I’ve been going to a place on the top of a hill a lot lately, needing some time out as I’ve been busy freelance writing. It’s a place called Eric Wright Lookout and it offers a nice view over the town of Byron Bay, the bay itself and the hinterland mountains, which fade into distant shades of grey.
A crooked peak named Mount Warning looms on the horizon and birds and bats swarm across this handsome range at dusk, which is the best time to sit here. When the sun goes down, onlookers typically leave and I sit by myself for a while longer, watching the sky descend into hues of pink, then tangerine.
Mr Byron Bay
I’ve been appreciating this place all the more, as it exists solely due to the efforts of a few Byron Bay residents who fought to protect it from developers. One of them was the late Eric Wright, who former Byron Shire news editor Gary Chigwidden referred to as “Mr Byron Bay“. Eric was a local historian who lived in the area for most of his 86 years. Fifty of these he spent at Norco, which in 1923 was the biggest butter producing factory in the world.
Eric Wright was made a life member of the Byron Bay Surf Club in 1983. He was also the founding director of the Byron Bay Services Club and the foundation president of the Byron Bay Historical Society. Throughout the years he accrued a vast collection of Byron Bay memorabilia and took thousands of photos of this little town before it became the conspicuous haven it is today.
Eric Wright’s efforts to preserve a unique hilltop were rewarded with a plaque in his honour, which tells us the place is home to the endangered eastern chestnut mouse and unique dwarf graminoid heath.
I hunched down at Eric Wright Lookout among spindly tufts of grass, watching the landscape change from houses into miles of bushland, the silvery-blue water of the bay and eventually ashen peaks. It’s a hill that reminds me to spend more time in the world’s wild places.