soul is laid bare.
The how and the why, heavy questions to solve,
Oh, how can such beauty just simply evolve?
And tho’ when the mist with the darkness elopes,
Still shining stars pulse, bringing back hope.
They are there in the background; they always will glow,
From their infinite constant, great comfort can flow.
My dog lifts his head and I lower mine,
Our senses replete, our wishes combine.
Down through the paddock, through trees hanging low,
Round the shed, up the path our footsteps they go.
Through the door and so leave the enveloping sky,
It’s a wonder fill’d rite for my old dog and I.
Chris and I send our very best wishes for the wonderful community in Kangaroo Valley.Jenelle Brangwin