July 5th – Bricks, Rings and Frogs

The Ring Walk

The Sydney Olympic Park precinct is regarded as the geographical centre of Sydney, and history shows that Sydney owes much to the area for it’s growth.

The Brick Pit is possibly the last remaining clue to Sydney Olympic Park’s previous industrial relevance. Countless millions of clay bricks were shaped from this location which would have ended up in homes around the city.

The Brick Pit was opened in 1911 by the NSW Government, in an attempt to squeeze into an industry run largely by private operators. I assume it was an attempt to bring down the cost of building in NSW at the time, and perhaps earn the state a few dollars along the way.

The ambitious plan didn’t really work, and with The Great Depression getting in the way, the site was sold to a private operator, and ceased trading in 1936.

During World War II the site was used by the Navy for munitions. Soon after the war a housing boom was predicted, and the state government again stepped in to take control of the site. The Brick Pit continued to provide building materials until 1988 when it was closed for good, and the Homebush precinct was changing around it.

The Brick Pit was also popular with the petrol-heads over the years, with street races around “Brickies” for the locals. Two of the current street names – Nuvolari Place (named after Italian driver Tazio Nuvolari) and Monza Drive are a subtle reminder of some of the nocturnal activities.

In the late 1980’s plans were hatched for an ambitious tilt at hosting the Olympic Games. The Brick Pit was intended to be the Tennis Centre.

But as the site was being primed for redevelopment, a small colony of the near-extinct Green and Golden Bell Frog were discovered. At the time these amphibians were the subject of an intense breeding programme at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo to prevent the species from annihilation.

And so The Ring Walk was built – a 550 metre long walkway, hoisted 18.5 metres above the floor of the pit. The lightweight steel supports are embedded in the sandstone below the surface of the water.

From these lofty heights you can read about the site heritage and significance of The Brick Pit, and also observe the reconfiguration into an environmental feature of the Sydney Olympic Park complex.

I’d also like to shout-out the Past/Lives blog, which is packed full of local historical references. Most places on the internet have 2 paragraphs on the present-day Ring Walk, but very few contain so much local (and relevant) history.

I’ve long intended on walking the ring one day, often leaving home early before a GWS Giants game. However my plans are seemingly always cruelled by the diabolical traffic that surrounds the SOP precinct.

 

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