• Helen Avaient

A puzzling mystery in Railton Tasmania

Before he died in 1981, Norman Sykes most generously left a 40 acre block of land to the Kentish Council. He instructed them that the land be used as a nature sanctuary. Today, visitors can enjoy walking through this Sanctuary and marvel at the natural beauty and wonder about the generous man who bequeathed it to his adopted land.


The serenity of the place moved me as I wandered around the walking tracks. It was peaceful with a tranquility that was only broken by the sound of the wind through the leaves, and the cries of native birds. It was a wet day that I ventured forth here, and in the damp there was beauty both high above and at ground level.


Norman was an amazing man. Born in 1896, he was a fighter pilot in World War 1 and had an engineering degree from Leeds University. He worked for several large engineering firms in England and met his Australian wife Gladys there. Gladys was travelling and working in England after graduating with a maths degree from Melbourne University.


In 1947 the Sykes and their two children moved to Melbourne, Australia. However, the family soon moved to Claude Road, Sheffield and later to Devonport Tasmania. It was then that Norman purchased the 40 acres of re-growth bushland in nearby Railton. After Gladys died in 1953, Norman became disillusioned with modern living and moved to his Railton Sanctuary, giving up the comforts of city life.


He has been described as an eccentric, living in a shack by himself, and riding a pushbike from Railton to Devonport. This is a distance of around 20kms each way. That same bicycle was used by Norman to generate electricity for a reading lamp. This would have seemed strange in the 1950s, but Norman was an early conservationist. He even collected dead animals from the roadside and cooked them up for his meals.


In his sanctuary, Sykes planted silver birches, oaks and walnut trees amongst the gums. Today, visitors to the Sanctuary can wander through the trees, and on the grassed areas, visitors can sit at the various tables and seats to soak in the beauty, or enjoy a picnic among the bush.


Many people come here to meditate. Which is only fitting, as another feature of the reserve are the puzzling monuments placed there by Norman’s son Ian (1937 – 2020). Ian was a graduate of Melbourne University, like his mother, with science, economic and commerce degrees.


Ian, like his father, was seen by some as an eccentric. A highly intelligent man, he worked in mining technology and politics, but people remember him navigating the streets of Melbourne on a bike, carrying his dumpster-diving treasures. Continuing to study numbers and languages was his passion. In 1990 an upside down pyramid object with strange writings appeared in the reserve. Etched into the pyramid are the names of famous persons from the distant past.


Between 2002 and 2003, Ian erected more stones in the Sanctuary.


The stones are inscribed with strange and mysterious writings, comprising grids, mathematical equations and formulas. The mathematics is said to explain the origins of the universe and spirituality.


Theories from Pythagoras, Confucius, the Sumerian Oannes, the Indian Kapila, the Egyptian Imhotep, the Chinese Fu Shi and spiritual leader Budda appear on the plates. It is also been noted that the formulas explain the design and purpose of the Egyptian pyramids. The symbols on the plates could unlock a code to the actual hidden meaning in words and letters.


This is all fascinating, and I had no clue what it exactly meant. If Ian’s writings are found to be correct, it could prove that word, phrase and sound have hidden numerical sources and codes. He derived his rules on the WB444, a Sumerian artefact that contains a timeline of Sumerian Kings before the Great Flood.



As I wandered around the monuments, not understanding them, but intrigued by them, I can only hope that someone one day can makes sense of it. In the meantime, on my visit there, I found myself thinking calm thoughts and my breathing slowed, a meditation in its own way.

The Sanctuary is a place of peace and contemplation as well as wonder and puzzlement. As I left, it was with a sense of gratitude for Norman Skyes and his wonderful donation of land to the Kentish community and all visitors.


Happy Travels!


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