From the small sandy beach beside Blue Hole on the Lane Cove River you can look up at the arches of De Burghs bridge, carrying streams of traffic on an important North South artery through Sydney. Blue Hole was the first fresh water swimming spot on the Lane Cove River, out of reach of the tide and sharks in the days before the weir at Fullers Rd dammed the river. The building of the weir submerged early wharves on the river, including the highest wharf which was near Blue Hole, Lofberg’s Wharf. Blue Hole is reached on a side track of the Great North Walk, as you walk up the Lane Cove valley towards Brown’s Waterhole.
We start this 12km loop at Allen Park, in west Killara, and follow the Great North Walk across Blackbutt creek, under De Burgh’s bridge and onward up the valley. About 4km from the start, look out for a track to the left that crosses the Lane Cove River and climbs some stone carved steps towards the Macquarie University sport fields. Walk around the sport fields and pick up the path on the other side, which takes you down to Brown’s Waterhole. Return to Allen Park by following the Great North Walk on the eastern side of the Lane Cove river valley.
The early European settlers in Sydney displaced the first people, the Guringai, who have left their mark in engravings in the Lane Cove valley. These engravings include a wallaby close to Allen Park and wallaby tracks near Brown’s Waterhole. John Brown in 1850 was recorded as the owner of land from De Burgh’s bridge to Pearce’s corner, and watered his cattle on the waterhole on the river.
At one stage Brown employed Lofberg, a young Swedish mariner who jumped ship in 1857 and headed up the Lane Cove river to hide. Lofberg ferried wood felled in the forests to Darling Harbour, from his wharf near Blue Hole. Although it is likely the wharf was not much more than a pile of rocks at the highest navigable spot on the river. Smart man, he later married the boss’s daughter. Children today now play on Lofberg Oval and swim in the local council pool in West Pymble, not far from the old river swimming spot Blue Hole near Lofberg’s early wharf.
De Burgh’s Bridge
De Burgh, an Irishman, arrived in Australia some time after Lofberg, in 1885. He became an eminent Public Works engineer, building many wooden “De Burgh truss” bridges across rivers such as the Lane Cove River (1901), Hunter, Kangaroo, Murray. His two lane bridge over the Lane Cove river replaced a ford, and was considered “magnificent and daring”. The 50m span was the longest timber span built in Australia. The modern bridge bears his name.
The approach to the original bridge was constrained by the rocky hillsides of the valley, but that was no longer a problem by the time the original De Burgh’s bridge was replaced with a new six lane concrete bridge in 1967. De Burgh’s wooden bridge burnt down in the 1994 fires that swept down the valley.
Some things stay the same, and others things have changed dramatically, as the pictures of the Lane Cove valley below show. 1943 on the left and 2005 on the right.
A good map for this walk is the STEP maps. Wildwalks have detailed track notes for the east bank part of this walk, from De Burgh’s Bridge to Browns Waterhole.