It has always amazed me how Penrith has grown into such a large city. Most Sydney cities are boarded by other large suburbs, this is where Penrith differs. Penriths neighbours could still fall into the category of “country towns” you only have to drive less than five minutes in a southerly direction to experience the beauty of Australia’s past.
Mulgoa, Wallacia, Silverdale and Warragamba are just some of the small local towns that still remain largely untouched by modern buildings and times. Kind of how Penrith was back in the early 70’s when my parents first moved here.
There are no highways, traffic lights, high schools or large supermarkets. Farmers grow and sell their fresh fruit, honey and vegetables from home. They have built stalls beside their long driveways and payment is often by way of an honesty box. People still trust strangers. The great Australian dream is alive and well.
Growing up I had many friends that lived in these towns. I would often stay over night at a friends place in Silverdale. It was not far from what was once a huge local attraction, The African Lions Safari, a theme park, next to Warragamba Dam, in the middle of nowhere.
I’m not sure if a place like The African Lion Safari would pass OH & S laws these days. The catch phrase “it’s scary but no body cares” would surely be ripped apart by legal teams all over this country. But the African Lion Safari closed down many years ago, it now falls into the category of “dead theme parks” along with Paradise Gardens (now Riverside Oaks) and Australias Wonderland (now an industrial estate).
The concept was quite simple. You would drive your car through a large “gated community”, similar to that of an African Jungle. The safari was home to many “wild” animals including lions, zebras, tigers and bears. It was always best to keep your windows wound up and pray that you did not break down.
These days the land still sits there unoccupied, the tracks are overgrown. The dilapidated buildings house nothing but memories and the fences protecting the outside world still partly remain.
For years after the African Lion Safari closed there were rumours that they still housed some of the animals on the property and if you listened out you could hear them, especially at night. When we had sleepovers we would swear we could hear the lions roaring, it was either that or my friends dad snoring as they sounded quite similar.
At one stage there was talk of a Lioness escaping and terrorising the people in the town of Warragamba as well as killing a local dog.
Funny how my blogs always seem to spark a memory of some kind and send me off on a tangent, I also have a tendency to do this in real life.
So, as I was saying, travel west along the M4 and once you reach the Penrith Mulgoa Rd exit, instead of turning right turn left and visit our neighbours.
These properties are home to horses, sheep, cattle, alpacas and even camel.
Breath in the country air. Bushwalk to the gorge or one of the basins and take a swim. Stop and enjoy something to eat or high tea at one of the historical cafes. Pack a picnic and play in the park. Take a scenic drive to the Nepean River Lookout. Ride a horse. Book a game of barefoot bowls or a round of golf. Visit the Dam or just buy some fruit and vegetables while enjoying the scenery.
Step back in time and enjoy the little things around you because just as our children grow up too quickly so to do our country towns and before you know it you’re living in a big ol city.