Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Sydney’s Secret Wonderland - ‘Land of the 10,000 Sisters’!

“The Gardens of Stone region is less than an hour’s drive from Katoomba and two hour’s drive from Sydney, yet it has only been seen by a few people.  It is an area of unparalleled beauty with thousands of unique, ornate, fragile stone towers or pagodas, which make the famous and much visited Three Sisters in Katoomba diminished by comparison. The Gardens of Stone is the ‘Land of the 10,000 Sisters’!  Below the pagoda maze, lie its secret gorges, containing waterfalls, canyons, caves and a great variety of rare flora and fauna,” said Yuri Bolotin, bushwalker and founding member of the Gardens of Stone Alliance[i].

“During the winter of 2015, hundreds of photographers, professional and non-professional, and families, were assisted by experienced guides to brave freezing temperatures, winds and sometimes snow, to discover a little known part of the Greater Blue Mountains, the Gardens of Stone,” Mr Bolotin said.

“Last year’s expeditions resulted in over 500 photographs being entered in the Gardens of Stone: In Focus exhibition, which presents 170 of the best images selected by an independent panel of judges, as well as videos, poems and essays.

“The secrets of the Gardens of Stone were revealed last weekend 17-18 September 2016, at the New Law Building, University of Sydney. The well-attended exhibition featured talks and workshops by experts, including a presentation about some of best ways to discover the area.

This is how some of the participating photographers described their Gardens of Stone experience:

“The walls of Cathedral Cave are like paintings of time made visible, each layer represents aeons of geological time – the cave also has a spiritual power existing beyond time. The different coloured layers remind me of the paintings in Rothko's Chapel. The cave is a place to be still, to contemplate – it’s cool and quiet, vast and awe inspiring.” Anne Graham

Guides … led us through the screen of stunted forest to a gully filled with lush vegetation and wonderful rock formations and after a scramble down a rocky slope, a vast cavern with striated colours on the walls and ferns underfoot. Its cathedral-like presence with a perfectly proportioned dome at least 60 meters in diameter reminded me of the Pantheon in Rome. Near a creek, ferns hide magical, miniature worlds of tiny plants, multi-coloured fungi and a throng of minute creatures.” Tony Bond 

As I peer down to the pagoda, I become aware of the uniqueness of these sedimentary sculptures, festooned with veins of ironstone resembling the hard-ribbed skeleton of some prehistoric creature. The ironstone ribs create a myriad of fascinating shapes and sizes bordering and sandwiching the more colourful softer rock. In some instances, the softer rock has completely dissolved, allowing the harder ironstone to form unusual features and sculptures many of which would not be out of place in a contemporary art museum.” Ron Newman

The Gardens of Stone is waking at first light to the echoing call of a lyrebird deep in a gully; its broad ridges of tough plants that seem determined to scratch you to pieces; its deep dark fern-filled slots and impossible contorted sculptures in stone; the long, slow, quiet march of time and unimaginable aeons that have passed while the landscape has slowly evolved and fractured into the amazing present day garden of delights.” Cotter Erickson

For more information contact: Yuri Bolotin, 0413 715 943

Gardens of Stone: In Focus Photographic Competition Selected poems and prose


[i] The Gardens of Stone Alliance was formed in 2014 by the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness and the Lithgow Environment Group.