I curse under my breath as yet another semi-trailer sweeps past me as I ride down Sherwood Road towards Brisbane Markets.
The grating noise, turbulent shock wave, stench of diesel fumes. Fleeting images zip through my mind of an unplanned encounter with the 18-wheel version of Godzilla. In the timeless contest between cyclists and large trucks, trucks have yet to chalk up a loss.
To my right there’s a sign – “Oxley Creek Common”. Take a look? Why not? Definitely time for a break so I detour onto the recently sealed road leading to a visitor’s carpark.
Looks interesting. Well maintained. Covered picnic area. Fresh green mown grass. Families with kids running around doing what kids do.
The concrete path gives way to a wide unsealed track and suddenly my senses are filled with something completely different. The sound of birds. Willy wagtails, magpies, fairy wrens, whip birds. The distant whistling call of a kite floating on the air currents. The wonderful aroma of early flowering wattle.
The soft winter sunlight tip-toeing through the trees lining the path creates a surreal experience.
The Unsealed Path
The path snakes its way along the bank of Oxley Creek. It’s an easy walk/ride that goes for about six kilometres round trip if the left hand detour to Pelican Island is included.
The path ends in a delightful, open area with the enchanting Disney-like name of “The Secret Forest”. There’s no circuit, so it’s a return trip. Which is not bad, as I get to experience the pleasure of it all again on the way back. The birds, the peacefulness, the sense of all is well with the world.
Stopping for a break, something catches the corner of my eye. A family of brown quail are feeding along the side of the track. Haven’t seen a quail in the wild for many years.
Heading towards Pelican Lagoon, I cross paths with Steven and his sister Kate. Keen bird photographers, they are enthralled by a pair of ground larks on the side of the track.
Kate shows me two apps she has installed on her phone. One is Morcombe’s Birds of Australia, a paid app costing $43.99; the other is the Field Guide QLD, which is free.
I ride past another keen photographer armed with a camera and lens that looks like it could zoom in to a distant galaxy.
Birds are seen, and heard, right along the track. Fairy wrens, fantails, double-barred finches, chesnut-breasted mannikins, bee eaters – a gentle contrast from the large industrial complex in the distance.
If you’re keen to know more about the bird life in this area, see the Facebook page “Oxley Creek Common Birds”. This page is run by a group of bird watchers who have identified hundred of different species of birds in this remarkable sanctuary.
With the generous input of local volunteers and corporate sponsorship, work is being undertaken to clear the area of introduced plants and weeds. There’s clearly a lot more to do, but the results so far are impressive.
Oxley Creek Waterway
There is an access pontoon to Oxley Creek near the car park, but it is closed off during my visit. The reason is water borne pollution and contamination. Pity, because the ability to launch a kayak to experience the area from the water would be an additional plus.
However, last year Brisbane City Council allocated $100m over a 20 year period to transform Oxley Creek and surrounds into a major outdoor recreation area. Part of that will be addressing water quality issues in the creek.
Back to the Road
I ride back onto Sherwood Road to head home. The trucks are still grinding along, the cars scooting past me, but somehow they seem just a bit more distant. Not quite so intrusive, not quite so imposing. And it’s all thanks to an accidental stumble across an oasis of timeless tranquility in the middle of industrialised Brisbane.