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Hornsby garden

Mr S and I like to go for a walk in new places. One weekend at the end of April (I wrote it them but forgot to post) I remembered somewhere I’ve been meaning to go a decade: Lisgar Gardens. Full of camellias. Lush with trees and ferns. Building on it started one hundred years ago. 

I especially love the steps leading into a garden. So evocative. And what about the tree growing from a rock. It looks as though it is melting over a rock.


The garden is on several levels, falling down a deep slope. Along the path, among the boulders and trees, were lamp posts. Mr S said we were entering Narnia. Too scary!!!


We ventured beyond the garden boundaries, down the steep valley to the creek below. The track was really not a track. “Should we walk here?” I asked Mr S. 

“Looks like leech territory to me,” he replied.

Yes I squealed. Rightly so as it turned out. Four, yes FOUR, leeches I found in one shoe.  Blerk!!!

“Leech Hollow”, Mr S named it. (The valley, not my shoe.)

Up we went, back along the track, returning to he civilised garden. 

A beautiful public garden. Well worth a visit. Next time we will bring a thermos of tea. And we will be back in camellia season.  

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Oot and aboot

Wanna go see whale rock?

What’s that?

A rock that looks like a whale. 

OK. 

While the rain held, we went off in search of whale rock. The online guide listed the usual safety precautions – water, clothing, maps. Even bush on the edges of suburbia can be dangerous. 

We walked into the bush, down a wide, cement roadway, big enough for firefighting trucks. At the bottom of a slope we could see directional signs. None listed the sought-for whale rock. “I wonder which way we need to go?” I asked Mr S. As I spoke, I turned and there was whale rock. 


For size comparison, here is s shot with a disguised Mr S (though I admit there’s not a lot of hiding one can do in a hippy tie-dyed shirt).


Definitely worth the 5 minute walk from the road! Yes, that quick. Why all the safety advice? Ridiculous! WHS gone mad. Anyway that wasn’t enough of a walk, so we ventured in further. Because of all the rain we had (thanks Cyclone Debbie) the creek was over the path. At the first flooded crossing we debated: should we turn back or just walk through? “Ah fuck it. Let’s just walk through it.” So we did. Several times on the way into the bush. And on the way back. 

At least the water was running which meant we wouldn’t get leeches. Unlike our walk the day before!

A couple of weeks earlier we had gone in search of our secret waterfall in another part of the same national park. But we were thwarted by the rain which turned a track into a pond. 

With still water and boggy ground all around, we were in leech territory. In that brief walk I scored two leeches but they mistakenly suckered onto my shoes. Mr S, who’d ventured further and made it to the waterfall, did his bit for wildlife rescue and fed a few leeches. 

A week later, and the day before Whale Rock, we went off to the waterfall again. Stocked with necessary supplies – a stash of salt to battle the leeches – my friend and I lady-stepped over the water-logged paths while Mr S schtomped through. And ended up to his knees in logs and twigs and leaves which had been washed into a pile that Mr S thought was a solid pathway. 

It doesn’t look clearer than the above shot but trust me, the path was now passable.


Mr S made a hasty recovery. We all made it to the waterfall. Our party of three in tact. 

Hard to believe that these are all within 15 minute drive from our home. (This is the designated comfort zone prescribed by my friend and endorsed by Mr S.)

At the outer reach of the 15 minute zone, is Fagan Park, developed on an old orchard site. We visited here one day in the last two months. While most people clustered around the children’s playground and the interesting “gardens of the world”, Mr S and I picnicked at the old homestead which was open for its only Sunday of the month. Maybe Mr S and I are unusual but we love old places. The homestead a host of farm sheds used for fruit packing and equipment all full of objects from the early settlement, many lovingly restored. The water pumps work. The gardens are peaceful. The actual home has been furnished from the period. 

One of the volunteers was a 90 year old whose extended family owned the farm before donating it to the council for a public park. She recalled not being allowed in the main house as a child, being forced to stay in the separate kitchen with her brother. What a connection! To talk with someone who still volunteered and worked in the garden that she played in as a child. 

Picnicking under the she oaks

Mr S impressed with the working water pump

Room of one of the single farm labourers from early last century. Vastly different from the main home.

Tractor shed

Walking into the homestead site


There weren’t many days with skies as blue as this, so we were doubly lucky to chance upon the monthly open day of the homestead. 

Still, there’s a beauty in the rain as the drops on this she oak show. This was taken in my usual lap around “the block” that passes through the edge of the national park. 



There’s a peacefulness in walking on a known path. You don’t have to concentrate and your mind can wander. You can’t think about other things. Conversely, there’s a mindfulness in walking in the new and unknown. You have to concentrate on the path, you are continually looking at the new sights, your mind is processing all the new information. This means you cannot be thinking of all the humdrum of life, you can’t be planning and strategising and going over things and conversations. This is especially true when the path is a rough bush track. 

Both types of walks are good for the mind and soul. As well as the body. And fun as well!

 Return to Refuge Rock

I just had to take Mr S to yesterday’s find. I wanted to look for evidence of mortar shelling and its shrapnel in the rock and find the natural arch.

The path in is wide as it is used to service the electricity towers and by the Rural Fire Service. (For overseas readers, although I live in the suburbs, the Rural Fire Service, a largely volunteer service, deals with bush fires. The Fire Brigade deals with other fires.)


As soon as we got to the rock, we found evidence of artillery. A website said General MacArthur trained troops here. I went to the public library to look in local history books but couldn’t find any records. Something for further research. 


After you see one, you see the signs everywhere. 

So to our next target: the natural arch.  

The rock is huge so we wandered around the top of the edges, peering down the sides of the rock. At some edges it is a 15 metre drop. For those who’ve not been in Australian bush, it’s not easy walking among the vegetation, so it’s not a case of scrambling down and walking around the edge of the rock. There’s crevices, slopes, dense growth blocking your way, holes. All manner of sticks and rocks set to trip and scratch you. And snakes and spiders could be hiding anywhere.

A big crevice. Can’t jump over it.

A big crevice. Can’t jump over it.

Banksias

Banskias abound

Fungi


Back burning on the other side of the ridge. But still no natural arch. 


We followed some tracks which seemed to lead somewhere. Up hill and down dale, past more crevices, and attempts by young geologists/vandals to lever a balanced rock. (Come on if Year 9 Science taught you anything, it’s you need a bigger fulcrum and a stronger lever.)

We reached a very high cliff, preceded by deep crevices in the rocks, leaving large rectangular blocks of stone, looking all the world as the tops of trains waiting in a shunting yard.

Mr S, as the intrepid scout, found a way down. Walking down the slope of a crevice, careful as the leaf litter was deep and slippery. Really it was just a gentle ramp. 

Through the dense shrub to…

The arch. At the base of a 15 metre drop. 

Mr S found what he believed was a short cut back. Let me tell you. I failed on my first attempt. Photos don’t give you depth. And height. The crevice was long, high and narrow. What if we got to the top and were on the wrong side of another crevice?

I let him go first and check it out. Mr S is very slim. Even he had to turn sideways. 

I followed and then, making a U turn, walked up the crevice I walked down. Schimple. 

We were in the bush for about an hour and twenty minutes. Just right. A great adventure for a Sunday afternoon. 

I will return with my walking buddy. But we will take delicate lady steps and head straight for the natural arch.

  

Bush in the suburbs 

One of the things I like about my part of Sydney is the bushland that surrounds us.  

Walking off a suburban street and into bushland, you feel miles from suburban living, from the press of people, from the torment of traffic. 

Today my walking buddy called to ask to explore a new track. Refuge Rock. Only a short drive from my home, tucked away in a neighbouring suburb I never have any inclination to visit. Why would you go to look at housing in new estates? 

There are no signs to this hidden gem though the track is wide and clear, being used by rural firies and to service the electricity towers. 

Initial arrival is underwhelming. Is this it? as you reach the start of a sandstone outcrop. 

But the rock doesn’t stop. One massive slab with different colours and patterns and weathering and cracks and fissures. 

Smokey horizon from Rural Fire Service backburning

Tesselation in foreground, person on top showing how high the rock goes

Erosion under the rock

Long afternoon shadows

Run-off from moss forms a little erosion stream


On return, I did my usual Google of the place. Seems there are mortar impact craters from WWII artillery training. And there’s a natural arch to find. 

I’m going back tomorrow to find these. 

Hedge of banksia in flower in foreground.