The day we were almost eaten by the scrub

BEROWRA – 28 May 2020
Berowra > Waratah Track > Windybanks Ridge > Waratah Gully > Berowra
Whilst this walk didn’t devolve into being an epic (as predicted by David), it was unanimous agreed that we loved the beginning and the end – but the middle bit was horrific and that Windybanks Ridge was a one off, never to be repeated.

So, the backstory on why we even went to check out Windybanks Ridge … Jeff B had sent me a magazine from another club about three years ago, and a day walk to Windybanks Ridge was listed.  I thought “well if they’re going there, there must be a reason, should check it out”, so I put it on my wish list, and once it’s on the list, it HAS to be done, right? Therefore, it’s all Jeff B’s fault that we got into that horrific scrub!

Brad M and Peter F (who are always up for a challenge joined me) and David S accepted my invitation, maybe against his better judgement, but the weather was good and he couldn’t come up with an excuse not to go. I think my words to him were “it should be an easy day.”

We started out at Berowra Station  and within a few minutes were looking out at Waratah Gully, we were up around 200m looking down into the Gully and wondering how we’d go down there later in the afternoon, would there be impassable waterfalls?  Would it be scrubby? Would we get wet? So many unknowns.

The track down was great, in parts it looked as though it had been cut out of the rockface and wide enough for maybe horse drawn carts in years gone by.

Further down the track was narrower, but this is possibly because a walking track was created on a different route to the horse track.

Down at Waratah Gully and it’s a nice rock slab base, plus there’s an old pipeline, possibly to service the steam trains years ago.

We crossed the creek and continued on the track.  Some nice rocky overhangs along the track.

Can’t remember who, but someone spied this camp cave (only suitable for maybe two, but still a camp cave) so we scrambled up to check it out.

A rock wall just below the camp cave, this was possibly the site of an old farm in the early days as there was a flat area above the rock wall, good site for a dwelling.

Massive blocks of stone placed over a pipe, these would also have been put in years ago.

Lots of midden sites along the track (spots where aboriginals would have made camp and eaten shell fish, the shells form the middle piles).

The track is now right beside the water, very pleasant, sort of makes me want to do the full track walk.

Looking back up the inlet, we’re still in Waratah Bay, haven’t turned the corner into Cowan Creek yet.

In Cowan Creek now and at the spot where we leave the track and head up the spur to the ridge.

The start of the spur was quite steep, but fairly open, easy walking.

Half way up we came across a cairn, so obviously someone else thought it was a worthwhile route. Everyone’s happy and we’re having a great time!

Still heading up-hill to high point 206.

“Brad, look adventurous”, so far this walk is a bit of a doddle!

Lovely view almost at the top looking down Cowan Water.

And then it went down-hill, lots of scrub.  this spot of open bushland was welcomed after we’d battled through 300m of dense scrub.

We battled the scrub on top of the ridge for a couple of hours.  We were walking on a bearing as we couldn’t see any defining features.  The map showed a couple of saddles on the ridge, but they were non-existent.  When we stopped for lunch, I did suggest that we cut our losses and just head down to the creek, but after some discussion it was agreed to do the full trip … that turned out to be a bad choice.

As we got closer to the freeway, at least the scrub got a little better and we were in amongst casuarinas.  There was supposedly a track or fire trail that we were aiming for, but apart for one small section, this track (only shown on Peter’s map) was non-existent.  We were so close to the freeway that we could hear the cars/tracks, the sound was really loud, we didn’t have to use the compass any more, just walk towards the sounds from the road.  Then we came to  a fence line which denoted where the land around the freeway started.

We followed the fence line towards the creek. You can just see in the background the retaining wall for the freeway, and we’re now dropping down into the creek.  Before we went though, we did discuss the option of cutting our losses now, after all we’d had about 2 hours of scrub bashing, and were looking at 2 hours in the creek.  We could just climb up to the freeway and walk back to Berowra.  What a team though, they decided to give the creek a go, after all, if we didn’t it would be unfinished business for me and I’d have to return.  So, into the breach!

The scrub was horrific, don’t be deceived by the smile on David’s face, and this section wasn’t even the worst.  I think he’s saying here “another bloody Marilyn Epic”.

At times the person out the front virtually laid down on the vegetation so the rest of us could get past.  We were walking at about 100m/hour, very slow and after half an hour we decided that this wasn’t sustainable.

So, we opted to head up high to get out of the vegetation, and even that was a mammoth effort.  Brad went out in front and found a good route, just below a cliff-line, and so long as we kept dropping down and not getting cliffed out, it looked like the better option compared with the creek.

After a couple of hundred metres, we could see that maybe the creek wasn’t so bad now, and we knew that if we kept up on the side for too long, we’d end up too high out of the creek and have to battle our way down again. So, we sent Brad down to see if we could easily get into the creek, and luckily, although there was a crop of about 2m, it was easy and the creek looked open (at least at this part anyway).

It was such a relief to be in the creek, and not battling bloody scrub.  Occasional small drops, but basically easy going.

Yes, we did get wet, at times up to the plimsoll level but the water wasn’t too cold.

Occasional big rock slabs which were great and made our progress much faster.

We came to a waterfall which wasn’t that easy to get around, Brad and Peter took a dodgy route, David and I took the safer option.

Looking back at the small waterfall that we had to skirt around.

We were making good progress now and eventually we came to a big pool that would take quite a bit of effort to get around.  Before we committed to the effort though, we looked on the GPS and saw that our track was just metres away from us, so we decided that we’d “done the creek” and headed up hill.  After 50m we came to an old “road”, walked on this for 50m and then cut across and popped onto our track … yaaaa!

Once on the track it was an easy walk back to Berowra Station.

We all agreed that Windybanks Ridge and Waratah Gully were never to be repeated.  Not sure why the person who put it on that other club’s calendar wanted to go there.  Yes, the first 500m of Windybanks Spur and Ridge was nice, but not a good enough reason to go.  Mind you, before the freeway was put in, perhaps this was a classic walk that was popular.;

All up we walked about 9k, and it took us approximately 7 hours, with a total elevation gain of about 400m

Big thanks to Peter, Brad and David for going on this walk with me and crossing it off the wish list once and for all.


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6 Responses to The day we were almost eaten by the scrub


    When I was 10 and lived at Mt Colah I had a horse. Rode around all these areas. Before the freeway. Def a Marilyn epic

  2. Jenny Hughes says:

    LOL? Marilyn have you ever NOT said – this will be an easy walk?” What about the beginners lilo weekend you first took me on that nearly killed me? You promised it would be easy!

    • marilyn says:

      Haha, you’re on David’s side, and I have to admit that yes, always say it’s easy, I’ve lost touch with what it’s like to be a casual walker!

  3. David says:

    What a shocker! Whilst the walk itself wasn’t that hard, the scrub bashing took it into the “epic” category. To be kind, there’s no way that Marilyn could have known how bad the scrub would be. It’s just that Marilyn seems to attract these kind of trips.

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