Passing Thoughts Around Richmond

The narrow roads contrast with the expanse of the plains surrounding the Hawkesbury as the river meanders down from the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The intense aroma of fresh grass finds its way to my nostrils. A various range of buildings, from brick through wood to tinshed, dot the landscape. Young gum plants are lined up in rows to ensure a food source for koalas. The Blue Mountains are not far away, but retain a plateau-like presence on this rather amicable day, and yes they do indeed have this tint of blueness for colour.

Tucked in the north-west, as far away from the Big Smoke centre of Sydney, but still included in its greater area statistics, lies Richmond, part of New South Wales Governor Macqaurie's inland drive from Sydney Harbour more than a hundred and twenty years ago. I had been to Windsor in recent times, but not this other major centre only fifteen minutes by car from Windsor. Nestled not far from the main road to the Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens (one of the trio of significant gardens for Sydney), its low lying topography does not detract from its charms. A noticeable oval sits in the centre of the town, a neat collection of shops and residences encircling its inner core. As expected, its long time base of agriculture lingers on, with equine breeding centres, groups of dairy cattle and shorn sheep all dotting the late spring scenery.

What jumps out in captivating attention is the RAAF base in Richmond. I noted it before as a vital link in the supply chain of resources and troops from Australia to involvements oversea, with Darwin as the other noted connection. Political leaders flying from overseas can land in Richmond if they do not want to use commecial airports. The configurations of the airbase are bigger than my expectations, and I was delightfully surprised how the harsh realities of air defence can blend nicely with the residences of its staff and support facilties like hospitals. This has resulted in a self-contained suburb or campus with full length runways. Although understandable and necessary, the continuous fence around the base is a little jolt to my perceptions of Australian openness and design. There was a whole range of aircraft lined up on view for us travelling on its publicly accessible boundary road - a sight that will more than provide a flutter of excitemnt in the imagination and heart of any budding pilot in a ten year old. I could not help thinking of the former RAAF base in Butterworth across the channel from my home island of Penang.

The university campus in Richmond offered remarkable experiences. Groups of deer sat in committee-like posture in a paddock. A heritage building now is livened up as student residence. Faculties are referred to as colleges.Almost every building does not have a second storey. Numerous and clear signs and maps make it easy to locate specific buildings. A friendly student asked Carmel and me if he could help us, as we stood in front of the community notice board wondering what "HAC" stood for. Teaching buildings looked more inviting and not like entrances to overly commercial set-ups. I had a penchant for the window designs in Mark's office -they offered protection and good views of the outside, whether in sunshine or rain.

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