Just an hour north of Australia’s biggest city lies a protected nature reserve and wildflower haven so ecologically precious it’s usually off limits to visitors.
It’s not one for the spontaneous. Little known and largely untouched, Muogamarra Nature Reserve opens its proverbial doors to the public just six weekends a year.
Which, by my quite possibly wrong calculations/*sheepish pause* Google search (does anyone else hit Google up for basic eighth-grade-level maths or is that just me), equates to public accessibility for just 3.2% of the calendar year. Meaning it’s closed off like 96 point… point…… uhhh…8? 96.8% (??) of the time.
Promise I’ll stop trying to maths now.
Point is, you could say it’s exclusive.
But this is with good reason — the very best possible reason, in fact: its own protection.
If like me you’re a sucker for ‘hidden’, wild, usually off-limits places, or a general fan of Aussie bushland/flora, or all of the above, why not, Muogamarra is just the place for you.*
*at least between August and September, weekend days only, batteries not included.
Fragile ecosystems, scatterings of historic relics and panoramic views of the surrounding Hawkesbury region make Muogamarra a special place. Keep your eyes peeled and you may just spot an echidna or wedge-tailed eagle (nope, I didn’t know we had eagles around the Sydney Basin either). There’s also a hanging swamp and even a tessellated pavement or two.
But the main drawcards are of the floral variety. Colourful wildflowers and rare plants are among the 900 native Australian species of flora here. One writer described the Reserve as a ‘hidden wildflower garden’ — which, look, is a bit of a stretch going off my last visit, though to be fair that was in late winter rather than spring. Garden or not, at Muogamarra you’re guaranteed to come across pretty wildflowers you may not have encountered before.
Equally precious are the traces of history here, of Aboriginal and convict heritage alike. You can’t miss the large engraving of a whale carved into the rocky ground by the local Guringai people, for one thing.
One of the reserve’s trails, called the Lloyd Trig walk, traces an old convict-built road (itself based on Aboriginal walking paths) which leads to a rocky platform. Scramble up and catch your breath as you take in the expansive views of the Hawkesbury River spread before you. Further afield, you may spot nineteenth-century graffiti and remnants of an old telegraph line.
This precious slice of bushland owes its preservation to the forward-thinking conservationist John Duncan Tipper. In the 1930s, concerned by the ongoing loss of Hawkesbury sandstone forest, he decided to lease 600 acres in this area for its own protection. He later extended this to 2050 acres before giving up the property in 1954, kicking off the process that culminated in its gazettal as a sanctuary and, later, reserve. Oh, that his kind of foresight was more common today (looking at you, New South Wales MPs *sips tea*).
Muogamarra may not make the grade of a ‘hidden garden’ — but who goes to the bush expecting it to resemble a garden, anyway? At any rate, there’s no doubt this reserve is the one of the most precious and colourful slices of Aussie bushland within easy reach of Sydney. Take a look for yourself and see what you think — and what you find.
Check out Muogamarra Nature Reserve for yourself, either on a guided tour or self-guided, but get in quick: the 2017 season closes on Sunday 17 September. Be sure to get in early to nab a parking spot.