Ambling through the peaceful forest in Killara’s Bushranger Reserve, I wondered who the wild bushrangers were, and where they could have lived. Gavin Souter, in Times and Tides: a memoir of Middle Harbour enlightened me. The Geary Gang were an elusive bunch, who escaped from capture twice, leaving a trail of “plunder and alarm” and on two separate occassions robbed the unfortunate Mrs Matilda Fish in Killara. A gang of five, led by William Geary, they lived in a gibber gunyah or “house of rock”, an overhang or cave, in the bush near Gordon Creek around 1821. Geary escaped from jail a third time, but ultimately ended up on the gallows.
This 9km circuit starts at Barra Brui Oval, in St Ives, and follows the pipeline track before turning onto Governor Phillip track. Enjoy the flowers and views on your way down to Middle Harbour creek. Once you reach the creek, turn right (south), duck under the pipeline, and follow the track alongside the creek to the crossing of Rocky Creek. Follow the track alongside Middle Harbour, taking care through some areas of salt marsh that can be swampy at hight tide, and around Lockley Point, before climbing up to East Killara. The track to Lockley point was constructed during the Great Depression, and old stonework can still be seen in places.
Turn right at the top and follow the track through Bushranger Reserve, for around a km, taking care to follow a side track down to avoid ending up in suburban Killara streets. Zig zag down a side track to cross Rocky creek and climb back up to Burraneer Road for a quiet suburban walk back to your car at Barra Brui Oval. If time allows, there are plenty of places for a hill interval workout.
Bungaroo and Governor Phillip
Bungaroo is the historic campsite at the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek. It was here that Governor Phillip camped with a small exploration party on April 16, 1788, while exploring Middle Harbour in search of arable land. Bungaroo today is not significantly different to what it might have looked like, remote and wild, in 1788.
Manly Council have a document describing Governor Phillip and parties journey through “heights inaccessible”. Spare a thought for the difficulties faced by this early party, as you tackle overgrown sections of the path, or wade through high water. From Bungaroo, they took a day trip up onto the ridge line – perhaps to Turramurra or as far as Pennant Hills – from where they observed distant large mountains and the hoped for large river. One wonders how they found their way back to Bungaroo – perhaps by using hatchets as they went to trail blaze trees.
Crossing Rocky Creek
This loop crosses Rocky Creek twice. The first downstream crossing is only passable, with care, at low tide. A piece of wire is strung across the creek to guide you. If the tide is high, you can go upstream to another crossing point. As with all creeks, don’t cross after heavy rain or if the river is flooding.
The upstream crossing of Rocky Creek, in Bushrangers Reserve, has some large rocks and pools. Close to Eastern Arterial road, there is a large pool and waterfall on Rocky Creek, according to the STEP map. I attempted to find this, but the footpad was too overgrown to follow.
Once you have crossed from the now thankfully peaceful Bushrangers Reserve to the St Ives side of Rocky Creek, climb to the line of the sewer vents, and a short overgrown track will soon bring you to the fire trail. From there it’s a short hill climb back to the road, and from there back to your starting point at Barra Brui Oval.
Wildwalks have track notes for most of this walk, although in the reverse direction and without linking up to make a circuit. GPS Tracks below excludes the first section, from Barra Brui Oval to the turn off on the Bungaroo track (guess who forgot to turn the tracker on) and includes a sortie in an attempt to find the waterfall near Eastern Arterial Rd.
Other walks in the area that are both accessible from the stepping stones at Bungaroo across Middle Harbour Creek include the Davidson loop (on the eastern bank) and the Cascades walk (upstream from Bungaroo).