Costa Georgiadis has had a lifelong love affair. A love affair that has shaped his life. We have the story.
Over to Costa…
I grew up in Sydney and was fortunate that my childhood was closely connected to Centennial Park. My grandparents settled in Sydney in the early 1950’s after drought forced them from their farm in Nyngan (far western NSW).
They nestled into a property on Darley Road, right opposite the Park and in amongst the many stables that were scattered through the lanes and streets of Randwick at the time.
So began what would be my connection with the Park, my grandfather turning the backyard into a thriving and productive veggie garden that I would spend many hours in during my childhood.
I have incredibly strong memories of the Park from my childhood. I remember setting off from my grandparents place which was close to the Govett St Gates and walking down to probably one of my favourite destinations, the ponds where we used to watch and feed the ducks. I remember the smell in the air, the colour of the water, the sounds of the ducks and gulls flapping around and squawking uncontrollably. Even the odd eel slinking around in the darkness of the pond floor!
The other area I clearly remember was the sandstone stormwater canals that run alongside Parkes Drive. I used to go there with my sisters and I would ride my tricycle down the centre of the canal when it was dry.
Riding under the bridges was the freakiest thing to do, particularly when you would come out what seemed like on the other side of the planet, and generally with a good cover of spiders webs just to freak you out a bit more. It was so much fun. Dad was a keen photographer and his pictures of this time are simply priceless.
The Griffin statues were another feature that would catch my eye and my sisters from the back of the family station wagon, a 245 Hemi Pacer Valiant. Now that was a classic piece of Australian motoring history for those enthusiasts out there!
This picture of me flying a kite is actually on what is now Centennial Parklands, but is just across the road at Queens Park playing fields where the soccer grounds are and summer touch footy comps take place.
In my teenage and uni years I spent many a Thursday evening in summer playing in the touch footy comps there which was always a lot of fun.
Another part of the Park that I have spent a lot of time at are the football ovals of McKay Grounds. I have refereed rugby since I was at high school, spending many Saturdays reffing a game or two at McKay with Sydney High teams as well as the ovals near the café where Scots play their home games.
I learnt early on that the best way to get close to McKay grounds on a Saturday would be to out my pushie in the back of my van, park anywhere along Grand Drive from before the Randwick Gates, and then cycle right on up to the main oval and park on the halfway line ready to meet the teams and inspect their boots.
Another community space that I love is the area between Lily Pond and Duck Pond where all the paperbark trees are. For more than 20 years now, it is a standard thing for friends and extended family to meet for a picnic in the paperbark forest on Australia Day for a picnic and gathering.
The highlight is always seeing the day close out and enjoying the long afternoon light bouncing around off the paperbark trunks and lily on the pond. The bridge at Lily Pond is a stunning feature in the bigger picture perfect composition of the area there.
And should I go on about Lachlan Swamp – that is a must walk for anyone who visits the park. Within about 15 steps along the boardwalk you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the middle of pristine wilderness, and it actually became the source of Sydney’s early water supply in the 1830’s known as Busby’s Bore.
Do me a favour and take a stroll through the Swamp. It is like a holiday far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
As an uncle I have enjoyed bringing my godchildren to the park and first riding around the kids track. As they have grown we moved out onto Grand Drive, doing lap after lap as their strength and interest in cycling grew. The early morning ride as the light pushes through the Grand Drive tree canopy is something that feels new to me every time I visit. The trees are simply stunning.
Recently, in my role as Host of Gardening Australia on ABC1 (Saturday, 6.30pm; Sunday 1pm) we came to the park to film what we call links – the throws from one story to the next during an episode.
We took the opportunity to make what we call long links, where I have the chance to make a little bit of backstory about where I am prior to the throw to the next segment. And what a special opportunity it was to take people with me to one of my favourite destinations in Sydney, a place that has a very strong personal connection since childhood.
This will air this weekend Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 August 2013. Its great to think that a part of my home town , my story is going to go out to an Australia wide audience.
I was standing in Lachlan Swamp for the closer to the show and it really dawned on me just how much the park means to me: I know it. I grow with it. It nurtures me.
Coming back here is like coming back home.
Oh, and remember that bridge in the Park that he used to ride underneath?