Bushwalking – Part One
Bushwalking is what Australians call walking in natural areas, whether it’s along a trail in an urban park or forest, or way out in the middle of nowhere. It’s the same as what British people would call hiking or rambling, but in quite different scenery.
Caiti and I went on two bushwalks on the Saturday: the first was at Balls Head Reserve and the second in Lane Cove National Park.
Balls Head Reserve consists of nine hectares of waterfront bushland jutting out into Sydney Harbour. You’re in the city, but until you emerge from the trails at various viewing points, you really wouldn’t know it. Before the First Fleet arrived and the area was renamed after the Commander of the HMS Supply, the first ship to enter Botany Bay, Balls Head was the home of the Cammeraygal people. Middens (dumps of domestic waste including animal bones and mollusc shells) and rock engravings bear evidence to their time there. The Cammeraygal people were hunter-fisher-gatherers who lived in clans along the North Shore of Sydney. They inhabited the area for nearly 6,000 years, until the 1820s. As well as many intriguing, very non-European trees such as Sydney Red Gums, Red Bloodwoods and Black She-Oaks, and huge Banksias (shrubs with candle like flowers that lorikeets love), there are plenty of birds and animals in the Reserve. We spotted a brush turkey (in the photo), mynahs and lorikeets and heard some rustlings in the undergrowth but didn’t see who was making them. We passed some deserted cabins which people lived in during the Great Depression of the first few years of the 1930s. People also lived in the caves on Balls Head during that time too. Then we came to the Coal Loader. This was a controversial development from the early 1900s. Henry Lawson, one of Australia’s most famous poets, wrote a protest poem ‘The Sacrifice of Balls Head’ in 1916. Here’s the first stanza of it:
They’re taking it, the shipping push,
As all the rest must go —
The only spot of cliff and bush
That harbour people know.
The spirit of the past is dead
North Sydney has no soul —
The State is cutting down Ball’s Head.
To make a wharf for coal.
Despite the opposition of Lawson and many others, the coal loader was built by 1920 and it continued operating until 1992. Its purpose was to transfer coal from large carriers to smaller coal-fired vessels. There was a high platform for coal stockpiles and underneath were tunnels in which chutes dropped the coal into waiting carts. A cable-hauled railway system kept these carts on a continuous loop between the two tunnels and the wharf, where the coal was loaded into boats. The cable system was replaced in the mid-1970s by a high-speed conveyor belt. The coal loader site is now a centre for sustainability, promoting innovations for sustainable living. There’s a nice café too, but we were keen to get on with our next bushwalk and we’d already had a snack stop. I think I’d better save the next bushwalk for my next post as there’s lots to tell you about that one too. Here are a few more pics of the wonderful trees we walked through. Those big growths you’ll spot in the second and third photos tree aren’t parasitic fungi, which was our first thought. They’re a termites’ nest. The species responsible is Nasutitermes walkeri and they build their large, round nests on stressed trees, often ones recovering from a bush fire. Later that day Caiti and I saw some termites hard at work creating a new nest. They construct a sort of tunnel that goes up the tree trunk from the ground to the nest site. Fascinating!
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