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Saturday, January 16, 2021

A year in review: October 2020

Here are a few of our favourite stories from October.

Flags signal start of lifesaving season

October kicked off with warmer weather, resulting in keen beachgoers hitting the surf.

Red and yellow flags were hoisted at surf lifesaving clubs across the Hunter on the month’s first Saturday. Locals were warned of a summer like no other.

Hotter than average temperatures were forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, coupled with more Australians holidaying domestically rather than overseas thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

This meant beachgoers flocked to Australian beaches in greater numbers than ever this patrol season.

In the same month, Surf Life Saving Australia figures were revealed.

They showed that the 2019-2020 season was a record season for all the wrong reasons, with drowning-related fatalities above a 16-year average.

Hunter Surf Lifesaving president Henry Scruton urged swimmers to do the right thing to avoid further tragedies.

“We’re the friendly ones, dressed in red and yellow, trying to keep everyone safe in the water,” he said.

“But we need swimmers to do the right thing as well – that means swimming between the flags for a start.”

Read the full story here.

Woman charged after driving off cliff at Bar Beach

Drowning-related accidents weren’t the only instances of devastation to hit Newcastle beaches in 2020.

A woman was charged after allegedly driving her car off a cliff and striking a woman at Bar Beach in late September.

At about 10.15am (Thursday 24 September), emergency services were called to Bar Beach after reports a Volkswagen Golf had driven over a cliff and landed on the beach.

A 40-year-old woman was struck by the car, while her 18-month-old child narrowly avoided being hit.

The woman was taken to John Hunter Hospital with serious injuries. Meanwhile, the driver, a 46-year-old woman, was also taken to hospital suffering multiple fractures.

The Wallsend woman was charged with drive manner dangerous cause grievous bodily harm and was refused bail.

Click here to read the full story.

The car being pulled from the water at Bar Beach. Photo: Elizabeth Symington

Hollywood heartthrob helps “rewild” Australia

October also bought about its fair share of good news too, though.

Early in the month, Hollywood celebrity Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky did their bit to support local conservation organisation Aussie Ark.

For the first time in 3,000 years, the Tasmanian Devil was released back into the wild on mainland Australia, providing an historic moment for wildlife lovers across the country.

The wild sanctuary is set to prevent the spread of disease, feral pests, noxious weeds, and fire, which was catastrophic earlier this year.

The animals will be monitored through regular surveys, radio collars fitted with transmitters, and camera traps.

See the full story here.

Double trouble as sisters search for love on The Bachelorette

By mid-October, locals were gearing up to tune into the upcoming season of The Bachelorette, which featured Newcastle’s Elly and Becky Miles.

In an Australian-first for show’s franchise, the sisters shared the season, each looking for love.

Elly first hit the spotlight in 2019, when she put up a fight for Matt Agnew’s heart on The Bachelor. She said returning to the show was nerve wracking at times, but she was excited to bring a little bit of “Newy” to TV screens across the country.

“It was amazing, we had such an awesome journey together,” she told Newcastle Weekly.

“Not only were we alongside each other, but we got to have a pretty amazing, unique adventure together as sisters.”

Check out the full story online here.

Elly and Becky Miles

In the name of fashion and charity: Jessica Collins’ new fundraiser

COVID-19 continued to have an impact on the Hunter even into late October.

This presented an opportunity for local fundraisers to approach things a little differently.

One example was The Jessica Collins Necessitous Circumstances Fund and Bec Boyle collaboration.

Former Australian surf life saving representative, Jessica Collins, fractured the C5 vertebra in her neck while surfing with friends at Snapper Rocks in 2018.

She’s now a tetraplegic, and has experienced a long road of rehabilitation, with her family, friends and the community right by her side.

Fundraisers and GoFundMe pages have helped contribute to her treatment costs, the expenses of modifying her family home, even finding a suitable car.

With in-person fundraising events off the card, athleisure designer and Novocastrian Bec Boyle stepped in to help. She offered her time and skills to design face masks, which were sold to fundraise for Jessica.

Read more, and see pictures of the groovy masks, here.

Newcastle Airport launches new flights

As restrictions began to ease and domestic flights started to increase in frequency, Newcastle Airport launched some new services.

Flights to the world-heritage Lord Howe Island came thanks to a new agreement between Newcastle Airport and Port Macquarie- based airline, Eastern Air Services.

News of the increased route came just 48 hours after the transport hub announced direct flights to Canberra starting in November 2020.

Newcastle Airport Chief Executive Dr Peter Cock said he was excited about the increased buoyancy the aviation industry was facing.

“With domestic borders starting to open, I think we’ll see strong demand for leisure travel within Australia in the coming weeks,” he said.

“We know our customers are keen to fly and with international travel still some way off, we feel the people of our region deserve a range of exciting and unique holiday options.”

Read more via the full story online.

Hunter Valley wineries say ‘thanks a bunch’ to domestic visitors

With the loosening of travel restrictions came a surge in business in the Hunter Valley’s wineries.

From drought to bushfires and a global pandemic, some vignerons in Australia’s oldest wine region have lost thousands of dollars in crops, events, and international tourism.

The region’s 150 wineries welcomed greater visitor numbers than they have seen in more than a decade.

Bimbadgen Estate General Manager Belinda Stapleton, who has worked in the valley’s wine industry on-and-off since the early 2000s, said visitor numbers were currently the best they’d been in a dozen years.

“At first we put it down to post-lockdown cabin fever,” she said.

“That was the June long weekend. But it hasn’t stopped since then. In fact, if anything, visitation has increased.”

See the full story, as well as comments from other Hunter Valley wineries, here.