Cattai National Park is located on the site of the First Fleet land grant given to surgeon, Dr Thomas Arndell (1753-1821) in around 1804 and presently covers an area of 424 hectares and is comprised of three separate park areas:
1. Cattai Park at the junctions of Cattai Creek and the Hawkesbury Rivers is the largest of the three park areas and covers an area of 224 hectares. The park has limited low impact camping grounds, barbecue areas, shelter sheds and open picnic areas along the banks of the Hawkesbury River. This area of the national park also contains The Cattai Farm area that was originally owned by Dr Thomas Arndell and the historic homestead 'Caddie' that he began building shortly before his death in 1821. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).
2. Mitchell Park is located approximately 2.5 kilometres up stream from Cattai Park and covers 140 hectares and includes picnic and barbecue areas. Also available within the park are approximately 4 kilometres of walking tracks that were developed by the University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury campus, and the National Parks and Wildlife Services. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).
3. Hope Farm is the only area within the Cattai National Park not open to the public for recreational activities at present. The park covers an area of 60 hectares and is located on the northern side of Cattai Park. Hope Farm is the site of a derelict stone windmill, considered to be the first European built industrial building in Australia. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).
Cattai Estate is home to a diverse range of plants and forms a natural habitat for many native and introduced animals. Thirteen plants within the park have been recognised as unique to the area and at least one plant has been listed for conservation due to its national importance. Cattai Park and Hope Farm contain a range of native trees including Ironbarks (Eucalyptus paniculata), grey gums (E. punctata) and forest red gum (E. tereticornis) indicative of the original species found in the area. This area of the national park also contains small areas of rare virgin bushland. (NPWS, 1997, Section 4.1.2.).
Parts of Cattai and Mitchell Park also contain areas of wetlands that are home to large numbers of aquatic plants and birds that are unique to the Western Sydney ecosystem. Some remaining areas of the original Cumberland Plains have also been found within the national park and are home to rare vegetation that has been lost in other areas of Western Sydney due to agriculture and urban expansion that has occurred through the centuries since European settlement. Evidence of habitation of the original occupants of the area, the Darug People can also be found throughout the park and twenty-seven sites of significance have been noted. (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.2).
Cattai Park industrial sites
The Cattai Farm area features some significant industrial sites including historic grain silos and the ruins of a windmill believed to be the oldest industrial building surviving in NSW (NPWS, 2007, 35).
Cattai Park Arndell homestead precinct garden
The garden area surrounding the Arndell homestead has a cottage type garden with a remnant area of orchard/ vegetable garden to the south with some fruit trees (peaches, plums).
Trees around the house include jacaranda (J.mimosaefolia), kurrajong (Brachychiton populneum), Brazilian pepper(corn) tree (Schinus molle var.areira), crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), mulberry (Morus sp.), Queensland nut (Macadamia integrifolia), long-leaved privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) and African olive (Olea europaea var.cuspidata)(both possibly from former hedges) and frangipani (Plumeria rubra cv.).
Shrubs include oleander (Nerium oleander), Cape plumbago (P.capensis), Syrian & Chinese hibiscus (H.syriacus cv. & H.rosa-sinensis cv.), geraniums (Pelargonium spp./cv.s), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica and its dwarf form, N.d.'Pygmaea'), Paris daisy (Euryops pectinatus), azaleas (Rhododendron indicum cv.s), Chinese wisteria (W.sinensis), cotoneaster (C.sp. eg C.pannosus), Lady Bank's rose (Rosa banksiae cv.), Himalayan jasmine (Jasminium mesnyi), roses (Rosa cv.s) and ladder ferns (Blechnum sp.) and bulbs.
Cattai Park former orchard area (now picnic grounds area)
The floodplain below the Arndell homestead has today grass cover with scattered native and exotic tree species, comprising predominantly river oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana), honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos), Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica', black poplars (P.nigra), kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneum) and white cedars (Melia azederach var. australasica).(Stuart Read, pers.comm., visit of 14/8/2007).
The original occupants of the area were the Daruk Aboriginal people, whose area covered most of northern Sydney. The Daruk Aboriginal people, who certainly occupied the land 13,000 years ago and possibly as far back as 45,000 years had affiliations with a landscape that extended roughly from the coast to beyond the Hawkesbury River and from Broken Bay to as far south of Sydney as Campbelltown. Appreciating the Aboriginal 'landscape' of the parks must be understood as being only a fragment of what was their real homelands.
1753 - Thomas Arndell born in Herefordshire, England. He arrived in Australia on the first fleet as a surgeon on board the sailing ship Friendship.
1788 - Dr. Thomas Arndell was appointed as the chief medical officer of Parramatta Hospital, comprising of two long tent style structures with a thatched roof.
1789 - Governor Phillip explored the Hawkesbury River areas. Dr Thomas Arndell was a member of an exploration party that explored the area west of Parramatta and the Nepean River, shortly after Governor Phillip.
1793 - Sightings of aboriginal settlements and cultivation in the area noted by Governors Phillip and Hunter, who wrote 'Banks of the Hawkesbury appeared to be ploughed from the practices of the Darug in harvesting of yams.' (Clouston, 1996, pp.37).
1794 - European settlement of the areas began, despite reservation by Governor Phillip of the threat of flooding in the region and the isolation of the area from Parramatta and Sydney. Dr Arndell retired from Parramatta Hospital and was granted a pension of GBP 50 a year to become a settler. He received a land grant of 61 acres near Parramatta from Governor Phillip and later another 70 acres from Lt. Governor Grose. (Heritage Council of NSW, 1992/93, pp16).
1795 - Soldiers were sent into the area due to problems between the original indigenous occupants of the area, the Darug People and colonial settlers over access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds. Although no official figures have been located, it is apparent large numbers of Aboriginal people were massacred and from this time onwards only limited sighting of indigenous population are reported (NPWS, 1997, Section 4.1.4).
1799. Due the high level of cultivation of cereal crops within the areas the government built log granaries along the river to store excess grain for the colony. The area around Cattai Farm also shows archaeological evidence of building footings. (NPWS, 1997, Section Section 2.2.2).
1800 - Dr Arndell had acquired 330 acres north of Parramatta to cultivate wheat and maize crops, he was also granted seven convicts to help clear and work on the land.
1801 - Cornwallis government farm was established in the Hawkesbury area.
1804 - An additional land grant of 600 acres was granted to Dr. Arndell; in the area now know as Cattai National Park, where the Cattai Creek and Hawkesbury River join. (Bowd, 1994,pp.129-130). There are conflicting reports that 'Caddie' may have been occupied as early as 1802 ( Heritage Council of NSW, 1992/93 pp.16).
1804 - Beginning of construction of mill and granary at Hope Farm (Considered to be the first industrial building in Australia). The farm was created to allow the second son to inherit property within the area. (Clouston,1996,pp.40). There is no viable evidence the mill was ever run on a commercial basis for supplying flour to the colony. Governor King announces the creation of six common grounds for public grazing to assist small landholders. One of these areas near Pitt Town later forms Michell Park.
1805. House known as 'Macquarie Retreat' built, later the home of Aboriginal missionary, Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld, who married Dr. Arndell's daughter Sarah on the 8th October 1824.
1806 - Major flooding affected the Hawkesbury areas causing major damage to cereal crops, livestock, buildings and the lose of seven lives. Dr Arndell and Samuel Marsden undertook a major survey into the flood and its subsequent effects, 1493 residents sustained varying degrees of lose and the damage bill was estimated at GBP35, 248.00 a considerable sum for the small fledging colony. (Bowd, 1994, pp.129). Arndell now owed 630 acres and as well as growing grain he was also rearing sheep and cattle on his land.
1810 - Over seventy-one percent of the arable land in the Cattai area was under cultivation. The importance of the area in supplying grain to the colony is evident when the government of the time referred to the area as 'the granary of the colony' (Clouston, 1996, pp. 41).
1819-1821 - The areas was considered one of the most highly populated regions in the colony (Clouston.1996, pp. 41).
1820 - Dr. Arndell began construction of 'Caddie' homestead, now situated within the Cattai National Park
1821 - The death of Cattai Farms founder Dr Thomas Arndell at the age of sixty-nine.
1850. It appear the mill was abandoned along with the Granary, grain storage facilities and mill homestead, all appear to have fallen into disrepair by the early 1860s. (NPWS,1992/93, pp,11).
1863 - Catastrophe hits the area in the form of a rust blight that destroyed the entire crop for the year. Disease and the opening of new arable land in other parts of the state had a dramatic effect of the grain industry of the area and caused the reduction and eventual abandonment of grain crops. (NPWS, 1997, Section.4.1.5).
1865 - Hope farm separated from Cattai Farm and the land was used mainly for the grazing of cattle.
1912 - Part of the property was subleased for orchards, although these were later totally destroyed by flooding in the area in the 1930s.(NPWS, 1997, Section. 4.1.5.).
1930 - One of Dr. Arndell's descendants Thomas Gordon Arndell used part of the property to grow fodder for dairy herd and won several awards for his inventive storage facilities. Flooding during the 1930s once more had a detrimental effect on the property and destroyed dairy and silo building. Also during this period the original "Caddie" homestead underwent major renovations under the supervision of architect C. Bruce Dellit, known for his colonial revival style. Funds for the alteration to the property were gained through the family's banking interest, not farming which was not longer considered viable. The remaining arable land was used for vegetable market gardens during the 1930s and supplied sweet corn to the American army during the Second World War (Clouston, 1996, pp,42).
1952 - The area was opened up for general recreational use; during the 1950s the area became a popular area from camping, bushwalking and picnics.
1958 - Michell Park became a recreational reserve, managed by the Department of Lands.
1981 - 'Caddie Park' was purchased from Tom Arndell by the Department of Planning and Environment, National Parks.
1983 - The park was opened to the public for recreational purposes.
1990 - Mitchell Park was added to the 'Cattai' State Recreational Area.
1992 - Hope Farm was added to the park to increase the amount of regional open space and the entire area was renamed 'Cattai National Park' (NPWS, 1997, Section. 2.2.1).