On any given Sunday, fathers can be seen unpacking their eskies and portable gazebos from SUV’s, while children wrangling mothers try to remain in control as their offspring squirm to get free to run across the grassy expanse.
The parent groups greet each other warmly and with understanding smiles as each vie for their perfect patch of grass in the picnic area. Children meet and then scoot as mothers set up their mobile dining rooms, taking the notion of open plan to another level.
This is a familiar scene within the boundaries of Walka Water Works, which can be found just a short drive on the fringe of Central Maitland.
Walka Water Works has a special place in the city’s heritage. Once a vital piece of infrastructure that supplied water to the inhabitants of Maitland in the early 1900s, now Walka Water Works supplies the ideal hangout for their descendants in the pursuit of recreation and rest.
The ornate brick pumphouse with an imposing chimney is one of the largest of that era that remains intact. It was built in 1887 and now makes the most stunning backdrop for weddings, functions and photoshoots.
More than 300 species of birds also call Walka home making it a haven for bird watching, though, it’s not just the birds that have chosen Walka as their home, as kangaroos can often be seen relaxing on shady parts of the grassed area, as if taking on the exact characteristics of the human visitors. Fitness inspiration is also big here. There are a total of 12 kilometres of walking trails within the reserve that wind through both lake and bush trails, so no wonder it’s the home of Maitland’s Saturday morning Parkrun.
To take on one of the favourite walking trails, it takes about 35 minutes and is four kilometres. You start by the picnic area, go left and walk along the stone wall by the lake. Follow the trail around the lake and keep an eye out for bush turkeys and a range of water birds.
Back to our families and you can see why the place is so popular. With plenty of space to play cricket or kick the ball around, there’s also a playground, picnic tables and barbeques. You can also launch your kayak or canoe and paddle out to the middle of the lake.
You won’t find it on the Sydney Trains network map, but Walka has a train station. On Sundays the platform is buzzing as a group of volunteers run miniature train rides from 11.00am on a two kilometre loop that takes about 20 minutes and meanders right along the lakes edge. It’s a cheap ride and a great way to spend some time with the whole family.
Walka Water Works: 55 Scobies Lane, Oakhampton Heights NSW
Open: 7 days, 7.00am – 5.00 pm (Daylight saving 7.00am – 7.00pm)
Story by Tess Campbell.