Pioneers’ Track is a pleasant self-guided circuit walk along both sides of Plympton Road on the border of Beecroft, Epping and Carlingford. Hornsby Council provides a pamphlet, “Your guide to a walk along the Pioneers’ Track”, (also available on their website) which includes a map showing the location of interpretative signage and plaques. The map is also available on their website.
The well-defined trail traverses bushland and parks provided with play equipment. Walkers pass under a canopy of Blackbutt, Angophora, Turpentine and Blue Gum, through cool fern areas, creek vegetation of Water Gums, Callicoma and Lomandra and open sunny bushland with understory of native grasses, shrubs and vines. Two small creeks which flow into Devlins Creek wind through the area.
In the process of creating this circuit walk, energetic bushcare volunteers, supported by Hornsby Shire Council, have been working for many years to restore the bushland. Local community
groups including school children have been involved. To assist wildlife habitat fifty-four nesting boxes have been installed, thirty-seven along the length of the track and a further seventeen in Ray Park “Habitat Havens” fauna and flora reserve.
A suggested starting point is in Midson Road, near the road bridge over the creek where a plaque signposts the entry to the walk. Alternatively, it is possible to park a car near Little Ray Park and walk in either direction from there.
History of the area
Following European settlement in 1788 this region of Sydney, home to Darug speaking people of the Wallumeda clan, became some of the earliest land grants in the colony. John Macarthur
owned 230 acres, later expanded to 425 acres. It is likely that he used it for pasturing cattle and had constructed a farmhouse close to the site of present day Murray Farm Road. Like other early grantees he employed convict labourers to clear the land and act as shepherds. In 1821 he exchanged his Pennant Hills Farm for acreage at Camden. Neighbouring grants went to Samuel Marsden and missionary Roland Hassall. At this time the name of Pennant Hills was given to this rural area. Aboriginal people remained a presence for a considerable time.
From 1816 logging became the dominant industry when the colonial government leased a great deal of the forested land from Epping through to Pennant Hills, as timber was essential for
Governor Macquarie’s building program. The main Timbergetting Establishment was situated at the top of Hull Road near Pennant Hills Road.
By 1831 the timber was exhausted, the camp closed and the convict labour was dispersed.
By 1823 some of Macarthur’s former land had been acquired by Scots – born Andrew Murray. A Macarthur employee from 1817, supervising the horticultural specimens and livestock Macarthur brought back from England in that year, he continued in Macarthur’s employ at Camden. Subsequently he worked at the Government Garden at Parramatta and as Manager at the Carters’ Barracks in Sydney. Murray’s holding of 280 acres was later increased by another 155 acres. His occupancy of so much of the western part of Beecroft has led to his name being given to Murray Road and Murray Farm Road.
The next phase of occupation occurred in 1881 with the land sale by Murray’s daughter and heir Elizabeth Stewart . Subdivision into smaller holdings saw new arrivals planting orchards. Fruits grown included some of the earliest Granny Smith apples but there were orange, lemon and apricot trees as well as vines. Dairies, nurseries and poultry farms were also established. Fruit was hauled over rough roads across to Marsden Road and then down Wharf Road to the Parramatta River until the completion of the railway in 1886 provided an easier route to the markets in Sydney. A siding for loading fruit was established at Epping Station.
While some farms were large holdings, many were of an uneconomic size and smallholders needed additional sources of income. The Martin family quarried stone on their land, Richard Ray worked as a fruit inspector and the Rays set up a kiln and made bricks. In addition to their orchard, the Wooster family established a profitable business by grinding animal bones for fertiliser and created a sawmill.
One of Beecroft’s most active early citizens, Charles Churchill Tucker, a city wine merchant, created a 40 acre apple orchard around his home, Plympton, now demolished. It was located on the south side of Murray Farm Road. He was an early Councillor of Hornsby Shire Council and President of the Fruitgrowers’ Association of New South Wales.
The area finally changed from rural to suburban when the farmland was finally subdivided. In 1960 Andrew Murray’s former acreage was divided into 91 lots and advertised for sale as The
Murray Farms Estate in an early television marketing campaign by L.J. Hooker.
The most westerly section of Pioneers’ Track leads walkers across Orchard Road and on towards the open playing fields which are adjacent to three schools: Roselea Public School, Carlingford High School and St Gerard’s School. The walk’s end is at an information shelter near Roselea school. This area of open land was the site of the first high power wireless station in Australia,
commissioned in 1912 and given the name of Pennant Hills Wireless Station. It was constructed by the Australasian Wireless Company for the Postmaster General’s Department and operated and maintained by the AWA company. At the time it was the most up-to-date transmitting centre in the southern hemisphere. The only surviving structure, the former machinery building, has been used since 1972 by St Gerard’s school.