With only a week or so since daylight saving commenced, there were a few sleepy heads at Hornsby Station to catch the 6:52am train. Still, despite the
forecast 35°maximum temperature for the day, 18 hardy plus walkers turned up and duly boarded the non-quiet carriage for the train journey to Morisset. As always, the descent from Cowan to Hawkesbury River was very scenic – on this occasion with fog still filling the valleys giving a slightly surreal start to the journey. On arrival at Morisset about 8:10am, the leaders Don B and John G, had a trick up their sleeve to keep the walkers entertained while we waited 30 mins for the bus to Belmont: excellent coffee from Al’s Coffee Cart and home-made Anzac biscuits! By 9:40am we were ready to go at the former Belmont Railway Station and the start of the 16.5km Fernleigh Track.
The Fernleigh Track – also known as the Adamstown to Belmont Rail Trail – was completed in 2011 as a shared walking and cycling pathway following the route of the former railway constructed in the period 1880 – 1890. The railway was used for the transport of coal from the many mines along the route to port of Newcastle and the Newcastle steel works. It was also used as a passenger line up until 1971. The line finally closed in 1991. Having been a railway, of course, the track has a gently flowing alignment and uniform grades – good for walking – but excellent for cycling, as evidenced by the very many keen cyclists who passed us by: sometimes travelling quite quickly!
With some 5.5km under our belt we enjoyed a late(ish) morning tea in the shade of some park trees at Redhead (luckily the Anzac biscuits kept the walkers happy until then). As the day started to warm up in earnest, we completed the long uphill grade to Whitebridge – the highest point on the track at about 90m above sea level. Lunch followed shortly afterwards near the site of the Burwood Colliery (now completely covered by housing). After lunch and with a downhill grade the kilometres were ticked off and we transited the historic Fernleigh tunnel. Though the weather was still hot, a sea-breeze became more noticeable the closer we got to Adamstown. By 2pm, a bit footsore and weary, we were resting at the Fernleigh café with our beverages of choice (lots of cool drinks – not so many coffees!). An easy stroll to Adamstown Station in time to catch the 2:43pm train had everyone back at Hornsby about 4:50pm after quite a long, but satisfying, day.
"..leaders Don B and John G, had a trick up their sleeve to keep the walkers entertained while we waited 30 mins for the bus to Belmont: excellent coffee from Al’s Coffee Cart and home-made [baked by John G] Anzac biscuits!"
At track head, sad to say, the waving arm belongs to Don, who was finding it difficult to attract the attention of his troops.
At different places along the walk, two stands of paper barks provided a contrast. In the first instance an older stand seemed to have been badly affected by the strong winds that swept through the Newcastle area in August 2015, while further along a stand of younger trees was fine.
For the first few kilometres, before the sun was high, we kept up a brisk pace, but during a pause Anne G found a point to make.
As the day grew warmer, small areas of shade were an attraction, and efficient use was made of these patches.
Early in the walk we could have detoured to [14.5km] beach, and later on we could have joined the GNW.
"... a late(ish) morning tea in the shade of some park trees at Redhead (luckily the Anzac biscuits kept the walkers happy until then)"
"Lunch followed shortly afterwards near the site of the Burwood Colliery (now completely covered by housing)."
"After lunch .... we transited the historic Fernleigh tunnel."
And met a water dragon
"By 2pm, a bit footsore and weary, we were resting at the Fernleigh café with our beverages of choice (lots of cool drinks – not so many coffees!)"
Then onto Adamstown station, walk completed, walkers still cheerful and shade still welcome. "... in time to catch the 2:43pm train."
For the record, the 'stations' we passed were
Don B and John G led Wendy, Dawn, Kurt, John M, Anne G, Anne R, Bert, Ros G, Christine, Sue S, Pragati, Clive, Sue B, Mary, Bert and Lyn.
Words by John G, photos by John G (1,4-6, 11,12, 14), Anne R (7, 9, 10, 13 [water dragon], 15), Helen A (2,3,9,10), and Wendy (16-18).