Twelve of us undertook the paddle down Ghinni Ghinni Creek at Coopernook on Sunday 15 November. We split into two groups with some of us going right down & exploring Dickensons Creek which branches off to the right just shy of The Other Side Café. Without the lure of coffee & decadent cakes devoured in the shady garden of the café, this paddle will never be quite the same!! (The café was a victim of the early COVID shut down, the owner electing not to continue the café side of her business, sadly for us & many others ).
We had an enjoyable paddle on this winding creek flanked by farming land on both sides & tiers of river & grey mangroves which were in full flower. A few stunning jacaranda trees towered above the trees, their mauve crowns glorious against the backdrop of blue sky, while their fallen blossoms floated on the water. The white mangrove flowers smell a bit like privet but not as strong, & set off some sneezing amongst those of us prone to allergies!!
Ghinni Ghinni means ‘mud crab’ & Coopernook means ‘elbow’ in the local Biripi language. The latter refers to a bend on the Lansdowne River that resembles an elbow in shape. Ghinni Ghinni Creek runs between Jones Island & the mainland & is approx.. 9 kms in length. It has entrances into both the Manning & Lansdowne Rivers. In the early 1900’s, droghers came up the creek to collect casks of tallow & bags of bones & hide. The hides were salted & bagged up. ( Droghers are cargo boats; described as blunt ended & flat bottomed river boats with plenty of deck space they were generally of robust construction & shallow draught making them ideal for rivers & creeks carrying all manner of goods & foodstuffs to isolated hinterland communities & returning with raw materials to be sent to the bigger cities via ships ). The droghers had to arrive & depart from the Coopernook end as they could not pass under the Ghinni Ghinni bridge. To turn, they were pooled around. Their cargo was loaded onto north coast boats at either Coopernook or Croki wharf & taken to the Sydney markets. Local identity of the times, author & poet Henry “Hawkeye” Edwards recorded that in the 1880’s sailing boats went up Ghinni Ghinni Creek picking up corn from farms. A big wooden plank would be put out between the boat & the bank in order to load the corn. ( The north bound bridge over the Manning is named after “Hawkeye” ). Helping out with boats on the creek could be dangerous work. On March 10, 1891, Hawkeye was involved in an accident at the Cundletown steamers wharf. While acting in the capacity as an agent for a company, he was assisting the steamer Rosedale to dock at about 11pm at night. While standing on an old stone jetty, lantern in hand & waiting to catch the rope to secure the vessel to the wharf, he slipped & fell on his head & side & was rendered unconscious. Fortunately one Constable Hogan was present & rescued him.
The baker, butcher & grocer all plied their wares up & down the creek. The grocer, a Mr. C.L Harris had a boat called the MYRA ( see photo ) fitted out with shelves & housewives could get a wide range of goods & trade their eggs for groceries.
Coopernook was originally a small river port & developed as a result of sawmilling & ship building. Its wharf was one of a number of wharves along the Manning & its tributaries. There is now a monument in its place as most of the original wharf lay submerged in the river in a deteriorated state. It was proclaimed a village in 1890. The old pub was built in 1928 & the Bascule Bridge over the Lansdowne River was constructed in 1933. The bridge was removed as a result of the Pacific Highway upgrade but the tower component was installed on the foreshore in front of the pub for its historical significance. ( A Bascule bridge is essentially a lifting bridge; it is a moveable bridge with a counter weight that continuously balances on a pan or leaf throughout its upward swing to provide clearance for boat traffic. The word ‘bascule’ is from the French & is a term meaning balance scale.
Five of us paddled up Dickensons Creek which was very pleasant. It is more narrow than Ghinni Ghinni & we got as far up as a log stock crossing. As the tide was still running in, we decided to turn around rather than risk getting caught out on the return paddle.
After our paddle, the day was heating up & it was pleasant to have lunch in the shade overlooking the ramp & foreshore.
Thanks Martin for volunteering to lead the shorter paddle .