THE BAY RUN – Sydney’s outdoor gym

The Oarsome Foursome inspire us.

Just a short distance added to my epic circuit around Sydney Harbour this weekend, but to be fair to myself, I did ride the bike to the starting and finishing points.

The Bay Run must be Sydney’s third most popular training loop. I’m guessing that numbers one and two are Centennial Park and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. But on a Saturday morning the 7km pathway around Iron Cove sees a steady stream of exercisers on bikes and sneakers while the rowers and dragon-boaters churn the water.

They range from the taut, toned and terrific to those following doctors’ orders to do something about that gut if they want to make it to Christmas.

I started under the Iron Cove Bridge. That's the new pedestrian and bike crossing on the left. Just joking - we're not in Holland! But the new bridge does have an excellent car-free walking and cycling lane.

From the bridge the route took me along the foreshore by Callan Park, formerly Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, as it was known from 1878 to 1914. These days it’s called simply Rozelle Hospital, though it no longer has any patients.

I have a short personal story about the place…

In 1991 the New South Wales state government announced a grant of money to establish a writers’ centre in Callan Park. It was news to most of us scribblers, and we weren’t sure what to make of the plan to commit writers to a Sydney mental hospital, but prima facie it seemed an excellent idea.

As a committee member of the Australian Writers’ Guild I was invited on a tour of the facilities, to advise on how best to convert and use the designated building.

A nice lady from the Ministry for the Arts led our small writers’ delegation around a large historic edifice in the Callan Park complex. We were impressed, and expressed our delight that there were large meeting rooms suitable for seminars, small cells which would make excellent writers’ offices and kitchens for making coffee to encourage informal contact between isolated writers.

Less delighted were the staff of the psychiatric hospital, who were still using the building and had heard nothing whatever about an impending eviction. Shocked, they were. Angry, even, when the Arts Ministry lady assured them that the decision was a core budget promise and a binding fait accompli.

That evening, I had an embarrassed call from the Ministry for the Arts. Could we come back tomorrow and inspect the place again? They’d shown us round the wrong building.

I’m delighted to report that the NSW Writers’ Centre was established there and has run successfully for 20 years.

And when they suffer from writer's block, the writers can get out and run or walk until the creative juices flow again.

The route - Bay Run

Distance travelled today: 6.5km

Total travelled to date: 61.9km

Total still to go: 255.7

Next: Drummoyne, Canada Bay, Cabarita, Abbotsford

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