Sunday, 9 February 2020

The House at Lake Conjola

A satellite view of the Conjola Lake and surrounds. The fire damaged areas are indicated with red markings.
Image: Google Maps
Lake Conjola is a small community on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia, ravaged by bushfire this tragic summer.

This part of the world is very dear to me and my family.  If you would like to help this community recover and rebuild, read on!

A 1950s style fibro home with yellow walls, white windows and trim and red brick foundations and tank stand. a grey car is parked in the front right.
The family holiday house 1988.
It contains many happy memories.

Both sides of my family have been holidaying at Lake Conjola for decades. 

This holiday house has been in my family from the 1950s until 2012 when it was sold to new owners.
A tall tree frames the left hand side of the photo. Beyond is a side view of the front porch of the yellow building with red brick foundations. In the middle of the building is the back door. On the right hand side is a red brick tank stand with two cream-coloured water tanks on top and a hills hoist rotary washing line in the foreground.
Back door and yard of house
with tank stand and Hills hoist
(typical inclusions in Australian backyards).
January 1988

In this day and age of greedy property developers, I was worried that the home might be replaced by a larger, modern building, as has been the fashion around the country; and with it, we'd be saying a permanent goodbye.

Can you imagine how delighted I was to discover that the new owners have kept the home and turned it into a café!  It's called 'Tilly & Mo'.  

The back yard beyond the tankstand on the left is a grey brick barbecue..  At the end of the garden, covered with vines is an 'outback dunny' next to a yellow garage.  Behind the buildings is a tall canopy of native trees.
View from the back door
with barbecue, garage and 'dunny'
(a 'drop' toilet).
The surrounds are heavily wooded.
We used to walk along a track through that bush
as a direct route to the beach (Pacific Ocean).
January 1988
With that news, came the hope to return one day and relive some memories over a cuppa in that happy space.

The holiday township of Lake Conjola is nestled between Conjola National Park and Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve

The house is on a corner with plenty of beautiful tall trees around it.  

My greatest pleasure was to sit on the front porch: at dawn to enjoy the cacophany of native birds; and at dusk to witness the quiet activity of local kangaroos as they emerge from the bush on their regular evening route, looking for an easy feed from people's gardens, the picnic area near the sports club and native vegetation along the reserves and verges.

The house now has a low beige 'colourbond' galvanised iron fence with grey-blue fence posts and rails. The home now has a veranda covering the front porch. The front door is widened and modernised. An extension has been build on the right hand side. The home has been re-roofed with forest green corrugated iron and the walls repainted in a pale green with white window trim.
Over the years the house was renovated to become a permanent home.
December 2011.
It is such an idyllic, peaceful place, that my ageing relatives renovated the house to make it a permanent home for retirement but eventually circumstances dictated its sale.

"If you want to come down to Lake Conjola, it's your last chance to stay in the holiday house before it's sold."  That was the call from a darling cousin (who still lives in the area) in 2011.

I jumped at the opportunity to take my children to this place that they had only heard stories about so they too could  experience the paradise of Lake Conjola, to sleep and play in the same places I did when I was younger, and to meet lots of cousins that they had never met in person before. It was a very special and precious holiday.

We travelled up and down the New South Wales south coast to show the children all the places that feature in our family history. It is a very beautiful and special part of the world to me.

A corner view of the home which now has a pitched roof and verandah and fencing.  A yellow "for sale" sign is attached to the low front fence.
The home went up for sale in December 2011.
This was the last time that I stayed there.

The prominent corner position made the home perfect for the new local owners, Katie and Kane, to create a refreshing, spacious café  – a place to congregate and relax after a game of tennis or as a walking destination from the nearby caravan parks and holiday cabins.   I love the way they have prettied it up and repainted it in yellow per the fashion of its vintage.

A corner view of the home. It is now painted yellow with white trim and white picket fence.  The front porch has been closed in with windows and a ramp has been added for access. The roof is now a silver grey.
Ready to become a café!
Photo: Tilly & Mo.

I'm especially excited to see it with ramp access.  The last time I had visited, there was no ramp and the steps were tricky for me to navigate with my health issues.

See the Tilly & Mo. café attractively lit up at night on the Instagram page:

See the Tilly & Mo. café in this fun video (Instagram):


Come New Year 2019/20 – now called 'the Black Summer' – you may have seen the news reports about the bushfires.  Lake Conjola residents had lucky escapes. There is only one road in and out of Lake Conjola and that's where the fires came through.  People were forced to flee to the lake and the beach to save their lives.

Katie and Kane were in a bad position.  The fire destroyed the neighbouring area of Conjola Park, reducing it to rubble, including Katie and Kane's family home. They shared a photograph of the devastation on their Instagram page:

[News reports are added to the 'Links' section below.] 

Pasture in the foreground with dairy cattle. In the centre are lines of trees with hills of forested bushland in the background. The sky is heavy with clouds.
This was the view south from the Conjola turnoff from the highway back in 2011
as one drives through the area known as Conjola Park.
(The turnoff can be seen on a couple of videos linked below.)
I feared that tangible elements of my family history were also destroyed.  I reached out to Katie and Kane to support them in their grief.  What can a person do from so far away in South Australia?

Despite such terrible circumstances, there was a ray of light. It turns out that the holiday-house-come-café miraculously remained untouched by the fires.

Looking over the car dashboard and through the windscreen, on the road ahead is a white lorry. A diamond shaped road advisory sign is on the left. Either side of the road is heavily wooded with lots of green undergrowth.  This is echidna country!
The road into Conjola
in happier times.
A beacon of hope for people of Lake Conjola.  The best way to help is to tell everyone about Tilly and Mo. café.  That will help Katie and Kane support their employees and the local economy. We need money to come into these bushfire-ravaged communities to aid the recovery efforts and keep them viable.

One south coast leader on national television, aired her fears of people leaving the region because of the loss of employment opportunities. We cannot let that happen, especially not to people who have taken an important relic of my family history and breathed new life and love into it.

So, if you get the chance, travel to the south coast; visit Lake Conjola.  Support the businesses in the region and have a meal or a cuppa at Tilly & Mo.  Tell them Jodie sent you!

View of Lake Conjola. In the foreground are some rushes along the grassy bank. The far shore is covered with bush right up to the water's edge. The blue sky is dotted with white clouds and reflected in the water. Two kayakers appear as red and blue dots on the surface of the lake in the middle distance.
View of Lake Conjola.
Kayaking and fishing are popular pastimes here.

Breaking News

This week brought long-awaited heavy rain to the region – so much rain that flash flooding is a problem! 

(That's Australia for you! "A land … of drought and flooding rains …" – Dorothea Mackellar, My Country)

Thanks to the rain, the fire that tore through Lake Conjola ("Currowan Fire") is now extinguished after burning for 74 days, across half a million hectares, according to an official declaration yesterday.

Have a look through the links below.  Some of the videos show the drive from the Lake Conjola turnoff after the fire.  I have a very amateur video of the same drive which shows the area as it used to be, before the fire.  It is 523 MB in size which is too large to post here on blogger but if you are interested, please email


Tilly & Mo
52 Main Entrance Road, Lake Conjola NSW 2539
Ph:  02 4456 1187

Lake Conjola Area
News Reports



  1. Ha-ha! I like the dinosaur video. How lovely to see that they turned your family's holiday home into a cafe. Looks like a very nice place and I'm glad to know that it was untouched by disaster. Really mind boggling how much has been lost in the fires. The good news is that Mother Nature always finds her way back. Unfortunately, it takes much longer for humans to overcome and rebuild their lives. Such destruction will continue to happen as long as governments are concerned more about profits than people. The wild animals continue to dwindle because man has mistakenly chosen to believe that they can pave over and build wherever they please, but that is just not the case and it will all continue to fall apart until people finally wake up and realize that the current way of doing things is no longer of benefit. I am really hoping to see overall change from the current status quo but there will definitely be global pushback because the rich just want to keep getting richer and aren't really concerned about the future.

    1. Hear, hear, Tammy.
      There are already signs of regrowth in the fire-affected areas of South Australia however the lack of ground cover for smaller creature and lack of natural food for many animals are major concerns. I do believe that specialists will be / are using drones to do an audit of the surviving wildlife and habitat to guide the wildlife recovery efforts.

  2. A beacon of hope indeed. So sad for all who have lost homes, and friends, and nature in all her tenacity. Take care, dear dear Jodie

    1. I am fine, Mary-Anne. My area was safe. We did experience substantial smoke haze from Kangaroo Island but it was trivial compared to the east coast of Australia (and Sydney in particular). The long-term worry is about the contaminants in that smoke and how that will play out for the population in terms of future health issues.

  3. So much devastation everywhere and from this far away I am sure we have no idea the magnitude of the destruction. I am thinking of you and your family, glad the cafe survived but so sad about all the destruction and death of animals. It is just tragic.

    1. It is very tragic. I hope that the powers that be will now place more importance on mental health and social services and prioritise resources. A report this week said that fewer people than expected have actually taken up the financial grants on offer from the government. The reasoning is that people are still so busy with practical matters like repairing farm fences and cleaning up debris; dealing with shock etc. that many are not in the right frame of mind or have the time and energy yet to deal with bureaucracy.

      These events will have long-term social, economic and health impacts on our communities. Support services for victims of domestic violence, sadly, are expecting an increase in demand due to the stresses placed on people, especially when their usual supports are not available due to the disruption of communities and routines etc.

      I am also thinking about you and your family in the light of tragic events in your part of the world also, Meredith. x

  4. I'm glad that the rain finally came. The people affected are facing such a huge task now, starting to rebuild, my heart goes out to them. And every place has a special meaning, doesn't it? And brings its own memories? Thanks for sharing yours.

    1. Hi Amalia,

      The weather has been much cooler this week and we've had lovely RAIN! I am hoping for a proper autumn this year. The nights are cool and I hope my energy will hold out long enough for me to re-establish an autumn vegetable patch.

      Would you like to know the special meaning of the place where I live? 'Warriparinga' - it is the indigenous Kaurna name meaning "windy place by the river" and it was certainly that today. In the summer we get gully breezes most evenings.

      Which places have special meanings for you, Amalia? :-)