Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cowan Creek Bushwalk

Last Saturday our family went on a bushwalk from Berowra to Mount Kuring-Gai Stations via Cowan Creek. Cowan Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River. It was a perfect winter's day with pale blue skies.

The path down from Berowra to Waratah Gully is rather uneven and we were puzzled by the amount of fallen timber. The trees weren't big, but it seemed like a lot of them had been knocked over. Something to do with burning off? The undergrowth was at most hip height, and at the start mainly a kind of grevillea (I think; a lot of our healthland plants are hard to tell apart) and a sweet-scented plant with small five-petalled white flowers (Woollsia pungens, the Snow Wreath). The only flower I saw that I knew was Epacris longiflora, the Native Fuchsia.

As we came closer to the gully floor we could hear water running over rocks. Such a lovely sound! We crossed the creek where once there had been a bridge, and continued alongside the creek into a patch of rainforest. Some of the trees here had the distinctive bark of coachwoods (Ceropetalum apetalum, which have smooth bark blotched white, grey and chestnut. Again, all the trees seemed very young, with diameters under 10cm. I suspect that this gully might have been entirely burnt out by the 1994 bushfires; most of Kuring-Gai Chase National Park was damaged.

We had out lunch on Waratah Bay, not far from the abandoned barge. The sun was welcome after the cool of the rainforest.

Afterwards, our walk continued southwards, up Cowan Creek (which looks more like a river to me, being a couple of hundred metres wide). This was the view north, towards the Hawkesbury. The vegetation is the dry sclerophyll forest typical of the Sydney region.

This was the view upstream:

It was lovely to walk along the creek. Most of the track was about 10m above the waterline. We stopped at every inlet to fortify ourselves with chocolate, and eventually we reached the uphill track to Kuring-gai Station. It was a stiff climb for the children (and, truth be told, for the unfit parents), but there were good views from a resting point halfway up. We ate more chocolate, and I annoyed the family by exclaiming over various flowers.

It was on the latter part of the bushwalk that I noticed NSW Christmas Bush growing everywhere. Unfortunately we also saw an unknown weed plant everywhere. No idea what it was, and my photos didn't come out, but it was doing very well indeed, growing on long canes to 2m with pointed leaves, and very hairy. On the other hand, there was a cream wattle (probably Acacia ulicifolia) flowering in great swathes near Mount Kuring-gai, scenting the air.

This pairing of weathered sandstone and gum trees is typical of coastal Sydney:

The walk was about 9km and a bit strenuous, but our five-year-old and nine-year-old did manage without whingeing until we were almost finished. The hill at the end is not difficult, merely long, and paths are generally in good repair. It is a popular walk and is impossible to get lost on, there being only one track for most of the route. The water views and variety of vegetation make it very enjoyable. A good family day-walk, with easy access by public transport. I'd suggest going in another month. It was really too early for most of our spring wildflowers, but the Boronia was out. The mauve-pink really stands out against our grey-green bush!

Note: While I've marked the photo as B. mollis, I now think it might well have been B. ledifolia -- the leaves were long rather than round.

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