It’s the first time I’ve bushwalked in the Red Hill Reserve (officially called the Red Hill Bushland Reserve), which lies between Cromer Heights and Oxford Falls. There’s a network of official and unofficial bushwalking and mountain-biking trails, on what seems to be a mixture of Crown land, Aboriginal land (managed by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council) and undeveloped private land. My first challenge is accessing these trails – I had intended to start from the Wakehurst Parkway, but multiple “No Entry” signs thwarted that plan. Continuing north along the Wakehurst Parkway, I discover there are no access tracks along the western side of Red Hill. I end up parking on Maybrook Avenue, where a narrow track between houses soon meets the Cromer Trail, a wide service trail.
Continuing west along the service trail, I ignore a trail on the right that goes up past a weathered sandstone rock formation. A bit further is another distinct trail that heads north, which I take as it’s going in roughly the right direction to the first of two trig stations I’m looking for.
The track through the Red Hill Reserve climbs steadily, over a few rock platforms and some “jumps” that suggest this was intended to be used by mountain bikes.
It soon reaches another service trail, and a number of “private property” signs that may be legimitate – or may not. There has been some controversy and public resistance to a number of developmentsthat threaten to impact the trails through the Red Hill Reserve. I go past these signs, just to be safe, before heading “off track” to the first trig station. I can’t spot any remains of the Wheeler Trig Station, which has been dismantled and removed since it was last inspected in 1976…
Once I descend to the Cromer North Trail (also referred to as the Red Hill Main Trail), the second trig point I’m looking for is immediately visible on an exposed rock platform just off the service trail. It’s a quick and easy scramble up to the rock platform, on which sits the concrete base and metal plinth of Cromer Heights Trig Station (TS10447).
From the top of this rocky outcrop you can see the ocean to the east, beyond Cromer and Collaroy. To the west, beyond the Red Hill Reserve, is Oxford Falls and Belrose.
I head down the northern side of this outcrop to re-join the Cromer North Trail again. While the service trail continues north, through a maze of bushwalking and MTB trails, this is as far as I’m going this afternoon. My last detour is another service trail that branches to the west of the Cromer North Trail, from which there is a narrow and overgrown path to a tesselated rock pavement. I’ve heard there may be an Aboriginal engraving site here, but I can’t spot anything.
I then head back via the Cromer North Trail, which passes the Wheeler Heights Aboriginal engraving site.
This large site was documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899, who described it as “one of the finest groups the Writer has come across”.
Two speared kangaroos One of two men (hunters). Next to him is a stingray. One of two men (hunters). A mundoe is above his head. Described as two dolphins (although one is a fish) One of the stingrays has a "long tail shaped like a human leg with a pointed knee". The marine creature has four conical projections from its head and is "probably a gummy shark" (McCarthy). Next to it is a small man. McCarthy suggested that "the little man appears to have some relationship with the marin creature". One of of men engaged in a duel (he holds a boomerang or club in his right hand) One of two men engaged in a duel A sistrum (a "shell jingling instrument looped into a circle" (Cambell) " or a "shell ornament" (McCarthy).
Dolphin and stingray
Marine creature and Man
Man holding club
Sistrum or ornament
Two speared kangaroos
One of two men (hunters). Next to him is a stingray.
One of two men (hunters). A mundoe is above his head.
Described as two dolphins (although one is a fish)
One of the stingrays has a "long tail shaped like a human leg with a pointed knee".
The marine creature has four conical projections from its head and is "probably a gummy shark" (McCarthy). Next to it is a small man. McCarthy suggested that "the little man appears to have some relationship with the marin creature".
One of of men engaged in a duel (he holds a boomerang or club in his right hand)
One of two men engaged in a duel
A sistrum (a "shell jingling instrument looped into a circle" (Cambell) " or a "shell ornament" (McCarthy).
The western part of the group represents the chase and spearing of two kangaroos, and the two hunters; the foot-marks represent their tracks. The central portion appears to represent a combat between two natives who exhibit plenty of energy in their attitudes; each has a boomerang in the right hand, the foot-marks show, apparently, the flight of the smaller individual and his chase. There are numerous fish also, including several skates and sharks, and a seal and other figures, some of which are partly weathered away. In the middle there is a grotesque-looking figure which may be another seal, and next to it a deity. There is also a fine carving of the sistrum – a shell-jingling musical instrument looped into a circle. There are, also, several waddies and hand outlines.
From the engraving site, the Cromer North Trail / Red Hill Main Trail descends fairly steeply until it meets the Cromer Trail.
I turn left onto the Cromer Trail, which descends past the side-track I took and back to my starting point on Maybrook Avenue.
More information on Red Hill Reserve
The Red Hill Reserve can be accessed from Lady Penrhyn Drive in Beacon Hill to the south and Maybrook Avenue or Cromer Road in Cromer to the east. Within Red Hill there are a few signposted firetrails that cross the reserve – and a multitude of informal walking and mountain bike tracks that have no signage.
- Northern Beaches Council – Red Hill Bushland Reserve
- Exploring the south of Red Hill Reserve – a loop through the southern section
- Wheeler Heights Aboriginal Site