Some places carry so much collective history their names evoke memories even before you visit: Casablanca, Paris, Rome. Others have been re-baptised, yet it is the old name which beckons: Saigon, St Petersburg, Constantinople. Others entice on the melody of their name alone, such as Timbuktu, or Koya-san, Japan’s Holy mountain.
Then there’s The Letter A. That’s what the sign says. The Letter A. It’s one of the reasons we bought our retreat.
The Letter A is not on any of our maps, and definitely on Nat sav. Google maps notoriously gets names wrong in this part of the world.
To reach our hidden sanctuary we turn off the freeway and continue along back roads to The Great North Road. Built by convicts and finished in 1831, it was the first road connecting Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter. Remnants of the convicts still remain: sandstone walls and old bridges, carvings in the rocks. Just up from our place is a B&B where convicts were locked in the cellar of a night, after a hard day of labour. The shackles chaining them to the wall remain. A small part of the original Great North Road runs through our property.
Driving north the name makes little sense; on coming back, however, the contour of the roads is obvious as a smaller road veers off through the scrub. The roads meet to form a capital A, with the local fire station sitting on one arm.
Once you start looking, there’s a host of interesting names to discover. Priest’s Ridge Road, (which at first I thought misspelt, as it’s not far from Peats Ridge). There’s Wild Boar Road, Bandicoot Road, Wombat Point Road. Then, on the descent into the valley, there’s the appropriately named Lemmings Corner, where too many bikers have fared poorly. A flat paddock at the bottom is used for landing medical-retrieval choppers.
But my favourite remains The Letter A. Every time I drive past I can’t help but think of Sesame Street. Which is a nice way to start any type of adventure.