Enchantment at my Doorstep

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Why did this tiny patch of nature capture my imagination?

Yellow Wildflowers, Strickland State Forest, 2021 (c) Shayne Leslie 2021
Yellow Wildflowers, Strickland State Forest, 2021

It is easy to see why Strickland State Forest has captured my imagination. The environment is a living exhibition of exceptionally diverse forest habitats from wildflowers and dry heath woodland, tall eucalypts through to lush rainforest.

“On a good day, there is no one around. Listening to the wind and the birds, and the occasional scuttle in the undergrowth you feel magically transformed.”

The rainforest is full of blacks and dark green with rich hues of magenta and reds from the forest floor. The bold yellow sun often slices through the canopy creating a golden hue. Walk slowly, and wildflowers shine through the scrubby undergrowth.


I discovered the forest for myself in the early 2000s when I moved here from Sydney. I love walking the trails on my own. Over the years and particularly in lockdown, like all things of great beauty she has become a little popular.

It is teeming with wildlife. The number of people bringing their dogs off-leash into the area or walking off-track has exploded, and this is having a negative impact on the ecosystem. It is a beautiful place. Yet, fragile.

Sadly, I’ve seen the narrow, mulch-laden tracks expand into muddy highways. It doesn’t matter how friendly a dog is to you, to our native animals they stink! Dogs’ poo and wee can mask an animal’s trail meaning an animal could get lost or abandon its home.

I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the state forest since 2011 and the exhibition features over 60 photos in a unique gallery style. In gallery two, The Trails, I wonder if you can spot the early photos compared to the ones taken this year by the condition of the track.

A Bit of History

Strickland State Forest was the site of the first government forest nursery (1886-1890) and first national forestry training school (1920 – 1927). The image below is part of an old map from the 1950s from the NSW State Archives ( Look at how Ourimbah is spelt back then!

Strickland State Forest on the Old Map from
Strickland State Forest on the Old Map

Remnants of native and exotic tree plantings established during those times (known as an arboretum) are now among the oldest in Australia and can be seen on the Arboretum Track. I have an image in the exhibition of the sun illuminating the Hoop Pines planting along the Ridgeway Track.


To give your experience the gallery feels, I’ve created a playlist in Spotify. Search Strickland or click here.

Next time, we’ll talk through a bit more on how to set yourself up. To get the best results, watch the exhibition on your desktop rather than your mobile device. And I’ll let you know a bit more about me!

Here is a VIP sneak peek of one of my favourite images from the exhibition taken in 2012 of Stoney Creek. For the technical people, I shot this hand held (no tripod) at a shutter speed of 15!

Stoney Creek, 2012 (c) 2021 Shayne Leslie
Stoney Creek 2012 by Shayne Leslie