Towra Point Nature Reserve.

Towra Point Nature Reserve.

One of my Facebook friends, Steve Painter, regularly posts lovely photos of trees & birds, most of which he discovers in parks close enough for me to visit.  I asked him if he would put a list together of parks this side of the Harbour Bridge & the following is what he came up with.  It is way more than just a list & far too good to leave sitting on Facebook, so I am sharing it here.

It’s hard to look at a map & know whether an area would be a good place to visit, so we rely on word of mouth.  I thank Steve for taking the time to write this & also for sharing his knowledge of good parks to visit.

“Saving Our Trees asked for a list of my favourite parks south of Sydney Harbour.

OK, but I’ll start south of the Cooks River, as most people know about the Sydney Botanical Gardens, Centennial Park & Nielsen Park. There are three areas of parkland that I find it hard to choose between: Scarborough Park, Oatley Park & Gannon’s Park.

Scarborough Park is a long strip of tidal swampland in Rockdale officially known by different names, but most people think of it as Scarborough Park. The most northerly part is called Rockdale Bicentennial Park & the most southerly part is Rotary Park. This is an area of open parkland, quite a bit of tidal marine habitat, an area of original bushland & a large area of thicket, mostly lantana, that is great for small birds, although this is obviously a degraded area & Rockdale Council will probably rehabilitate it eventually.  

As long as it remains thicket of some kind, that probably won’t matter too much.  The local property developers, etc, want to go back to the 1950s plan to turn this area of “waste land” into a freeway.  Fortunately, it’s well down the list of state government priorities.

Oatley Park was a military parade ground & camp in WWII, but mainly exists because it was too rugged for housing development.  It includes a couple of ovals, some locally cut stone structures built as make-work projects in the Great Depression, a long frontage to the Georges River that includes high cliffs & mangroves, a tidal creek & above all a large area of scrubby bushland on sandstone soil. The vegetation is mainly ti-tree & callistemon scrub mixed with angophoras. It has a bit of everything & all fantastic.

Gannon’s Park, at Peakhurst, a bit farther inland on the Georges River is not far behind Oatley, but has been the subject of landscaping & landfill up to recent years & is still a bit scruffy in places. (Pursuing bird shots I recently waded through about 100m of knee-high kikuyu grass, or similar, but most walkers wouldn’t know that area).  It has three long bushwalks on high ground (a couple of these are a bit tricky to find), an open valley & several areas of mangroves. Most of the bushland is on steep ground, & some of the trees are obviously old, angophoras in particular.

Georges River National Park is similar to Oatley & Gannons, except that the river is much more accessible as there are not so many mangroves. It has a high area of bushland along a ridge that borders open parkland along the river. There are several parts of Georges River National Park, including a river walk accessible from Picnic Point, & a circular walk through bushland around a swamp at Fitzpatrick Park, where the river bends close to Henry Lawson Drive.

There are areas of parkland along much of the Georges River, but the pick of the western ones is Garrison Point, a long strip on Prospect Creek. There are patches of native bushland, but it’s mostly fairly open wooded parkland with good walking paths.

Carss Park is a bit of an amalgam, European-style open parkland on the flat area near Kogarah Bay, although many of the trees are Australian, & a native bushwalk along a high ridge. The bushland has some very old trees, & the open parkland also has trees old enough to have bird nesting holes. There’s a historic cottage & other structures.

On Botany Bay is a strip of parkland stretching from the Cooks River to Sans Souci baths on the Georges River. It’s mostly open parkland with stands of pine along Lady Robinson Beach & some callistemon scrub in the northern area. There are beaches & remnant dunes most of the way & the Georges River section has some waterbird life.

Just across the river is Towra Point, an important bird habitat, a largely tidal area best accessed by boat.

On the Cooks River itself, of course, is the string of parkland from Gough Whitlam Park to Canterbury Road, a very good, long walk, but best on weekdays because the bicycle traffic is heavy on weekends. Nothing against bicycles, I ride one myself, but I don’t like to walk with them whizzing past. This area has a lot of open parkland & mangroves along the river, but no native bushland to speak of.

Rockdale Wetland is, I think, the largest area of parkland in the St George area, but developers have their eyes on much of it. They came up with a residential-commercial project called Cooks Cove, but then the Global Financial Crisis saved the wetland.  Like Scarborough Park, this area is also in the path of the proposed freeway from the Sutherland area. It would be a tragedy & a travesty if this ever went ahead. It’s a large area of swamp & small lakes with a popular bicycle path through it. Some parts are quite degraded, but birds think it’s fantastic. There are well-established tracks, so it’s not necessary to walk on the bike path, & even a bit of boardwalk. 

Muddy Creek is a wide tidal estuary & a mullet breeding area. The area is a bit scruffy in comparison with Scarborough Park, Oatley & Carss. One of the most important areas, the Eve Street Wetland is locked off, apparently because of vandalism. It has an area of old bushland. There are two areas of market garden bordering the wetland, one with deep irrigation trenches, which birds appreciate, perhaps because few people know they exist.

Kamay Botany Bay National Park is in two sections, one at Kurnell, the other at La Perouse. Both are among the best parks in the area. Kurnell has large areas of coastal scrub, high cliffs & dunes, with a smaller area of parkland. La Perouse has a 12km circular walk & other tracks, mostly coastal, with large areas of coastal scrub, an historic cemetery & some old military bunkers.

The smaller parks include Bardwell Valley, a thin strip of bushland & open parkland, Girraween Park at Earlwood, which is the start of a track along the Wolli Creek to its junction with the Cooks River, Poulton Park at South Hurstville, a thin strip along a deep creekbed with areas of old bushland, Moore Reserve at Oatley, which is mainly open parkland with a couple of fringe areas of bushland, Shipwrights Bay Reserve, a thin bayside strip with some old trees & scrub, Myles Dunphy Reserve, which has old bushland on the ridge along with swamp & mangrove, & Evatt Park at Lugarno, which combines open parkland with a bayside walk through native scrub with some angophoras.

There’s also Bankstown Council’s Sylvan Grove Native Garden, which is wonderful, with areas of fragrant native mint, large trees & many other native plants, which bring native birds. A family of owls usually returns annually to nest. This is a quiet park with helpful staff. It would probably be much busier if it was better known.

In a different vein is the EG Waterhouse Camelia Garden at Carringbah, a beautifully manicured & landscaped area of camelias & azaleas, with native bushland interspersed.” 

A section of the Wetland Highway at Rockdale

A section of the Wetland Highway at Rockdale