The little creek near my house is my favourite walking route. Once it was an important thoroughfare for the Wadawurrung people — from the Bay to the waterholes which are the only permanent fresh water in the area. They called the creek Gurnang.
After ‘settlement’ (i.e. theft) of the lands around Port Phillip Bay (Narrm Narrm) by British colonists from 1835 onwards, our peninsula was largely cleared of native vegetation and became an important agricultural hinterland for the bustling port city of Geelong.
When my wife and I came to this area in 2002, the creek, now known as Griggs Creek, was a weed-choked seasonal trickle of water on the edge of town, bordering low-grade pasturage with a few cattle dotted across it.
I’m no great fan of urban sprawl, and was concerned to discover that plans were afoot to build 3,000 dwellings on the other side of the creek — in effect, a brand-new township.
In the event, this well-planned development has brought both recreational and environmental benefits to our community.
Where there was once a gullied cow paddock, there are neat streets of houses — but also wetlands teeming with life. A walking and cycling track winds through parklands planted with indigenous shrubs and trees to the Bay and a perfect view of the You Yangs peaks on the opposite shore.
One family member I was close to, particularly as a troubled teenager (is there any other kind?) was my paternal grandmother, Elsie May Fendt, née Bent, known to me as Nan.
Elsie was an interesting, intelligent woman. She had led a somewhat colourful life in interwar London. She often used to tell me of her exploits with my grandfather Percy, whom I never got to meet, as he died of cancer in the late 1950s.
Percy was a solicitor’s clerk, a short, dapper, dark-haired, barrel-chested man and well … a very naughty boy, to put the most favourable slant on it.
I’ve never been a particularly family-oriented person. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family and think of them affectionately. However, I was taught to be independent and self-reliant as a child, and well, I took the lesson to heart.
Dad later apologised to my newly-wed wife for that. The seed of independence was sown in fertile ground, Dad. Don’t give yourself too much credit.
So … it was a bit of a surprise to everyone, including myself, when I embarked on extensive family research on Ancestry several years ago. Probably Dad’s sudden death in 2010 prompted it. I realised that my family, particularly its senior members, wasn’t going to be around for ever, and that there was a lot that I wanted to know.