Running doesn’t come easily to me. I’m slow. I struggle to get up early, when it’s dark and cold, and the excuses are many. Despite all that, trail running with friends at dawn on a Saturday morning is one of the highlights of my week. I’d encourage other women to try adding trail running to their fitness program as an efficient and enjoyable workout. We can all learn to run…. [Continue reading]
My co-walkers named this the Pylons Walk, as it makes good use of service trails that pass by the base of at least five electricity pylons. The walk offers more than just electricity infrastructure however, although the overhead wires do make a handy navigational aid for the map-challenged amongst us. The walk starts at the parking area at end of Warrimoo Rd, and turns off onto the service trail (shortly before the stone bench) to head towards the first pylon. At the pylon, look for the cairns that mark the footpad and carefully follow the cairns on the rocky descent down to Christies Pool.
Cross over Ku-ring-gai Creek above Christies Pool and look for the pink tape markers on trees and cairns to locate the track (to your left) which ascends up the steep spur to the second pylon at the end of Rylands Track. On our first attempt at this walk, we erroneously crossed below Christies Pool, climbed the wrong spur (tough!), located the wrong pylon and followed the wrong track up to Duffy’s Forest where, covered in scratches and dropping from leech bites, we embarrassedly called a cab! An important lesson learnt: it’s not enough to take a map, you need to get it out and read it to confirm your location and bearing!
Pick up the pace along Rylands Track. The Duffys Forest Ecological Community that predominated on ridgetops in the Warringah and Ku-ring-gai is now extensively fragmented and endangered. The habitat has been destroyed by clearing and development, weeds, and inappropriate usage. As you gallop along the easy Rylands Track, appreciate what remains.
Nearing Mona Vale Rd and the gun club, take the turn to the right and locate the third pylon. At the end of the service trail, a foot path continues towards St Ives Showgrounds, where it becomes a wider trail. Keep right at trail junctions around the showgrounds unless you want to join the horses on their steeple chase. The trail ends at the wire fence on the edge of St Ives Wildflower Gardens that keeps marauding wildlife from eating the plants in the gardens. You could of course climb over, or crawl under, but it’s simpler to follow the fence a short distance to your right and walk around it. Watch out for mountain bikers on Rylands Track and behind St Ives Showgrounds.
The Wildflower Gardens are a confusing knot of walking and cycling tracks. My route through is turn right (north) onto the bike track after you’ve got past the fence, then left (west) on to the Mueller Track to Lambert’s Clearing (a nice morning tea spot). From Lambert’s Clearing, keep heading west on the Bentham Track to the road circle at Cunninghams Rest (and yet another pylon). Pick up the Mueller Track again here and follow it down the hill to join the management service trail alongside Ku-ring-gai Creek. A map of the Wildflower Gardens is useful.
Once back on the service trail, cross Ku-ring-gai Creek again and head up the hill to join Philip Rd (the last pylon) from which it is a short suburban walk back to your car.
This 3 hour walk of about 12km (depending on your navigation skills!) is good for endurance training with a total 500m ascent and a mix of track types, including wider undulating trails where you can stride out while enjoying the variety of vegetation types and chirpy birds.
Starting with a descent of the stone stairs from Quarry Rd, this great out and back 11km walk joins the Blue Gum Track at Rosemead Rd trail head. It then follows the hilly Benowie section of the Great North Walk through the Berowra Valley National Park, with morning tea at a shady clearing at Tunks Ridge rest area. Update: a section of the GNW that this walk traverses now has restricted access.
The stone steps traversing the slopes of Old Man Valley down from Quarry Rd were first built in the depression era (approx 1930), and sensitively restored in 2011. If you look carefully, you may see the words “Prosperity around the corner” carved on the rocks as you descend. There are lovely views from the steps, down to the high blue gum forest below, and a resident noisy family of cockatoos. For our purposes, the steps are also ideal for interval training.
Blue Gum Track and Great North Walk
Park in Quarry Rd, Hornsby, and then head down the steps, across Rosemead Park and into the bush on the Blue Gum Trail. The Old Man Valley is one of over 100 ancient volcanic diatremes within the Sydney basic, and very fertile, as you will notice from the lovely tall trees around you as you walk.
At an intersection near the Fishponds waterhole, pick up the Great North Walk and cross Berowra Creek. The path gets rocky as it heads through the valley, until you cross Tunks Creek at the historic military Steele Bridge. The bridge dates from World War II and was what is known as a “Bailey Bridge” – a portable prefabricated truss bridge easy to construct and strong enough for a tank to cross.
From the Steele Bridge, the walking trail is wider as it climbs up towards Tunks Ridge rest area at the top, a pleasant spot for morning tea. Return the way you came. Two great climbs will get your heart and leg muscles working.
Wildwalks track notes for Hornsby to Galston Gorge are handy.
Update on restricted access
From the Alerts on NSW National Parks website, we note that access restrictions are in place along trails that cross land managed by Hornsby Rifle Range. This includes 750m of the Benowie walking track between Steele Bridge and Fishponds.
Shooting times are between 9am and 4.30pm, 7 days a week, the trail should not be accessed during this time without permission. Alternate routes are available. Visit the website for further information about the Hornsby Rifle Range.
Another walk we do in this area, that is not subject to these restrictions, is the Blue Gum Walk with Extra Hills.
The Cascades is a pretty place in Garigal National Park where French’s Creek meets Middle Harbour Creek. It has little waterfalls, rock pools and sunny rock platforms to sit on and enjoy your morning tea. It also has some interesting local history.
The Cascades was frequently used as a campsite by the Scouts in the 1930s, and as a “jungle training” site during WWII (oral history , Ku-ring-Gai Library) . A public pool was built at the site of the Cascades during the depression era. Local resident Joe Lipson has a great blog post, showing the 1934 photo from the National Library, as well as up to date snapshots showing the remains of the pool, including a lovely rock inscription “LADIES”.
Joe also includes a lovely quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 1935, when the capabilities of motor vehicles were tested on the public road from Douglas St, St Ives, to the Cascades pool. Next time you are climbing up that hill, spare a thought for the 1935 motoring journalist!
“On the freak hill at Bungaroo swimming pool, near St. Ives, the car gave a good demonstration of its ability to climb, without wheel-spin, as nasty a slope as any motorist might encounter.” – Motoring, SMH Dec 24th, 1935
Garigal Loop Walk to Cascades
Acron Oval provides parking and easy access to this leafy Garigal walk, which loops around on an undulating mix of service trails and walking tracks, with a few creek crossings. The total distance is 11km, with about 400m of ascent and plenty of places for short hill intervals to add to the climbing. The route can be easily shortened for a 2 hour workout.
The STEP map of Middle Harbour is a good detailed map of the tracks in this area. This loop includes a short stretch on suburban roads (from Acron Oval to Kitchener Rd). The road section can be reduced slightly by using the Lower Cambourne Track.
This 10.5km endurance loop walk takes in all the Gs : the trails from Grosvenor Rd past Golden Jubilee Oval to Gwydir Ave and the Gibberagong Track, with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
The nicest stretch of this walk is the steep descent to Cockle Creek (or Gibberagong Creek as it is also known), followed by a cool walk through the forest beside Gibberagong Waterholes, and then the solid climb up to Grosvenor Rd. Gibberagong means “plenty of rocks”, and you will no doubt agree with that!
Cockle/Gibberagong Creek has it source near Burns Road in Wahroonga, and joins Cowan Creek at Bobbin Head. More than a century ago, Aboriginal middens were harvested here and the shells burnt to produce lime for shipping to Sydney to be used for mortar.
You can park and start this walk from a number of spots – but my starting point was determined by a desire to the do the big hill first, while I was still fresh, and to be able to stop at a coffee shop on my way home! I parked at the end of Murrua Ave. Starting from Murrua Ave also means that the high point on Golden Jubilee Oval makes a well timed spot to break. You can enjoy your morning tea while admiring the outlook over Ku-ring-gai National Park. Find a perch either up on the grassy oval, or the rocks in the trees behind the mountain bike track.
The walk is well signposted, simply follow the signs from Murrua Track to Gibberagong Track, and then to Gwydir Ave, after which follow the grass strip on the boundary between the rear of the houses and the bush until you reach Murrua Ave and your car. There are a number of options for intervals and side-walks on the recreational trails between Grosvenor Rd and Gwydir Ave, if you have extra time to explore.
The vegetation and terrain of this walk is quite varied, from steep paths, to pleasant forest trails and not so pleasant concrete. The concrete stretches are fairly recent, and no doubt make the steep roads passable for fire trucks in the wet. Even on gritty grey concrete climbs, it is still nicer traning outdoors than in the gym.
Ku-ring-gai Council publish a brochure of the trails between Grosvenor and Gwydir, with a map. Watch out for mountain bikers.
This loops through Garigal National Park around the suburb of Davidson. Park in Ferguson Rd and then head down the trail alongside Carroll Creek. Join Governor Philip Track walking up Middle Harbour past Bungaroo and on to Cascades, which makes a good rest break at the 7km mark. Follow the Cascades Track up to Stone Parade in Davidson, then use suburban roads to cross to John Oxley Drive on the other side of the Davidson ridge. Following the John Oxley Trail through the bush brings you to a lovely rock platform at the end of Farrer Pl, from where it is possible to head down the hill to cross Carroll Creek and return to your car parked in Ferguson Rd. A consistent fast pace is needed to complete in a 3 hour training session.
The walk along Carroll Creek that borders Davidson is lovely, with rock overhangs and mangroves on the tidal shores. About 1km from the start at Ferguson Rd, the creek crosses a rocky section where you can easily step across to the path that climbs the hill on the other side – you will rejoin here later.
The track along Middle Harbour is easy to follow, but is not quite as flat and easy as you might expect! Along the way you’l l pass the stepping stones that mark the current extent of the tidal reach, and the place where Governor Philip and his crew camped in 1788.
Davidson experienced a bush fire in October 2013. The rock platforms at the end of Farrer Place are home to some lovely grass trees (Xanthorrhoea), which were responding to the fire with some flowering abundantly and others already fruiting when we visited. From this rock platform, the STEP maps show a route back down to Carroll Creek, but it appears to have been lost in the fire. Using my GPS, it was possible to navigate back down to the Carroll Creek crossing – but care needs to be taken if you are not an experienced navigator or do not have maps and compass. Besides risks of injury and getting lost, off track walking causes damage to the environment.
Nearby walks include the Forestville circuit, and from Acron Oval, the Cascades Loop. The STEP maps clearly show the routes around Davidson. Wildwalks does not have track notes for this full 12.5km circuit, but covers parts of the route in Davidson Exploration (Cascades and Middle Harbour returning up Davidson Track).
Early in 2014 I joined a bushwalking club to walk in some new areas and learn some new tricks. Actually I joined two clubs, The Bush Club and Sydney Bushwalkers (SBW), as I couldn’t decide between them! An overnight trip to Mt Cloudmaker sleeping in Hundred Man Cave, Kanangra Boyd National Park, in April was the last of my qualifying walks to become a member of SBW.
We car-camped at Boyd River campsite the night before, and were up early for a 7:30am start. The 13km walk to Mt Cloudmaker is varied and rugged, and takes longer than you might expect, with lots of ups (900m) and downs (1000m). The Gangerang Range mountains in this area have delightful names, Mt High and Mighty and Mt Stormbreaker among them. Mt Cloudmaker is the highest in the Gangerang Range.
Gabes Gap is the low point on the walk, the path through the gap is steep in both directions. Nifty footwork is required over the rocky knolls quaintly named Rip, Rack, Roar and Rumble. Poles are a good idea if you have questionable knees or ankles.
The views along the way, particularly from the Kanangra Walls plateau and Mt Stormbreaker are wonderful, and at night we went up onto the Ti Willa Plateau under a full moon and were rewarded with a wide horizon view of sparking lights from Sydney to Wollongong.
Hundred Man Cave had a good water supply when we were there, with given recent good rains, dripping from the cave into a gully. However, on an April weekend trip a year later, the creek was bone dry as far as we were able to follow it. We were forced to place billies under drips from the cave roof to collect water. We spent a restless night regularly decanting the billies into water bottles, and were relieved to have collect six litres over night which was just sufficient to get our party home.
The cave has a good flat, sandy base for rolling out our sleeping bags. The 1.3km path to the Cave from the Mt Cloudmaker summit is vague in places, navigation skills are needed.
A lovely overnight walk in a beautiful national park, and great company from the welcoming group of SBW walkers.
This 10km loop heads up the stone stairs behind the kiosk at Bobbin Head, Ku-ring-gai National Park, on the Birrawanna Track. After about 1km, take the right turn to drop down to Apple Tree Bay. The path continues, along the waters edge of Cowan Creek, until you reach a side track which climbs up Mt Ku-ring-gai. Turn around at the gate at the end of the Mt Ku-ring-gai track and retrace your route to Apple Tree Bay, then take the shorter low route back to Bobbin Head. The climbs are a good calorie burner!
There are a couple of nice lookouts on this walk, which can make good tea spots, or simply act as distractions to give you a chance to catch your breath! There is a lookout reached by a side track off the low route over the hill between Apple Tree Bay and Bobbin Head.
There is another lookout off an obvious side path once you have reached the flat track at the top of the climb towards the suburb of Mt Ku-ring-gai, not long after the stone steps that ascend between large boulders. If you have time, take a wander around these large boulders, as there is an interesting orange rock shelter on the left of the path (facing up the path) and slots between the huge boulders on the right. At the top of the stairs, head straight ahead (instead of turning left on the main track) along some footpads to find “Firefighters Rest” memorial.
Firefighters Rest on Mt Ku-ring-gai
On 8 June 2000 a controlled hazard reduction burn to protect the local Mt-Ku-ring-gai community went horribly wrong. Seven NPWS firefighters were trapped when the fire overtook them as they were attempting to escape up the hill. George Fitzsimmons, Erik Furlan and Claire Deane were overcome by smoke inhalation and died in the fire, while Mark Cupit died later in hospital. Three more, Jamie Shaw, Luke McSweeny and Natalie Saville sustained horrific burns and spent many months in hospital recovering.
A subsequent coronial inquiry made a number of recommendations. Memorials related to the tragedy include “Firefighters Rest” stone benches erected in a spot near the Mt Ku-Ring-Gai track by NPWS in memory of those who died.
Wildwalks has track notes on the Apple Tree Bay Birrawanna Track loop, as well as the route from Apple Tree Bay up to Mt Ku-ring-gai. Parking fees apply at Bobbin Head, unless you already own a National Parks pass.
There are two separate hill tracks down to Cowan Creek from Duffy’s Forest, with a bit of bush or road bashing in between to join them up, and a nice view to the Bobbin Head Marina from Slade’s Lookout. The Bibbenluke track starts at the end of Bibbenluke Rd and reaches the river within cooee distance of the end of the Sphinx track on the other side. Duffy’s Track starts at the end of Booralie Rd.
The total walk is about 11km, with some nice steep climbs totalling about 500m. Duffy’s Track has a lovely footpath from the end of the service trail, with beautiful stepping stones across the creek and through the mangroves. It is a beautiful spot for a swim on a warm day, but it is rumoured to be a hangout for bull sharks and watch out for the oysters on the rocks.
Nothing much remains of Duffy’s Wharf on Cowan Creek, constructed by Peter Duffy in the mid 1850’s in order to load timber. Skippy was filmed at Waratah Park, between Duffy’s Track and the Bibbenluke Track, but the Park closed in 2009. Land in the area is now being developed, which means the bush track between Bibbenluke Rd and Booralie Rd may no longer be accessible. There is an engraving of a bird on the rocks at Slade’s Lookout, but whether it is a duck or an emu, aboriginal or more recent is not known.
Wildwalks has track notes for the Slade Lookout and Duffy’s wharf track. The Bibbenluke Track is easy to follow from the marked gate at the end of Bibbenluke Ave, and shown on the topo map.
The 10.5km Lane Cove riverside loop provides a nice fast 3 hours trek training walk, with opportunity for a bridge-to-bridge time trial (under 55 minutes) on the fast riverside trail on the west bank. The east bank has more technical rocky walking and some short climbs (total ascent 385m, add more with some interval work).
There are a variety of morning tea spots, including picnic areas in the park area, Fiddens Wharf Oval, or the area around Blue Hole and the cave at the De Burghs bridge end. The Lane Cove River is crossed using De Burghs bridge pedestrian path upstream, and the Weir or Fullers Rd downstream. The crossing of Blackbutt creek can be tricky when wet, take care.
Parking is available near the steakhouse at Fullers Rd bridge over the Lane Cove river, but traffic in the morning can be busy. Alternative access to this loop to avoid morning traffic is from Allen Park, Killara or Airmans Park, West Lindfield. Parking within the national park attracts an entry fee.
There is always a fair bit of wildlife in the park to see, birds and reptiles in particular. The area has a rich Aboriginal and European history, there are interpretative signs at various places along the walk. The Kuring-gai people lived in the valley until forced out after European settlement. The area was then used by European timber getters, with a nearby sawmill shipping logs from Fiddens Wharf, and later used for orchards and recreation. The stonework, such as the impressive Porters Bridge that the walk crosses on the west bank, dates from the depression era. The weir was built in 1938.
Wildwalks has more detailed track information on the Lane Cove riverside loop, broken into two sections: De Burghs bridge to Fullers Rd bridge Great North Walk section on the east bank, and the Riverside walk on west bank.