Monday, April 18, 2011

The healing waters of Moree's artesian baths

There’s lots of sitting, sunbaking and hanging around at Moree’s hot artesian baths in north-western NSW. The 38 and 40 degree pools are full of bodies; mainly ageing bodies seeking healing in the mineral rich artesian water.

Mature women mingle in their colourful cossies covering ample bosoms and broadening middles. Gold chains with crosses and emblems hang around their necks as they let the spray jets massage their arthritic limbs.

Their husbands with their hairy chests and moustaches are there too soaking up the curative powers of nature’s magic, and renewing friendships made from years of visiting the spa town.

The water in Moree's two spa pools is drawn from the Great Artesian Basin, 900 metres underground. The mineral rich artesian water was discovered by Canadians, Crawford and McCray in 1895.  While searching for a reliable source of irrigation water, they sunk a bore into the Great Artesian Basin.

Soon after, 2,700,000 litres of hot water gushed from a depth of 951 metres, flooding nearby stores and the newly constructed Victoria Hotel which still stands across from the pool today.  Following the sinking of the bore, a makeshift pool surrounded with railway sleepers was constructed so that residents could start 'taking to the waters.'

The natural artesian mineral waters are believed to have curative powers. Just ask Ana Bulic, who moved to Moree with her husband and two sons 27 years ago to be near the spa baths. Born in the former Yugoslavia, Ana says spending time in the hot water takes all her tiredness away and makes her feel very light, alive and energetic.

"I've had two hip replacements and a knee replacement," says Ana. "If I didn't come here I'd be bent over and terrible. But now I am like a 15-year-old!"

Stayed tuned for more on the history of Moree's artesian baths and meet the 'bard of the baths'.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The last days of Petersham Pool

All the regulars were at Petersham Pool this morning. Many of them were having their last swim before it closes on Sunday. They were also enjoying the pool in its original state, possibly for the last time. While plans are not yet approved, it is envisaged that over winter Marrickville Council will redevelop the nearly 50-year-old complex.

The locals admit their pool, officially called the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre after the gold-medal winning local, is in need of some work. At the same time they say they will miss the unpretentious, 'daggy' place, which opened in September 1962.

Lu Bell, who has lived in Petersham all her life, started swimming there in 1965 after returning home from a number of years backpacking around the world and living in Canada.  She remembers the days when there would be queues of people lined up in Petersham Park waiting to get into the pool.

With her family well-connected with the local council, in the late 60s and during the 70s Lu had a key to the pool. This enabled her to swim at 5am each morning before heading off to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she worked  as a medical secretary. 

"My parents were very keen Labor people. There was only Labor here in those days - no Greens or Liberals. And so they knew councillors. I can't remember the opening time of the pool but it was a bit late so they gave me a key at the start of the season and I returned it at the end. They were different times and things change."

Petersham resident Matt O'Neill has been swimming at the pool in park since he and his wife moved to the suburb in 1975. His four children spent their childhood there. He says it was great having a pool so close. "You could just roll out of bed and head down. I remember one fellow used to walk down to the pool in his dressing gown.

"It's sort of hidden; people don't know it's here and we like it that way," says Matt.  "It is definitely one of the best pools in Sydney. It's so quiet and you can always get a lane to do your laps."

Joe from Summer Hill calls the pool paradise. He swims there seven days a week and loves gazing up into the large trees in Petersham Park that overlook the aquatic space. As he very leisurely breast-strokes up and down, the Portuguese-born 69-year-old says he expects to see monkeys in the trees.

Sunday is your last chance to experience this inner-west beauty. It may not be as peaceful as usual on Sunday as the council has organised an end of season open day with free admission (between 10am and 2pm), jumping castle and great family fun.

At the pool you can view plans for the upgrading which include reconfiguration of the existing 6-lane, 33-metre pool into an 8-lane, 25-metre pool. Other changes include a a new children's wading pool, new splash deck, a new cafe, modified landscaping and outdoor seating area with additional shade structures and introduction of a new filtration system. The pool's amenities and change facilities have already been refurbished and are very smart. Stay tuned.