Murder mysteries, movie stars, muffins and Mobil petrol. A boat filled with concrete, bikies, a view of the river, and a long winding road. Helicopters, Harleys and the hum of the freeway in the distance.
What are we talking about? Hollywood? No, Pie in the Sky.
Perched on a hill top by the side of the old Pacific Highway north of Cowan is a haven for weary travellers, day-trippers, families and anyone who fancies a good hearty pie, home made tea and scones, or a large bowl of wedges.
This amazing shop has its own friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and you get almost a community feeling when you drop in, find a table overlooking the most wonderful bushland view and sit back to drink your coffee and catch up with friends.
No matter what day you choose or what time it is, there is always a surprising collection of bikes, exotic-looking trikes or perhaps even a bright red vintage truck. Cyclists call in, the police stop by, a helicopter pilot calls ahead to make sure there are no cars parking on his helipad, and the Ulysses Club get together after a hard day on the road. There is the sound of relaxed laughter, lively conversation and the warbling of magpies.
Huge trees shade the tables outside, and in winter an open fire warms the dining room, providing a cozy, intimate feel.
Pie in the Sky has not always been the well-known refreshment stop it is today. It started out as a railway canteen for the fettlers as they worked on the northern train line, which has been so important in the development of this northern part of Hornsby Shire. In fact, the land is still owned by Rail Corp. and a railway tunnel goes right under it. Once the need for a railway canteen was no longer there, the spot became the site of a Mobil petrol station. There are many memories of motorists in the 40’s stopping for petrol or water after car engines had boiled climbing up the steep gradient from Brooklyn.
It was while the petrol station was operating that a worker, Mr. Best, chanced to find a revolver by the side of the road in a pool of blood. No body was discovered, but a second revolver was uncovered with six bullets still in the chambers.
Like so many other roadside businesses on the Pacific Highway, the petrol station fell victim to the opening of the F3 in 1968, which diverted passing traffic away. It fell into disrepair, and then was bought by a gentleman who started its career as a pie shop. Initially, it was not a huge success. and was sold to a Mr. Tom Ransom and later to his son who both built it into the thriving business it is today. The pies are not your ordinary pies. They are full of amazing fresh ingredients such as lamb honey & rosemary, chicken honey mustard, beef burgundy, apple and rhubarb, apricot and blueberry, and have to be tasted to be believed. You can see the chunks of meat!
The final transformation from petrol station to pie shop took place in October 2012, when the petrol storage tanks were removed. They had been hidden underneath an old wooden boat filled with concrete! How the boat got itself to the top of the hill in the first place remains a mystery. Unfortunately the boat is longer there as it fell apart when moved.
Pie in the Sky has had its brush with danger during its history. Bushfires are a constant threat. In 1957 the garage was threatened and in fact, in 2002 a bushfire burnt down the sign on the roof. The local fines successfully fought to save the rest of the building. Like all locals, they made the survival of this well loved shop a priority.
Amongst the towering trees, a touch of poignancy is created by the memorial garden to bikies who have lost their lives on the treacherous curves of the long winding road.
And the movie stars? Pie in the Sky was the scene of the filming of Lantana – an award winning Australian film starring Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Armstrong, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and other notable Australian actors. Funnily enough, it was a tale of murder and mystery.
So, for a taste of genuine home made soul food, good company, a community atmosphere and a panoramic view, come with me to Pie in the Sky and enjoy this very special part of Hornsby Shire.
P.S. If you’re coming by helicopter, make sure you ring ahead!
HORNSBY SHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
LOCAL COLOUR 43
Helen Vincent and Geoff Bensley