Last time I visited the Red Hill Reserve, I entered from Maybrook Avenue (Cromer) and explored the northern section. This time I’m exploring the southern section of Red Hill Reserve, starting from Lady Penrhyn Drive in Beacon Hill and doing another loop through the reserve. It’s far busier here than the access point in Cromer, with walkers and mountain-bikers. I’m lucky to find a parking spot near the start of the trail. I take a wide fire trail through an open gate, following the multitude of people who are all ignoring a sign that states “private property’ (this firetrail is the access road for for two properties located within the reserve).
Initially I follow the wide trail, which reaches the Red Hill Main Trail (also known as the Cromer Trail) after 800m. This is where the two houses are somewhat incongrously located just off the firetrail. I’ve been talking to Alison and Doug who I met earlier on the trail about some of the Aboriginal engravings, and Alison shares some of her knowledge of the flora. I’ve always thought wattle trees were all pretty much the same, but Alison explain that the wattles along the firetrail are Acacia saligna, or the Western Australian golden wattle, and are a weed. There are (I discover later) at least fifteen species of acacia in Australia considered weeds in Australia.
I veer onto a narrow bushwalking trail, keen to avoid the firetrails as much as possible. There is a network of minor and often unmapped trails that criss-cross the Red Hill Reserve and later I meet three kids building a new mountain-biking track. I can’t help thinking Red Hill Reserve is the “wild west” of nature reserves: on my afternoon bushwalk I’ve seen “private property” signs ignored by everyone, multiple groups of kids constructing trails and people riding trailbikes through the reserve.
The narrow track soon re-emerges onto the Red Hill Main Trail, where there are a couple of Aboriginal engraving sites: one with a deeply-carved kangaroo, and another with a fish and mundoe.
Nearby is a deep overhang, which may have been an Aboriginal occupation shelter.
After continuing a bit further along the Red Hill Main Trail / Cromer Trail I reach the junction with the Cromer North Trail. Soon after this junction I go off-track, keen to avoid the crowds and explore some of the rock platforms. There are quite a few flowering grevilleas, and views of the ocean in the distance.
I find one Aboriginal engraving site, and many tesselated rock platforms. Some of the rock platforms have small piles of scattered stones: I often wonder if these are natural, or if the stones have been deliberately scattered.
After a short break on one of these rock platform, I get ready for some more off-track walking… only to find I’ve stopped about five metres from one of the informal tracks that criss-cross Red Hill Reserve. I follow the trail in a general north-westerly direction, crossing a few more unmarked trails.
It’s pleasant walking along these minor trails, and I meet very few people. You really can’t get lost as Red Hill Reserve is not very big – but it’s helpful to have an online map so you have an idea of where you are on the many unmarked and unmapped trails.
I’m eventually back at the junction of the Red Hill Main Trail / Cromer Trail and Cromer North Trail, and head up the Cromer North Trail to the significant Wheeler Heights Aboriginal Site. I visited this site, which is roughly in the middle of Red Hill Reserve, on my last visit. This time I’m planning to document the site more comprehensively, and I spend a couple of hours photographing the many engravings and “scenes”.
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)
Dolphin and stingray
One of the stingrays has a "long tail shaped like a human leg with a pointed knee".
Marine creature and Man
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".
Man holding club
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
Sistrum or ornament
A sistrum (a "shell jingling instrument looped into a circle" (Cambell) " or a "shell ornament" (McCarthy).
I chat to a few people while I’m here, and the interest from kids and adults alike makes me question again why we don’t have more interpretative signage and information on these Aboriginal heritage sites. (The site is just off the main track, but has no signage.) I head back initially the same way, back to the Cromer Trail / Cromer North Trail junction. In the distance is some smoke from the weekend’s hazard reduction burns.
Preferrring to avoid re-tracing my steps, I veer of the main trail soon after the junction onto another minor track which is heading in roughly the right direction.
Like most of these informal tracks, they soon end up on back on a major trail, and after a couple of hundred metres I’m on the Red Hill Main Trail / Cromer Trail again. It’s getting late in the day, so most of the crowds have gone and I’m only sharing the wide firetrail with a handful of mountain-bikers and joggers.
There’s also nice late afternoon light, making a nice end to my Red Hill Reserve bushwalk… although I’ve still got a bit more to go!
Once I reach a locked gate near the end of the Red Hill Main Trail I’ve got one last choice: walk the last couple of hundred metres along the firetrail, or follow a bushwalking trail that’s going in roughly the same direction…
The bushwalking track loops back to the same place as the firetrail, but is a nicer trail and offers some views of the sunset as it follows the edge of a small ridge.
I’m here at just the right time to get some sunset photos, before finishing my walk at the Red Hill Reserve “Picnic Area and Lookout”.
The parking area is empty and the carpark gate locked, as I follow the sealed carpark road back down to the main road to complete my loop walk.
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
- A loop through the Red Hill Reserve – exploring the northern section
- Wheeler Heights Aboriginal Site