The Yarrawa Brush at Robertson Nature Reserve

Entrance to the Robertson Nature ReserveThe Historic Yarrawa Brush

Behind this rustic fence, just a short distance from the town centre of Robertson, is Robertson Nature Reserve.

The unassuming entrance hides one of the natural treasures of the Southern Highlands, a remnant of the famous 'Yarrawa Brush'.

The Yarrawa Brush was a combination of dense impenetrable warm and cool temperate rainforests which once covered 2500 hectares of the eastern part of the Highlands from the Wingecarribee Swamp to the escarpment overlooking the coast.

('Brush' was a name given by the early explorers to forests covered with a dense understorey, unlike the more open forests near the coast.)

The Yarrawa Brush was first mentioned by the earliest explorers, notably Dr. Charles Throsby (1818), who was forced to skirt around it in his quest for an overland route from Bong Bong (the original settlement near Moss Vale) to the South Coast.

A dense, impenetrable Rainforest.

Although some rough bridal paths for horses were later cut through parts of it (notably near Mt. Murray) to allow cattle to be driven from Albion Park on the coast, the earliest settlers avoided its dense undergrowth, taking up land in the more favourable grasslands further west and south.

The Yarrawa Brush remained untouched until the Robertson Land Acts of the 1860s.

These land reforms gave the right to settlers to claim portions of unused Crown Land for farming at very low purchase prices, provided they cleared and improved their holdings.

Within a decade thousands of settlers had found their way to the area, and began systematically clearing the Yarrawa Brush for farming.

The extreme exertion of these efforts (in the days before chain saws and bulldozers) was rewarded by the rich volcanic soils and high rainfall, which allowed for intensive horticulture (vegetables - potatoes are still a famous product of the area) and livestock farming (cattle, pigs).

easy walking trail

the dense understoreyUnique enclave of heritage Rainforest.

The fervour with which the brush was cleared was exacerbated by lucrative sawmilling of the native cedar and hardwoods.

By the turn of the C19th the Yarrawa Brush had largely disappeared, and the villages of Burrawang, Kangaloon, and Robertson with their surrounding farmlands had grown up in its place.

Except for isolated pockets of scrub, only this 5 hectare portion remains of the original rainforest. Pass through the gates and step back in time to a primeval rainforest, with tall trees, dense shrubs, tangled hanging vines, and tropical ferns.

All that can be heard is the sound of the myriad of native birds which make this particular habitat their own, and therefore a unique 'aviary' of birdlife found nowehere else today.

The 600 metre long walking track (flat, and also suitable for wheelchairs) winds through pockets of the original Yarrawa Brush.

Rainforest types.

The rainforest is made up of three distinct types:

  • sub-tropical, found on volcanic soil on the escarpment and coastal foothills displaying strangle ferns, figs, cedar, palms, large woody vines, epiphytes, and treebuttressing.
  • warm temperate, found in mountain areas and shale soils on the escarpment, displaying coachwood, sassafras, two tree layers with ground ferns and tree ferns, and thin winding vines.
  • cool temperate, found in high cold areas with high rainfall, displaying pinkwood, ferns, and ground moss.

The rainforest here (cool temperate) ranges from tall trees and vines making up the canopy, an understorey of ferns and vines, and in the low light of the forest floor, mosses, fungi, and decaying leaves and vegetation.

a living rainforest

home to abundant birdlifeAbundant birdlife.

At various levels, birds make their home: bowerbirds, Lewin's honeyeater, crimson rosellas, white browed scrub hen, wonga and brown pigeons, and the Eastern Whip bird.

There is plenty of opportunity for birdwatching, and even if you can't see them, the forest is filled with the distinctive whip crack call of the Whip birds.

Of particular interest are the wonga and brown pigeons: as this micro-climate is now isolated from their original more extensive habitat, they display different behaviour to their cousins found elsewhere in remaining rainforests.

At ground level the forest floor harbours abundant insect life, and evidence of wombats can often be seen. The small area of the remaining rainforest, and the proximity of settlement (and feral animals), means that other original animal life can no longer be found here.

A visit to the Robertson Nature Reserve is a must for the tourist in Robertson - ideal for nature lovers and especially good for student groups, who can learn valuable information about rainforests and about the early history of the area.

Entrance is free; open every day during daylight hours.

How to get there:

From the main street of Robertson turn south at the intersection near the hotel, cross the railway line, then turn left at the T-intersection. The National Park is just a little way along on the right (see parking area).

A walk through the forest takes about 20 minutes (longer if you are tempted by its beauty, peace, and tranquility.) Pets are not permitted.

Last updated 15/6/10

Back to Natural Attractions | Robertson