Napoleon Reef

I am fortunate enough to have access to a place 2.5 hours’ drive west from the city that I can retreat to from time to time to recharge the batteries, to recalibrate.

The settlement is Napoleon Reef (population 200) near Bathurst in the area of NSW known as the Central West. It is an undulating scenic drive over the Blue Mountains after the M4 to get there.

Napoleon Reef started life as a copper and gold mining locality in 1865. Rusted remnants of machinery from that age – stampers and boilers – still stand silently amongst the scribbly gum, stringy bark and ribbon gum trees today. When I mention ‘reef’ to people they conjure up images of coral and exotic sea life. This is definitely at the other end of the scale, 3 hours at least drive from any coastal waters. And more known for its dryness as opposed to its wetness!

My sister and brother-in-law, Katrina and John, made the tree change 22 years ago now, falling in love with the mud brick property on 2 acres known as ‘Fairlea’ during regular weekend forays there (owners let them stay free on the proviso that they manage the garden). They quickly found it harder and harder to leave the place for the chaos of city living and ended up purchasing in 1995.

In recent times Katrina and John bought the adjoining property, ‘Littleton’, on 70 acres. This is where we stay in comfort with the pot belly stove keeping us warm in winter and where we enjoy the welcome reprieve of cool nights in the summer.

Often we wake up to kangaroos grazing in the paddock in front of the house. Or the resident Belted Galloway cattle slowly making their way round the perimeter as they forage for food at their own resigned pace.

Our recent visit coincided with the first weekend of the month. Katrina transformed the shearing shed at Littleton into an artist’s gallery as part of the collective Bathurst Art’s Trail Colourful banners were put up at the turn off from the busy highway 1km away to indicate that they were open for business.

Samples of Katrina’s work can also be found on the link above and also the following link:

There is information about Littleton – which is available to hire – on this link:

I love the sensation of the seasons changing that visiting the Central West’s colder climate provides. Sydney by contrast has a moderate climate year round.

In winter the wattle in its various shades of yellow – such a positive colour – dot the landscape. In spring it is the fruit trees turn to show off their blossom – almond, walnut, crab apple, wild plum and quince. In autumn the poplars take centre stage. Long slender trees in the shape of feathers with their golden hue. My favourite is the lilac – white, mauve and deep purple – in late spring (November).

I feel connected to the huge canvas of sky at Napoleon Reef, unimpinged is my view due to the absence of buildings. I am saddened to think of the days in the city when I am too preoccupied to notice nature’s ever-changing canopy above me.

I am reminded too of how much noise and tension there is in the city (the traffic gets worse over time, not better) and how insignificant my life is in relation to the big picture with all the quiet space around me – local birds excepted!

During my last visit Katrina and I sat down and compiled a list of all the native birds seen in the area over the last 22 years:

Gang Gang Chuff (12 Apostles) Kookaburra
Willy Wagtail Magpie Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo Currawong Galah
Eastern Rosella Wedge Tailed Eagle Red Wattle Bird
Crimson Rosella Tawny Frogmouth Robin
King Parrot Boobook Owl Mistletoe Bird
Superb Fairy Wren Fire Finch Grey Strike Thrush
Friar Bird Wood Duck Fantail
Butcher Bird Silver Eye Golden Crested Thornbill
Tree creeper Kingfisher Welcome Swallow
Eastern Spinebill Striated Pardalote Mistletoe Bird

Hard to imagine that such a humble part of the world (blink and you will miss the highway turn off) is home to so many winged creatures. The Dollar Bird – not mentioned above – makes its way all the way from Indonesia for the summer months.

‘Town’, ie Bathurst is only a 20 minute drive away. We are reluctant to get into the car and turn on the ignition, so determined are we when there to get away from any semblance of the city routine. However it is worth the trip during a long stay to check out the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and drive around the famous Mt Panorama circuit – event if you have to stick to the 60km speed zone! The district view from up there is breathtaking.

22 years and numerous visits later, the landscape hasn’t changed much. Only those even tempered locals who for whatever reason have decided to call this part of the world their home have showed signs of time passing. And us appreciative city – stressed visitors. Though we are ageing faster than them to be sure!