Parramatta to Penrith
I am not sure why the Great West Walk took my fancy – probably because I haven’t done it but maybe because, after Covid and doing a lot of walking near my area, I feel it is time to branch out and go somewhere different. Maybe it was Lisa’s idea… who knows… However, I do know that I’ve been thinking about completing it for a long time and I decide Winter 2022 is the right time to start.
There is a website for the Great West Walk – it is rather sparse in terms of information and, at this stage, only covers the 65km from Parramatta to Penrith. That doesn’t seem very “Great” to me. However it is, at least, a starting point. I am not sure what the eventual aim for the walk is but there is some online discussion and a route mapped to Katoomba. I have reviewed this route and it doesn’t look particularly exciting (lots of bitumen – not really my style). I decide I will follow the first 65km and then decide whether I will continue to Cross the Blue Mountains.
As I start this walk, Sydney is in the middle of a rain deluge and many paths are closed (including several of the tracks I want to access in the Blue Mountains). I may well have to postpone sections until the weather and track conditions are better.
Day 1: Parramatta to Blacktown (18km)
Starting at Parramatta station, it is an easy walk through Parramatta . We pass Centenary Square where we decide an impressive Victorian clock should be the official start of our walk. From here we head down Eat Street (aka Church St) and pass several heritage buildings as we head into Parramatta Park.
In Parramatta Park, there are several points of interest including a stunning Gatehouse on George St, Old Government House, Old Observatory, Governor’s Bathhouse and The Old Dairy. It would be easy to get distracted, visit them all and make this a history walk instead. However, we march past with another aim in mind and manage to take a wrong turn near Wisteria Gardens. Rather than backtracking, we nimbly hop over a fence to correct our error.
From here, the walk passes around Westmead Hopsital, crosses Toongabbie Creek and then enters a track by the creek where we find some interesting graffiti. The track is comfortable underfoot although the creek has clearly recently suffered with the deluge of rains with debris scattered everywhere. At Toongabbie, it is mainly road walking to Seven Hills station (where some of us finish) and then a bit more road walking to Blacktown station.
Overall an enjoyable 18km covered in about 4 hours with some urban walking but mainly on bush tracks.
Day 2: Blacktown to Rooty Hill (15km)
Today is a 15km walk (under 4 hours) with a mix of woodlands, public parks, urban streets and local shopping hubs. We return via the train detouring to Seven Hills as we have spotted one of Assunta’s favourite Sri Lankan restaurants on our previous day and are keen to give it a try.
The walk starts off in urban streets before it follows a creek and heads into Western Sydney Parklands, an extensive park with over 60km of tracks that more or less follows Eastern Creek. Towards the end of this green space, the walk passes through The Nurragingy Reserve which includes a miniature railway, a heritage blacksmith hut and stunning Chinese Gardens complete with lakes and waterfalls – this would be a popular place for weddings and locals.
Day 3: Rooty Hill to Penrith (32km)
Today is a long 32km walk (about 8 hours) that follows paths and easements through historical sites, waterholes, open parklands, sportsgrounds, forests and urban precincts with possible sightings of kangaroos and emus. It eventually links up with the Great River Walk following the Nepean River to Penrith. At the time of walking this section, Sydney had received considerable rainfall and we were aware parts of the track may well be wet or closed due to flooding.
Starting at Rooty Hill, the hike is mainly urban before turning off into Mt Druitt’s Remembrance Gardens. More urban walking from here until we find some of the best graffiti we have seen so far (off the end of Kurrajong Ave in Mt Druitt) . Through a water-logged reserve with waterlogged sportsgrounds, we meander as we walk on a well formed path next to a creek. There are occasional sandstone blocks with indigenous messages that are much admired but I cant find much information about their origin or importance.
From here we head into Ropes Crossing, one of Sydney’s new suburbs that is distinctly lacking in trees despite being close to our next focal point of Wianamatta Regional Park. We discover the crossing over South Creek is closed so exit the park via a fence (clearly not the only ones who have done this before) and have to find another way around the flooding. Exhausted, we administer footcare by the side of the road.
From here it is mainly easy, urban walking into Penrith where we eventually reach the Nepean River. The river is still in flood which is quite spectacular but it is not possible to walk along the Great River Walk – we will simply have to come back another day to complete the final kilometre.
Thoughts and Logistics
This is a very accessible walk using public transport and well worth exploring a different part of Sydney away from our usual haunts of Kurringai or Garigal National Parks. However one urban walk a year is about my limit and on looking at the continuation of the Great West Walk to Katoomba, I do not feel inspired to use the route mapped. I am however inspired to walk to Katoomba and will start to make my own route, using the train stations as starting finishing points. Watch this space for more information….
Words by Fee; Photos by Everyone