3 January 2017

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk: A Walk to Remember

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

A friend once remarked of the Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk, "This is Heaven on Earth!”.  I agree.  I would even compare it to the Garden of Eden.  To believe it, you have to see it for yourself and experience its serenity.

For no images or words can totally capture its breathtaking beauty or describe the tranquil feeling it evokes in you.  As you walk through its winding paths, take the time to appreciate the shimmering blue-green sea and the golden morning sunshine dancing on the emerald foliage.  If you are up for it, take a dip in the lovely ocean pool and picnic on the green grass.  Do not forget to stop at the Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens, sit on a green park bench and listen to the birds chirping, while reflecting on the sublime beauty of nature all around you.  

I will now walk you through the Cremorne Foreshore Walk, solely through the story told via its well-placed signposts and plaques [1].  But remember, reading is not enough.  You must actually take this walk - at least once in your lifetime...

Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

Map of Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk [2]

“3km loop walk, easy grade, around the Reserve linked at the northern end via Hodgson and Bogota Avenues.” [2]

Cremorne Reserve

Cremorne Reserve main signpost

“Cremorne Reserve stretches around the entire shoreline of Cremorne Point in a mix of bush and formal gardens which provides exceptional public access to the harbour shores.  It is a special reserve with a fascinating history in a spectacular environment.

The full walk takes you in a loop right around the Point.  Along the way you will find signs which help you delve into Cremorne Point's past, present and future.  You can discover something of its original Aboriginal inhabitants, the early Cremorne Gardens, a land grab which almost took the Reserve from the public forever, a close shave with a coal mine and the ferries and trains of bygone days.  You can also find out about the fine architecture of the Point, the impact of development on the Reserve's flora and fauna and the work being done to bring back the bush.

You can also swim in its harbourside pool with an amazing view.  Or you can take a break to contemplate an array of outstanding panoramas of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores, from the soaring city skyline and dramatic bridges on the west to quiet bays and wooded slopes on the east.” [2]

MacCallum Pool

MacCallum Pool Cremorne Point Sydney

“C.B.P. emblazoned in red across a navy blue shield was the cloth badge which, sewn on your costume, was your entry to Cremorne Bathing Pool in the 1920s.  Five shillings (50c) a year kept the badge current and paid for the upkeep of the pool.

Long-time residents tell us that there were once quite a few rock pools around the Point.  They were built by locals in convenient places where they could form some rocks together, including three pools on the east side near the area of Lex and Ruby's Gardens.

The pool here was started by an early Olympic swimmer, Fred Lane, using rocks from nearby.  Taken on by Mr Hugh MacCallum, a highly-regarded local resident, it was enlarged and had considerable work done around it under his care.  He also organised the badges so that swimmers belonged to the pool and contributed to its maintenance." [2]

“A summer's day at Cremorne Bathing Pool in 1929.  Almost all those who swam here were locals.” [2]
Photo Credit: Plaque near MacCallum Pool

In 1930 North Sydney Council took over the pool and renamed it Hugh J MacCallum Pool (later shortened to MacCallum Pool) in recognition of his work in promoting and looking after the pool.

Major restoration and improvement work was done in 1985-86 and included the timber deck, picket fence and extensive landscaping above the pool.”  [2]

The Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"The Garden that Grew from an Elephant's Ear" [2]

Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"Created with love" [2]

"Below here is a simple rock pool built many years ago by local residents from boulders found along the water's edge.  One day in 1959 as Lex Graham enjoyed his daily swim after a jog in the Reserve, an elephant's ear bulb floated by.  He fished it from the water and planted it between the roots of a nearby coral tree.  To his surprise, it grew.  He had recently met Ruby and together they watched the growing plant.  They began to add other plants and cuttings to that first one.  And so began this amazing garden which now covers more than a hectare.  The gardens have been built from so little, as an enormous labour of love. 

The steep slopes had been used as a tip for decades.  Thickets of privet and lantana, and masses of vines grew over the rubbish.  Gradually Lex and Ruby cleared the weeds to discover all manner of junk - mattresses, refrigerators, hundreds of bricks, thousand of bottles, whalebone corsets and a kitchen sink.  The rubbish was reburied and used as a base for plants and paths.  Logs and rocks were positioned to form beds along the cliff and the weeds broken up and used as mulch or fill.

They planted whatever they could find that might grow happily and hold the soil. The tree ferns, less than 15cm high, came from crevices in the rocks along the foreshore.  Clivias and agapanthus discarded by local gardeners were very effective in clumping and holding the soil.  Without these plants the erosion caused by torrents of stormwater, which still rushes through the garden would be greater than it is.

Friends gave cuttings from their gardens.  Some plants were donated for special reasons.  Others had simply outgrown their pots.  The soil on the steep slopes was thin and poor, so Lex collected barrow loads of leaves from the pathways for mulch.  Water was carried down in containers and neighbours, above the garden, assisted with their hoses.  Council installed taps in 1978 and Lex then set up a permanent network of hoses and sprinklers.

To Lex and Ruby the garden became a special place with each path and corner given a name, favourite spots to sit and watch the moon rising over the water, delightful birdlife and a feeling of great peace.  Others say they find the same peaceful feeling in the garden.

For ten years Lex and Ruby spent most weekends in the garden.  In 1969, when semi-retired, they spent weekdays in the garden instead.  Lex died in 1988 but Ruby continued to work several days a week in the garden they created together.  Ruby passed away in February 2009.

The descendants of the first elephant’s ear bulb still thrive in their garden.”  [2]

The Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens Plaque

“Lex and Ruby's garden has won a number of awards over the years, including the 1998 Keep Australia Beautiful, Council's Sydney in Spring competition.

Wander the gardens' winding paths, climb down to the water's edge and the pool where  it all started.  Enjoy the peace, the birds and the flowers in this lovely environment.” [2]

Lex Graham in the Garden - 1998.
Photo Credit: Plaque near Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

Ruby Graham in the Garden - 1998.
Photo Credit: Plaque near Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens

"Cammeraygal Water Views" [2]

“Painted between 1788 and 1792, this is one of over 250 unsigned early drawings and paintings of NSW Aborigines, coastlines, flora, fauna and events in the first years of the Colony, held in the Natural History Museum, London.  Although these pictures could be by more than one person, the artist is collectively known as the Port Jackson Painter." [2]

“Native going to fish with a torch and flambeaux, while his wife and children are broiling fish for their supper.” [2]  
Photo Credit: Plaque near Shell Cove

"Before Europeans arrived in 1788, Aboriginal people enjoyed these wonderful waterside locations, with magnificent views across the harbour and ready food supplies of fish and shellfish.

Local Aboriginal people generally lived and moved about in family groupings.  This painting shows their harbour based lifestyle as the man goes off to fish from a cove very like Shell Cove in front of you.  He takes his three pronged spear and a flame to set a fire in the bottom of the canoe for warmth, or to cook his fish.  He may also have a supply of cockles (common shellfish found along the rocks of the shoreline) to chew up and spit in the water for bait.  

The women and children light a fire in a nearby rock shelter, like the one above the path at this spot.  After cooking and eating the catch, they throw the bones and shells out onto a heap (now called a midden), usually just outside the overhang.

Drawn from a European perspective, this picture catches one aspect of Aboriginal life, but gives no inkling of the real division of labour in Aboriginal food gathering.  The men fished and hunted larger animals, but most of the food, including seafood, was gathered by the women."  [2]

“A Wisp of Sydney Sandstone Bushland”  [2]

Our Bushland is in Our Hands

“Once the steep slopes of Woolwarra-jeung (Aboriginal name for Cremorne Point at the time of European settlement) rose in tiers of grey-green bush punctuated by the twisted pink limbs of Sydney Red Gums, and low cliffs of mellow golden sandstone.  The sandy soil was thin and poor and the bush dry, open and prickly, with animals and birds dependent on the very nature of that scrubby environment.  From time to time fire raced across the Point, reducing the bush to grey ashes and blackened trunks.  Soon after fire, plants sprang back into life, fauna moved in to feed on flowers and shoots, and a new cycle began.  

Now, so much has changed.  Most of the bush has gone, and all the larger animals as well.  In the remnants left in the Reserve, the dry open bush has been flooded with extra water and nutrients from the housing above, choked by weeds and prevented from burning.  Weeds and native plants, once found only in moist areas, form dense canopies shading out shrubs which used to shelter small animals and birds.  Many species have given up the competition and can no longer be found here.

Yet it is still possible to picture Woolwarra-jeung from the wisps of bushland left in this narrow foreshore reserve.  Look for the wonderful colours and shapes of eroded sandstone, smooth pink red gums, creamy Sydney Peppermint branches, gnarled and hardy banksias.  Listen and watch for birds such as lorikeets, cockatoos, magpies, scrubwrens, honeyeaters and wattlebirds.  Possums and Blue-tongue Lizards live happily between bush and gardens (if there are no dogs and cats).  Various other reptiles, as well as frogs and bats, might also be found.

We can also bring back the bush by gradually removing invading plants and restoring suitable conditions for the bush to regrow.  As well as weeding, work may include redirecting stormwater, repairing erosion, conducting burns, and planting areas which cannot regenerate naturally.  North Sydney Council, aided by a grant from the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning's Greenspace program, expanded its regeneration program in Cremorne Reserve in 1997 to focus particularly on providing good fauna habitat.  With better habitat, we can expect to see a lot more animals, even in this narrow reserve.

Look for changes in the Reserve as areas are weeded or planted and vegetation changes from moist and shady to open and dry with plenty of shrubs and bushes for those small birds and animals.” [2]

"Dead or Alive?" [2]

"The trunk of a live tree is smooth and pinkish-grey.  A dead tree trunk is brown, dry and often cracked.  Have a look as you walk around the Reserve but please help by staying on the path in bushland areas." [2]

Sydney Red Gum Tree.  Photo Credit: Signpost near a dead Red Gum tree,
Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

"This dead tree is a Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata).  There are many similar Angophoras around Cremorne Point which look very sick indeed.  As you walk around the reserve you may notice brown leaves, sparse foliage, or even total leaf loss.  But some trees which seem dead, may not be.  Look closely - the trunk may be quite healthy.

Sydney Red Gums, with their smooth pink bark and contorted limbs, are an integral part of Sydney's harbour foreshores.   They are found in rocky sandstone areas from shady gullies to exposed ridges.  Our bush would not be the same without them, and the dying trees on Cremorne Point are of great concern to many people.

Cremorne Bushcare Group (community volunteers), assisted by North Sydney Council, has been funded by Coastcare to address the problem.  Work will include research to find out why the trees are dying, such as testing the soil for diseases and other problems.  New trees will be planted and measures taken to save existing trees." [2]

"What Makes Cremorne Point Significant?" [2]

“Sandstone” [2]

“Here the built environment rises out of the steep rocky core of the peninsula.  Structures are built on and into sandstone, tiered up the slopes, and they incorporate many sandstone elements.  The mellow golden rock forms solid house foundations or repeating arches for lower storey windows and doors.  Gardens have retaining walls or edging in the stone.  Along streets, cut rock faces meet kerbing and fences in sandstone.” [2]

Sandstone Building and Steps
Image Credit:  Plaque near The Laurels, Cremorne Point

"You can see sandstone in many features around the Point, from natural rock outcrops to fences, steps and building blocks." [2]

“A complete foreshore reserve” [2]

“Cremorne Point's foreshore reserve sets it apart from other settled harbour peninsulas.  Compare the natural mix of tumbling vegetation, rock-strewn foreshore and shallow waters, to be seen along the Reserve edge in front of you, with the tightly controlled and walled foreshores of Mosman across the bay on your left.” [2]

“Fine architecture” [2]

"Federation Arts and Crafts is one of the main architectural styles found on the Point.  It featured informality and homeliness with craftsmanship integrating art into everyday life.  Rambling and asymmetrical, these houses are set close to the ground or on a base of stone blocks with tall tapering chimneys, long steep roofs and a variety of window forms.  Look for these features as you walk around the Point." [2]

The Laurels, Cremorne Point

“Cremorne Point's buildings represent some of the best of early twentieth century Australian suburban architecture.  The first residential subdivision on the Point was in 1903.  From then development of the Point was rapid and largely complete by the 1930s, although there has been later redevelopment.  Buildings were in Federation and Inter-war styles and consisted of a mix of houses, residential flats and some large guest houses catering to visitors drawn by the Point's status as a tourist attraction.

The fine buildings of the Point were designed by a number of Sydney's well-known architects, including J. Burcham Clamp.  Clamp designed and lived in The Laurels, the impressive Federation Arts and Crafts style residence to your right, actually consisting of two houses built in 1907, now linked together.  

Most buildings look over the water but there are differences between the east and west sides of the Point.  On the west looking across the harbour to the city are larger blocks of flats and former guest houses, often set high above the Reserve with large bay windows to catch the view.  On that side recent redevelopment intrudes on the area's integrity of character.  On this quieter east side overlooking Mosman Bay are large detached houses, often fronting and close to the Reserve.

North Sydney Council has identified Cremorne Point as a Conservation Area to be retained in its current form and character.  Council also has policies to protect significant heritage buildings and to preserve its overall qualities." [2]

"Explore more of the built heritage of Cremorne Point with Heritage Leaflet No. 29, available from North Sydney Council or Stanton Library in Miller Street, North Sydney." [2]


[1]  Not in order.  Please follow the map when walking.  

[2]  Source: Plaques and signposts along the Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk

Gallery of Cremorne Point Foreshore Walk 

Robertson Point Lighthouse (1910) at the tip of Cremorne Point, Sydney
Image Credit:  Plaque near the lighthouse

Stunning harbour views from Cremorne Reserve

Playground near Robertson Point Lighthouse, Cremorne Point