Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Manning Lookout Bushwalk was great fun.

A small but enthusiastic group of people returned to their vehicles after 4 hours of strolling through the bush, along the top of the Kangaroo Valley Escarpment, last Sunday. These people had joined me in doing the Manning Lookout Walk which had been advertised under the auspices of the National Parks Association.

Starting from the car park, at Manning Lookout, we firstly went to the main lookout point, which has nice safety rails, and offers a great view over Kangaroo Valley township, way down below us. Then we back-tracked a little to see the strange rock formation which I have previously written about, under the name of "Rhinoceros Rock". That side excursion probably took us about 30 minutes, by the time we got there, appreciated the view, checked out some interesting rock shelves and then returned back to the main road. Then we set off on the real walk.

We followed the track around to the "old lookout", which no longer has any guard rails, and so some members of the group held back a little. But this point does give you an excellent view of the strange rock formation which I refer to as the "little 3 sisters".We also took the opportunity to examine the Mallee Gums which grow along these exposed clifflines. True Mallee forms of Eucalypts are well known to exist in the upper Blue Mountains, and in tiny enclaves such as this place, around the edges of the Shoalhaven Valley, here and at Bundanoon and further south. Their habitat is restricted to a narrow band about 80 metres wide, just on the very exposed points along these cliff lines. Here the soil is so shallow (amongst rocks), and the evaporation is so great (because of exposure to wind) that only specially adapted plants, such as these Mallee Eucalypts and some "sandstone heath plants" can survive here. These Mallee Eucalypts have thin stems, (instead of a central trunk). The stems arise from a swollen root mass, in just the same way that classic Mallee Gums do, out west, and in Victoria's "Mallee Belt". This adaptation also serves as a fire survival technique, for while the leaves and stems might be killed in a fire, the woody lignotuber survives and can re-shoot after the fire.

We then pressed on along the path. Firstly we rose up along a gentle incline, going across some large rock shelves with classic "moss gardens" and passing some weird-shaped rock structures which have been severely eroded by the weather and the passing of time.

Then we started descending into wetter country. The track moves away from the cliff-line, heading towards a gully where we passed underneath a small waterfall, known in the NPWS guidebook at Bridal Veil Falls (one of many falls to carry that name).

In this deep gully, about 60 metres below the surrounding plateau, the temperature was noticeably cooler, and we were surrounded by stems of Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum) and "Black Wattle" (Callicoma serratifolia ). There were also some very fine Eucryphia trees there, which were apparently still in flower, judging by the sprinkling of white petals on the ground.

Here the green light is delicately filtered by the leaves of a young Eucryphia tree.We crossed the creek just below the falls, by stepping across some large rocks and fallen logs. That was a little treacherous, but we assisted less nimble persons in our group across without too much trouble. Then we proceeded out of the gully, by walking underneath a long overhanging cliff, where there was a constant drip of water from the rocks above. Great ferns, and mosses, and insects and interesting red fungi. Anni took this photo of group of small red fungi, with bright red gills. It is possibly Hygrocybe coccinea, but don't hold me to that - it just looks "about right" for that species, but I have not checked for distribution maps, etc.

At this point we were looking for a lunch break, and it took a little longer than I had expected until we made it back up to the sandstone plateau and walked along to the so-called "lost lookout". This is such a great lookout, still with its rusting iron railing and mesh fencing. There was much debate about who were the people who created these tracks and lookouts in the first place. For they certainly worked hard, cutting rocks for steps, carving steps into rocks where a foothold was necessary, and then, right out on the end of this point, creating this wonderful (and safe) lookout.
We had a good view down over the properties in the Bunkers Hill Road area below us. We also admired some of the wonderful rainforest trees, such as the huge Pencil Cedar in the middle of this photo below (with its light green foliage) and the Cabbage Tree Palms surrounding it.
We stayed there for about half an hour, for lunch and rested our leg muscles before returning via the waterfall, back to the car. To my mind, this view of the falls is the prettiest framed by the rock overhang, with dappled light. A brief rest was required after climbing out of the rainforest gully, and we had several encounters with Leeches which were hitchhiking inside people's shoes and socks, but only one person was actually bitten. That is a reminder of the need for thorough preparation for bushwalking in this kind of scrub. Protective trousers and good shoes and socks, and a dose of insect spray beforehand is thoroughly recommended. The one person to actually fall victim to a Leech had turned up late (missing out on my pre-walk briefing), and had declined the spray with insect repellent!

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