Sydney and the Bush

The word 'bush' has a special signifiance to Australians, and it means many things, among them:

To get some idea of how the bush has been seen in the past, look first at these quotations.

The best walks are bush walks. Bushwalking means heading off, preferably on a visible track, to travel through undeveloped land, away from the madding crowd. On that basis, the walk from Thredbo to Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains in mid-summer is not a bushwalk, even if it is pleasant. There are too many people, and the track is mainly steel mesh, which is needed to protect the fragile environment.

The best part of walking in the bush is seeing the plants, animals and birds, and seeing the views. It also involves taking a certain risk, so the trick is to be well-prepared, so that the risk is minimised.

You can write whole books about bushwalking, and a number of people have, so we will not duplicate their efforts here. This section will give you some basic ideas, but you will need to investigate your selections more closely.

Safety in the bush

The main things to remember: take as much food and water as you need, plus a bit more. Let somebody know where you are going, and establish a trigger time, after which searchers should be alerted - and make sure you phone those people as soon as you are safely out of the bush. In some cases, the person watching out for you may be family or friends, or it may be your hotel, but you MUST make certain somebody knows where to expect you to be.

Assume the weather will turn nasty, that there will be floods, fires and either heat waves or snow drifts or both. That way, you ought to be prepared. Never travel with less than three in the party - and even then, try to make sure that at least two of them are familiar with the route.

Some of the best safety hints for the bush will be found at various Web sites maintained by bushwalkers. If you are walking in Tasmania, where conditions are quite different, look at http://www.comlaw.utas.edu.au/users/crodrigu/Text/general.html for some good advice, which also applies to walking in the Snowy Mountains.

Sunburn will generally be a problem. Use sunburn creams, wear a shirt with long sleeves that you can roll down, wear a hat with a brim, and take it easy. It is wise to assume that water in creeks is polluted, so carry some water with you. About a litre per person is the minimum for day walks, but increase this on hot days. Sydney milk can be bought in two litre plastic bottles which make useful and cheap water bottles.

Getting lost is a bad idea. Having a map and compass is a good idea. If you are the sort of person who gets lost, carry a whistle, a mirror, matches, and a torch (flashlight). Make sure that all members of the party know where you are on the map at any given time. Look behind you as you walk, if you may need to return on the same track, and do not split up your group. Take something warm, and some spare food.

If you do get lost, stay where you are: don't make it worse by continuing to wander. The search is likely to be by helicopter. If you have a mirror, you can "flash" at them in daylight, while the torch will work at night. The whistle will carry further than a voice, and is less harmful to the larynx. I habitually carry a Petzl light which has a flash function. When worn on the forehead, it is excellent for spotlighting spiders, whose reflective eyes 'glow' in the dark.

A small fire, with some green material ready to make smoke (by day) and some dry material to flare up (by night) is a good idea, but not in dense bush. You won't be seen in dense bush, so try to find a clear sandstone area to sit on and light your fire on: you will find these clearings all over the Sydney bush, especially on high points. Then sit in the shade until you hear a helicopter, and begin signalling.

Bushfires can be quite dangerous: keep away from them, and seek advice before you "go bush" in periods of high bushfire danger. The best thing to do is to stay out of the bush at such times, or to get out if you smell smoke. If you are trapped, the big killer is radiant heat from the first wave, so get into water if you can, and cover your head with a wet towel. If that is not possible, try to shelter in a crevice between two rocks, and cover as much flesh as possible. Remember that fires go much faster uphill than downhill. If you are carrying a "space blanket" for keeping warm in an emergency, it makes an excellent heat shield.

A small first aid kit is a good idea, and a pack to carry your gear in. If you don't already own a "day pack", the firms listed under Camping Equipment can sell you one, but you will pay for quality. You can buy packs at "touristy" places for a bit less, but you won't be buying quality. The same camping equipment shops can also sell you a basic first aid kit.

Snakes don't generally bite people without a good reason. They are protected by law all over the Sydney area, so leave them alone, and they will do the same for you. If you are really unlucky, no snake bite need be deadly any more, but get to a hospital fast for treatment. If you are worried about such things, read Dangerous Reptiles, but you are far more likely to be killed driving to the bush than you are likely to be bitten by a poisonous snake or spider.

A bush calendar

There are always flowers out in the heath and dry sclerophyll biomes.

Here is a quick rundown on what you can expect to see in flower, month by month. It will take me some time to do, because I need to check most of them first, and it will probably take me even longer to make them into links, so please be patient. In most cases, i know roughly when things flower, but I have started this 12-month project only in mid-April 2006.

Month Flowers you may see when you are out in the bush
January The large and small Actinotus, the fringe violet,
February The large and small Actinotus,
March This is the big die-back time when many flowers set their seed. You will still see the small Actinotus,
April Eriostemon, small Actinotus, native fuchsia (Epacris longiflora), Banksia ericifolia, Grevillea buxifolia and Grevillea punicea, Woollsia pungens, Leptospermum, several wattles, small heathy things and at least one species of Eucalyptus is still in flower at this time. At least one Persoonia and at least one bush pea.
May Woollsia pungens, Eriostemon, small Actinotus, native fuchsia (Epacris longiflora), several wattles, Trachymene, Bauera rubioides, Banksia ericifolia. I was overseas for much of May 2006, so I have probably missed a few.
June The Cootamundra wattles are in bloom now in gardens. Woollsia pungens. I was away for all of June 2006, but I will try to extrapolate later.
July July is the edge of spring, and by the middle of the month, a lot of flowers will be starting to show. This year, I saw four species of Acacia in flower in July, and one Grevillea.
August This is the BIG month for wildflowers around Sydney. There may be as many as a dozen wattles in flower. You can expect to see Leucopogon, Boronia, plenty of bush peas. There were two Grevilleas, native fuchsia (Epacris longiflora), several Banksias.
September This is the month for waratahs, Grevillea buxifolia, Grevillea sericea and Grevillea punicea, Hakea, the large and small Actinotus came out, late in the month, as did Isopogon, Kunzea,
October You will still see a few waratahs, past their prime. The large flannel flower is swarming, Kunzea,
November Now the cicadas are active, and in the streets and gardens, jacarandas are at their best. The large flannel flower,
December The dwarf apple (Angophora caudifolia) comes into bloom now. The large flannel flower,

There is related material under animals, national parks, plants and climate. See also the walks page.

This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/syd/bush.htm, first created on February 28, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on October 9, 2006.


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