When the first fleet settlers arrived in 1788, the area we now call the North Shore was covered by a wide belt of forest which stretched from Crows Nest to Hornsby and from Castle Hill to Frenchs Forest. This forest was composed of big trees up to 50 metres high, the most common being the Sydney Blue Gum on the lower slopes and valleys, with Blackbutt occupying the ridges. Angophora costata, Grey Ironbark, Turpentine and Forest Oak were also plentiful. Development of the North Shore was always slower than the south, its steep, heavily wooded valleys between and beyond the high, rocky headlands which punctuate Port Jackson s northern shoreline were difficult to access and less suitable to farming than the lightly timbered plains of the harbour s southern shores.
St. Leonards, the name give to the whole of the Lower North Shore district, was the first settlement on the North Shore. It began its slow but steady growth in the 1820s, boasting a population of 412 and a church by 1843. Orchards were first planted in the Lane Cove district on the land cleared by timber cutters who had begun their logging activities during Macquarie s governorship when a saw-pit was established on the Lane Cove River in 1813. It was not until the arrival of the railway late in the 19th century that the Hornsby plateau became easily accessible and the orchards dotted along the bush track that became Pacific Highway slowly gave way to residential development.
Because of the steep terrain which made clearing and occupation both difficult and impractical, many of the gullies which criss-cross the North Shore have managed to survive the onslaught of the timbergetter s axe and the developer s bulldozer.
An appreciation of their beauty and sense of place by governments and local residents has ensured that the remnants of forest which have survived will remain, thereby retaining the area's unique appeal as suburbia in a natural, tranquil bushland setting.