It’s my second bushwalk through the McPherson State Forest after a large bushfire a couple of years ago, with the park only recently re-opened. While the impact of the bushfire is still very evident, it’s also resulted in a blaze of wildflowers that thrive after fire. The walk starts at the end of Kyola Road, and follows the well-graded Airfield Trail into the forest. (The trail got its name from being the access trail to a private landing strip in what is now the McPherson State Forest.) Along the firetrail are thousands of Gymea Lilies, although we’re a few weeks too late to see them in full flower.
A few of the lilies are still flowering, with their stems up to six metres high. Regarded as “truly iconic plant of the Australian bush”, the Gymea lily (Doryanthes excelsa) is endemic to the Sydney Basin, and its common name is derived from the name given to the plant by the indigenous people (Kai’mia). The lily was considered by the Dhawaral people to have mythological value and to be an indicator of the appearance of whales.
Unfortunately many of the flower heads are past their prime.
After passing the airfield (although you really can’t tell that it used to be an airfield), we head off-track along one of the many ridges. A network of firetrails and old logging trails traverse McPherson State Forest, but the minimal undergrowth in most of the forest means it’s even more enjoyable to leave the formed trails behind. From the ridge there’s a nice view over the rugged valleys and ridges stretching into the distance.
As well as Gymea Lilies, the flannel flowers are also out in force. First described by French botanist Jacques Labillardière in 1804, the flannel flower’s botanical name Actinotus helianthi is derived from the Greek stem aktin-/ακτιν- “ray” or “spoke of a wheel” or “sunbeam” and means “furnished with rays”. Although it looks like a daisy, it’s in the same family as the carrot.
We pass some impressive caves along the edge of the ridge, many weathered by wind and rain over thousands of years.
Further along the ridge, the Corroboree Shelter, Banksia Shelter and very aptly-named Flannel Flower Shelter contain Aboriginal drawings and stencils. There are hundreds of indigenous heritage sites in McPherson State Forest and the Warre Warren Aboriginal Place, which were home to the Darkinjung people.
From the end of the ridge, we descend down to a creek, passing more wildflowers.
I generally try and avoid creeks and valleys when walking off-track, as they are often choked with vegetation and make for slow and hard progress. But apart from a few ferns, the bottom of the valley is pretty clear. We cross the creek, which is just a trickle after a few weeks without rain, and head up the other side of the valley to rejoin the Airfield Trail.
Heading back to the car, I explore another ridge, finding a couple of long-abandoned cars and a few more sandstone shelters.
As I walk back up the Airfield Trail, I take a few photos of the post-fire regeneration. While every tree is blackened, there’s also a sea of green, with every tree covered in new shoots.
Just before reaching the entry gate at the end of Kyola Road, there is plantation near the trail. I find out later (thanks Kate!) that they are radiata pines and on private land; unlike the native trees, there’s no signs of any life on these trees.
I’m sure this won’t be my last McPherson State Forest bushwalk; this has been another enjoyable excursion, and there are many more ridges and valleys to explore!
More information on the Airfield Trail
One of many firetrails within McPherson State Forest, the Airfield Trail is the main access trail from the gate at the end of Kyola Road. It passes the old airfield, before descending to Warre Warren Creek where it meets the Warre Warren Trail.