Click on track sections to go to text about that area
This is a short walk leading to an extensive sandstone outcrop, which
overlooks Pyes Creek and Tunks Ridge. The area through which it passes features tracks made both to service the electrical power lines and their associated towers and to provide access for fire fighting vehicles. The
destination of the walk and a good place for a picnic is Refuge Rock, an exposed sandstone outcrop of several hectares largely free of vegetation. This natural feature came to be used as a safe haven by firefighters when
carrying out controlled burns—hence its name. A spur track to the rock from an electricity authority trail originally at the end of Purchase Road was formed in the 1970s by the then Outer Sydney Bush Fire Prevention
Association to enable firefighters to reach the rock quickly in an emergency.
3: Refuge Rock Walk
The arrival at Refuge Rock is understated. The track simply blends into an undistinguished sandstone rock platform featuring isolated pockets of shrubs and moss, usually dark brown but bright green after rain. Clumps of mallee
eucalypts and Heath-leaved Banksia grow out on the edge of the platform. The first reaction is: ‘Is this all it is?’
This section of the Refuge Rock area represents less than a quarter of the extensive
open rock surface of a headland with views over the upper Berowra Creek valley and the valleys of several tributaries.
Refuge Rock is a series of exposed sandstone surfaces of generally low profile, with variable textures from fairly smooth to pitted. Investigation reveals its extension for hundreds of metres in different directions. It offers
numerous good spots to pause for a picnic.
The famous American General made his mark as well
Obvervant walkers may be puzzled by numerous markings in the rock surface showing an central pit with teardrop-shaped “engravings”
radiating out from the centre. There are more than 60 of these sets of markings, many now overgrown by moss mats and the mallee eucalypts.
Closer examination may reveal fragments of the World War II mortar shells
that caused them. Australian Army historians confirm that in the desperate years of the early 1940s, Australian militiamen were trained in the area under the command of General Macarthur following his escape from the
Philippines. Invasion was a possibility and Australia was not well prepared. Emergency training took place wherever suitable locations could be found. The site now known as Refuge Rock was used as a target
area for troops located nearby in what is now Cherrybrook. Heavier field artillery was also fired northwards into the valley from Thornleigh. Similar hurried training took place at a rifle range then located at Pennant Hills
overlooking the Lane Cove River Valley.
At its south-eastern extremity the rock is split by a number of 500 mm wide parallel chasms before a 15 m sharp drop. The main valley separates the rock from Billarga Road, Westleigh, on the distant opposite ridge, where
housing can be seen. One of the narrow outer ridges in the rock contains a natural sandstone arch known locally as “London Bridge”.
The eastern side of the Refuge Rock platforms drops away in a rough 45°
slope meeting the trackless bush. Westleigh seems to be close at this point. A deep narrow section of the main valley lies in between, out of sight below the tree canopy. Also hidden in the bush below is the route of the
Great North Walk traversed in Walk 4: Elouera, in the vicinity of the high cliff line at the junction of the side track to Elouera Road.
The northern expanse of the rock looks over the location of the Dipping
Hole towards Silver Crescent, Westleigh. To the northwest is the Pyes Creek Valley. There are beautiful expansive bush views of Pyes Creek, which is to the northwest, and which joins Berowra Creek, flowing from the
right. From this creek junction Berowra Creek continues in a north-easterly direction.
These bushland valleys are home to such threatened species of wildlife as the Powerful Owl Ninox strenua. The mallees mentioned above are called Whipstick Ash Eucalyptus multicaulis, and they are found along the
edge of the rock platform. They are uncommon in the Park, and in the Sydney region generally.
Return to the start, being careful to take the right fork after passing under the power lines. As this is a short walk, you can spend time exploring the
side tracks, nearly all of which end up at towers for the overhead power lines.
The unusual Whipstick Ash Eucalyptus multicaulis although not common, is present at Refuge Rock.
Mortar shell impacts made during frenzied Australian Militia training during the World War II. Refuge Rock then served as a target area.
A natural stone arch known locally as “London Bridge” is hidden below the eroded section of these unusual block formations on the eastern side of the
area. The large parallel-sided features look much like the roofs of railway carraiges waiting in a marshalling yard.
The eastern side of the formation on the left forms a vertical rock face varying in height from 1m to more than 5m at the site of the arch.