Entrance: 220 Pittwater Road East Ryde 2113, opposite Buffalo Creek Reserve.
Grade: Medium – bush tracks, rocky sections, boardwalk, stone steps and tree roots to negotiate.
Distance: Field of Mars circuit 3.1kms; Mangrove board walk, Sugarloaf Hill and Point 1.5kms return.
Field of Mars Reserve circuit
Explore the Field of Mars walking tracks starting at the bridge.
Follow the boardwalk beside Buffalo Creek where you might see long necked turtles, water dragons, ducks and Little Pied Cormorants. You will pass sandstone outcrops and a majestic stand of Blue Gums.
Take the right turn uphill on the Doyle/Kunzea track. The vegetation along most of the track is Sydney Sandstone Gully Forest with its Banksias, Angophoras and diverse shrub understorey. Continue to the junction with the Warada Loop and follow it down the rocky hillside track turning left at the bottom.
Enjoy a shady walk along the coolness of Strangers Creek surrounded by Sydney Sandstone Gully Forest. Strangers Creek has numerous water holes and rainforest species including magnificent Treeferns, Coachwood and Lillypilly trees. Be sure to listen out for frogs.
Return on the Sand Track through areas of Turpentine Ironbark Marginal Forest on shale soil as well as Sydney Sandstone Ridgetop Woodland on sandstone soil. See magnificent Angophora trees and wildflowers most of the year. Continue to the downhill junction with the Doyle track which will take you past some interesting rock outcrops and a cave to the bridge.
Buffalo Creek Reserve, Lane Cove Mangrove Boardwalk and Sugarloaf Point
From Field of Mars, walk across Pittwater Road to Buffalo Creek Reserve, a popular picnic spot. It is a large grassed park with undercover picnic shelters, trees and free electric BBQs. There are toilets, drinking water and limited parking.
Lane Cove Mangrove Boardwalk
Steps lead down from Buffalo Creek Reserve onto a boardwalk through the mangroves, “another world” seemingly remote from the surrounding bushland. It is part of the Lane Cove Section of the Great North Walk.
If you stay still on the boardwalk, a mass of life reveals itself. Crabs scuttle amongst the roots, birds feed on the crabs, oysters cling to the rocks and worms poke their heads out of the mud. If you are lucky and very quiet you might see the blue flash of an Azure Kingfisher.
Mangrove forests act as buffers between the land and the estuary. They trap and filter sediments and other pollutants from runoff, helping to maintain water quality. They help to protect the banks from erosion by slowing tidal flow and dissipating wave energy and their roots bind the soil together.
Two species of mangrove occur here. The grey mangrove Avicennia marine is a tree that grows to about 5m high. Its air breathing roots (pneumatophores) project out of the mud absorbing oxygen at low tide. The river mangrove Aegiceras corniculatum is a shrub that can sometimes be seen growing on the river edge.
Sugarloaf Point Reserve
From the boardwalk, continue on the Great North Walk track through beautiful sandstone landscape of eucalypts, Angophoras, Xanthorrhoea (grass trees), flowering mid-storey plants with views to the Lane Cove River through the trees. Walk quietly to see small birds such as the Red Browed Finch flitting through the undergrowth. Follow the track to Sugarloaf Point, part of Lane Cove National Park, on Lane Cove River. This area has been badly degraded from past sand mining and sediment build-up. Groups of dedicated bush regenerators have worked tirelessly to restore it to its former glory, removing weeds and planting local species. Open grassed areas between stands of casuarina beside the river provide a wonderful picnic and relaxation park for walkers and kayakers.
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