One afternoon I decided that it was time do something meaningful and off-the-beaten-track. It was a blue-sky cloudless day, and time to experience a Pimlico sunset.
Pimlico is a small village hidden away south-west of Ballina. For people travelling from Lismore, until a few years ago the junction of the Bruxner and Pacific highways used to be a simple T-junction, but now motorists have to drive towards Ballina for a couple of kilometres, and then double back in the opposite direction towards Grafton. From here, you take the first left turn, signposted to Pimlico.
Getting there without a map involves navigating a maze of roads. However an easy strategy for finding your way is to turn first left on all the sealed road junctions. At one point, the sweet smell of an agricultural chemical invades the car. I wind down the three working windows to get rid of it.
Pimlico’s name has a curious origin. In 1842, a boat named the ‘Sally’ explored the Richmond River, and was grounded in some shallows. At this point, a case of Pimlico Beer (brewed in the London suburb of the same name) was sent overboard, and later washed up on what was named Pimlico Island.
Local newspaper archives on the Trove website show that decades ago the Pimlico community was far more active than today. It has a hall that still stands, and a public school that shut down in 1967. Past decades saw a Wesleyan Church and a Farmers’ Refuge Lodge, part of the IOGT (International Organisation of Good Templars.) Today’s Pimlico is predominantly an agricultural district, with most land devoted to sugar cane, and includes a stretch of houses lined along the river. This is where I was headed.
The water is a rich shade of blue, and the sun is still some way up in the sky over cane fields to the west.
Along this stretch, the far bank of the Richmond River is a few hundred metres away when looking straight across in a south-easterly direction. On the opposite side is the district of Empire Vale, home to arguably Australia’s smallest post office. Both sides of the river are lined by fairly narrow roads. The two places are linked by shared names in addition to the waterway; Empire Vale used to be known as Pimlico South until 1895, while Pimlico had the designation of Pimlico North before 1911.
A pole next to where I am parked has a wire platform with an osprey nest on it. Over the water, close by, an osprey flies in circles, making the ‘chick’ sound. An unexpected salt smell momentarily drifts over. Three Little Corella cockatoo flocks pass low over the water, heading downstream. As with all Little Corellas, they seem to be unable to restrain themselves from making their unusual distinctive calls that are less piercing than those emitted by the Sulphur-crested variety. On the opposite bank, an Eastern Great Egret is hunting in the shallows. A couple of school buses go past.
The houses lie on the shore side of this byway. The first, set far back behind a lawn, is an historic-looking weatherboard cottage with a distinctive pointed roof. With the exception of passing commuter traffic, this is a very quiet neighbourhood. On the river side are a diverse range of mailboxes, boat ramps, piers, pontoons, and small boats. Pimlico was recently in the news because a pregnant cow that had been washed away at Gundurimba, near Lismore, in the April floods, swam ashore here with the help of a boat ramp, unharmed, three days later.
Some birds make an appearance, including a Willie Wagtail, and a pair of Magpie-larks. In the casuarinas overhead, a fairly large group of Rainbow Lorikeets is starting to congregate. Five Masked Lapwings fly off from a landing stage, and four pelicans fly upriver, following the path of the road.
In the east, the sunset is bringing out a glow. It runs some distance around the horizon, in layers that start with dark grey, continuing to light grey, purple, pink, orange, yellow, and blue. The water offers a faint transient reflection, and as the colour slowly disappears from the sky, it turns steadily to a pale grey with a slight pink tint. The pink grows stronger.
Dusk is in its early stages, and to mark its arrival, three buoys in the river are flashing red. When I next look at the sky, after an interval, the glow has swung around to a southerly direction, with the orange colour tinted by horizontal bands of smoke. Above, the sky has a delicate pink wash. The river reflection is more marked, but is already fading.
In the west, when the sunset comes into view, it is in the form of a rich red.
On the nest pole are a couple of ospreys that fly away at my return, but which will be back very soon. It’s time to leave.