After heavy overnight rain and with a forecast of scattered showers for at least the morning period, 8 intrepid walkers departed Oatley Station during rain showers and arrived at Heathcote in clearing conditions. There we met with 3 more souls who joined us for coffee and the reading of the “riot act” during which the rain returned. In spite of the conditions (both “riot” and weather) 11 starters headed off through the Scouts and Guides training camp, towards the bottom of the Heathcote Valley and the Woronora pipeline track.
By the time we reached our first creek crossing (Battery Causeway) the rain had passed making morning tea opportune. Water levels had subsided from those of the reccy walk 2 weeks earlier making all the creek crossings relatively easy, (mostly) without even getting wet feet.
The Bullawarring Track from there to Waterfall led us past some spectacularly gnarled angophoras, verdant grass trees, geebungs and banksias as well as waterfalls and plenty of rock pools and a swimming hole. Whilst enjoying a lunch break in the now pleasant sunshine ‘near ‘the mysterious Myuna Pool and watching a beautiful Kingfisher flit about, Sharyn and Phil joined us having walked from the Waterfall end of the track.
To finish the 10km walk, at the top of Heathcote Creek, we climbed up quite a steep (140m ascent) ridge and then on to the Waterfall train station. A tired group, but I think satisfied with the day’s challenges and rewards, made their way home, some via a stop at the Oatley pub for welcome refreshments.
Report on OFF walk in Heathcote N. P. 2 April 2017 By Kim Wagstaff.
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Four days of rain preceded the walk on the 2nd of March to explore Bushland reserves in the South East Corner of Georges River Council. Four people started out, and the weather remained fine. Near Quarry Reserve we entered the northern end of Poulton Park where Oatley Bay Creek was flowing freely into a pool that was a popular swimming hole in the 1930s. The sewer main on the eastern side of the Park had not overflowed, a positive sign that it was not being infiltrated by stormwater.
As we descended the valley, the transition from shale soils to sandstone was reflected in the trees – fewer figs, cheese trees and blackbutts, more angophoras, peppermints and bloodwoods. Graham pointed out areas formerly occupied by dairies and a quarry, where contractors had carried out bush regeneration. At the southern end of the Park a control burn about six years ago has resulted in extensive regeneration of wattles and heath species. Close to Morshead Drive we visited the mangrove boardwalk opened by Kogarah Council in 2001 with support from OFF and Coastcare.
Zig-zagging along streets above Kyle Bay, we entered Kyle Williams Reserve at the end of, Wentworth Avenue. The peppermint, bloodwood and blackbutt woodland had undergone a recent ecological burn; a hyacinth orchid was flowering and dark green spear-shaped leaves of bonnet orchids were common in patches. The lower slopes of the reserve were heavily infested by exotic plants but there was evidence of recent work to remove lantana and other weeds. We found an overgrown exit at the southern end and headed to Carss Park to meet up with three more OFF members.
Tim Ball provided a welcome morning tea while Liz quoted from Alan Fairley’s history of OFF, some of the obnoxious actions and words of Kogarah councillors who opposed the protection of Poulton Park’s mangroves in the 1970s.
The walk concluded with an inspection of the seawall constructed from sandstone blocks that Kogarah Council installed in 2016 to enhance the foreshore habitat.
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A variety of salt-tolerant herbs and shrubs, including samphire, was growing vigorously behind a protective fence; the tide was high so we could not see if marine organisms had settled in the constructed sandstone rock pools facing Kogarah Bay. Georges River Council has just announced it will create another environmentally-friendly seawall at Dover Park West.
This is the second year we have stayed in Pygmy Possum Lodge at Charlotte Pass and again it was very satisfactory; fourteen OFF members spent three to seven days there during the week of 8-15th January. It was also a pleasure to have the company of some of the ski club’s members who were welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable.
The bedrooms, all with en-suites, were comfortable and warm, and the kitchen very well-equipped (but it called for some complex choreography when everyone was preparing dinner at the same time). The lounge afforded spectacular views of jagged granite tors, snow gums and olive-green shrubs, all occasionally blotted out by sweeping curtains of rain that briefly dampened our enthusiasm for the outdoors.
During inclement weather we occupied ourselves with reading, needlework, jigsaws, crosswords and identification of plants and animals we’d photographed. There was a happy hour each evening which sometimes developed into serious wine-tasting, and one night to admiration of the full moon as it rose in a crystal clear sky flushed by the sun’s afterglow.
This year was particularly good for wildflowers – daisies everywhere, mintbush and eyebright on the upper slopes, clusters of magenta trigger plants, cream candle heath and glossy buttercups in low-lying areas. Photographers found it difficult to capture the depth of colour in bluebells, flax lilies, violets, fan flowers and others in the blue – mauve spectrum.
Fauna was not conspicuous but there were grey kangaroos on the Waterfall Track and we saw two large echidnas. Piles of dung, scratchings and big burrows were the closest we got to wombats. Around Charlotte Pass were Flame Robins, Brown Thornbills, Australasian Pipits, Crimson Rosellas, Little Ravens, Striated Pardalotes and Welcome Swallows.
There were some introduced animals including hares, a black rabbit, a feral cat (which we reported) and Common Starlings. A variety of sleek high country skinks was seen, and several “large dark snakes” (probably copperheads). There was a dead alpine funnel-web on Porcupine Track and colourful live grasshoppers and beetles were photographed on leaves and flowers; a few Bogong Moths secreted themselves in the Lodge at night.
The legacy of snowfalls late in the season was evident in the high water level in Lake Jindabyne and good flows in the alpine streams. The countryside was green and snow gums were regenerating well, although the rate of regrowth is noticeably slower at higher altitudes. March and bush flies seemed more than usually abundant and persistent, perhaps another consequence of the recent rain and snow.
Weather conditions were generally mild and conducive to walking. Our first walk was to Porcupine Rocks, an OFF tradition that prepares us for more demanding tracks. Many small patches of snow were visible on the Main Range and we admired “Jan’s tree”, a magnificent old Snow Gum beside the track that escaped the ferocious alpine fires of 2003. On our return to the Kosciuszko Road, we indulged in hot drinks and burgers at the Alpine Eyre café at Perisher Gap; it was a popular meeting spot for the rest of the week.
Other walks completed by members of our party included Dead Horse Gap via the Thredbo chairlift, Blue Lake, Mt Kosciuszko via the Summit Road, Rainbow Lake, Guthega to Illawong, Waterfall, Mt Stilwell and Charlotte Pass Village to Alpine Eyre café. On the windiest day, while some were battling gales around Mt Stilwell, one couple enjoyed a peaceful riverside picnic in the sheltered woodland of Island Bend. At the end of the week the remaining ten people lunched together at Parc Café in Jindabyne and spent time in the displays and shop in the NPWS Centre.
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The last OFF outing for the year was a three-hour return cruise on Wednesday 30 November from Gunnamatta Bay at Cronulla, along the Hacking River to Royal National Park. Thirty-six members and friends embarked at 10.30 am on a fine mild day and enjoyed a smooth and comfortable ride (mid-week there was very little water traffic). Unlimited morning tea was available throughout the cruise and at the conclusion of the trip some of us lunched in Cronulla. It was unfortunate that Maureen, who had recommended the cruise for our 2016 program, was unable to join us on the day.
We travelled on the M.V. Tom Thumb III, named after the 2.5 metre rowing boat in which Bass and Flinders and ‘the boy Martin’ explored the area in 1796. Their voyage is also commemorated by a monument at Bass and Flinders Point in Cronulla but over the intervening 220 years much of the landscape they saw has been drastically altered.
On the southern side of Port Hacking, after we passed the settlements of Bundeena and Maianbar that border the Royal National Park, it was not difficult to envisage what the first Tom Thumb’s crew would have seen. The shores remain covered in typical Sydney sandstone flora dominated by flowering angophoras with their summertime deep orange trunks and an understorey of native shrubs and grass trees. Silver Gulls, Crested Terns, Pied Cormorants and a solitary Pied Oystercatcher were resting on a sandbar, and we were surprised and delighted to see a dolphin in the river. Graham spotted an adult and an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle.
The tide was high so our boat could motor as far as the weir at Audley; some passengers recalled Sunday School outings there. A kayaker was fishing in the shallows and picnickers on the bank waved to us. The commentator on board said it was planned, in the event of a Japanese landing during World War II, to bring all navigable craft in Port Hacking up the river to this point and burn them.
The commentator also spoke about the original inhabitants – the Tharawal or Dharwal people, their place names and culture; some of their middens were destroyed when shells were gathered as a source of lime for buildings in Sydney. There were anecdotes about the European settlers and early industries including a fish hatchery and deer-farming. Many landmarks and significant dwellings and boathouses were pointed out, and free maps on board allowed us to trace our route. Also on board were albums of early photos and newspaper cuttings relating to life on Port Hacking.
The return journey took us into some of the bays on the northern shores of Port Hacking, a completely different landscape featuring palatial homes, private jetties and big boats. But there were also some swimming baths for the general public and one passenger said she had spent her youthful summers there.
Shiprock Aquatic Reserve at the entrance to Burraneer Bay was pointed out. The biodiversity in this 2 hectare reserve so close to Cronulla is extraordinary and was illustrated by Gary Dunnet at an OFF meeting in February 2010. He explained the adaptations that allowed animals and algae to crowd onto the sandy substrates and rocky cliffs of what is essentially a flooded sandstone valley, and he listed some of the land and water-based human activities that can threaten that biodiversity. It was ironic that our tour guide also pointed out the former Fisheries Research Centre at the entrance to Gunnamatta Bay; scientists at the Centre which was closed down by the NSW Government in 2011, would doubtless have contributed to knowledge of Shiprock’s rich biodiversity.
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For those interested in reading an evocative account of the original Tom Thumb’s exploration of Port Hacking, I recommend the following book. It has been described as juvenile historical fiction and I borrowed from Kogarah Library some years ago.
Joan Phipson, 1972. Bass and Billy Martin. Macmillan of Australia. 240 pages.
A simply beautiful day was spent in the calm ambience of the Minnamurra Rainforest on Sunday 30th October. Sixteen expectant walkers gathered at the Visitors Centre of the Budderoo National Park ready to face the climb up to the Falls. Because of trackwork the walk was in two parts: the steep walk to the waterfall followed by the lovely Minnamurra River walk.
The first part of the walk was a challenge made esasier by the regular path and rewarded by views of the deep chasm and distant views of the higher falls. After rain the water flow gushed down into the deep canyon. The bush was damp and fertile and the birdlife kept us company.
We returned to the picnic area near the Visitors Centre for lunch then set out on the shorter walk along the river.
The walk was glorious with added excitement provided by the two suspension bridges. The views up and down the waterways and down into the deep limpid pools were memorable.
And there were monsters too – a monster strangler fig and two delightful dragons on rocks by the water (somewhat smaller in size). Along the walk there were information signs to help us understand our surroundings.
All in all it was a top day with the drive down the coast being no obstacle to our fun.
Report by walk leader Julian Sheen CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM
Fifteen OFF members and friends enjoyed our annual weekend field trip on 24 & 25th September to Capertee National Park. Heavy rain overnight presented the visitors to the national park with a swollen river crossing. It was a challenge to smaller cars, but all crossed it.
The highlight was seeing gorgeous gold and black Regent Honeyeaters at close quarters. It was a fitting reward for those who had made artificial nests for a predation experiment run by ANU postgraduate student Ross Crates. One night Ross showed photos of predators, including Brush-tailed Possums, Sugar Gliders and Grey Shrike-thrushes, that had raided the artificial nests.
There were ambles along trails through different habitats that offered plentiful subjects for the photographers in the group. On the upland Airstrip Trail four different orchids were flowering and there was a sweeping vista of distant peaks that included Mt Marsden and Tayan Peak in Wollemi NP. By contrast the shaded grassy banks of crystal clear Ullumbra Creek sheltered maidenhair ferns and native violets, and supported massive river sheoaks on which fine-leafed mistletoes were flowering.
Driving back to the homestead after a late afternoon visit to the Valley Lookout, we were treated to a magnificent rainbow and encountered Wallaroos and Common Wombats venturing onto the river flats for their evening meal. Recent rains had put a fresh in the Capertee River and encouraged a chorus of frogs and crickets at night.
Many thanks to Deb Andrew who shared her intimate knowledge of the park and its rich flora and fauna.
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On Tuesday 23 August 19 OFF members and friends gathered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in the Sydney CBD. It was a lovely sunny day despite the weather forecast.The walk covered some of the history of the gardens over the past 200 years visiting old and contemporary sites.
The red cedar was planted in 1822. They were logged to near extinction in the 1800’s.
The fernery which contains more than 300 species of ferns and other plants with the sandstone structure made by convicts showing Bankers marks.
Latitude 23 hot house with exotic rainforest plants from various parts of the world featuring a variety of orchids.
Kauri pine Agathus robusta 40 metres tall grown from a seed and planted in 1853. It is the modern day relative of Agathus juassicus which was part of the forests of Gondwana along with the Wollimi Pine which is referred to as a living fossil as it was thought to be extinct for 90 million years.
After going over the oldest bridge in Australia built in 1816 we walked along the avenue of Spring which features among other flowers 10,000 tulips which are planted each year. This spring walk has been an annual event in the gardens since 1856.
On the other side of the Macquarie wall built for Mrs Macquarie to keep the riff raff out was a spectacular display of cycads with big yellow cones and a row of bottle trees. The oldest one in a lower bed planted in 1846.
The tropical garden featured a display of many bromeliads and the spectacular Dinner Plate Fig.
One of the features of the month which was only discovered in 1970 was the Butterfly Amaryllis which we were lucky to see flowering.
The orchids and rock orchids which are flowering now were also spectacular.
After the walk some of the group visited the Sweet Addiction exhibition in The Calyix – the gardens new green house.
Report by walk leader Amanda Gibson
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Sunday 7th August Oatley Fauna and Flora held its first walk with the group Hike It Baby. Five OFF members and 13 adults and 13 children and babies met in Oatley Park to undertake a family friendly exploration of the bushland.
As we set off to the bushtrack through the centre of the park, we were met by several sulphur crested cockatoos who put on quite a close-up display in the steamroller park.
We spotted wattles in flower, blueberries on the bluberry ash trees,banksia flowers and seed pods, hardenbergia and lomandras. Lower down colourful mushrooms, moss and lichens were seen. Scratchmarks on a tree, most likely from a possum, were pointed out.
The highlight for both children and adults were the two tawny frogmouths roosting in the trees facing Lime Kiln Bay.
We had a very pleasant morning stroll before returning to the steamroller park for morning tea and play.
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A cool Sunday on 31st July provided the ideal conditions for a more arduous walk designed to go from Stanwell Park to Helensburgh.
After alighting from the train at Stanwell Park, 7 members of OFF ( one member having a train problem) were asked directions by 2 foreign tourists (from Italy and Israel) to the north side of the Royal National Park. Realising they would have a great distance to cover they instead opted to join our walk. As we had back packs and maps they thought we appeared to know what we were doing. We set off for the long abandoned Otford Railway tunnel. This runs for 1.82 km between Stanwell Park and Otford and at the time, 1888, it was the longest and steepest single line tunnel to be built.
Torches were required and we had to be careful where we trod as we skirted rubbish, abandoned machinery, the eroded floor and the water running through.We were impressed by the quality of the brick work which is still in excellent condition.
After a brief stop at the Otford cafe our leader unfortunately had to leave us due an injury. As we had good maps and there were many signs along the way (and another member had walked the track previously) we continued.
The ridge walk provided great views out to sea and down to Burning Palms. We saw some beautiful Angophoras and stringy barks as well as Gymea Lillies in flower. Epacris and a Correa reflexa were also seen. The Coast Track down to Burning Palms was wet in the gullies but the palm forest we passed through well made up for the wet track.
As we enjoyed a quick and well earned lunch on the beach the skies cleared and we enjoyed a beautiful vista of the surf.
The trek uphill to the Garawarra car park was quite steep and hot. There we were met by our member who had earlier had train problems.He had had an exciting walk of his own as he did some bushbashing to find the the Burgh Track. He agreed the walk back to Otford would be preferable to continuing on to Helensburgh as we may not make the train before dark.
The walk back to Otford along the Ridge Trail proved to be quicker and also a very pleasant walk through the beautiful angophoras. After a wait at Otford train station we were back on the train by 5.15pm. We were to find out later that there was one benefit to our leader having to leave us earlier; as he was making his way to Otford Station in the morning he came across a small brush fire which he and some others were able to put out and also alert the bush fire brigade.
Despite inclement weather during the previous week, Wednesday 29th June was a beautiful, sunny day when fifteen OFF members set off to explore the western edge of the CBD.
We walked from Central station (with a short coffee break) down to the ABC studios for a guided tour, visiting both radio and TV studios producing the shows familiar to most of us. It was an opportunity to spot some famous identities such as Ticky Fullerton, Wendy Harmer, Richard Glover and Bernie Hobbs.
On leaving the ABC, we walked down the relatively new walkway joining Central to the Darling Harbour precinct. This walkway has been built over the tracks of the original goods train line and many artefacts from that era have been built into the design, as well as leisure activities (such as metal ping pong tables) to provide for the nearby university students, workers and residents.
On the way we stopped to look at and in the “paper bag” building designed by the architect Frank Gehry and built for the UTS Business School.
We had a leisurely lunch in the sunshine, before heading north to Barangaroo through the extensive construction taking place at Darling Harbour.
After enjoying the waterfront at Barangaroo together, we separated and made our own way to Circular Quay. Some of us had afternoon tea up in the Rocks, enjoying one member’s memories of youthful exploits in the area.
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Report by Walk leader Sue de Beuzeville