I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published March 25th 2017
Bushwalking close to Brisbane
The first time I walked up Spider Hill, I was exhausted. I'm not sure whether it was because I was very unfit or because it was at night and I couldn't see how steep it was with my head torch on. I'm not sure of the spelling of this hill. The sign on the track calls it Spider Hill, but the brochure says Spyder Hill.
I've recently just walked up the hill for the first time in daylight and it wasn't bad at all, so I've obviously got fitter, or it was better psychologically to see how far it was to the top.
The Giwadha track circuit has an open forest with an understory of heath, grasses and shrubs. The track passes through thick vegetation beside Little Cabbage Tree Creek, and Spider Hill is the highest point in the Chermside Hills Reserve.
I did both walks with a local bushwalking club. The night walk is a regular training walk the club runs which goes through the Chermside Hills Reserve, starting at Trouts Road, up Spider Hill and around the various formed and rough paths for about seven kilometres in the dark. It is a great experience and we saw nocturnal animals on this walk.
The Chermside Hills Reserves are located 12 kilometres north-west of Brisbane's CBD. The Reserves are made up of a network of three natural areas in Chermside West and McDowall. They include Raven Street Reserve, Milne Hill Reserve and Chermside Hills Reserve. The three reserves link to from 129 hectares of bus land.
The day walk was on a recent overcast weekday. Eight of us met at the Raven Street Reserve on Rode Road, Chermside and walked for five hours around the tracks in the reserves. We started with a walk along Downfall Creek to Huxtable Park Rainforest Walk and back. We had a rest at the Environment Centre at Raven Street and then walked about ten kilometres through a variety of habitats and saw some very interesting plants and animals.
The reserves include grass trees, banksias, casuarinas, weeping myrtles, blueberry ash, small matrush, comb ferns, bloodwoods, rough barked apples, stringybarks and sheoaks. We were lucky to see some swamp wallabies, large numbers of bats, ducks, lizards and scrub turkeys.
I also saw some interesting creatures I'd never seen before, despite spending lots of time walking in the bush. Lyn spotted them first and we all stopped along the track to look at a long procession of caterpillars. They are called processionary caterpillars and turn into Bag shelter moths (Ochrogaster lunifer). They form long chains head to tail in late summer and autumn. I was telling a friend of mine about seeing them and he told me when he was a child growing up on the Atherton Tableland the children used to join the head and tail of the procession to make the poor things go in a continuous circle. I learnt it is not wise to touch these caterpillars because their long hairs can cause an intense itchy dermatitis in some people, and even severe allergic reactions. Luckily we didn't touch them. The processionary caterpillars were densely covered with long, pale hairs.
The other surprise for me was seeing two Royal Spoonbill birds. I have seen Spoonbills in North Queensland, but I'd never seen them around Southern Queensland before. During the breeding season the Royal Spoonbill develops a lush crest of white feathers, up to 200 millimetres long, which sprouts from the back of its head. The breeding season is October to April and we saw ours in March. I couldn't get close enough to get a close-up photo, but I could see the birds did have long plumes at the back of the head so I think they must have been a breeding pair.
The Royal Spoonbill feeds mainly on fish in freshwater, and shrimps in tidal flats. They also eat other crustaceans and aquatic insects. The structure of its bill limits it to feeding in water that is less than 40 cm deep over sand, mud or clay, where it can sweep the water with its bill.
Our leader, Tom had a good knowledge about plants, and told us how Aborigines used to use glue from burnt grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) for binding axe heads to handles and spear points to their shafts. Grass trees were a 'staple' plant for the aborigines, providing food, drink, fibre and materials for making implements and weapons. Tom also showed us plants used for bush foods.
We saw lots of these beautiful grass trees as we walked along the Xanthorrhoea track. These unique Australian plants are very slow growing. They are found in all Australian states and territories, especially on the east and west coast. Some of them are the oldest living plants and have survived for many hundreds of years.
After walking through the three reserves we ended up back at the Downfall Creek Bushland Centre. There was an interesting display of stuffed animals including a bandicoot and possum. There is also a good playground here with picnic shelters and toilets. The Centre provides educational activities and programmes.
The Chermside Hills Reserves are an important part of the Mountains to Mangroves Corridor, which is a wildlife corridor that extends from the D'Aguilar Ranges to Boondall Wetlands and Moreton Bay. The reserves are mostly open eucalypt forest with more than 200 native plant species including grass trees, banksias, stringybarks, bloodwoods and spotted gums. The Reserves also provide habitat for 115 bird species, water dragons, turtles, frogs, wallabies, gliders and possums.