The Blue Gum loop walk in Old Man’s Valley, Hornsby, includes fern filled blue gum high forest, creek crossings, and irresistible opportunities for hill climbing intervals up side tracks. It is easily accessed from the lovely park at the end of Rosemead Rd, Hornsby, or from Quarry Rd down the Heritage Steps.
Hill climbing on side tracks
The 4.2km Blue Gum Walk circuit is relatively short, so we add in some steep side tracks to increase both the training distance and improve the cardio workout.
The lovely Heritage Steps, originally built during the 1930s depression era and recently renovated, link the park at Rosemead Rd with Quarry Rd. Intervals here will get your heart pumping. A flock of resident cockatoos provide a noisy soundtrack amongst the leafy trees.
After approximately one kilometre on the fire trail from Rosemead park, you will reach a junction. The Great North Walk towards Galston has been re-routed since the closure of a section of track in the valley below the Rifle Range. The GNW track crosses a wooden bridge over small creek and climbs steeply towards some houses. This provides a great opportunity for some hill intervals.
Returning down the hill to the Blue Gum Walk, we head towards Fishponds and cross the steeping stones. Not long after the crossing, is another junction and Pogsons Link trail. This trail heads up to Pogsons Trig. More hill climbing! Pogsons Link Trail has also been recently renovated with new sandstone steps.
We return across the stepping stones and continue on the Blue Gum Walk. There are lovely rocks at the crossing of Waitara Creek which remind me a spa bath or perhaps a laundry tub. Sadly for such a lovely spot, the water is quite polluted. It can also be impassable in heavy rain, so take care.
Over the creek, the track climbs another hill towards the ridge line and turns left at the junction. A nice sunny rock makes a good spot for morning tea. Phew, a rest.
A much needed gentle recovery stretch through the beautiful ferns and tall blue gums follows the tea rocks. The single track through the forest eventually meets a fire trail – and yet another opportunity for hill climbing! We go right at the junction with the fire trail to climb to the top, before returning down to Ginger Meggs park, the Rosemead Rd park, and back up the Heritage Steps to our cars.
All told, we’ve climbed over 500m on a mix of steps and fire trails, and the muscles in our legs are feeling better for the workout.
Layers of stories
Stopping for a quick breather at the top of the Heritage Steps, I notice a plaque in the a rock – with stories of the Higgins Family. I have climbed these steps many times, but never noticed the plaque. Too often we are moving too quickly and so narrowly focussed on our fitness goals that we fail to notice the environment around us. This area is rich in layers of stories – geological, fauna and flora, Aboriginal and European activities.
Thomas Higgins was the first permanent settler in Hornsby in 1824, in the fertile Old Mans Valley, which he supposedly named after a local kangaroo. The Higgins family lived in the valley until 1960. Their house was demolished, but the Higgins family cemetry remains and has heritage status.
The Blue Gum High Forest is a rare and critically endangered ecosystem, for both the trees and other plants, and the habitat it provides to animal and plant life, such as the powerful owl. A Biobanking biodiversity scheme is operational in the area to address the habitat degradation.
Other walks nearby include the GNW to Tunks Ridge.