It has been raining. The creek is muddy. The waterfall is gushing. We follow a long flight of old sandstone steps down an unmaintained path and find ourselves at a crumbling stone waterfront cottage. We prove once again, on our adventure at Harold Reid Reserve and Castlecrag Northern escarpment, that walks that don’t go quite as planned are often the most fun.
We park at Harold Reid reserve in Middle Cove, and after enjoying the views, walk down the path on the southern side of the Sugarloaf peninsula. The plan is to do a counter-clockwise loop of Harold Reid Reserve before taking the North Arm track towards Castle Cove. Except somehow we find ourselves at a muddy creek crossing. We could easily correct our navigation error, but who can resist the playful challenge of finding a route across nice thick wet mud? Squelch squelch. A quick check of the excellent STEP map confirms our options to re-route our walk. Soon we leave the mud behind and climb up the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment.
We decid to try find the water dragon, natural arch and waterfall, all marked on the STEP map. Mission accomplished, we retrace our steps along the path and continue to descend a long flight of ancient sandstone steps, clearly no longer maintained, until we reach the waters edge. We admire a historic but now abandoned waterfront stone cottage, then find a second flight of sandstone steps behind the cottage and climb up those, exiting at a road at the top.
We eventually get back to Harold Reid Reserve to complete the planned loop, on a wide well-formed track that seems quite tame after our earlier adventures on the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment.
Our adventure was a total of 7km with close to 500m of climbing, took us 3 hours and led us in all sorts of unexpected directions to secret Sydney places.
There were plans in the early 1980’s to build an expressway to the Northern Beaches along the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment, crossing Middle Harbour. Fortunately sense prevailed, as it is a beautiful area of bush and worth taking the time to explore.
Willoughby Council has information for the Harold Reid Reserve loop. The Willoughby district historical society has information on the historic Castlecrag waterfront cottages. For everything else, you’ll need the STEP map and a sense of adventure. See North Arm and Explosives Reserves for another nearby walk.