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Showing posts from February, 2007

Spirit over the water

Early morning at Wentworth Falls Lake Silent wispy fingers reach out over the still water blessing the ducks and water hens as they pass. Words to Walk With: Genesis 1:1-4 from Holy Bible - New International Version “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.”

Pretty Polly

Trees reverberate with the bright chatter of colourful parrots – Cockatoos , Galahs , Rosellas , King Parrots – feeding on a gourmet feast of seeds. With a flash of red, blue, green the flock flutters and glides across the sky and alights at the next stop in their wild progressive supper. Dropping to the ground they nibble at fallen bounty but at the sound of footsteps rise in noisy alarm and resettle in a distant tree. King Parrot in my garden Bright, beautiful parrots live in Blue Mountains forests and visit our gardens all year round. At this time of year the King Parrots especially like the maples in my garden. Words to Walk With: From The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle by Les Murray “The birds saw us wandering along. Rosellas swept up crying out we think we think; they settled farther along knapping seeds off the grass, under dead trees where their eggs were, walking around on their fingers, flying on into the grass.


I walk alone. This is good because I am always stopping to take a shot of an interesting flower, to gawk at the view, to cock my ear at the sound of a bird, to wrinkle my brow at the silhouette of a tree or to simply catch my breath on a steep climb. When people are with me I complain constantly, annoyed at being pushed at their pace. I made a New Year’s resolution, some years ago, to do the Lawson waterfalls walk without whining. I did it – once. Now I walk without others and mutter and grumble to myself or just go slower on the steps because the Mountains are best enjoyed in solitude, even from myself. Mount Solitary from Echo Point, Katoomba Words to Walk With: From the Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass! Alone she cuts and binds the grain, And sings a melancholy strain; O listen! for the Vale profound Is overflowing with the sound.


There has been a drought across vast expanses of Australia for many years. Here in the Blue Mountains, which are famed for cold climate gardens, we are feeling the effects of the big dry, with water restrictions and light infrequent rainfall. My flower beds are populated with increasingly skeletal plants. Raindrop on leaf What a joy in recent weeks to hear the growl of thunder and the rattle of rain on the roof – gutter overflowing, roof leaking, hard, soaking rain. Words to Walk With: From Dry Time by Norma Davis “All day long the tempest clouds, tulip-dark, Drifted in sullen strata; and the trees Crouched like supplicant beggers lifting stark Beseeching hands in prayer for alms of rain; But only the dust-drift whitened their ragged knees, While the black cockatoo and the scrub-wren called in vain.”

Morning Enchantment

Near Lawson Swimming Pool, trees flank a grassy spot where a thin stream runs from a low waterfall to a string of ponds, decorated with cement sculptures from a past era. Morning light near Lawson Swimming Pool A bevy of plump female bower birds flitted about a tall gum tree, started a matronly chorus. Currawongs joined in with a musical “helloo helloo hellooooo”. Magpies warbled tunefully in the distance and King Parrots added piping piccolo whistles. Other small birds chirped and trilled, while with a showy flash of inky blue feathers the male bower bird added a percussion of beats. A long-legged water bird perched tall and silent on a central stone conducting the morning symphony while I was whisked away in a magical coach with a whip bird cracking at the horses. Words to Walk With: From The Waterlily by Kate Llewellyn Sunday 26 January Light mist with birds calling. Early in mornings the orchestra tunes up and each bird with its different instrument begins until, grouped or alone,

Changing shape

The orange butterfly egged me on, fluttering just a little out of reach. Resting on a gum leaf, flitting off before my camera lens could focus. Flying ahead, taking a breather, waiting for me to catch up then off again. My personal trainer for the day. Brown butterfly on the window looking out to my garden Words to Walk With: From The Gully , Furnley Maurice "A chrysalis cares not what freedom brings, But, without love or sight, Breaks its way into light Not knowing it will some day move with wings."

More lovely

Better than exotic Naked Ladies ( yesterday’s post ) are the more homely locals – Flannel Flowers. Soft furry daisy petals daintily tipped with sage green. Flannel flowers ( actinotus helianthi ) Words to Walk With: From Of All the Flowers by “Rusticus” of Darlinghurst “Of all the flowers that sweetly blow, You ask which is the most dear to me. I love them best which native grow And unassuming bloom like thee.”

Naked Ladies

Naked Ladies are appearing – a sure sign that summer is on the wane and that autumn is on its way. These fragrant lilies rise magically from the ground, no leaves for cover, naked. Old Mountain gardens like mine almost always have a clump or two of these slender beauties. Naked Lady ( amaryllis belladonna ) not an Australian native plant Words to Walk With: From Godiva by Alfred Lord Tennyson “The woman of a thousand summers back, Godiva, wife to that grim Earl, who ruled In Coventry: for when he laid a tax Upon his town, and all the mothers brought Their children, clamoring, "If we pay, we starve!" She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode About the hall, among his dogs, alone, His beard a foot before him and his hair A yard behind. She told him of their tears, And pray'd him, "If they pay this tax, they starve." Whereat he stared, replying, half-amazed, "You would not let your little finger ache For such as these?" -- "But I would die

Animals – Not

I have not written about animals yet and there is a good reason – I don’t see any. The arrival of European setters certainly reduced their numbers but they do still exist. They are mostly nocturnal and I am not in the habit of tramping about the bush at night. I’m told their presence can be verified in the daytime by looking for their droppings and scratch marks but I’m not going to do that! The book Fauna of the Blue Mountains by Judy and Peter Smith tells me I could find platypuses, wallabies, wombats, quolls, bandicoots, bats, possums, gliders and native rats. I have seen some bush rats in the garden and possums thump on our roof at night but that is all. Kangaroos are not prevalent here as they like to graze on grassland and the Mountains are largely blanketed in forest. They can be found in the grassy valleys. Euroka Clearing at Glenbrook is such a spot – apparently this population was reestablished through the release of captive animals. I planned to take photo while I was there

Tree naming – another lesson

I can now tell the difference between Sydney Peppermint ( eucalyptus piperita ), Black Ash ( eucalyptus sieberi ) and Red Bloodwood ( eucalytus gummifera ). These eucalypts all grow together and have rough grey bark – no wonder I get confused – but I can now see their bark is distinct and another clue is whether it is on the upper branches or not. Flushed from this success, I looked around eagerly on our drive through the forest in Glenbrook. “These gum trees are different,” I declared, feeling clever, “I wonder what they are?” About that moment we passed by the Ironbark picnic area. “Ahah,” I said, “they are Ironbarks.” “Not necessarily,” my husband argued – he never accepts things on face value. “The Man from Ironbark might have camped there or something.” It’s a cut-throat business trying to keep up with his wit and wits. Ironbark tree, Glenbrook Some time later we passed the Oaks picnic area. “So where are the oaks?” he asked smuggly. Given that oak trees are an exotic species, no

Rock Art

I thought it would be interesting to follow up my Valentine’s Day post with some truly ancient rock graffiti so took the drive down to Glenbrook to visit Red Hands Cave. According to the signage at the cave, the hand paintings were put there over many years, beginning perhaps as far back as 1,600 years . For at least 14,000 years Aborigines have lived in the Blue Mountains. Families belonging to the Daruk tribe lived in the valley at Glenbrook sheltering in the sandstone caves and collecting food on their daily walk. Red Hands Cave, Glenbrook The hand prints which are in red, orange and white are painted using ochre. Ochre which is found either as coloured clay or rock, was considered one of the Aborigines most prized possessions. The ochre was crushed into a powder using a small grinding stone. Water was then added to make a paste. Animal fat was sometimes mixed with the paste to help fix it to the cave wall – making a long lasting impression. Words to Walk With: From Rock Carving b

Cheerful weeds

Yellow calliopsis flowers profusely along the roadside throughout the summer. This bright non-native plant is a weed but I like it. I reminds me of my home in Queensland where it also marched rampantly up the road, swaggered across the football field and waved like bright flags beside the grey headstones at the cemetery. My Dad reckoned that’s where it started up there -- someone planted it on a grave. Here in the Mountains, where the natural environment is so very important, I am sure many a bushcare worker would like to see this little plant cremated forever. I guess that’s another reason why I like it – for its cheerful naughtiness. Calliopsis (introduced plant) Incidentally, I have noticed that nearly every close up I take of flowers has an insect lurking in it somewhere. The environment must be teaming with bugs. Words to Walk With: From Kate Llewellyn’s delightful Blue Mountains Journal The Waterlily "Wednesday 20 November I am in love with a weed. Its name is calliopsis. Al

Mountain Mist

I was going to Katoomba for business and thought it a good chance to photograph something new. My hopes faded as we drove along the Great Western Highway – the higher altitudes were blanketed in thick white fog. I left my husband sipping a warming cup of hot coffee at the café at Echo Point and trudged down the path towards Lady Daley’s Lookout (a short easy walk from Echo Point). I had resigned myself to doing my daily exercise and perhaps getting a photo of a dew dampened spider’s web as the famous Three Sisters were totally obscured from view. Mountain Mist, View from Lady Darley's Lookout, Katoomba Then peeping through the trees on my left I saw the sun beginning to sparkle on a cliff face while mist swirled at its head and feet. I picked up the pace, walking briskly to the lookout and snapped away. Minutes later the fog closed in again and the misty magic vanished. Words to Walk With From The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer “To live in that high land is to lose your famil


Flocks of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos are currently gorging on pine cones and other seeds. Screeching and squabbling over the plentiful feast, they litter the ground below with debris of half eaten cones and nipped off twigs. You can read more about them at and listen to the cacophony of their raucous call (copyright © Fred Van Gessel ) Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Another familiar sight, though usually in smaller groups is the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo sitting loftily on the high branches of pine trees. On a walk to Frederica Falls (South Lawson) I heard a loud high pitched squealing noise on the path ahead. Intrigued I investigated the source of this strange bird-sound and found a pair of black cockatoos on low branches – huge birds at close range. You can see pictures at and listen to their wierd call (copyright © Fred Van Gessel ) While I had not previously associated this sound with them, I have heard it almost daily ever since – funny how

Lovers leaving their mark

There is romance here in the Blue Mountains – the perfect place for a honeymoon or love renewing get-away. Rock Graffiti at Evans Lookout which is near Blackheath Words to Walk With: From The Garden by Andrew Marvell “No white nor red was ever seen So amorous as this lovely green ; Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, Cut in these trees their mistress' name. Little, alas, they know or heed, How far these beauties hers exceed!”

South Lawson Waterfalls

I walked down to the waterfalls today. Rain fell gently as I trudged along the soft paths and stumbled on the lichen covered rocks. Small birds chirped and rustled in the foliage, tiny flowers lit up the green along the way. A slick of rain on the tree trunks glistened like varnish on the mottled bark – orange, ochre, green, grey. Moss like a miniature forest carpeted the rocks. Shy ferns fanned over gurgling water. A little brown bird with a bronze fantail flew at the side of my path – I have only ever seen him twice before. A plump little fowl-like bird scratched in front of me, fluttering higher when I came closer. Junction Falls, South Lawson “It’s exquisite,” I cried as I burst through the tree ferns at Junction Falls. Sunlight was playing on the rivulets cascading over the brown rock like water on the ripples of a wash board. “Can I catch it,” I thought. Click, click, click, click went the camera but nothing in my inexpert hands evokes the gasp I felt when I was there. The 2.5 k

On seeds and flowers

When I am walking along the bush tracks I see small flowers – many, many different varieties. The book Native Plants of the Blue Mountains by Margaret Baker and Robin Corringham provides descriptions and photographs of more than 220 native plants. I am going to see how many of these I can spot as I go along. Blue Mountains Trio -- Seed Pod 1 I am thinking this will be an easier task than identifying the trees because the flowers are more distinctive to my untrained eye than bark and gum leaves. Not that I am have had any success with naming the plants the produced the seed pods in today’s photograph yet. Words to Walk With "Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." Robert Lois Stevenson

Nature's sculptures

Looking closely while I walk along any bush track I see there is an amazing array of seed pods. I admire their different shapes, each like a small sculpture made by nature. Wattle (acacia) seed pods


The Australian forest is particularly prone to bushfires due to the flammable oils in the leaves of eucalypts and hot dry seasons. Plants have evolved in various ways to survive fire and in some cases depend on it to release their seeds (like the banksias in yesterday’s post). Many plants have reserve shoots that sprout after fire. It is fascinating to visit bushland soon after fire and see the rush of new growth occurring. Blue Mountains Trio -- After Fire 2 These photographs were taken at Mount Hay in early January, after the fires that burnt in the wilderness areas of the Blue Mountains throughout December. I will go back soon to see how things are progressing. Words to Walk With: From the survey field book of George Evans the surveyor who marked the first survey over the Blue Mountains – reproduced on a “Footsteps in Time” monument at Lawson. Date 4th January 1814 The mountains are as yesterday; fired in all directions; at 11 oClock I was upon the high hill; all objects Eastward a

Big bad banksia men

After the banksia flowers fade, hairy seed cones remain on the tree, and can stay there for many years. In some species the seed sacks will open as soon as the seed is mature, but most often they wait for bushfire. Wakened by the fire and smoke the little mouths in the cone open and spit out two small seeds that twirl to the ground on papery wings. The seeds readily germinate in the ash enriched, fire blackened earth. Blue Mountains Trio -- After Fire 1 Banksia cones at Mount Hay, Blue Mountains The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was the first Australian children’s book to use native plants and animals instead of hedghogs, badgers and bluebells. The cute little gumnut babies were terrorized by the Big Bad Banksia Men … and so were most small children including me. Hairy cones like this inspired those villainous men. You will find an illustration of a Banksia Man on Wikipedia . Words to Walk With: From The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs . "These Humans,"

Candles burning bright

During my walk this morning I heard the excited twitter of small birds. Taking a turn in the track I found a magnificent banksia in full flower – alive with honeyeaters feasting on the bountiful supply of nectar. Banksias are one of the more spectacular plants of the Blue Mountains with big, showy flower heads standing erect from the branches, like candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree. Old Man Banksia flower Several varieties of banksia are found in the Blue Mountains. Old Man Banksia ( Banksia serrata ) is the one flowering at the moment. The gnarled and crooked shapes of the aged trees with leathery serrated-edge leaves are readily recognised in the open forest and woodland. For lots more information on Australia’s banksias see Words to Walk With: Matthew 5:14-16 from Holy Bible - New International Version Jesus said: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it

Benediction of light

Ingar Picnic and Camping Area is 13 kms from Wentworth Falls. Access from Tableland Road is along gravel road, generally in good condition. It’s a pleasant spot with a small dammed lake -- I assume as a water storage to fight bush fires. I was hoping to duplicate a picture I took with my old camera and was disappointed, it just wouldn ’t work – dust on the water and the light too harsh. Not wanting to waste the trip I looked for something different and there it was – a wonderful knobbly old tree bathed in golden light. Ingar Camping Ground, Blue Mountains Words to Walk With: From Ansel Adam’s introduction to his book of spectacular black and white photographs Yosemite and the Range of Light . “Seeing these photos together brought back the exhilaration of my youth, striding through high places with a heavy camera, absorbing the beauty of both lichen and distant peak, the sound of wind and water, and the ever-present benediction of light.”

Tree naming -- my first lesson

To identify different eucalypts the book Eucalypts A Bushwalkers Guide by Gary Leonard says to check the species habitat, soil preference, form and bark then come to final decision by examining the leaves, buds, flowers and fruit. The book contains a useful table to understand the bark. I will make a start with some I photographed last month. Blue Mountains Trio - Bark 1 I know the top one is of Angaphora which is not a eucalypt but closely related, close enough to confuse me except at this time of year when it sheds bark in chunks that cluster at the base of the tree. This exposes a beautiful orange or salmon coloured tree trunk that dulls to grey as the year progresses. I should try to get a picture before they lose their colour. For the middle one, the brilliant red sap exuding from the damaged parts caught my eye. It could be a Bloodwood. The third I can’t tell. The tracks are from insects that bored under the bark before it fell off. By the way, that is how the scribbles are for


I am not an expert on any of the things in this blog. My eyes glaze over when good photographers talk about aperture settings, shutter speeds and focal lengths. My photographs result from a smart camera with useful presets and my personal love affair with colour, shape and light. My academic degrees are in computing and business not in literature. My selection of “Words to Walk With:” are based on an unsophisticated delight in how poets and others paint pictures and express emotion and meaning with words. They give me things to ponder as I walk. I am overweight and unfit and topographical maps makes as much sense to me as the scribbles on a Scribbly Gum. I have walked none of the long, difficult and more spectacular tracks. I do bush strolling not bush walking. Scribbly Gum I know little about the birds, plants and animals of the Blue Mountains but delight in my surroundings and want to know more. Finally, any gardens I may depict spring from garden appreciation not gardening. This b

Naming the trees

In sub-tropical Queensland, where I lived as a child, the bushland was often dense and jungle-like with large leafed plants and thick twining vines. Here in the Blue Mountains the forest is different, the tree canopy is thinner, letting light in so I can look through and see the forest floor of poor, dry soil. The plants growing beneath the trees are tough and leathery or have spiny leaves and display a surprising diversity of flowers from the tiny to the spectacular. Other more exposed areas of the cliff tops are windswept heaths with small gnarled shrubs and spiky plants. A typical bushwalk will start in open forest and woodland country and descend to the streams below which are lush with temperate rainforest. Here the soil is dark and moist, sometimes watered from swamps in the bushland above dripping from ferny ledges. Open forest at Lawson The NSW Parks and Wildlife website says the trees of the open forest are “mainly eucalypts, including species like Sydney peppermint, black a

Lots and lots of steps

To reach the creeks, waterfalls, mossy rocks and the cool green ferny places you usually have to walk down a lot of steps. More problematic for me is that the only way out is back up those steps or via another track with just as many. Steps to Dante's Glen, Lawson Blue Moutains Click to see what the steps looked like in 1890s The keep-fit book I am reading says "hills and steps are my best friends". I don't really think so right now. Maybe by the end of the year I will be happier with the friendship. Words to Walk With: Christina Rossetti's poem Uphill depicts the walk of life is an uphill climb. Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end. Will the day's journey take the whole long day? From morn to night, my friend But is there for the night a resting-place? A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. May not the darkness hide it from my face? You cannot miss that inn. Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before. Then

Waterfalls and romantic glens

"The mountain terminates in abrupt precipices of immense depth at the bottom of which is seen a glen as romantically beautiful as can be imagined." J.T. Campbell, 1815, Sydney Gazette This quote is also inscribed in a rock at the revamped Echo Point display, Katoomba. Dante's Glen, North Lawson Blue Mountains Words to Walk With: glen /glen/, n. a small narrow, secluded valley. [ME, from Gaelic gle(a)nn, c. Welsh glyn )

Walking tracks of the Blue Mountains

There are many kms of walking tracks in the Blue Mountains, leading the walker to scenic and beautiful places. Jim Smith in his book, How to See the Blue Mountains says "The Blue Mountains tracks were originally designed as tourist attractions. But they are more than that. Because of the skill and inspiration that went into their making, they are actually works of art ... irreplaceable examples of landscape art." Walking track, South Lawson I want to see and photograph this art, as well as nature's own landscapes. Jim's Smith's book outlines nearly 200 different walks of which I have done but a few, hence my plan to go walking each day. Words to Walk With: "I am he who paved the way, that you might walk at your ease to-day; ... I bore the heat, I blazed the track- furrowed and bloody upon my back. I split the rock; I felled the tree: The nation was- Because of me!" From Old Botany Bay by Dame Mary Gilmore