Convict Barracks at Castle Hill

Castle Hill: History, Bushwalks and a Nobel Laureate

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Castle Hill covers a large geographic area. That’s one reason I haven’t explored this suburb. Another is the difficulty getting there by public transport. Now, with the Sydney Metro, Castle Hill is easily accessible by public transport. So today, I’m off to Castle Hill, prepared for a long walk.

Pods at Castle Hill Metro Station

A spot of colour at the Metro

Vaulted Ceiling of Castle Hill Metro

The Soaring Metro Station Ceiling

Arthur Whitling Park

Behind the vaulted ceilings of the Metro Station Arthur Whitling Park provides welcome greenery alongside busy Old Northern Road. Arthur Whitling opened the first general store in the area in 1924. He worked to get the tramline (from Parramatta), and water and electricity to Castle Hill.

Arthur Whitling Park

Development surrounds the station

Trees in Arthur Whitling Park

New Tree

Under a tree, a plaque unveiled by Philip Ruddock in 1994, remembers Philip’s mother, Emmie Ruddock for her work in the local community. Behind the tree another plaque (1977), states that the tree was planted for Philip’s father, Maxwell Ruddock, former Member for the Hills District and Minister of State.   The Ruddock family have a long history here.

From 1910 to 1932, a tram carried passengers and goods between Parramatta and Castle Hill. Two years later all traces of the tram tracks had disappeared. Today, after 80 years, the new Metro provides a public transport alternative.

The Changing Face of Castle Hill

New high-rise developments surround the station and huge cranes operate on nearby building sites. No different from areas around all Sydney train stations, high density living is encroaching on Castle Hill.

Tucked behind scraggly bushes, an old corner house is for sale. Next door a large sign informs passing traffic that a high-rise residential development is coming soon.

Castle Hill Real Estate

For Sale

Lavendar Hedge

Colour in the Garden

Spring flowers bloom in abundance. Bright red bottle brush and the pinks and whites of a flowering tree colour the streetscape. I walk past comfortable homes on large, wide blocks their lawns extending to the pavement, unhindered by garden walls or hedges.

A sign warns drivers that wildlife cross at the exact point where I too must cross the road. What about pedestrians, I wonder as cars speed around the corner taking little notice of the red stripes in the road.

Castle Hill Heritage Park

Plaques on the Ceremonial Gate Entrance to Castle Hill Heritage Park describe the area as the birthplace of Castle Hill. They mention the 1804 Castle Hill Rebellion and the Vinegar Hill Rebellion in Rouse Hill the following day.

Castle Hill Rebellion

Convicts rebelled in Castle Hill

Footprint of Convict Barracks

Footprint of Convict Barracks

Walking along the footpath, I read information signs which describe Castle Hill’s history from when the Bidjigal Clan of the Darug Nation lived here, to when it was the Third Government Farm with convict barracks, then the first ‘Lunatic Asylum’ in New South Wales, and later a church, and a school.

Now, it is peaceful parkland well used by power walkers, dog walkers and grandparents babysitting young children.

Bush Tracks

From the parkland a path leads to bushland with one of the largest remaining stands of endangered Blue Gum High Forest in the world. It’s calm and peaceful here. Birds twitter as they flit from tree to tree. And yet, human noise intrudes. A plane flies overhead, traffic noise and that from nearby building work encroaches on the sounds of the bush.

People who lived in Castle Hill

Path to the bushtrack

Bridge in the Heritage Park

Saw a Lewin’s Rail near here

Although Powerful Owls nest here, I only see Lorikeets, noisy miners, cockatoos and corellas. Then, turning to a rustle in the bush, I notice a pretty bird with a speckled undercarriage, a Lewin’s Rail.

Returning to the park, a couple powerwalk towards me. I saw them earlier. The man nods and says “That took the same time”. Yes, but they probably walked twice as far as I did.

Suburban Castle Hill

In Spain Reserve, a small family of ducks peck in the grass watching me with one eye as I pass. Back in quiet suburbia, there are no pavements. My ankle twists in an unseen grassed hollow. Fortunately, no harm is done.

As I walk from the bush towards the village centre, more low walls and hedges separate private property from the public nature strip.

Different Architecture

Something different

Suburban Sydney

Neat home and garden

Street Names

It’s not surprising really that the side streets off Britannia Road have a decidedly British theme. I pass Ensign, Essex and Waterloo. And then the theme changes. I turn into Patrick Avenue, pass White Place and further on, Nobel Place.

Nobel Laureate, Patrick White lived in his home “Dogwoods” on nearby Showground Road from 1948 to 1964. He set novels written while living in Castle Hill in fictional “Sarsaparilla” and “Durilgai”, places based on Castle Hill.

Outside “Dogwoods”, a hanging sign swings in the breeze. My first (hopeful) thought that the house is now a Bed and Breakfast, proves wrong. Instead the house serves as offices for a legal firm.

Dogwoods

Patrick White lived and wrote here

Little House

The smallest house I’ve Seen

A young man walks past me, letters under his arm. He stares studiously at the ground avoiding eye contact. A stop/go lady looks as if she’s wilting. I know how she feels. It is hot out in the sun, and I hug the shade.

On this side of Showground Rd houses are smaller, some quite rundown and gardens overgrown. Perhaps they are rental properties – certainly one is available to rent.

Collection of Cars

Another side of Castle Hill

The Parsonage

A sympathetic addition

The Parsonage

The large double storey house with a red corrugated iron roof in Parsonage Road stands out. The date ‘1995’ carved into a sandstone block on the sympathetic addition, contrasts with the ‘AD 1886’ on the original section of the house. From what I can work out, this was the old Parsonage.

Wings from a small bird brush my head. A Noisy Miner doesn’t like my presence. He returns for a second go and then leaves me alone.

Architect Designed

I liked this one

Providing shelter for the ferns

Sheltering the Ferns

A large colourful umbrella shelters potted plants from the harsh sun. On another wall, a blue umbrella protects ferns. And it’s not yet summer.

Bidjigal Reserve

The shaded Platypus Track in Bidjigal Reserve provides a welcome relief from the sun. There’s a sharp drop off to a creek on my left as I follow the well sign posted path which soon descends into the gully below.

With the uneven ground and no one around I wonder if I should be walking here alone. What if I fall? I even consider calling home to let someone know where I am.

Cockatoos nibbling on the ground

They found something tasty

Creek in Bidjigal Reserve

Cool here near the water

A Pleasant Bushwalk

In the gully, a creek bubbles over rocks. A dragon fly dances in a patch of sunlight above the water. I look briefly for signs of platypus without success. A friend tells me later that they are best seen at dawn and dusk.

Contrary to my earlier bushwalk, there is no human sound, only birds and rustling in the leaf litter as I walk past timid unseen creatures. Water dragons take fright on my approach, leaping from rock to rock across the path ahead of me. They stop motionless on an outcrop, only their eyes moving, watching me pass.

Rocky Outcrop Platypus Track

Water Dragons were too quick

Spring Flowers in Bidjigal Reserve

Wildflowers

A Strange Encounter

Did the man in blue overalls kneeling forward towards a rock face near the water hear my “Good Morning” as “What are you doing?”? It’s way past midday after all. His reply “It’s none of your business” baffles and briefly concerns me.

For once, when the path divides, there’s no helpful sign.  Fortunately, a second man comes bounding towards me across sandstone stepping stones. He’s been at the nearby Men’s Shed, but doesn’t know which is the Platypus Track. With prompting on my part “back to Excelsior?” He says to cross the creek. Soon a sign confirms that I’m on the right path.

Near the top of the steep hill I stop and turn around at the sound of footsteps. It’s the man in blue. He waves dismissively before turning off into the bush again, camera in hand.

Heritage Home in Castle Hill

Castle Hill House

The Village Court Arcade

Go Right

A series of suburban streets take me back to the shopping village via the heritage building that was St Paul’s Anglican church (now a funeral home), past the fenced off and empty Castle Hill public school (1879). Castle Hill Arcade caters to consumers of Korean and Japanese products. Castle Mall and Castle Towers aren’t much different from other suburban shopping centres.

Thoughts on Castle Hill

I always enjoy discovering a new suburb, and Castle Hill is no exception. From history to bushwalks, a Nobel Laureate and suburban gardens, I have a much better feel for this sprawling suburb. If I were you, I would choose between history (the Heritage Park) and bushwalks (the Bidjigal Reserve has more than the Platypus Track). For another park with bushwalks and a Museum Discovery Centre see below.

Enjoyed discovering Castle Hill? Then you are sure to enjoy Bundeena, La Perouse and Eastwood.
Next Stop: Chatswood

Useful information:

Castle Hill is 24 kilometres north west of the Sydney CBD

Plan your trip at transportnsw.info.

Here is a link to all the walking tracks in Bidjigal Reserve, including the Platypus Track.

For more about Patrick white and his connection to Castle Hill click here

Places I missed that you might find interesting:

  • Professors Online Lolly Shop Warehouse 16/8 Gladstone Rd is a wholesale lolly shop open to the public
  • The Museums Discovery Centre is a collaboration between the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Australian Museum (AM) and Sydney Living Museums. Call for opening times.
  • Fred Caterson Reserve in Gilbert Road is a sports complex,  including a pony club and bush walking tracks including the 1.5km Blue Wren Trail and the 3.5km Geebung Trail. There is also a remote control car track
  • The Vintage Clothing store Kitten d Amour (also located in the QVB) can be found in Castle Towers.

I used this map to plan my walk through Castle Hill. You can download it here. Use the map together with these Castle Hill Day Notes. Please note that the time indicated on my map doesn’t allow for stopping and looking around.

Walking map through Castle Hill

 

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Comments

  1. Love it Joanne. Something I found out was that the trees that are planted on the park above the Metro were actually relocated to another Reserve during the construction and brought back after completion. Superb walking route and you’re right, it’s a tough area to explore.

    1. Author

      Thanks Mike. That’s interesting re the trees. When I looked at the tree planted for Ruddock’s father, I wondered if it really was the same tree planted in 1977.

    2. Living in Glenhaven, a neighbouring suburb, I really enjoyed reading an ‘outsider’s’ viewpoint.

      On your concerns about a fall in the bush and being alone, my husband (68) cycles alone and occasionally walks in the bush. Though on occasion he will be accompanied by friends. We discussed concerns about accidents and decided to use a tracking app.

      It gives comfort and is also useful to know when to put the kettle on if he has only walked up to the shops or I’ve been out. Works for us.

  2. Very interesting Joanne, I was in castle Hill briefly this week, had no idea I had missed so much by not exploring.

    1. Author

      Yes, Seana, walking gives me an opportunity to observe and discover things I wouldn’t otherwise know about.

  3. What a trove of rich history to be found at Castle Hill Heritage Park.
    Bidjigal Reserve looks like a gorgeous place to walk and so wonderful to have such a place near neighborhoods where nature seems untouched.

    1. Author

      Yes, Bernadette, we are very lucky to have so many fingers of bushland throughout suburbs of Sydney

  4. Hi Joanne was inspired by you to explore Castle hill which I did yesterday. But such a hot day I decided to go see the discovery museum. It was just great! An offshoot of Powerhouse and it has 5000 items! I was enthralled and spent about 3 hours there. So didn’t see the rest of Castle Hill so willbe off again when cooler to do your Castle Hill!! Love your walks….

    1. Author

      That’s just great, Patricia. As you know, I didn’t get to the Discovery Museum, so I’m pleased to hear about your experience. Now I definitely must make a plan to get there.

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