Author Archives: Charley

About Charley

Sailor, mother, blogger, home cook and ex Corporate Project Professional. My great loves are my three girls, my husband, good food, two pet ducks and my faithful Labrador Rhubarb. I’m passionate about getting kids into the great outdoors. When not pottering around the local inshore coastline with my family I can be found at home in The Heron’s Nest otherwise known as “The Messy Pile of Sticks” working on ‘Special Projects’. I write about the things I love at

Christmas in a Mangrove Swamp

When conjuring up the perfect spot for a Christmas breakfast picnic, a mangrove swamp probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind. But if you go down to those woods on a Christmas day you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. The trip down there was very quiet; the boat ramp at Oyster Bay was empty, there were just a handful of kayackers and the odd angler catching Christmas lunch from the tinny.

Christmas Breakfast

Having done a quick reconaissance last week we headed back to Towra Wetlands, a protected tract of mangrove swamp on the South West corner of Botany Bay. There’s oodles of bird life and you can actually explore them without a tinny as there is a board walk accessible from Kurnell (with a permit). Towra is the largest remaining wetland in Sydney and home to the endangered Green and Golden bell frog as well as a nesting ground for migratory wading and shore birds so tread carefully (we just cut the outboard and floated up to the edge of the mangroves). High tide is the perfect time to explore this enchanting mangrove forest as there is the least likelihood of causing damage, the swamp is completely submerged and the fish are jumping. We tied up in the cool shade of the trees for a Christmas picnic of mangoes, croissants (or “Croissonauts” as pronounced by Miss Four) and a flask of coffee.

Mangrove magic 1

Mangrove Magic 2

Mangrove Magic 3

Mangrove Magic 4

Mangrove Magic 5

Mangrove Magic 6

Mangrove Magic 7

Peeping Out

Of course the ultimate Christmas morning luxury is to be spade fed mangoes in the shade of the mangrove trees…

Mangoes under the mangroves

And if you’re really lucky you might catch the odd cyster catcher..

Oyster Catcher

and a sea eagle….

Sea Eagling

…before heading home to stick that other bird in the oven…

Heading Home

Time and Tide Wait for no Blogger

There just hasn’t been time for blogging these past few months. If I took a photo everyday you’d be looking at a whole pile of cardboard boxes and a lot of sweat and swearing. Here’s what the good bits looked like instead (whilst I relocate my writing mojo…)

A trip to Bundeena to escape the packing…

wave watching

 Chart reading

Heading Home

 Lots of takeaway…

A wedding by  the sea…

Norah Head


cake love

More cake love


Flannel flowers and kangaroo paw

Farewell to Brighton Le Sands…but we’ll be back..

Kiting 2

She sells sea shells…a 4th birthday..

Getting stuck into the George’s River..

Rhubarb after her first foray into the mangroves…

Something we’re pondering (because we don’t already have enough renovations in the pipeline)

The last few months have passed at break neck speed and we are now finally looking forward to a long lazy summer holiday (if the summer weather ever decides to make an appearance!). I will be mostly eating cheese and cherries, heading out in the tinny, catching up on some good books and dipping my toe into some ocean swimming like I promised. Oh and finding my blogging mojo from under the packing boxes :). How will you spend yours?



Friday Photo: Modern Day Huckleberry

Matt at Como Wharf

Met a couple of keen kids fishing off the wharf at Como last Saturday. Enjoying the sunshine, experimenting with bait and being very concerned about a plastic bucket floating past that a whale might accidentally swallow. Tres cool. Have a lovely weekend one and all.

A Haggle of Herons?

Source: via Charley on Pinterest

Finally, we swept the cobwebs off the tinny on Sunday and headed for the Georges River to check out our new stomping ground. We move house in two weeks and we are beyond excitement.

A planned two hour trip turned into four, giving me a chance to flex my newly licensed tinny driving muscles. We have explored parts of George’s River before, which I wrote about here, and here.

One of the main purposes of the outing was to check out a tiny mangrove inlet that runs parallel to our new street, below our block. I was pleased to discover that all you can see from the water is a dense tract of bushland and mangroves, with the houses in our street hidden away behind.

Mangrove...somewhere on the George's River

Over the last few weeks I’ve been racking my brains for a suitable house name, possibly translated into Cornish. As we entered the little bay (which shall remain unnamed), we noticed a large group of herons sunning themselves on a disused jetty . I have always thought that herons were solitary birds, hunting alone in a quiet backwater, still as statues scanning the water for their next meal. This bunch numbered at least ten. My mum tells me the proper term is a “heronry” and she’d know because she’s a bird nerd.

When I got home I looked it up in Burnum Burnum’s Wild Things and would you believe there was the white faced heron on page one, the first species listed? I also looked it up on backyard birds where the heron’s nesting habit is described as “an untidy structure of sticks, placed in a tree.” Yep, that sounds appropriate. So there it is, our new home, perched among the trees above the mangroves shall be called “Herons Nest”.

If your house was a nest what kind of a bird would you be?

Wake up we're at the beach!

Queue at the boat ramp

A Rant About Sandy Bottoms

Bob on The Beach

Or lack thereof. I rarely rant here, but I think I will today. After all, what’s the point in having a personal blog if you can’t off load the odd bug bear now and again? Especially if its on topic. Sort of. I am desperate to get out in the boat but remain hindered by matters of moving and real estate so as usual a local beach with the kids for a few hours is the next best thing. Well actually its equally good and logistically easier. I wrote about this here , last autumn and today headed down to the same spot. We hadn’t really planned for an actual beach day so we were ill equipped; a few wipes, some suncream and one clean nappy. After a coffee and a rumble on the constructed stuff we headed for the little beach with the intention of giving the kids a quick play in the sand before heading home. Within seconds Miss four was down to her daks and Miss 15 months was speed crawling to the waters edge fully clothed. Not for long. I let them have at least ten minutes sans suncream to absorb some Vitamin D and then slapped on some factor 30 and a hat each. Bad mummy. They had an absolute ball with my friend’s kids and we got some time out from swing pushing and incessant questions. When I next looked up Miss four had scaled the low sea wall and was practising balancing skills by scaling the railings, above about a foot of water. She was safe. I was watching. A small child on the grass on the other side of the railings spied her and came over. He begged to be allowed on the sand but was told several times over they had not bought spare clothes. I respect his mums choice to keep him off the sand but it did make me a bit sad. After all taking a child within a few metres of a beach but not letting them on it is like taking a labrador into a butchers shop. Was the water too cold? The sun too strong? Sand harbouring dangerous rubbish? People, it doesn’t get much better than spring in Sydney. I grew up in the UK and while you may be surprised to know there are beautiful beaches there, the water is still fricking cold. People actually have babies in Siberia and they survive! Before we know it the Australian summer will be on us and we’ll be snatching beach time before the mercury hits 30 and the sun hits the yard arm and making a dash for the aircon. And how many cities have these kind of spaces within striking distance of the CBD?

We seem to have reached a point where even play outdoors has become very orchestrated. We’re inadvertently encouraging in our children an intolerance of the slightest discomfort at the expense of truly natural experiences. It really struck me that my children and the little boy were within feet of each other in the same beautiful spot but having an entirely different kind of day. After drying Miss 15 months with a spare nappy I sat her on my lap and wished I had my proper camera to capture a macro shot of her salt encrusted downy cheek and wet eye lashes. A little chunk of beachy baby to take home. My friends three year old squeezed into his baby brothers spare dry clothes and gave us all a good laugh.

As much as it annoys me to see children completely reigned in by their parents my issue is as much, perhaps more so, with the minority of horrible humans who have made it taboo for children to run naked on the sand. I’m interested to know what others think about letting the kids get naked on the beach.  And indeed sand. Is it just me or is a sandy bottomed baby a nightmare scenario? What about the suncream; is my ten minutes without it neglectful?

The Royal Treatment

Buying and selling houses is a bit stressful. So to give ourselves a break we moved in with the inlaws last week to minimise “show home” stress whilst an army of potential buyers marched through our home in the lead up to the auction. Reg’s family live in an enviable spot right on the edge of the Royal National Park, with a bush track that leads to beautiful lookouts with views across Port Hacking to Cronulla and the sea beyond.

Grays Point Spring Morning

It turned out to be a great decision in more ways than one as not only did I avoid the ridiculousness of creating home beautiful 4 times in seven days with two children under three and a half, but I benefited from being within a few seconds reach of this beautiful piece of Sydney each and every day. An extra pair of hands enabled a daily dog walk, skirting (Ok it was a quick skip through) the park, crossing the oval and down to the beach with Rhubarb for a swim and a roll in the sand.

Doggie Spa

We went on several bushwalks with the kids, woke each morning to a chorus of rawcous cockatoos and fell asleep each night to the calming hoot of the powerful owl. The week ended on a very high note when at 7am down at the point I witnessed a sea eagle swoop past me on the beach, grab a fish and fly off across the water up into the gum trees. My heart almost skipped a beat and it turned out to be a good omen as we sold the house the very same day. I love this little pocket of the world. Where did you escape to this weekend?


Throw Someone A Lifeline Today and ask “R U OK?”

This week I’m going slightly off topic for a good cause and linking up with Gemma from My Big Nutshell for RU OK Day.

This post isn’t going to be a long one and the contribution I’m looking for won’t cost you a cent. There are lots of other people writing about their own personal experiences with depression and its devastating impact on their lives and the lives of those around them. When I first considered taking part in this link up I didn’t think I’d have any really  direct personal experiences to share. Life’s been kind to me so far, with more of life’s ups than downs to have to deal with. As I mulled over the topic during the last few weeks I started to count up the number of people that I and my family have known over the years who have been affected by depression and I started to realise they really did reflect the statistics. One in five of of us will experience depression at some point in our lives.

The symptoms of depression can manifest in different ways for different people and I am in no way an expert on the topic. The common thread that runs through the situations that have touched my experience of depression is that these people, despite significant challenges in their lives presented outwardly as very positive and bubbly people with everything to live for.

Today, Thursday 15 September, 2011 is R U OK?Day. It’s a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.

On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: “Are you OK?”.

Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.

It’s so simple. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life. You don’t need to leave a comment here. Just pop next door, hop in the car, pick up the phone and ask someone “R U OK?”

The R U OK website has some guidelines on how to start this conversation here

The following are some recommended help and information contacts:




Black Dog Institute

Young people





Culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal backgrounds

Multicultural Mental Health Australia

Local Aboriginal Medical Service

Sydney International Boat Show (if it was 1911)

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Darling Harbour, with the significant exception of the Maritime Museum which is amazing. Its mainly the crowds, the uncosy food outlets and dare I say it, the tourists. Of course I have never been one of those. Add to that an additional gazillion people on their way down to gaze at things they can’t afford (including me) its the stuff of nightmares. However, the good people at the Boat Show ran a great photography competition and exhibition which I entered…








I took my camera down in case there was anything of a nautical nature to catch the eye. Happily the Sydney Heritage Fleet (a truly lovely bunch of people) had a few vessels tied up on the exhibition wharfs. Perfect. Many of the photos that follow are what the whole exhibition would have looked like if they’d run a boat show in 1911. Plus a few other bits and bobs that tickled me.

Crazy things like buying and selling houses and poorly chiddlers have kept me from the tinny lately, a situation that will hopefully be remedied very soon now that spring is around the corner :)

For the Love of a Boat

The Big S

Yesterday a little piece of my heart was taken away. It wasn’t my first born’s first day at school. I didn’t have to take the family dog to the vet. I sold my skiff. You might relate if you have at any point been the owner of one, that some boats take a special place in our hearts, as I aluded to in this recent post. They don’t have to be particularly shiny, classic or even wooden really, although these kind are easy to love.

The little blue sixteen footer was towed back to Middle Harbour yesterday and with it went the last vestiges of pre-family life. It represented for me more carefree days when the working week’s end was punctuated with four hours of salt water blasting, a good dose of sun and more bruises than a stick could poke at you.

My husband and I saved up for this much loved vessel before we got married. In fact if we’d have by passed it althogether we’d probably have been able to afford a wedding sooner. We forfeited a new sofa in lieu of the boat, which we painted blue and called Big Saturday. I’d never sailed skiffs before and spent several seasons standing on its upturned shiny hull admiring the paint job we’d had done instead of an expensive weekend away. In fact our first full new suite of sails was a wedding present from my Uni sailing friends.

On classic Sydney summer days with a 25 knot Nor ” Easter blowing I think of the feeling you get reaching down to Balmoral to the bottom mark, knees buckling at the pull of the kite and the sound of water slapping on the hull as its skips over the wavelets and sometimes a thump as it lands on a big lump of swell. Near misses with sight impaired white haired gents in captain hats on more sedate craft. Ducking a nine year old in a sabot and nearly taking the cap off his head with the tiller extension. Flying through the air when your bowsprit stay breaks downwind and landing head first in the drink.

International 16ft Skiff Regatta

We even took her on a road trip once from Sydney all the way to Geelong, receiving some interesting looks when we pulled up at a vineyard in Gippsland at the end of a muddy dirt track.

The speeds you can can reach in a skiff meant we’d be happy most weekends with a place somewhere between the bottom and the middle of the fleet. That said we had one particularly good season with a few handicap wins that earned us some prize money. Which we spent behind the bar on preso night.

Apart from the many hours of fun I had on that boat, I had as many happy hours on shore with some wonderful people. Skiffs, first designed and built here, are quintessentially Sydney. They made me feel at home in this city, part of a a long established community that still thrives in pockets and nurtures friendship and respect (mostly!) amongst its many members. The cameraderie at Middle Harbour was second to none; as Amelia E. Barr puts it “The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.

So if I am so in love with this boat and those around her why am I selling her? Well she’s been on a trailer at the front of our house for several years, seemingly unloved, certainly unused. Our fellow crew have also got mini me crews of their own too, so rounding up a threesome for a sail has become harder. Better then that she goes to a good home with some whipper snappers,  while we are at swimming school teaching the girls essential skills for righting capsized boats.

Thanks for the memories little blue boat. Do you have an all time favourite boat? Or some last vestige of pre-family days that you struggled to let go of like me?

If you’re not familiar with skiffs, here’s what you’ve been missing :)

16 Foot Skiffs past and present (Courtesy of Belmont 16 Footers and soundtrack by Midnight Oil)

Friday Photo: Stormy Weather (Through a Porthole)

A slightly different Friday ritual, following the lead of Linda from Journey Jottings 

Stormy Weather

 Shot from West Manly just past the aquarium. Edited using the Camera Bag App (Fisheye).

Been a bit bleak on the weather and tinny front lately but hope to bring you some images from the Boat show and the results of the photography competition over the next few days. Happy weekend all :)

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