Berowa Valley -Thornleigh to Hornsby 10 Sept

The Thornleigh to Hornsby section of the Great North Walk goes through a number of different bushland types, from heavy creek bush to elevated, open grassland as it meanders through the Berowra Valley.

Meet: Thornleigh Station, western side 10.30 (Oatley to Central 08.43 – 09.12; Central to Thornleigh 09.36 – 10.26.). You can also leave your car at the station and pick it up after the walk as we’ll be coming back down the Northern Line from Hornsby.

There are a couple of moderate climbs and one scrambly bit near the end, so it could be classified as moderately strenuous, especially with the final climb out up to Hornsby station. It should take about 3.0 hours, so we’ll take lunch on the trail. For a general idea of the walk’s attractions see the “wild walks” website, although we won’t be taking the exact route shown.


Sheldon Forest Walk – Turramurra

The Sheldon Forest walk started in cool damp weather so the six participants fortified themselves with a coffee in Turramurra before heading for the Reserve. On the upper North Shore deep shale soils support abundant plant growth and we passed tall blue gums and blackbutts growing in gardens and on the nature strip, demonstrating that shady native trees are valued in this part of Sydney.

Sheldon Forest contains one of the last remnants of Blue Gum High Forest community (BGHF) and Ku-ring-gai Council has undertaken weed removal, understorey revegetation and stream stabilisation to improve its biodiversity. These works were funded by a BioBanking Agreement with the NSW Government through the Linking Landscapes through Local Action grant program. Several Bushcare groups work in the reserve and a fox-baiting program was in operation at the time of our visit.

The generally smooth blue-grey trunks of the blue gums were patterned with squiggles formed by native red triangle slugs grazing on a film of algae. By contrast adjacent blackbutts had fibrous bark trunks and creamy-white branches (we spent some time learning to distinguish them). As we descended the forested valley, BGHF gave way to STIF (Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest) which also occurs in small pockets in Oatley.

Beside the track was a perfectly formed bower of a Satin Bowerbird, decorated with many items of blue plastic and some sulphur-yellow feathers from a cockatoo’s crest. Lower down the valley we found a great mound of decaying leaf litter – one of three Brush Turkey nests seen on the walk.

Although only 5.5 ha in area, Sheldon Forest contains a great diversity of vegetation. As the shale layer gave way to sandstone outcrops, angophoras she-oaks and grass trees appeared on dry west-facing hillsides.

But down on the shaded banks of Avondale Creek were warm temperate species including ‘black wattle’ (Callicoma serratifolia) and its relative, coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum). Despite being surrounded by suburbia, the narrow forest reserve was quiet and peaceful and we felt immersed in bushland.

The track was well-signposted and although there were many stone steps and a few narrow creek crossings, it was an easy track to follow. A sewer line follows the creek and where we emerged at the lower end of the reserve amongst backyards and stormwater outlets, we noticed a great abundance of weeds – most of them familiar to Bushcarers in Oatley.

We returned to Turramurra station via steep streets on the Pymble side of Sheldon Forest, admiring azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and other spring blossoms in the gardens; then we crossed back through the reserve and followed the Pacific Highway for the last 500 metres – a rude return to city noise.

Thanks to Graham Lalchere for recording highlights of the walk in photos. See photo album

Coogee to Bondi Walk

Eight OFF members set out on Sunday, 30th July for a walk along the Coogee to Bondi cliff path. We picked a day with very disrupted transport arrangements but eventually arrived at Coogee desperate for a caffeine fix. Because it was such magnificent weather, we joined a cast of hundreds walking the path, although it was great to see so many people enjoying our beautiful coast. We passed the smaller beaches of Gordons Bay and Clovelly and looking southward the view along the coast was picture perfect.

After a little over an hour’s walk we arrived at the historic Waverley Cemetery. Here we visited the graves of many notables such as Lawrence Hargrave, Henry Lawson and Dorothea Mackellar among others. Our hero must surely be Sir James Martin (three times Premier and later Chief Justice of NSW) who was a founder of the League for the Prevention of Pollution of Air and Water (later the Sanitary Reform League) in 1880, possibly Australia’s first conservation group.

After a short lunch at Bronte beach we continued onto Bondi where a combination of beautiful weather and a festival at Bondi beach resulted in long bus queues to take us back to Bondi Junction. Unfortunately the group was split while boarding the bus so Graham L and Trevor decided it was quicker to walk back to Bondi Junction while the rest of us were kind enough to wait for them by having an outdoor coffee.

See more photos in webgallery

For free downloadable books and maps on graves search for Waverley Public Library, then Local Studies.

Report by walk leader Sue de Beuzeville

Centennial Park meander in the labyrinth & swamplands

On Friday 30th June 16 members of OFF took the train and bus to Centennial Park on a crisp, clear morning.
After morning coffee (with good use of Keep It Cups) and singing Happy Birthday to one of our group we set off for a gentle walk to the Lachlan Swamp.
Lachlan Swamp  is a magnificent paperbark swamp and home to a Flying Fox colony. We also observed a large flock of Little Corellas  and amongst them we spotted a few Long-billed Corellas. The Long-billed are normally found in Southern New South Wales.
From there we proceeded to the Labyrinth where many of us followed the path into its centre and out again. This sandstone labyrinth was completed in August 2014 having taken 5 months to build. It was based on the one in Chartres Cathedral in France.
After a picnic lunch on the lawns in the sun we walked back to Oxford St and caught a bus to the Reservoir Park in Paddington. This park is a re-purposing of the old water reservoir – a small gem easily overlooked. It also has a lovely example of a Wollemi Pine tree.
This completed our walk. We were very fortunate to have had such a sunny winter’s day as the forecast in the beginning of the week had been very different.

Jibbon Head

On Sunday 4th June, 15 OFF members and friends went on our annual “whale watching” walk. We arrived at Cronulla by train and car and then ferried across to Bundeena. It was a beautiful day and many people like us had decided to visit Royal National Park, consequently the ferry was quite crowded.

From Bundeena we followed the Jibbon Head track, there were plenty of wildflowers out including four species of banksia, acacias and plenty of pea flowers.

We had lunch in a lovely grassy spot overlooking the entrance into Port Hacking. It was a good spot for whale watching as well! We saw up to 10 whales, some were breaching creating spectacular splashes.   We returned to Bundeena via the aboriginal rock carvings, now protected by the construction of a viewing platform. We debated whether the two whales in the carvings were a humback and an orca and what was the significance of the two whales to the local aboriginals. Perhaps they had some cooperative arrangement with the orcas as used to occur with the whalers in Twofold Bay at Eden.

We then scarpered back in time to get the 3pm ferry which again was well crowded.We officially finished at Cronulla and satisfied that we had achieved our whale spotting goal and had a lovely walk in our great treasure, the Royal National Park.


Lime Kiln Bay Walk 20 May 2017

170520 LKB wetland OFF Guided walk-page-001

Malabar Headland National Park Walk

P1010787P1010793This was advertised as a generous walk – giving lots but demanding little. A glorious day welcomed 19 walkers to the Maroubra Beach Kiosk for coffee before we headed south to the bush-covered headland around AnP1010798zac Rifle Range – welcome to Sydney’s newest national park.

P1010814The walk along the coastline to Boora Point was punctuated by brilliant cliff and coast views and well as views of the city not far away. We paused at Magic Point where we learned about sharks from our youngest but perhaps most erudite walker, Wesley aged 11.

P1010816From there we headed past WWII pill boxes to Boora Point where aborigines once gathered for healing and shelter. This was the entrance to Long Bay. We looked out on the site of the wrecked MV Malabar (1931) which gave its name to this locality.

P1010833We enjoyed lunch on the rocks above the bay and learned about the name of the neighbouring suburb – Matraville, named after James Matra. Matra accompanied Cook aboard the Endeavour when on 29th April 1770*, almost exactly 247 years ago, Endeavour entered Botany Bay just to the south. Matra walked these coastal cliffs and hills with his friend Joseph Banks. We packed lunch away and headed back through fine coastal heath to Maroubra Beach feeling well satisfied.  CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTO ALBUM

P1010836Field Day Report of Malabar Headland National Park 30th April by Walk Leader: Julian Sheen

* More accurately 28/04, Cook had no idea of the International Date Line

Heathcote National Park to Waterfall

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.



SE Bushland Reserves of Georges River Council

Graham Fry - mangrove boardwalk Poulton Park_20170302Four 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.

Brian Dale - orchid Kyle Williams-1As 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.


Brian Dale - Kyle Bay at high tide from Kyle Williams Reserve-1Zig-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.

Carrs Park Sea wallThe walk concluded with an inspection of the seawall constructed from sandstone blocks that Kogarah Council installed in 2016 to enhance the foreshore habitat.

CLICK HERE FOR OFF report on Seawall

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.

Kosciuszko National Park January 2017

2017 Snowy Porritt(272)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(154)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(196)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(278)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(165)

2017 Snowy Sharyn Cullis (7)

2017 Snowy Porritt(239)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(228)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.

2017 Snowy Sharyn Cullis (5)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.

2017 Snowy Porritt(197)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.

2017 Snowy Sharyn Cullis (3)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.