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

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