By John Edwards
Waiting for the evening news on the ABC, I was watching the tail-end of ‘The Drum’, where the topic of the day seemed to be troubled youth. One of the panellists was Bob Brown, first leader of the Greens Party, who commented that parents should take their children for bush walks, where communing with nature would have a calming effect on the kids. I suspect that most, if not all readers of our CEC newsletter would wholeheartedly agree with this comment. But connecting with nature is not just about the journey, but about pausing to look.
I recently took three like-minded friends on a search for threatened species in an area that I refer to as “Pat’s and my back yard”, Shannon Creek. We began with a search of the Black Swamp wetland, paddling around in head-high reeds searching for the rare and endangered Lindernia alsinoides, and elusive Coastal Petaltail Dragonfly. We eventually managed to find half a dozen of the former, but failed to see any sign of the giant dragonflies that are known to live and breed in the wetland. They only emerge from their underground burrows for a brief period in late spring to early summer to mate and lay their eggs, so perhaps we were too late, or too early.
Back on dry land we clambered up the sandstone ridge surrounding the swamp, which is home to many rare and threatened plants like the endangered Stiff Bottlebrush Callistemon linearifolius (above). We had to climb down to a ledge on a cliff to photograph the last flowers of the season, while a Square-tailed Kite circled above us in search of food.
Continuing up the ridge following the cliff line we spotted one threatened species after another – Broad-leaved Sandstone Apple (Angophora robur); rare Corymbia trachyphloia (Brown Bloodwood subspecies); vulnerable grass Simonachne maidenii, and two endangered shrubs found only on sandstone outcrops in the Shannon Creek/Glenreagh area, Boronia hapalophylla (right) and Bertya longistylar sp Shannon Creek.
The sandstone landscape provides spectacular views, and an opportunity for thrill-seekers (below). However, it is fragile, Jurassic period, unlike Hawkesbury and Sydney sandstone which is Triassic, 50 million years older than our Kangaroo Creek rocks, which are still rapidly eroding, creating amazing formations.
The sandstone geology is as spectacular as it is unique, but none so spectacular as the wind eroded shelter where we decided to have lunch (left).
Wether it is the shelter’s unique microclimate or some other phenomenon, the cave and its surrounds support an array of unique species. The green shrub in front of the cave is uncommon Podocarpus spinulosus, a member of the Plum Pine genus, while elsewhere we found rare thorn-covered shrub, Bursaria cayzerae, and fern Dicranopteris linearis (Right: Rare fern Dicranopteris linearis, growing in crevices in the sandstone)
In fact, no fewer than seven different species of fern were observed taking advantage of the shade and water seepage from the sandstone above.
Climbing back up above the cave and over the ridge we received great views of the Shannon Creek dam, and then back down the slope to another cave. Steeped in history, with yarns of intrigue and buried treasure dating back to early European settlement, this shelter contains both Aboriginal and European history on its walls.
So back to where we started, tired but relaxed and in full agreement with Bob Brown – we should all spend more time communing with nature. It is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing.
See more images and layout in the summer newsletter here: CEC Summer Newsletter 2023