The Fernleigh Track: the great urban escape

This is a ride report to enter into the competition being run by Lovely Bicycle, even though I am not vying for the wonderful prize that is on offer at her blog, I wanted to write a report on our local Fernleigh Track and to share with other bicycle bloggers.

The Fernleigh Track is a track that has something for everyone: history lovers, athletes, mums, dads, offspring, nature lovers and bicycle activists. So I set out on a spring day, knowing that the worst I will have to encounter will be magpies attacking and enjoying seeing those around me.

This would be a good chance to peek into backyards, if you like checking out other people’s gardens, or see an historic rail tunnel, or meander through rainforest, or cross a flat sandy area and also a few reasonably busy roads. You get every aspect of bush and urban landscape that you could imagine, except high buildings and shops.

The scenery is a good distraction during the slow uphill to Belmont. Thankfully it is extremely gradual. The journey from the Adamstown end is a gradual move from the hustle of inner city suburban life to an almost secluded track as cyclists become less frequent and the landscape more jungle like around and above the track.

At some parts of the track there are suburban houses in sight while in other parts the surrounding bushland seems pristine and it is difficult to imagine that a road construction crew worked here or indeed that the track was originally a railroad.

Originally used for hauling coal, and later passengers, to the mines in Redhead and Belmont, once disused, Fernleigh was made into a cycling/walking track, though it had been used by many as such after its closure as a railroad.

The heritage of the track is perpetuated with old sleepers and pieces of rail track being used as parts of the landscaping and seating along the track.

The arched rail tunnel is definitely the historical centerpiece of the track. It has an old damp stone smell and feel to it, the walls are always seeping moisture and you can hear faint dripping noises as you cycle through it. The curve in the tunnel means that at some points you can’t see light ahead, and although it is reasonably well lit with electric lights which cast a faint light, for a moment when riding you wonder if you will hit a wall or oncoming pedestrian, until the light at the end bursts into view, adding to the ambience.

The ride back is a great reward for the harder slog of the outward trip – it’s mostly downhill. The 15.5 km trip flies past.
The infrastructure on the track is first class: water fountains (bubblers), seats, lighting in the tunnel, traffic calming barriers at approaches to road crossings, lights at these crossings and a well defined centre line.

Wildlife is always around, the only sounds are from invisible frogs, birds and sometimes the rustle of the treetops in the wind, the only signs of the nearby city being an occasional sound of traffic. Often, there is complete silence, even this small reptile was totally noiseless as it slithered away.

And this one up a tree beside the track.

Fernleigh Track is the epitome of good cycling: it is nearly flat, well maintained with a smooth bitumen surface and a centre line so a degree of traffic control is maintained for those busy times at weekends and the like. It travels between distant suburbs, linking them in a scenic ride and making it possible for many to cycle to work or to train on an offroad facility.
My errands completed at Belmont, it’s now time to return and though it is hotter, there are still many areas of the track in shadow and it is mostly downhill. I cycle easily, finding solace from the sun in the dappled light and the now more frequently passing joggers, cyclists and skateboarders approaching in the opposite direction.

On the way back I met with another Lovely Bicycle reader who I met via the bicycle blog world and together we took photos and had a ride of each other’s Speedwells along the track, his beautifully adapted transport bike with loads of character a fitting brother bike to mine.

I cycle home content with the satisfaction of spending more than an hour and a half deep in the bushland, yet so close to the city, and being able to contemplate nature while enjoying a not too strenuous cycle and much Antipodean beauty.

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5 Responses to The Fernleigh Track: the great urban escape

  1. peter mcnaughton says:

    A very enjoyable report on a wonderful ride that can be both a useful commute for locals as well as an escape to nature. As you say, Fernleigh Track has something for everyone, and it is also well worth the journey here for any non-local cyclists to experience.

  2. Vicki says:

    Thanks Peter, and thanks for your help with the photography too!

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  4. Tony says:

    Yes a very nice report and well written. The only slight error is that the railway was used for hauling coal, long after it ceased to transport passengers. I have lived beside the track for 30 years and coal trains continued to haul coal until the closure of the Redhead mine.

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