DM's Sydney Walks: 3. Berry Island

27 March, 2020

Berry Island walk

We begin walking downstream (to the right) along this creek, Berrys Creek, which marks the border between the suburbs of Greenwich on the right bank (where we're standing) and Wollstonecraft on the left bank (across the creek), as it flows to the harbour (from left to right in this photo). Since it straddles two suburbs, the park we're in even has two different names - the Wollstonecraft side is called Smoothey park, the Greenwich side is called Greendale Park.

First-class house, Greendale Park Estate, 1855

But it rained overnight and the path is very muddy, so we take an exit west up into Greenwich and walk along the streets for a bit, along St Giles Avenue, and then onto Glenview Street. There are some fancy old houses on this street. This one is a so-called "first-class house" originally built as part of Greendale Park Estate in 1855, and was originally almost identical to its neighbour at number 19. The ground floor is sandstone and the upper floor brick. Both this house and its neighbour are heritage listed.

Berry Island walk

There are also some fancy new houses.

Berry Island walk

Glenview Street follows a ridge above the creek gully, leading to Vista Street.

Vista Street view of Sydney

Which is very appropriately named. Yes, we have sneaked slightly onto this property to get a better vantage spot for this photo. You can see the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the skyline of the central business district.

Approaching Holloway Reserve, Greenwich

Vista Street ends at Holloway Reserve, a tiny park. But with a great view.

Holloway Reserve, Greenwich

This is almost the entire grassed area of the park. There's a bench to sit on just out of shot on the right, which is my favourite spot to sit and eat fish & chips for lunch (bought from a shop a couple of blocks away).

Gore Cove oil depot

This is a close up of the old oil storage tanks at the oil depot on Gore Cove, a small inlet of Sydney Harbour. The tanks are no longer used to store oil, but the depot is active as a docking point for oil tankers. The oil is unloaded and pumped through underground pipes to Clyde Refinery, 19 km away.

Berry Island and Sydney

And a wide shot showing the Bridge left, the city straight ahead, and the oil depot right. The lump of forest almost surrounded by water, between the city and the oil tanker, is Berry Island - our destination for today.

Steps down to Gore Cove

First we have to go down these sandstone steps to the cove and creek below.


It's like descending the Stairs of Cirith Ungol...

Steps into the bush

They lead deeper into the bushland.

Looking back up the steps

Here's a view looking back up the steps, where we came from.

Gore Cove mangrove swamp

Eventually we reach the water level.

Gore Cove mangroves

The water here is tidal, and it was about mid-tide. These trees are mangroves. Yep, this is basically a mangrove swamp.

Berrys Creek track

The path leads along the bank of the tidal mangrove inlet.

Mangrove mudflats

Further upstream, the tidal water gives way to mudflats, exposed at anything other than high tide.

Berrys Creek flowing into Gore Cove

This is the head of the inlet. The creek water (right) flows over this rock to join the tidal harbour water at centre-left.

Berrys Creek track

The path crosses over the creek and then continues through thick undergrowth. All previous photos (west of Berrys Creek) were in Greenwich, but this eastern side of the creek is the suburb of Wollstonecraft. It's named after Edward Wollstonecraft, who was an early settler in this area, and was a cousin of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (author of Frankenstein).

Berry Island track

The path goes past a mossy rock and a ferny hollow.

Berrys Creek track

Then starts going uphill as we walk back in the downstream direction, towards Berry Island.

Berrys Creek track

Here's a view back across the mangrove gully we crossed. You can see the houses that we walked past on Vista Street up on the far ridge.

Australian brushturkey

Here's an Australian brushturkey, chilling out in a tree. You can also see (just) a couple of houses through the trees. We're not far below the backyards of some houses here.

Berrys Creek track

The path continues, and as we get out of the creek gully the vegetation gets dryer.

Berrys Creek track

It opens up into a sclerophyll forest. There are fewer ferns and less undergrowth here. About this point a jogger passed me from behind - the first person I'd seen on the bushwalk parts of this walk.

Berry Island walk

You can see we're on the other side of Gore Cove from the oil depot. Berry Island awaits at upper left.

Berry Island walk

A view of Gore Cove, showing small yachts, and large oil tankers.

Berry Island walk

Rich people moor their yachts here.

Berry Island walk

Eventually the path turns inland and uphill again.

Shirley Road

The path emerges from the bush on Shirley Road. The camera is level - the road is very steep. You can just see the Harbour Bridge through the trees at centre.

Berry Island walk

We head down the hill.

Berry Island Reserve

This is Berry Island Reserve, a lovely little park with a grassy area that is popular for weekend picnics. And why not with this view! Berry Island (the forested area at right) used to be a proper island, but the sand bar that originally connected it to the mainland only at low tide was filled in and is now this grassy area. So Berry Island is now connected to the mainland.

Berry Island Reserve

Which is good, because we can continue our walk up that path on the right and explore Berry Island.

Berry Island Reserve sign

This informative sign tells the history of the island. It was inhabited by Cammeraygal Aboriginal people at the time when European explorers first arrived. The Cammeraygal caught fish and gathered the plentiful shellfish from the island waters.

Berry Island walk

The path here is quite open, this land being more exposed and drier than the creek gully.

Berry Island walk

Partway along the path is this viewing platform.

Cammeraygal rock carving

Here you can see a Cammeraygal rock carving, in the shape of a large sea creature.

Cammeraygal rock carving (highlighted)

It's a bit hard to see, so I've highlighted where the carving is in this photo.

Cammeraygal carving and axe grooves

This is a close-up of the small rock pool on the right of the previous photo. On the left side you can see a carving of a boomerang. On the right are two worn grooves which were used for sharpening stone axes.

Cammeraygal carving and axe grooves

Again, highlighted to make them easier to see.

Cammeraygal site sign

Here's the explanatory sign for the site.

Cammeraygal site in modern context

And here's the Cammeraygal rock carving site in context, with Gore Cove and the oil depot in the background.

Berry Island city view

Further around the island, we start to get views across the Harbour towards the city.

Berry Island lookout

Until we reach this lookout spot on the southern tip of the island.

Berry Island lookout

A closer view of the city across the water. Some of it is hidden behind the next forested headland, which is Balls Head. I might do another walk later, around Balls Head - it's a bit of a longer walk from my home, but doable.

Berry Island lookout panorama

Here's a panorama from the Berry Island lookout.

Berry Island view to HMAS Waterhen

Continuing anticlockwise around the island, we get a view of Balls Head Bay to the east. The large facility on the opposite shore is HMAS Waterhen, a Royal Australian Navy base. The tall buildings are the office towers of North Sydney.

Cormorants on Balls Head Bay

There's a small beach on Balls Head Bay. I caught these two pied cormorants hanging out. There's also a white-faced heron at the top of the beach on the far right, standing in the small pool of water there.

Directly across the water is the Coal Loader, a former coal unloading depot, now turned into an historical site and public recreation facility. We'll have a close look at it in future walk 15. The Coal Loader and Balls Head.

Berry Island walk

You can continue walking around Berry Island either further up the slope, or down along the waterline to complete the circuit.

Berry Island walk

And end up back at the grassy Reserve.

Up Shirley Road

From here we began walking back to where we started, up the hill. The house at the bottom of the hill is "Te Waari", a beautiful heritage listed two-storey brick residence in Federation Arts and Crafts style. The heritage listing doesn't give a year of construction, but I found a newspaper archive from September 1, 1906, announcing the wedding of Florence, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Ward, of "Te Waari," Wollstonecraft, to Mr. Henry Macourt, of North Sydney. This historical walk brochure from 2011 says the house was built in 1898.

The yellow H painted on the road points to a fire hydrant. Fire hydrants in Sydney are not conspicuous like the ones you see in American cities - they are buried underground and accessed through little hatches, so there need to be markings and signs to indicate where they are, so firefighters can find them.

San Marco

Further up the hill there are more nice houses. This is "San Marco", a heritage listed residence in the Arts and Crafts architectural style. Unfortunately, again the listing doesn't give a year of construction. But I found this photo of the house from the National Library of Australia, dated circa 1915-1922.

Art Deco flats

And look at this awesome Art Deco block of flats.

Working from home

A man working from home to avoid coronavirus.

Wollstonecraft station

At the top of the hill (puff... puff...) is Wollstonecraft railway station. Viewed from the street overpass.

View from Wollstonecraft station

And the view in the other direction, back towards the city.

Smoothey Park fork

From the station I walked back through Smoothey Park. Berrys Creek, where I began, is just down the hill to the left. But from here I took the high path to the right to get back home.

Berry Island walk map

Map of this walk. Starting at the top and walking anticlockwise around the loop. I intended to walk down Berrys Creek, but took the detour to the west along St Giles Avenue, Glenview Street, and Vista Street to avoid mud after the recent rain.

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