Feature

Wilderness within reach: Sydney's bush backyard

G Magazine

Keen to breathe some fresh eucalyptus-laced air without travelling too far from Sydney?

Manly Dam through the trees

Manly dam is just one nature centre close to Sydney.

Credit: Warringah Council

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It's been a long time since my hiking boots have had a good workout. So it felt good to have their support and grip as I ran down a leafy little gully and across a sharply sloping rock.

The only downside was that I was running was to make sure my three-year-old did not fall off a cliff.

Perhaps it wasn't the best idea for two adults to volunteer to bring five children out on a bush walk.

We were walking around Manly Dam, the lesser-known body of water in the beachside Sydney suburb.

Established in the 19th century to provide the township of Manly with water, the dam is now the centre of a nature and recreation reserve.

The dam's shores offer playgrounds and BBQs, but we headed for the nature trail, which snakes up the sandstone cliffs and provides fantastic views of the dam and the surrounding bushland.

The trail joins up with the 7.3 km circuit walk around the dam, which passes through eucalypt forest dotted with wildflowers, including the NSW centenary bloom: the flannel flower.

But while the nature trail involves some steep steps, precipitous edges and bridges over creeks, the flatter and longer circuit track is frequented by mountain bike riders looking for some off-road thrills, so is probably equally dangerous for three-year-olds.

While the seven of us were a little too noisy to have any hope of seeing the famed local echidnas, we did spy lizards, camouflaged insects and kookaburras. We also passed stands of delicate flowers surrounding the scribbly gums and grass trees that lined the route.

The older kids kept us on track with a compass and map printed out from Wildwalks - not strictly necessary on such a well sign-posted walk, but it gave us all the impression we had lost ourselves in this gorgeous patch of bush.

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