I’ve been reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and it inspired me to go out looking for mushrooms. It’s good timing as we’re in autumn and have recently had a lot of rain, great mushroom conditions!
During a short explore in the bush close to home I came across these large striking purple mushrooms. There were 3 of them, 2 quite large with caps approximately 10cm across, a 3rd was smaller and growing under the shelter of one of the larger ones. The caps were wet and slimy and deep purple in colour. They were growing in the ground pushing up through the covering of leaves and sheoak needles. Next to them was a small hole that looked like it had been dug by a foraging animal.
Some Google image searching pointed to it being a common Australian native, Cortinarius archeri. Cortinarius archeri has been found along the east coast from southern Queensland all the way through to southern Victoria. It’s also been found throughout Tasmania, South Australia surrounding Adelaide and in Western Australia from Perth down the south West coast to Albany. Peak season is April to July.
I sometimes upload sightings like this to the Atlas of Living Australia. I’ve not done it for a while, when I went to post there was a message saying they are transitioning to use iNaturalist to upload observations. OK. I signed up and posted, it made a suggestion that the photos were of Cortinarius archeri, quite impressive. Then within a few hours 2 community members had also suggested it was Cortinarius archeri. Nice.
Hoping to find and post some more fungi over the next few months!
[update] – I returned the next day and one of the large mushrooms had been knocked over, the day after that they were all gone! The base of the stalks were broken off at ground level. Looks like something had eaten them or taken them away
Finally spotted one! I’ve been looking for a Blue Banded Bee since learning they are the likely creature behind the numerous holes and burrows found in sandstone in the area. These photos were taken over two days, the first day there was just one bee, the 2nd day there was a pair. They don’t stay still for long, it was hard to get focus and take the shot in time. I would have liked to get some better photos but this is all I could manage. I’m extra impressed now with the bright and clear photo’s others have taken that can be found in the links.
There are a number of species of Blue Banded bee found around the world. I’m pretty sure this on is Amegilla cingulata or the Common Blue Banded Bee which is a native of Australia. It’s found all over the country except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they’re also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.
The Common Blue Banded Bee is 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. Males have 5 stripes, females 4. The have a long tongue protected by a brown sheath that looks like a spike. They use this to pierce flower petals then feed on the sweet nectar. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months.
A few months ago the RFS did a controlled burn in bushland on Middle Harbour River behind East Lindfield. Not long afterwards while running the trails I happened to glance up the hill into the recently burnt bush and saw what looked like man made stone walls about 20 metres from the trail. I went up to have a look and it turned out to be the ruins of several stone huts! I’ve passed by that place countless times but never knew what was hiding so close. It was only after the fire had burnt away the scrub that it became visible from the main track.
The huts are in a bad state with only the bottom half meter or so of the sandstone walls remaining. Some are in better condition than others with fireplaces still visible. There’s also a scattering of rubbish and other debris around.
There’s a few artefacts scattered around the site too, mostly broken bottles and pots. There’s writing visible on one of the (unfortunately broken) bottles reading “Laurel Kerosene” There is an entry on the MAAS site that depicts exactly the same bottle! There’s a lot of background on it, they were manufactured by Mobil’s predecessor company, Vacuum Oil between 1920 and 1940.
I took a number of other photos of the huts and some of the retaining walls built around them. Check them out here
I’m really keen to learn the history of these places. I contacted my collaborator John, he’d heard of them before and knew of their location. He even had an old hand drawn map that marked the location of the huts and had them labelled as “The Ambassadors”
The NSW Spatial Map Viewer shows that the area of the ruins is just outside Garigal National Park and is divided up into properties and lots complete with address points.
There are two ways to get to the ruins. The most direct way is a trail that runs from an abandoned bowling green at the end of Wellington road right through the middle of the ruins. It then continues down to two creeks track on Middle Harbour River. This track is very rough and looks seldom used but it’s so close to civilisation the ruins must be known to locals and others.
The other way is to descend on Manuwi track at the end of Wellington Rd, East Lindfield. When it hits two creeks track turn left and walk for around 250m. There is a turnoff to the left to access the ruins at the trails highest point as it passes around the curve in the river.
I feel like there’s a lot more to be written about the ruins but this is all I know so far. I’m still looking around, John is rechecking his sources too for any more information so I hope to have some updates soon. If you know anything about these huts I’d love to hear from you!
A very well named plant! Kangaroo paw is actually the common name for a number of different species that are all endemic to south west south Australia. This particular one is Anigozanthos flavidus, commonly known as the tall, yellow, or evergreen, kangaroo paw.