Playing in the Beecroft Bush.
In the 50s the Beecroft Bush was the Devlin’s creek valley. To us the Beecroft Bush was essentially a large expanse of wilderness. It stretched from the Pennant Hills Golf Course in the west, over the bridge at Murray Farm Road to Cheltenham Oval in the east. Austral Avenue to York Street was the northern edge. Murray Farm Road was to the south where there were chicken and vegetable farms. (Although these bushy areas remain classified as reserves, they have been encroached on by the M2 and more recently (2014)by construction related to the North West Rail Link.) The Beecroft Bush had everything. It had secrets, it had special places, it had tracks and it had Devlins Creek. Some special places were Elephant Rock, Council Rock and drystone circles, found south of the creek and in the territory of a rival gang, the Martins, who lived on Murray Farm Road. Elephant Rock, a lump of sandstone, looked like a baby elephant with its trunk hidden and its eye looking up the hill to the Bush’s the entry from Austral Avenue. Council Rock, near the Beecroft scout hut (then 2nd Beecroft scout hut)was a place for holding meetings or just sitting and enjoying the spirit of the place. The dry stone circles, now vanished under the M2, were useful as forts. Devlins creek itself was an important place but we didn’t swim in it, as everyone’s septic tank ran into it and it stank. The Creek was a great place for catching big black yabbies: we used strings with meat as bait or caught them in traps made from chicken wire. We threw them back because they looked awful with slugs crawling over them - the creek was filled with sludge from septic tanks and smelt unpleasantly. (Beecroft houses were not connected to the sewer until 1964). Play involved stalking and ambushing the Martins, the rival gang who lived on the south side of Devlins Creek on Murray Farm Road, and they ambushed us. Stones were thrown but apologies would be exchanged if anyone was hit. Finally, after someone was hurt, parents told us that our games were too rough so a truce was worked out, with both gangs agreeing to stay on their own side of the creek, except that neutral territory was the footpath from the scout hut down to the creek and up to Murray Farm Road. The Bush was a fun and free area for all and our dog Jip knew it and would take part in all the games. Cruelly we used to throw our faithful dog off bridges, as Jip hated water, until he learned not to be seen when we were crossing the bridges. On one occasion Devlins Creek was in flood - roaring, frothing water filled the valley. Our friend Richard bravely showed how he could stand in the middle of the tree over the creek and we all had a go, excited by the rain and the roaring water just below our feet - until my brother John slipped off. He hung on to the log, arms wrapped around the rough bark with the flood swirling around him. While we were laughing, Jip jumped in and swam to save John who succeeded in climbing out and helping Jip out also. What a brave dog!
Playing on the Beecroft Village Green
The village green had swings, monkey bars, seesaws, roundabouts and a slippery dip and was a major play area for our gang. As we enjoyed playing on all these we could watch the trains go past: electric passenger trains; sometimes monster Garrett steam engines with their long noses and great loads of freight cars; and the speedy 38 class green steam engines, pulling passenger cars to Newcastle. Sometimes these great engines would make the ground shake as they hammered their way up the hill. The swings on the Village Green were scary because we could work the swing up so high that the chain would go slack and fall back. Then it would come tight again and swing you backwards and up until you could look over the top bar of the swing. Again the chain would go slack and you would free fall for a little. If you kicked your legs hard forward and leant back at the bottom of the swing you would rocket up again to repeat the whole adventure. Jip would race backwards and forwards barking and following the swing as it hurtled through its trajectory. Although we tried sitting him in our laps, he had so much fun chasing the swing that he decided he did not want to be on board. We would hang on to the monkey bars and swing our bodies and catch the next bar until we reached the end. If we helped Jip up onto the top of the horizontal ladder he would walk along on top as we swung from bar to bar underneath but he could not get down the ladder by himself and would whimper until we helped him down. We would spin around and around on the roundabouts until we got dizzy and sick in the stomach while Jip would bark and skip with pleasure as we whizzed around - he would never get on but would run around one way and then back again. However, Jip would climb the ladder of the slippery dip and run down the slippery slide, taking his turn after one, two, three, four children. When great action was happening in the playground Jip would move from one to another, participating fully in all the activities. He spread his patronage!
A family story, often told, concerned a summer's evening when Dad was observing our play, standing on the footpath next to the School of Arts. He had come to tell us It was time to come home for tea. He noticed that a "red rattler" had stopped at a red light just before Beecroft station. Heads were at every window and there was a crowd at every door watching as Jip went through his routine on the play equipment causing a great cheer to go up from the passengers enjoying this spectacle. As Dad told the tale, when the light turned green the driver was so entertained with the Jip show that he failed to move the train on to Beecroft station for some minutes. The story went around that Jip and his playground tricks had stopped a train!
Extract from Peter Stace’s Story ‘That Fabullous dog called Jip’ located in the Beecroft Cheltenham Historical Group archives .
Edited by Lesley Goldberg