It’s fair to suggest that, other than those who live nearby, few would have heard of a park in Sydney called Oatley. It’s one of many areas of interest that abound in the city that tourists overlook. Personally, I’m glad, because it’s busy enough as it is! Still, during the week it’s not crowded and the lookouts you can pretty much have all to yourself.
At 45 hectares, Oatley Park can handle a few visitors and has a number of carparks from where bushwalks can be accessed and, there’s a bonus, it has protected baths and there’s a shower and toilet block with a small sandy beach. There’s even a swimming club here that is within five years of its 100th anniversary.
Still, that’s where the good news ends. Upon entering the warm dark coloured water you’ll notice your feet starting to squish in the gooey mud. And it gets deeper, over ankle height, the further you go out leaves you with the only real option and that is to swim to the pontoon, which is what I did. Unfortunately, on a slightly hot day, you can’t stand there for longer than about ten seconds because your feet will start to burn. Lucky there’s water nearby!
Still, in its seclusion among the forest in the reaches of Georges River, there are worse places to be and, if a picnic is your go, there are a few shaded bench tables where you can relax without the sound of motor vehicles impinging on your ears though, occasionally, the clunkety clunk of a train crossing the distant Como Bridge wafts across the water.
The name Oatley came from a convict with a life sentence who got a conditional pardon for doing such a good job with the colony’s essential clocks.
If it isn’t already, the park should be famous for its angophora costatas. Around every corner there’s Tuscan orange branches twisting every which way heading towards the sky in eye catching configurations midst the rest of the dry sclerophyll forest.
Here and there weak spots have been opened and a dynamic red sap oozes out. The condition often indicates that the eucalyptus tree is under attack from a type of insect called the eucalyptus borer which targets trees under water (read “lack of”) stress and attempts to get beneath the surface and lay up to 300 eggs. When you see the weeping, it’s too late to save it from the borer because the eggs have already been laid. Sometimes the sap, called “kino”, works, other times not.
Others have been rent by lightning, the deep grey or black vertical scar prominent beneath the overgrowth. There are rare flora contained within the boundaries and an even rarer structure, to whit, a castle! It’s a small building, constructed during Depression times to provide employment that today is a feature set up with a barbecue and ground floor seating in the shade.
Elsewhere, there are lookouts offering differing vistas over the waterway. The higher parts of the Hawkesbury sandstone out on spurs offer tempting 270 degree views beyond the eucalyptus branches over Boggywell Creek and Georges River.
In the lower levels, particularly on the shores of Boggywell and Dairy Creeks, there once were lime kilns that utilized indigenous midden heaps. The natives were here because of natural caves, these days mostly blighted by graffiti artists, where they would eat and leave piles of shells. There is an instructive walk that takes you through the whole area at the rear of the Hurstville Golf Club and a suspended walkway above the high tide mark further on where you can strut through the mangroves and hopefully see some exotic fauna.
Whatever you choose to do here, I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy if you, as myself, enjoy the delights of the Aussie bush scape.