Royal Botanic Gardens

On Tuesday 5 March 2019, eight members met at Oatley station and caught the train to Martin Place from where we headed through the Domain to the Information Centre of The Royal Botanic Garden where the tour commenced. As our intended OFF leader had a foot injury, we joined the scheduled 10.30 guided tour for the public but the group of 24 was too large for one guide. The Co-ordinator of the Garden Volunteer Program and a very experienced horticulturist, Paul Nicholson, stepped in to take our OFF group and a few others on our own very entertaining tour.

Points of interest included the oldest bridge in Australia; its antiquity was discovered when repairs were done early this century and confirmed by the convict marks on the handmade bricks. The bridge crosses a stream that flows into Farm Cove. Swamp Oaks (Casuarina glauca) more than 250 years old, growing on a hill near the Maiden Pavilion, mark the original high water level; the land below that has been reclaimed from swamp.

We looked at the recently-renovated pond with Lotus flowers & waterlilies, a few flowers still in bloom. The seeds of the Lotus will survive in the water for many years. Water droplets on the Lotus leaves stay in a spherical form due to hairs on the leaf’s surface and roll across the surface, cleaning off dust as they go. Amazing!

Paul led us along a mulched path to show us some most unusual blooms – the dramatic black, white and burgundy flowers of bat plants (Tacca species).

Southern Hemisphere conifers were another feature of the tour. A Kauri Pine is the tallest tree in the garden (33 m). We stood in the shade of a beautiful specimen of a Norfolk Island Pine; it was hoped they would provide timber for ships’ masts but were found to be most unsuitable as the timber splits at points of lateral growth. One of Australia’s rarest conifers, Wollemi Pines are being propagated and planted all over the world.

It was interesting to learn about the Grey-headed Flying Fox dilemma and how it is being resolved. Intense studies including tagging bats showed that the individuals roosting in the Garden during the day were part of a single population extending along the East Coast from Queensland to Adelaide.  So for two years the bats in the Garden were disturbed by noise at dawn and they have moved on to other colonies, of which there are a number in the Sydney region.

Fruit bats are vital for pollination of many native trees and enhance cross pollination because pollen sticks better to their fur than to birds’ feathers. At night the white blossoms of gum trees stand out and their nectar production doubles, making them highly visible and attractive to the bats. The bats
also eat the fruits of figs and other trees, assisting in dispersal and germination through their droppings.

The Australian White Ibis is increasing in numbers in the Garden; their probing is good for aerating the soil as well as for pest control. The Garden is currently participating in a study into their movements; the ibis are being tagged with numbers and the public is encouraged to notify where
they are observed. The palms are suffering as the ibis nest on their crowns, damaging the growing point and in time killing the tree.

We ended our tour in The Calyx, the glasshouse built to celebrate the bicentenary of the Garden in 2016. It is a horseshoe shape, three-quarters glass with the whole back wall covered in plants.

A fine mist of water keeps the plants hydrated and the glass walls and roof allow in light for photosynthesis. The current exhibition is of carnivorous plants – pitcher plants, sundews and Venus flytraps in all shapes, colours and sizes. The exhibition will close in winter but re-open in spring and continue till next year. The Calyx also has an excellent information section, amenities and café with seating outside overlooking a water feature that includes handmade glass pitcher plants, stunning!

On leaving the Garden, five of us went on to the State Library to see the new exhibitions including, among others, a collection of Myles Dunphy’s papers. We finished up with coffee in Oatley after a most enjoyable day.


Walk Report by Marie O’Connor & Photos by Graham Lalchere


New Program for 2019

OFF Field Officer, Graham Fry and Program Officer Matt Allison have put together the program of activities for 2019. There is a mixture of easy excursions and some more demanding walks. Our monthly Monday meetings will feature environmental research, travel and tips on living sustainably.  CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

OFF program 2019- pdf copy can be printed or get a card at one of our talks or walks



25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm  OEH researcher -Dr David Eldridge: Conservation & management of Australian Drylands.


5thTuesday – Field day – Tour of Royal Botanic Gardens – history, wildlife and horticulture. Leader: Amanda Gibson

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm – Linda Groom from Save Kosci Inc walks the talk: Protecting fragile ecosystems in Kosciuszko NP.

31stSunday – Field day – Easy walk – McMahons Pt to Milsons Pt, Wendy Whiteley’s garden. Leader: Sue de Beuzeville


29th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm – OEH Researcher – Ross Crates – updates us on the fate of the endangered Regent Honeyeater.


5thSunday – Field day - Hard walk with easier alternative – spectacular Bargo R and Gorge. Leader: Sharyn Cullis

27th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm- Deb Andrew on Wildlife wonders of the Burragorang Valley – hidden refuge near here.


2ndSunday – Field day - Medium walk – Red Hand Cave stencils, axe-grinding grooves, Glenbrook. Leader: Matt Allison

24th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Anna Moltchanski from GRC-partnered Our Energy Future – Solar energy &reducing bills

30thSunday – Field day - Medium walk (some off-track) – Blue Labyrinth, Mt Whaite nr Wentworth Falls. Leader: Julian Sheen


22ndMonday Meeting – 7.30pm - Alan Fairley& Kim Wagstaff showcase the natural wonders of Western Australia – flora & landscape.

27thSaturday – Field day - Easy walk – explore Yeramba Lagoon at Picnic Point nr Georges River. Leader: Vicki Bolling


26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Jayden Walsh displays extraordinary knowledge of reptiles and frogs of the Sydney Basin

31stSaturday – Field day - 15 km walk –Waterfall to Heathcote via Uloola Pools, Royal NP, wildflowers. Leader: K Wagstaff


23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - President Graham Lalchere goes the extra mile with the history of Myles Dunphy, the man.

27/29thWeekend field trip - Stay in Capertee NP accommodation, explore the valley and enjoy the woodland’s rich fauna. Leader: Deb Andrew


28th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - OFF’s research grant recipient- Justin Collette – reveals progress on his seed germination studies


3rd Sunday – field trip - Morning cruise – explore Hawkesbury R with commentary by local historian. Leader: G Fry

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Chris Lloyd takes us off the coast of Wollongong to the 5 Islands where he has been instrumental in the conservation strategies of these important sea bird refuges.

DECEMBER 2nd Monday Christmas Picnic in Oatley Park


FEBRUARY 3rdAGM – 7.30pm- Followed by members’ photos & supper

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Our Blue mountains excursion to Mt Tomah – Botanic gardens was popular with 30 members and friends participating. After stopping for a comfort break and morning tea at a café in Richmond we arrived at Mt Tomah Botanic Garden at 11.30am. What a contrast to OFF’s last visit here in June 2008 when the fog and mist surrounded us. The low visibility created its own special magic on that cold day as we made our way through the garden. This time however, a perfect spring day greeted us, with the sun shining on a wonderful vista over the garden to the blue mountains in the distance.

On arrival it was agreed that we would all go our separate ways and that the bus would leave at 2pm. for the return journey. The party separated into various small groups which headed off in different directions, consequently there were varied experiences throughout the day. We all enjoyed the wonderful waratahs which were at their best as were the rhododendrons. It was very difficult to come up with favourite garden sections as the area is wonderfully diverse owing to its former use and subsequent development.From 1935 to 1972 (when it was gifted to the Botanic Gardens Trust), the property was operated as a cut-flower farm as well as a private garden which was planted with many unusual species of plants and trees from many parts of the world. In 1983 with government bicentennial grants the garden began its transformation into the Mt Tomah Botanical Garden. The highly managed environment adjacent to natural wilderness proved to be a challenge. The collection of trees already planted was added to with an emphasis on Southern Hemisphere plants which had not previously been grown in Australia, along with additional plantings of many Australian Native species – hence the amazing diversity.

Thanks to Graham Fry for arranging the day and driving the bus without which some members would not have been able to attend. Those of us who had visited ten years earlier noticed how the plants have matured and multiplied. A perfect day enjoyed by all! (report by Robin Dickson)

We were amazed by the Sureal Puya flowers and spectacular show of the pink Flamingo tree.

The North American woodland walk and Gondwana forest with a grove of Wollemi Pines provided shade on a very warm spring day. 



The Rock garden with South African Protea and South American bromliads were stunning displays.


See More about the Gardens




Quarantine Station North Head

Six OFF members and their guests participated on a field trip to Quarantine Station on North Head on Sunday 23 September. It was a glorious spring day which coincided with the 10th Birthday of the Q Station’s new chapter. There were free history tours, stalls, entertainment, and various ‘mock’ re-enactments of historical events.

The complex operated as a quarantine station from 14 August 1832 to 29 February 1984. The concept behind its establishment was that, as an island-nation, the Colony of New South Wales, as it then was, was susceptible to ship-borne disease. Those who might have an infectious disease would be kept in quarantine until it was considered safe to release them. The importance and future role of North Head was reinforced by Governor Darling’s Quarantine Act of 1832, which set aside the whole of North Head for quarantine purposes in response to the 1829–51 cholera pandemic in Europe

The area has three main groups of buildings:

  • the wharf and foreshore buildings such as: the disinfection and sower blocks, the Gas Chamber, the Museum, Café/Kiosk etc. at Quarantine Beach.

  • the hospital and isolation group, and

  • the buildings on the upper grassy slopes, with extensive views, grassy cleared areas around these groups, delineated by bushland remnants and regrowth.

One of the most historic features of the quarantine station is the series of engravings along the escarpment adjacent to the jetty. The carvings were executed by people staying at the quarantine station, and cover an extensive period that stretched from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. SEE MORE…


In 2008, Australia’s longest continuously operating quarantine station began a new chapter in its history, termed Adaptive Reuse & Heritage Conservation, and opening as Q Station. Home to a hotel, conference centre, and restaurant complex, a beautiful harbourside destination for families, corporate groups and the community at large to enjoy and explore. It remains part of the Sydney Harbour National Park.



Nattai National Park – Bonnum Pic

A party of 18 club members assembled at Mittagong on Sunday morning 29 July to walk the Bonnum Pic track in the Nattai National Park. The Pic gained its striking name from the French engineer and explorer Francis Barrallier in 1802. For the most intrepid the goal would have been Bonnum Pic itself, a narrow promontory of broken rock, bound on three sides by sheer 150m cliffs with breathtaking views north the distant Blue Mountains and the Burragorang Valley.

We opted for a more relaxing itinerary than the full 16km out-and-back to the Pic, and after a 25km car pool drive along the Wombeyan Caves road and the Wanganderry farm access road, we had a pleasant 1.5 hour walk through grazing land, bush and heathland out to the wonderful Wanganderry Walls. The mallee on the rocky areas was the Narrow-leaved Mallee Ash Eucalyptus apiculata  which occurs at West Berrima, Wanganderry Tableland , Hilltop and Mt Keira. The hakea was Hakea constablei which occurs on Wanganderry Tableland and the Upper Blue Mountains.

We then spent a further hour navigating along the cliff line across friendly, undulating rock domes in brilliant sunshine, mild temperatures, but blustery winds, to our lunch spot, before retracing our steps to the cars. Thanks to Adrian Buzo for leading the walk and writing up the report.

Our  expert fauna guide Deb Andrew was able to spot and record some fauna sightings for the Atlas of NSW wildlife. A Lesueur’s Velvet Gecko (Oedura lesueurii), favoured food of the endangered Broad-headed Snake. She explained that moving the rocks (for cairn building ) was destroying gecko and snake habitat. We saw the v-shaped incisions on the trunks of Grey Gum (Eucalyptus punctata) which are the feeding incisions made by the endangered Yellow-bellied Glider Petaurus austalis (feeds on sap nectar and insects),. We also saw an endangered Scarlet Robin, heard an endangered Gang Gang Cockatoo and heard a Red-browed Treecreeper. There were no previous records for those species in those locations in the Atlas.


National Parks Document on Vegetation

North Head Sanctuary Walk

A dozen OFF members and friends enjoyed a brilliant day out on Sunday 1 July. The walk had something for everyone – spectacular views, flora and fauna, sculptures and history. Despite the ever shifting railway timetables we all made it on to the 10 o’clock ferry to Manly. Sydney harbour was sparkling on a glorious warm sunny mid-winter day.

We walked from Manly ferry terminal across to South Steyne Beach, along Marine Parade which was busy with people enjoying the unseasonably warm day. There were some interesting sculptures along the way highlighting the aquatic life in the Cabbage Tree Bay Reserve.


Coffee break at Shelly beach, where we encountered some very bold Brush Turkeys who were keen to sample our morning tea cakes. We pressed on up the hill to North Head.


The top of the hill gave us some spectacular views north. Cunningham’s skinks were spotted taking in the sun and view. The walk continued through the walled area with endangered Banksia Scrub. Some recent back burning has been done in this area to help with the regeneration of the bush. Enough flowering plants were spotted to keep our plant experts busy. On our walk through this area some Wattle Birds and Regent Honeyeaters were spotted feeding on the Banksia flowers.  Our stop at North Head sanctuary foundation information centre was productive with an enthusiastic volunteer and lots of information.

The nearby sculpture gallery offered some artistic flavour to the day. As we walked on towards the centre of the headland, history buffs were kept happy exploring fortifications and military buildings.


After our lunch break, we walked the Fairfax loop which offered some stunning views of headlands of Sydney harbour and the city. We also glimpsed a few large splashes as whales frolicked amongst the flotilla of whale watching boats. The walk officially finished at the aptly named Bella Vista cafe where some stopped off to a well earned afternoon tea and walk back; others opted for a quicker return on the bus.

Our return ferry trip provided some magnificent sunset views of the harbour and silhouettes of the bridge.


Elizabeth Farm – Rosehill

On Sunday 3rd June, eight OFF members took part in Vicki Bolling’s walk around Parramatta which followed on from last year’s successful outing.  Initially, we called in at the Lancer Barracks near the station, the barracks were built in 1818 and now as well as being an operational army unit it also houses a museum, unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do a tour but perhaps next time? It’s greatest claim to fame is that the Australian Light Horse was initially based at this barracks.

The primary destination our walk was to visit Elizabeth Farm, the property of John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Their house was built in 1793 and is recognised as the oldest European building in Australia.

After a welcome coffee, a volunteer guide, Lyn, gave us a wonderful tour of the restored homestead complete with many historical stories of the Macarthur dynasty. We were surprised at the size of the house and complex of buildings. Being allowed allowed to explore all the different rooms and even sit on the furniture gave us the opportunity to experience what life was like in colonial times.

The tour lasted 2 hours and I don’t think any of us became bored in that time. We finished the tour with lunch in the grounds. After lunch we returned to Parramatta railway station via another historic Macarthur property, Hambledon Cottage but as it was about to close we decided that we might visit it next year on the 3rd walk around Parramatta.

Thanks to Vicki for a great day Report By Graham Fry – Field Officer


Victoria Barracks

Excursion to Victoria Barracks 1st March
We were greeted with a lovely day as we gathered at Oatley station, then train to Central and bus down Flinders Street. In all, thirteen of us plus some extras entered the Barracks via the security check-point on Moore Park Road. It was largely a painless experience passing through the various barriers although several AFP officers were standing about portentously.

Once inside we were greeted by Sergeant Ryan and members of the Corps of Guides. We were divided into groups of four and headed off to explore the many historic sites that make up the barracks with our large Visitors cards dangling round our necks.

We learned that not only is Victoria Barracks a major historic site, built in the 1840’s, it is very much an active military base where the headquarters of Australia’s Land Army is found – ready to meet any emergency. We all admired the fine Georgian architecture of the original barracks buildings including soldiers’, NCOs’ and officers’ accommodations. We enjoyed hearing stories of the soldiers of the past and present from our excellent guides, all retired soldiers.

After coffee we visited the museum where Peter Ryan gave us an excellent account of life in the NSW colonial army, the battle of Vinegar Hill, the Soudan expedition and other exploits from Victorian times. He was really good.  SEE PHOTO GALLERY

One of our party Anne Cale was able to see her Great Aunt’s 1915 nursing war medals.





Our president Graham Lalchere was interested in the rats Tobrouk display, as his father served in Tobruk in WWII. The Rats of Tobruk was the name given to the soldiers of the garrison who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the Afrika Corps, during the Siege of Tobruk in World War II

Following what was a demanding but highly worthwhile four-hour tour most of us retired to the Captain Cook Hotel for a good lunch and a walk back down Albion Street to Central Station.



New Program for 2018

OFF Field Officer, Graham Fry and Program Officer Matt Allison have put together the program of activities for 2018. There is a mixture of easy excursions and some more demanding walks. Our monthly Monday meetings will feature environmental research, travel and tips on living sustainably.  CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

Take a look at our 2018 Program- pdf copy can be printed or get a card at one of our talks or walks

2018 Program

MEETINGS: Held at 7.30 pm in Oatley RSL & Community Club, 23 Letitia Street, Oatley




26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

James Baxter-Gilbert examining eastern water dragons and their adaptability to urban habitat.


1st Thursday – Field day

Victoria Barracks – tour of precinct with its early colonial architecture. Leader: Julian Sheen

21st Wednesday – Field day

Walk from Edgecliff to Circular Quay via Royal Botanic Garden. Leader: Keith McRorie

26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Em Prof of Anthropology, Richard Wright OAM examines the Australian climate & environment of 10,000 years ago.


23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Julian Sheen on The Old Burma Road to Shangrila: travelling beyond expectations in Myanmar and China.

27/29th Weekend field trip

Stay in Capertee NP homestead surrounded by wildlife; explore the valley. Leader: Deb Andrew


28th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Ecologist Dr Rod Armistead from Eco Logical explains the Phytophthora Dieback in Myles D R.


3rd Sunday – Field day

Parramatta – further exploration of its heritage sites and parks. Leader: Vicki Bolling

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Author Paul Irish revealing his recent book “Hidden in Plain View” exploring Aboriginal lives post 1788.


1st Sunday – Field Day

North Head – medium walk through rare heathland and wildflowers. Leader: Melina Amerasinghe

23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Bev Debrincat shows how easy it is to establish small bird habitat corridors in our own yards.

29th Sunday – Field Day

Nattai NP – medium to hard walk to Bonnum Pic, spectacular views. Leader Adrian Buzo


27th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Movie screening of “Secrets at Sunrise”: Western Australia’s rarest bird: the western ground parrot.


2nd Sunday – Field Day

Sydney Olympic Park – Heritage Railway tour, birds, wetlands. Leader: Liz Cameron

23rd Sunday – Field Day

Quarantine Station North Head – tour of heritage buildings, colonial history. Leader: Yvonne Penn

24th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Cliff Crane (The Banjo) reminisces on famous and little known Oatley Bushwalkers of Yesteryear.


22nd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Prof Ross Jeffree shows it is possible with the “Conservation success stories of Bhutan”.

27th Saturday – Field day

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – cool climate Spring flowers. Leader: Graham Fry


18th Sunday – Field Day

Stony Range Botanical Garden, an oasis of native plants in Dee Why. Leader: Graham Lalchere

26th Monday Meeting & Social Supper – 7.30pm

PhD candidate, Reannan Honey brings us up to speed on the results of her “Homes in Hollows” study which OFF is helping to finance.


3rd Christmas Picnic in Oatley Park



4th AGM – 7.30pm

Followed by members’ photos & supper



Graham Lalchere 9580 3107

Vice Presidents

Alan Fairley 9570 8332

Julian Sheen 9594 4888


Liz Cameron 9580 6621


Rodger Robertson 9570 7471

Program & Publicity Officer

Matt Allison 0408 605 923

Field Officer

Graham Fry 9580 6621

Membership Officer

Robin Dickson 9580 5663

Website Officer

Melina Amerasinghe 0400 300 662

Grants Officer

Kim Wagstaff 9580 7919

Additional Officers

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Peter de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Ben Hope 0402 358 348

Peter Mahoney 0435 990 965

James Deli 0434 441 800

Appointed Positions

Public Officer

Julian Sheen 9594 4888

Editorial Committee

Conservation Advisor

Deb Andrew 9570 2695

Hospitality and Welcome

Beverley Watters 9534 1096

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Sue de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Sue Howard 9579 1718



Annual Visit to Kosciuszko National Park

Nineteen OFF members and friends stayed at Charlotte Pass for 3 – 7 days in January 2018. It was our third year in Pygmy Possum Lodge, which has stunning views and is convenient for walks on the Main Range. Also resident were three couples from Berowra who were very convivial and even bought an OFF calendar.

Wildflowers were colourful and abundant (thanks to a late snowfall in October from which many snow drifts remained) and much photographed.

The usual walks were completed, even a trek to Blue Lake in rain, hail and mist.

The less energetic enjoyed watching Flame Robins visit their nest on the lodge verandah, and reading, chatting and doing embroidery, word games and a jigsaw. Tim repaired a cassette radio that became welcome entertainment for Melina’s mother who was nursing a fractured arm.

Weather was changeable and there was a light dusting of snow on the peaks on the final Sunday morning.