Yardleys Cave and Houris Kitchen – 14 September 2017

I can remember years ago on a trip to Blue Gum Forest via Lockleys Pylon stopping just above the decent down to the Forest from the cliffs to take some photos and seeing people having lunch in a nearby cave across a small gully. I thought this may have been a cave used by either Frank Walford or Eric Dark and thought it worthy of a visit some day.

Later, a bit of internet research, I saw various bushwalking clubs walks programs that involved a cave called “Yardleys Cave” between Lockleys Pylon and Walford Gully. This sounded like the cave I had seen. So Bob and myself got around to visiting the cave on a walk. 

We set off on the track from the Pinnacles to Lockleys Pylon and then started the descent down to the top of the small gully. On the way, we observed a small area of aboriginal sharpening grooves right on the track – some that I had never noticed before.

Once at the head of the gully, we followed it downstream, scrambling down a few dry waterfalls and then traversing on a ledge on the true right. We soon picked up a rough pad that had come down from the ridge above us, and then not far past that was the cave itself.

A fireplace and firewood store proved that it was the right cave and this was confirmed by reading a logbook in an old cake tin. The logbook, and been placed by the late Fr Frank Bendeich of the Catholic Bushwalking Club back in 2005. Since that time, the cave seems to have been regularly visited by bushwalkers, perhaps 3 – 5 parties a year? As well as the cake tin there was also a glass jar that also held historic notes. Some of these had been taken out and then preserved by pasting them on archival paper and inserting them into a plastic sleeve and returning them to the cave. It looks like the cave was visited by Arthur Yardley and Harry Whitehouse, member s of the Mountain Trails Club back around 1948. As well, Arthur Yardley’s family seemed to frequently visit the cave over the subsequent years.

The cave is well protected from westerly winds and catches the morning sun. It also has a great view of the Grose Gorge. We checked the walls of the cave for Aboriginal art – but could not spot any. Give the axe sharpening grooves above, I would expect there to be occupation sites in the area. Perhaps the caves on Lockleys Pylon?

After our visit to the cave, we traverse on a ledge into Walford Gully. This was easy to do except for the last scrabble down into the gully. We then walked upstream through a tunnel, and then over a tunnel to arrive at a small canyon. Bob scrambled up a small waterfall and bridged a pool to report the canyon was very short. We backtracked a bit and then scrambled out to the east. Once up a little higher, we found that we had only visited the west branch of Walford Gully and had climbed out onto a ridge between the west and east branches. It had been our intention to scramble out further to the east on the far side of the other branch.

On our ridge, we found traces of previous visits. Some old yellow paint markers on rocks. Perhaps an old track, but as Bob suggested, more likely an old transect used for a scientific survey. As we climbed, we were hit by a snowstorm. The day before in Sydney, it had been 34°C.

Higher on the ridge, we found another occurrence of Aboriginal sharpening grooves. Not much higher was the track between Lockleys Pylon and The Pinnacles. We headed back along the track, stopping in a sheltered thicket for lunch (it was avery windy day).

Back at Bob’s car, we drove a short distance to the Fortress carpark and then walked out to Dr Dark’s Cave. On a previous visit, I had seen a ledge to the east on the main cliff that looked like it could be traversed  a fair way. Perhaps it was the correct “Houris Kitchen”?

We reached he ledge after a assort bit of scrub bashing, and found it quite easy to traverse. In a wider section we found a rock seat structure and an old fireplace. Further along was a circular rock structure. It did seem like it was the correct location of “Houris Kitchen” as described by Ted Hartley.

We attempted to complete the traverse by climbing out via the far gully – but were stopped a shot away up by a waterfall, so we had to return the way we had come.

An interesting day in the mountains.

More photos are online here on my website.

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