DM's Sydney Walks: 14. Artarmon, Naremburn, St Leonards grunge

27 April, 2020

Bunnings, Artarmon

This walk begins at Bunnings hardware store in the suburb of Artarmon, which we passed previously at about the mid-point of walk number 8. St Leonards and Artarmon, approaching from the south. In that walk we turned west, but today we're going to continue north up Reserve Road.

Boral Cement works

Much of Artarmon is industrial. Here's one of the heavier industries, the Boral Concrete depot. Cement trucks fill up here with pre-mixed concrete and carry it all over the city to pour into construction sites.

Gravel delivery

This means there are also many large trucks bringing in deliveries of cement, sand, and gravel. Also as you can see, like everywhere in northern Sydney, Reserve Road is hilly.

On the right is Prestige Auto Repairs, where you can take your BMW or Porsche after you have a road bingle to have the dents hammered out. Automative repairs seems to be the primary business in Artarmon - there are literally dozens of them.

Reserve Road

Heading north on Reserve Road, there's also Jax Tyres, and a printing business, among others. The next intersection in the background contains on/off ramps to the Warringah Freeway which runs east-west underneath it. This is the freeway that leads east and then south to the northern approach of the Harbour Bridge, seen in walk number 13. North Sydney to the Opera House.

Beyond Productions

On this block is Beyond Productions, the media company that produced the science/technology TV series Beyond 2000 - one of the very few Australian TV shows ever to be shown in the USA.

Freeway Hotel

At the end of the block we see the freeway, looking east, and the appropriately named Freeway Hotel. Again, in the Australian vernacular, this usage means a pub/social club, not a hotel with rooms for the night. It's an interesting architectural style this one, reminds me a bit of the Spanish Colonial Revival style prevalent in California, combined with a hint of Art Deco.

Below us is a bicycle/pedestrian path, which is where we want to go. But there's no way down to it from here.

Freeway Hotel across Reserve Road

So we cross Reserve Road to the western side and seek a ramp onto the cycleway. But there's none on this side either!

Consulting Google Maps we see there is access to the cycleway behind the Freeway Hotel, so we backtrack a little on Reserve Road and take the previous cross street (seen 3 photos ago).

Taxi graveyard

This road leads past a parking area full of old taxis with no registration plates, and a dubious looking area to hang out and have lunch with some mates. I have no idea what this place is, but as I poke my phone through the chain-link fence to get this photo, another taxi drives in and the driver gives me a curious glance. Maybe it's some sort of secret headquarters where taxi drivers plan to overthrow the government.

Dickson Avenue

At the end of the street the road curves right, but the pedestrian path continues straight to join up with the cycleway running alongside the freeway.

Warringah Freeway cycleway

Goal reached! This cycleway runs parallel to the freeway for some distance. We follow it east, and eventually around a long, gentle curve to the south.

Mini wetland

It's not all concrete and traffic though. The cycle path deviates a bit, going around this mini wetland.

Warringah Freeway cycleway

And in some places the path is quite beautiful. The lady in black on the right of the path is going to be our companion for a while.

Graffiti grunge

Although we came to see some grunge, so here's some.

Train line over Warringah Freeway

And a bit more concrete and graffiti. That's the northern train line running across the freeway. And the TV transmission tower for Channel 9 in Sydney.


Just beyond the railway bridge, the cycleway spits us out briefly onto this quiet back street. Spotto the lady in black.

Chelmsford Avenue cycleway

The street is a dead end, and leads us back into the cycleway.

Warringah Freeway cycleway

Here the path dips underneath the freeway briefly. There is a junction with another path leading off to the left side, while the main path curves back out on the right.

To Artarmon Reserve

The path to the left is quite lovely, leading through bushland to Artarmon Reserve. But we're not going that way today.

Flat Rock Creek stormwater channel

We continue back out on the right side of the freeway, next to this stormwater drain, which is grandly named Flat Rock Creek. Presumably it was a natural creek that has been built into a stormwater channel. Wait, that's not the lady in black...

Warringah Freeway cycleway

There she is!

Warringah Freeway cycleway

She's walking slowly so we catch up a bit. Again the path curves underneath the freeway. The tree fern on the left is rather stunted by growing directly under a concrete obstacle. (Looks like her top is dark blue. Hard to tell from a distance.)

Flat Rock Creek stormwater drain

The Flat Rock Creek stormwater drain crosses underneath our path here, as it runs behind some houses. Crossing this drain, we enter the suburb of Naremburn.

Fleming Park

There is another junction under the freeway and another path leading off to the left. It runs underneath this sandstone tunnel, which supports a road above (not the freeway, which is just behind us).

Flat Rock Creek tunnel

A steel walkway has been built above the stormwater channel to allow people to walk through and into the bush beyond. You can follow Flat Rock Creek down to the harbour, among other places, if you go that way. Bye bye lady in black, we're not going this way!

Warringah Freeway cycleway

We return to the main path, as it leads back underneath the freeway to emerge on the right side again.

Northcote Street

The path runs alongside a quiet street for a bit. We could potentially walk up the street.

Warringah Freeway cycleway

But let's stick to the cycleway, which runs right next to the freeway a bit further, then up a steep hill.

Naremburn shops

Here the cycleway spits us out at Naremburn shops. There is a bridge over the freeway and you can continue cycling/walking along the other side of the freeway almost all the way to North Sydney, but we're going to walk through Naremburn now.

There are a few nice shops here: a pizza place, a Thai restaurant, a bakery, a fish & chips shop, a couple of cafes, and a brewpub! Unfortunately most of them are closed currently due to COVID. These shops are busy enough during normal times, but never crowded, and I suppose the downturn has made it not worth opening for now.

Forsyth Coffee House

One cafe is open, doing a swift business in take-away coffees.

Willoughby Road

We're now on Willoughby Road, at the far end of the same Willoughby Road that runs through Crows Nest, as seen in walk number 9. Crows Nest and Cammeray. But this suburb is, as previously mentioned, Naremburn.

There are a couple of interesting things to spotto in this photo...

Office of Gladys Berejiklian MP

One is the office of Gladys Berejiklian MP, the New South Wales State Member of Parliament for Willoughby. Gladys is not merely any old MP though, she is the leader of the state Liberal Party, and currently the Premier of New South Wales. It's her face we see on our TV screens every night telling us the latest COVID-19 news and updates on social distancing restrictions.

The second interesting thing to spotto in the previous photo we'll get to in a few photos time.

Naremburn-Cammeray Anglican Church

But first we walk past the Naremburn-Cammeray Anglican Church, dedicated to St Cuthbert. Built in 1915-16 in a Neo-Gothic style with some Arts & Crafts elements, the church is heritage listed.

Grungy house

Directly across from the church is this grungy house with an unkempt garden, peeling paint, chipped plaster, broken tiles, a rusty mailbox, and busted furniture on the porch.

Neat duplex, grungy duplex

Which is one half of a duplex, which the owners of the other half keep looking nice! Quite the contrast!

St Leonards Catholic Church, Naremburn

Here's the second spotto from before - it was the spire of St Leonard's Catholic Church. Much of northern Sydney was originally known by the locality name of St Leonard's, and thus the name of this church, although now the suburb known as St Leonards has shrunk to a smaller area, and no longer includes its namesake church. This church was built in 1913, and is heritage listed.

St Leonards Catholic Church, Naremburn

Detail of the front of St Leonard's Church.

St Leonards Catholic Church, Naremburn

And the whole thing from the front. The verdigris copper spire is a local landmark, visible from many places in the nearby area. We saw it in the freeway overpass photo about midway through walk number 9. Crows Nest and Cammeray.

Willoughby Road

We continue south along Willoughby Road towards Crows Nest. On the left are 1970s era apartment blocks. On the right are some light industrial offices, such as a plumbing supplier, a glazier, a floor tile showroom, and a dodgy cheap computer shop.

Fancy homewares

A block or so down the street we cross from Naremburn into Crows Nest, where the businesses immediately move up three notches of poshness. Exhibit A: this fancy designer homewares shop.

Crows Nest Coles

A brand spanking new Coles supermarket (practising social distancing with restricted entry queuing) below a Montessori School and swish new apartments.

Natural Fresh Grocer

But there's also grunge to be found here. We turn right (west) into Atchison Street, and pass what used to be Natural Fresh Grocer, previously Fruit World. Over two previous owners, this used to be a large greengrocer, with extensive fruit and vegetables, as well as a section of Italian groceries, such as fresh pasta, cheeses, deli meats, and a selection of Italian biscuits and cakes. My wife and I loved coming to shop here for food.

But it closed down about a year ago, and has been left derelict since. I suspect its ultimate fate may be visible directly across the street...

New apartments

Where there is a brand new block of apartments. These are so new they were literally not finished last time I walked past.

Apartments under construction

And a couple of doors further up, this new block of apartments is still not finished, with builders putting the finishing touches on before people move in.

Old bungalow

Compare and contrast to this old bungalow directly opposite. Anyway, I expect that the old Natural Fresh Grocer building is going to be demolished soon and replaced with a block of apartments. A big shame, in my books.

Atchison Street

Atchison Street continues up the hill, and the cross street ahead of us marks the suburb boundary as we cross from Crows Nest to St Leonards. The building on the right with the lime green wall and the glass windows facing this way used to be Scully's vet, but they very recently moved premises (over to more industrial Artarmon).

Creative Hub

Just beyond the old vet is this place - a "Creative Hub" - with some neat bunny sculptures. This small pocket of Atchison Street is a bit of a Bohemian artsy corner, with several art studios, galleries, and "art hubs" for people to hang out and be creative. There's also a baking school where you can go to learn to bake cakes.

Eckersley's art supplies

There's also Eckersley's Art Supplies, which is were I buy my art supplies.

St Leonards business district

At the top of the hill we're in the heart of the St Leonards business district. Not as large or high-rise as North Sydney, but still bustling with activity on a normal work day - which this is not, despite being a Monday, due to COVID. It's actually eerily empty. The tall white building on the left houses some IBM offices, and I used to work there around 2000 when I worked for IBM.

St Leonards construction

Glancing left through the plaza we see a couple of the brand new apartment towers which are currently in the process of being built around St Leonards railway station, as well as two cranes which are starting work on yet more towers. The St Leonards area has been earmarked for rapid urban development at the moment.

St Leonards station entrance

But we continue down Atchison Street and arrive at this rather nondescript looking, pedestrian-unfriendly roadway. Which is actually one of the main thoroughfares leading to the aforementioned St Leonards railway station, believe it or not.

We go through the dark passageway under the building at the end.

St Leonards Forum

And emerge in "The Forum", a small square surrounded by office/apartment towers. At the far end is the entrance to the railway station. The tracks are directly below us.

Tunnel steps

We about face and head down these stairs.

St Leonards station tunnel

Which lead to a tunnel under the Pacific Highway. There is sometimes graffiti in here, but they paint over it pretty quickly to keep it relatively clean looking.

Construction pit

On the south side of the highway is a construction pit where another giant apartment tower is about to go up.

Rail line at St Leonards

We cross the rail line, walking briefly along the highway to the west. This view is south, towards the centre of Sydney. You can see the Sydney Tower in the middle between the trees.

Canberra Avenue

We take this path south alongside the train tracks, on to Canberra Avenue.


There's urban renewal here too. This used to be an old run-down set of about eight apartments, with a very tired 1960s look. They're gone and new apartments are going up as we watch. The indicative price is hidden from the bottom of the blue sign, but it says that 2 bedroom apartments are available from $1.19 million. Yes, Sydney housing prices are insane.

Run down houses

On the other side of Canberra Avenue are several run down houses. This is the edge of the area of several blocks mentioned near the beginning of walk number 8. St Leonards and Artarmon, which has been slated for mass demolition and replacement with apartment complexes since 2014 (but no action seen yet).

Magnolia yard

There are some nice houses still here though. This is one of my favourites. It's best in July/August, however, when the magnolia trees in the front yard are in bloom.

Newlands Park

Across from that house is Newlands Park. This is a smallish triangular park nestled between three streets.

Newlands Park

On a slope, of course, because there's basically no flat ground anywhere around here.

Newlands Park

With a children's playground and picnic tables and benches to sit on.

Newlands Park

This is a nice spot to end the walk for today. (Although I still have to walk home from here!)

Artarmon grunge walk map

The walk route, clockwise from Bunnings at top left, to bottom.

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