set them free


The walk to the summit of Tomaree Head is not the easiest, but the climb has its own reward.

Standing 160m above the entrance to Port Stephens it offers one of the most stunning views on the NSW North Coast and is one of the reasons when people holiday, as we are now in Shoal Bay, the summit walk tends to become as much a part of daily routine as breakfast and breathing.

But, the last time we came here my husband was still not quite well enough to make the climb, which seemed all the more reason for me to do it – carrying the aspirations of both of us in my backpack, along with an engraved padlock to mark our 20th anniversary.

I’m still not quite sure what came over me. I’ve never had the slightest inclination to carve names in wet cement, etch initials into the bark of a tree or even take out a Valentine’s Day message publicly proclaiming Lambkin I Love You.

Whether it was the seductive power of all those other sweethearts clamped to rails around the uppermost viewing deck or perhaps even altitude sickness, truth is I committed a small act of vandalism in the name of love

Love hurts, so much so that it is destroying some of the world’s great attractions.

The combined weight of thousands of engraved love locks have already caused significant damage to the landmark Paris bridges the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’ Archeveche and the craze is spreading down the Seine.

Panels and even lamp posts have been weighed down by expressions of ardour, and it seems the City of Love has finally reached its limits, launching a campaign to stop the locks with signs proclaiming “Our Bridges Can No Longer Withstand Your Gestures of Love”

Paris in not alone, though it appears mainly over-water bridges are troubled. The craze has afflicted the Ponte Veccchio in Florence, the Ponte Milvio in Rome, the Humber Bridge in Toronto, the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, the Hohenzollern in Cologne, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the SeaCliff Bridge near Wollongong and latterly the Pony Island footbridge across the Yarra.

While it has only been in the last decade the love lock phenomena has really taken hold, the tradition is said to date back to World War I when a young woman deserted by her soldier-lover in the Serbian spa town of Vrnjacka Banja died broken-hearted.

Other young women keen to avoid her fate locked on to their lovers by placing padlocks on the town’s main bridge.

Climbing the stairs with the man this holiday, I carried with me the key and fully intended to unchain my heart now that my wish had been granted. But on reaching the top I discovered all the locks were gone.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service staff who removed the lock explained that locks made of different metals were causing electrolysis, corroding and damaging lookout railings.

However, realising they hold significance to some people, the NWPS has have kept hundreds of love locks that have been forcibly uncoupled and even returned several on request. The NPWS is now considering erecting a sign to deter the practice, which could be followed by fines for those apprehended in the act.

Yesterday we climbed the summit again and there were five new locks clipped in place.

It’s a deadlock then, for now.




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