Ok, so I’m calling this “The Wonders of Berowra Engraving Tour”. Playing with my maps I realised I could create a circuit walk that visits four engraving sites, both Aboriginal and non-aboriginal, and also passes some astonishing sites of natural beauty. At only three and a half hours long and accessible via public transport it would be an awesome way to introduce people to the area.
The walk leaves the shopping village, heads down to and along The Great North Walk at Berowra Waters, climbs up the Alston Drive Track and then returns along Turner Rd back to the shops. There is a bus that stops at the shopping village that links up to Berowra train station so it’s very easy to get to if not driving.
Important: if you are visiting Aboriginal heritage sites please use appropriate respect. Do not tread on them, do not chalk them or pour sand on them hoping to enhance the lines, and do not add to them. Leave no trace of your visit.
The start of the walk was the War Memorial at the shopping village and I headed along Berowra Waters Rd to the first engraving site at Currawong Rd. Readers of my blog will recognise this spot. A little bush walk led me to a huge rock platform with a six meter Daramulum figure (apparently a shapeshifting sky hero) with two heads holding an axe. It had been raining so the figure was very visible, I’ve been here previously when the lighting was such that it was very hard to make out. It’s a fantastic site. There is reportedly many more engravings in this area and I hope to explore further and find them.
I then walked up Currawong Road and entered the fire trail at the end. I walked down a little and climbed down a rock wall to meet a trail below that connected to the Great North Walk.
I startled a Swamp Wallaby. It bounded a few steps off the track and into the bush, then turned to look at me. We regarded each other for a moment but, as I reached for my phone to take a picture, it bounded off again. I love that they are still out there so close to town. I felt uplifted from the encounter.
There were glimpses through the trees of the water below but only a bit of bush bashing would yield a good photo. I decided against it this time and carried on.
The first amazing natural feature was a long sandstone wall that led to some small caves. I love the coloured swirls in the rock on the roof of sandstone caves.
Further along the views of Berowra Creek opened up So I stopped to snap some pictures and then the trail descended a little more steeply. Slightly off track were some much larger caves. Had it not been so slippery after the mornings rain I would have clambered up to one of the larger openings to explore or just to sit in and have a bite to eat with a view. An adventure for another time.
At the bottom I could hear some rushing water. This was the sound of the waterfall at washtub gully flowing strong after the morning rain. The waterfall was the location of the next engraving site. There a a number of fish engravings including one that was beneath the flowing water. There was a possum or quoll and a bird engraving as well as some grinding grooves. There were also some more modern etchings including the word “Berowra” and a number of names. Nearby is the remains of a jetty. Washtub gully was so called due to the prescience of two large rock pools in which early settles are said to have washed their clothes. A little further along is the remains of a massive shell midden. Along the waters edge in a cave is meant to be two red ochre fish images but I’ve never seen them as I’ve not figured out the route down. I suspect a kayak would be a better way to see them.
From here I carried on along the Great North Walk, noting lots of shells along the path at various points. The area was occupied so recently you get a real sense of what their lives must have been like and then feel a great sense of loss at their passing and of the passing of their ways.
The walk carried on along the creek, passed many a moored boat until, just before the car ferry, there was another fish engraving on a rock. The head of the fish is quite different to the other examples in the area. Looks out of place somehow. The “Man made the city but god made the bush” Facebook site based on the book of the same name noted that it was apparently made in the 60’s or 70’s.
Further along the track, past the car ferry is a most astonishing engraving site. There is a huge vertical rock with a massive set of engravings across it. Most references describe it as being a kangaroo with a Joey and a warrior, and I can see that. But a woman on one of the many Facebook sites I visit suggested that it depicted a birthing place. The “warrior” was a midwife and the top with Joey was a mother leaning against a tree giving birth to a baby. There is another figure that could be a spirit above the baby and midwife. I like this idea and it is quite a powerful one especially when standing in front of it. That this could be the birthplace of generations of people was an amazing realisation, and even if not true it makes you understand that folks were born in the bush nearby regardless and you could almost feel their presence.
The work could also be the story of the creation of a spirit figure and would thus be an important spiritual site for the people at the time, perhaps arriving also as a lesson on childbirth.
I don’t know it’s true nature but it is a very powerful place the simple act of wondering about it’s purpose really serves to connect you with the people that once lived here. I sat and drank some water and just let the feelings generated by this place wash over me. It was amazing.
It was also easy to miss. The first time I walked past this spot many years ago I completely missed it, instead taking photo of a graffiti covered bin… There more she’ll middens along this part of the track and there is meant to be another vertical rock with numerous fish engravings on it but I couldn’t locate it. Something to watch out for on my next circuit.
I soon began the climb out of Berowra Waters up a very steep set of steps. I had originally planned this Loop to go the other way so that this would be downhill, but I liked how the series of engravings unfolded in this direction.
At the top of the climb I veered off into the Alston Dr GNW trail and continued to climb at a less steep rate. The wind suddenly picked up a gale and I became wary of approaching the cliffs edge. Branches were falling all around me and I had to assess every tree before walking under it. At times the trail became indistinct and you really had to look for it. Soon enough I was at the top of the ridge over looking Berowra Creek and took some lovely pictures.
I then walked along to the next engraving site. This was a modern site with an unknown history. There was a large circular design and a few names carved into the floor of a cliff ledge. It was too windy to climb down onto it. It is thought to be made in the 60’s by a religion sect but the date ’09 alongside on of the names is curious. One theory promoted by a geocacher is that this was made by artist George Collingridge who lived on Berowra Creek and who was certainly alive in 1909. If this was true it would be a significant price of art, but there is no way of knowing for sure. The story of its creation by a religious sect has been passed along for some time, but I wonder if they made it or simply chose the spot because it was there. I love playing with uncertainties!
Following the track away from the cliffs there was one final engraving site to find. I actually walked past it and had to use a map to navigate back to it. There was a flat rock with some figures on it. The last time I was here I only saw two but this time the winds must have cleared the debris on the rock as I counted six figures in total. They are described as warriors but I couldn’t see weapons. It’s not known what the site represents- maybe an initiation site or ceremonial spot, or simply a good meeting spot? Who knows, but I was amazed to find so many figures. Perhaps the lighting was just right.
At last I left the track and walked along Alston Dr and then along Turner Rd back to where I had begun. That had been an incredibly fulfilling walk that had actually forced me to take my time to do. There was so much to look at and appreciate and it would be a great introduction to the wonders of Berowra and its history.
Indeed, every time I do research into this walk I find references to more and more engravings that are not so prominent. I expect that I’ll keep exploring this trail and finding amazing things for years to come.