Ewingsdale, near Byron Bay, is a former rural district that is now home to a range of development that includes a limited amount of housing and Byron Shire’s hospital. Close by is a shady lane named after an early farming pioneer in the district, William Flick (1862-1950.) His family home, across Ewingsdale Road, was originally known as Carabene, and is now part of The Farm. This agricultural initiative describes itself as ‘a hub of micro businesses all working towards the common mission to Grow, Feed, Educate.’ William Flick played a vital role in the local community, and was instrumental in the building of a church, a community hall, and a school house that has long-since disappeared.
Curiously, it was his second child William Albert Flick (known as ‘Alb’) who made his name on posterity through patenting an arsenic compound used for termites that led to the formation of Flick Pest Control, and his elevation to the role of corporate CEO.
The turning, close to the Byron roundabout, is easy to miss, and the best landmark is a Holcim depot on the left corner. Beyond is a wide dark lane dominated by a long row of large mature Moreton Bay fig trees on the left that in some places are growing buttress roots down into the ground. These monsters evolved from seedlings planted by schoolchildren in the 1930s to celebrate Arbor Day.
The transition between industrial zone and rural backwater is very sudden. There is some traffic noise from the nearby highway, but it blends into the background. The day has seen some occasional light showers, but is now mostly sunny with a few fluffy cumulus around.
I have a history with this place. When it was the old Pacific Highway, and the Byron turning was a simple T-junction of two-lane roads instead of a sprawling highway interchange, I spent many meditative hours at the corner with my thumb out, waiting for a lift. Generally a car would stop within fifteen minutes.
The area looks at a glance like a hotspot for illegal camping, and unsurprisingly there are signs along the road prohibiting this – unless you are nocturnal or live a rock ‘n roll lifestyle, and sleep during the day. Indeed, there is one small camper van parked under the trees, with the sliding door open.
Appreciating being here is a case of being Zen about your surroundings, taking in both beauty and ugliness without a too-judgemental eye. A modest amount of litter has been left in the vicinity by previous campers, but it is not enough to really detract from the appeal of the place.
On the right is an Anglican church dedicated to St. Columba, an evangelist who spread Christianity to the Scottish Picts in the 6th century AD. A short distance further on is Ewingsdale Hall, with a date of 1908 marked on it. The church was built slightly later, in 1915.
Somewhere behind me, a car alarm sounds for a short time. The grass is in beautiful condition, stretching back some distance from the road. The sunny scene looks at though it was teleported out of the 1950s, a nostalgic time-travel journey back to an old-fashioned uncomplicated Australia.
In the distance, a car squeals and accelerates off. Further along, under the figs, a abandoned red plastic fold-out table has been assembled as if ready for use. The only residential house anywhere near to the road is also on the right, a little distance past the hall. Ancient white fenceposts lining the lane have paint flaking off, and are missing their top bars. Behind is an area of woodland.
The lane continues for a few hundred metres, ending with a cul-de-sac dominated by a tall highway embankment beyond. As the end comes into view, the trees (representing mystery, beauty, shade and summer coolness) eventually give way to harsh sunlight and burnout marks.
It is odd to frequent this spot, then forget entirely about its existence for years in the process of getting from A to B, and finally to come back and fully appreciate its qualities.