I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published June 14th 2013
Picnic in a natural setting while enjoying great facilities
My family has only recently started rediscovering Crosslands Reseve, but it hasn't taken us long to remember how many reasons there are to visit. Our first trip there in years was for a family gathering, but since then we've also been back for bushwalks and once just to cook some bacon and eggs for breakfast.
The reserve can be found at the end of Somerville Road in Hornsby Heights (with a 2.5 kilometre road that's a bit narrow at times taking you down to the valley floor). Part of Berowra Valley National Park, it is surrounded by bushland on one side and caressed by Berowra Creek on the other. Across the water are Crosslands Youth and Convention Centre and Windeyer Scout Camp, but I've never been over that side.
There are two sections to the area of Crosslands Reserve that is used by the public, and these stretch away at either end of a long car park. Both offer big, open, grassy spaces full of tables (usually sheltered), as well as barbecues, toilets and paths for bike-riding, making them great places to have a picnic.
However, it's the facilities at the southern end, which is the one closest to the entrance, that are the best. This section also has a sheltered pair of larger tables that can be booked for special occasions, which my family chose to do for our event. It's something I definitely recommend, because otherwise you may miss out, unless you head down early to stake out your spot. It can get pretty busy.
You know a place is popular when the toilets look so modern
This end also has some good play equipment, including a flying fox and a set of swings. There's enough room for multiple groups to get the traditional game of cricket going, too.
The flying fox is always fun
It's clear money has been spent turning Crosslands Reserve into a great picnic location, but that's not all there is to the reserve. You're surrounded by nature and history here, and Hornsby Shire Council has made sure you can fully appreciate your surroundings when you visit.
One way the council has enhanced the visitor's experience is through a series of signs offering information on the area and its history. I recommend taking the time to read these - while there is some bland background stuff on things like water quality, there's also some interesting insights, like the Hawkesbury River's status as a 'drowned river valley'.
Of course, you'll want to take a look at the area itself as well, not just read about it, and doing so has been made easier by platforms built on the water's edge. They stand in locations where I remember there were once muddy slopes. As kids we would feed the ducks here and watch people in kayaks pass by.
One of the platforms over the water
At the other end of Crosslands Reserve there are even more things to do. A small muddy beach provides a place to go fishing and this section seems to be the preferred location for camping (though groups like Scouts and Girl Guides are always setting themselves up down near the entrance).
Open space in the northern section
This end is also the one I recommend for your bushwalk. While there are stretches of the Benowie Walking Track (part of The Great North Walk) at both ends, these lead away to other destinations around Hornsby Shire. It's only up this end that you'll find a walk that is specifically designed to offer a short, return trip for families and others at Crosslands just for the day.
Called the Saltmarsh Boardwalk, this route covers just a small section of the Benowie Walking Track. It takes less than half an hour to complete and takes you through saltmarshes and past mangroves, out to a viewing platform where you can marvel at Berowra Creek. If you happen to complete it at low tide, keep an eye out for the crabs among the mangroves beneath the platform - kid's will love trying to spot them.
The saltmarsh at the beginning of the boardwalk
With so much to keep you occupied, Crosslands Reserve was always going to be popular, but one thing that makes it particularly attractive is that unlike other picnic areas nearby, like Bobbin Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, this one is completely free.
However, I think it's pretty amazing anyway. It sure hasn't taken much to get my family down there lately.