This month’s mountain bicycle ride includes a pleasant, scenic one hour drive from Galston or Glenorie to the Blue Mountains foothills. We drive via Cattai Road and take the A9 out of Windsor to Bligh Park and then ‘The Driftway’ straight through to Castlereagh Road, deftly avoiding all Richmond traffic woes! We then follow the Nepean River along Springwood Road, navigating the switchbacks up Hawkesbury Heights (the steep hills fringing Yellomundee Regional Park). At the top, we stop to stretch our legs at the fabulous Hawkesbury look out, where one can see western Sydney laid out like patchwork with the high rise clusters of Sydney CBD on the distant horizon.
Park and ride from the Winmalee Village Mall, turning left into White Cross Road to find the Blue Gum Swamp Track gate. About 150 metres past the gate you have several route choices:
1. Shaw’s Ridge Trail> UP Bees Nest Hill>Lookout (7km)
2. Blue Gum Swamp Track> UP Bee’s Nest Hill>Lookout (5km)
3. Springwood Ridge Trail> Lookout> DOWN Bees Nest Hill (12km)
Ruth and I feel like option three, (aka doing Bees Nest as a downhill !) so we bear right and bounce down the twisty Blue Gum Swamp track. Keep your speed under firm control, as this track is shared with many walkers. Just before crossing the creek we turn left- away from ‘the crowds’ and onto the quiet Springwood Ridge Trail. Initially, it can be annoyingly overgrown and muddy. Persevere and look out for the little access track to the blessed Catholic ‘Grotto’ nestled amongst the ferns along the rock faces to your right.
Continue along Springwood track. Thick swamp vegetation soon thins out as the track ascends suddenly and steeply up onto the ridgeline. You’ll have to dismount and push your bike all the way up, but it isn’t very far. At the top you’ll see sneaky singletracks off to the left, which are community built and unsanctioned but wow, are they awesome to ride! Keep this little network in mind for another visit as it connects Springwood Ridge trail back to Hawkesbury Road.
Ruth and I continue right, straight along the firetrail, skirting the boundary of St. Columba’s Catholic College until we reach the signposted, official gate of Springwood Ridge Trail proper. From here, it is 7.5km of sheer Blue Mountains bliss, as the firetrail rocks and rolls along Springwood Ridge, without demanding too much of your power to weight ratio or technical skills. It’s lovely, pure riding- the opening act to the main gig!
6.5km from St. Columba, Bees Nest trail merges in from the right. (Take careful note of this intersection because it is your only way back down to Blue Gum swamp and coffee!) Ride on for another 1km to marvel at the main act of this ride: the mind blowing Grose Head South Lookout. The rock sheets fall dramatically down to the confluence of Springwood Creek with the rushing waters of the Grose River far below. The curved mountain ampitheatre embracing you, points toward Bowen Mountain, Kurrajong and Womerah Ranges in the blue distance.
Our return ride begins with the fast, steep descent down Bees Nest- a sanitized kitty litter, carelessly bulldozed dirt ‘highway.’ Consequently, the steep, switchback sections are loose and badly eroded, so descend at a speed pursuant to your level of cycling ability. We regroup at Blue Gum Swamp track junction and turn right. The 3km ride back is flat and fabulous- far from being a swamp, this track is a verdant, botanical profusion of flowers, ferns and birds. Ruth and I simply have to stop to admire an entire ‘field’ of scarlet Warratahs ! We’re doing a recreational activity with the word ‘mountain’ in it, so when we pass the Springwood/Grotto track, we both find ourselves alternating between walking and riding up the fairly stiff little 1km climb to get back to White Cross Road… and that steaming coffee!