After 22 years, it still astonishes us.

We live only 20 minutes from the centre of a big Australian regional city, but our front door looks onto farmland, rolling green hillsides, towering gum trees and astonishing birdlife.IMG_0559

Newcastle is a bustling tourism and industrial city on Australia’s eastern coastline, about two hours from Sydney.

The second biggest city in the state of New South Wales, it sits around a busy working harbour, with plenty of river and beach scenery.

Newcastle is also framed by hills and Lake Macquarie, the largest saltwater coastal waterway in Australia.

When our neighbourhood was developed in the city suburb of New Lambton Heights, local authorities had the good sense to set aside a section of bushland and rainforest as a community park immediately above our house.IMG_0558

Some landowners followed suit and, to date, have preserved a ribbon of former farmland.

This sums up what is In Our Backyard : a backdrop of towering gum trees, running streams and native birds mingling with the vibrant colours and scents of the lavenders, bottlebrush shrubs and camellias in the many big gardens.

We look out on native bushland from front and back and our street ends in fields and paddocks, creased by rocky outcrops and thick scrub.IMG_0562

It’s an honour to live amongst such natural splendour and even more so because we can still enjoy the attractions of the city literally right at our doorstop.

But, it is the community park that really adds the icing to the cake.

A refuge from the heat of the Australian summer and an ideal place to walk the dog or kick a football with the grandchildren, this parkland is our own little Wonderland – something treasured by the neighbourhood.

There is an open grassed area containing a picnic table and swings for the children.

But, the formal park area is surrounded on three sides by a green wall of white ‘ghost gums’, vines, creepers and strips of rainforest so dense that you cannot see more than two metres into the bush.IMG_0557

The area is dissected by a small creek that bubbles past, also unseen but audible clearly amid the tangle of nature.

We often visit just before sunset when the final rays of the day streak down between the trees and the bush turkeys come to the fringe of the scrub to scratch for food.

It’s a delight to sit quietly absorbing the beauty and solitude and listening to the chorus of birds farewelling the day.

Australia is truly blessed with natural birdlife and our backyard is fortunate to attract many species.

The ‘ping’ of Bellbirds; chatter of finches, sparrows and honey eaters; and coo of bush doves is ever present.

On most days, we catch sight of brightly coloured Rosellas and numerous species of bush parrots and, if we are lucky, there are also Kookaburras, whose distinctive laughter echoes back and forth through the area.

The area In Our Backyard also offers a superb front row seat to the legendary Australian sunsets, when the skies put on a show the equal of anywhere in the globe.

Our Backyard is special to us, but I doubt any words could adequately do it justice.

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