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Falcons Lookout Trail Improvements

Last December Glenn Tempest wrote a blog (Problems with Falcons Lookout and Ironbark Gorge Carpark) commenting on the awful state of the walkers/climbers trail into Falcons Lookout at Werribee Gorge State Park. This trail is one of the most heavily used in Victoria and can see anything up to 60 people use it a day. Since then Parks Victoria have gone some way to fixing the issue. The works were not quite finished when we were there on Sunday but there is already a welcome improvement. However, despite these works, using pine boards in this manner is only really a temporary measure. In a couple of years time the boards will have almost certainly collapsed and we will again be faced with the same issues of erosion and user safety. Glenn pointed out in his original blog that “it may be simpler, cheaper and quicker to realign this section of the trail down the spur 20m or so to the west, then cut it back to the point at where the original trail reaches the bottom of the gully.”. In the long term this is probably true, but Parks Victoria is cash-strapped (see Glenn Tempest’s Parks Victoria: Death by a Thousand Cuts) and probably can’t afford the cost of these works. Looks like we will have to put up with band-aid measures for a long time to come.

Update May 2013
Looks like Parks Victoria have recently added more timber to the steps. Once again an improvement.

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Problems With Falcons Lookout Walk and Ironbark Gorge Carpark

There are four official public entrances into Werribee Gorge State Park. The main entrance is via Myers Road on the eastern side of the park and is accessed via the Western Freeway from just past Bacchus Marsh. The other three entrances are located along Ironbark Road via Western Bluff, Ironbark Gorge and Ingliston Gorge Carparks. Western Bluff Carpark provides access to Western Bluff Lookout and is occasionally used by walkers descending the spectacular Needles Spur (through private property) into the gorge. Ingliston Gorge Carpark provides access to the Ingliston Block, the isolated western arm of the park, while Ironbark Gorge Carpark provides access to the Falcons Lookout Walk, the Ingliston Granites and Ironbark Gorge. Ironbark Gorge Carpark is also the nearest trail-head for Falcons Spur, an increasingly popular walk that descends into the gorge (again through private property). Falcons Lookout itself is one of the most popular rockclimbing destinations close to Melbourne.

Over the past year I’ve noticed that Ironbark Gorge Carpark has become increasingly busy. In fact it’s not uncommon to find 6 to 8 cars and perhaps a bus using the carpark on any midweek day. On the weekend I have seen up to 50 or more climbers at the cliff and perhaps a dozen or more walkers on the trails. This equates to at least a dozen or more vehicles crammed into the tiny carpark. I don’t know the actual park user numbers but I suspect that on many days there would be more visitors accessing the park through the ‘back-door’ of Ironbark Gorge Carpark then would be along the ‘official’ Myers Road entrance.

Interestingly, Myers Road is serviced by two large carparks (the Quarry Picnic Area and Meikles Point Picnic Area) and each have have picnic facilities, BBQs and toilets. In comparison, Ironbark Gorge Carpark is very small and rough to say the least. The geography of the area means that this carpark can’t be made much larger, but it could benefit from a redesign if it is to cater for the growing numbers of cars using it. The carpark also has no toilets. While this would be a minor issue for some, it is a major issue for many. Both walkers and climbers are forced to go bush and this is simply unacceptable at such a heavily used carpark as this. Perhaps having a toilet in the carpark would help to reduce the enormous number of poos and loo paper scattered around the vicinity of Falcons Lookout. In fact, the situation is becoming so bad at Falcons Lookout that perhaps the best thing to do would be to build a drop toilet on the adjoining saddle.

Which brings me to my final gripe. The initial section of trail (down past the old railway workers hut sites) into Ironbark Gorge is a complete disaster. The contractors that Parks Victoria used to ‘fix’ this section of the trail have done an awful job. If anything, the pine boards anchored across the trail has worsened the erosion and created a major eyesore. Simply put, this section of the trail is loose, ugly and dangerous. With the large numbers of people using the Falcons Lookout Walk you would have expected Parks Victoria to have properly fixed this trail a long time ago. Possibly the only way to save this trail now would be for Parks Victoria to contract a reputable construction company such as TTMS (Track and Trail Management Services) to rebuild it. Failing that (and knowing how little money Parks Victoria these days invest in high-quality long-term trail maintenance) it may be simpler, cheaper and quicker to realign this section of the trail down the spur 20m or so to the west, then cut it back to the point at where the original trail reaches the bottom of the initial gully. This would greatly reduce erosion problems and is where the trail should have gone in the first place.

 

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Melbourne’s Western Gorges On Sale Now

Great news. Our newest title, Melbourne’s Western Gorges, arrived in our warehouse this morning and will be in the shops from tomorrow. Authored by Glenn Tempest, this is the first in a new A5 series of walking guides to regional areas around Victoria. Melbourne’s Western Gorges covers 20 walks in the Brisbane Ranges National Park, and Werribee Gorge and Lerderderg State Parks. Produced in full colour with 96 pages it retails for just 19.95. Like our last book, Daywalks Around Victoria, this guide also features free GPS downloads as well as regular updates. Melbourne’s Western Gorges is also available in our online bookshop.

 

 

 

 

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Meridian Maps & the Great South West Walk

Open Spaces sells a number of the highly regarded Meridian Maps so we thought it a good opportunity to share the news of their latest map release.
In their first map co-production Meridian Maps and Carto Graphics have produced a double sided 1:50,000 topographic scaled map that covers the Glenelg River from Dartmoor down to Nelson and the river mouth and the complete Great South West Walk circling from Portland to Nelson and back again.
This is actually the first map of the area which cover the internationally renowned Great South West Walk in such detail.. Covering 250 kms, the walk traverses many different landscapes from forest, riverine, coastal, farm and urban environments making it one of the worlds most diverse great walks. There are also approximately 20 short walks one can take to explore this spectacular, but often, forgotten part of Victoria.

There is also a new updated edition of the Lerderderg & Werribee Gorges map. Once again, this area of Victoria, so close to Melbourne is underutilised by walkers and visitors and the spectacular gorges will not disappoint. Most importantly this edition now contains the ESTA Markers as they now now appear in the park.  More recently Parks Victoria changed the markers without leaving any reference to the old emergency numbers.  This caused some confusion as all written reference was to the old markers.  With this new update this issue has now been resolved.

You can purchase both of the maps from our online bookshop.

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Melbourne’s Western Gorges

Great news. Our forthcoming new title, Melbourne’s Western Gorges was handed off to the printers this morning. As long as there are no unexpected delays we expect to see it in our warehouse on the 09 December, just in time for Christmas. This will be the first in a new A5 series of walking guides that will target regional walking areas around Victoria. Melbourne’s Western Gorges covers 20 walks in the Brisbane Ranges National Park and Werribee Gorge and Lerderderg State Parks. Produced in full colour with 96 pages it will retail for $19.95. Like our last book, Daywalks Around Victoria, this guide also features free GPS downloads as well as updates at osp.com.au. We’ll let you know when we actually have a copy in our hands.

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Werribee Gorge – Halfway a Park

View from Needles Ridge. Everything on this side of the river is private property.

Greg and I took advantage of a perfect mid-winter Saturday and descended into Werribee Gorge via Western Bluff and Needles Ridge, one of my favourite daywalks close to Melbourne. This excellent walking trail into the gorge is arguably the most spectacular in the park. I use the word ‘arguably’ since this ridge is in fact on private property, outside of the official Werribee Gorge State Park boundary. In fact most of this side of the gorge is privately owned. At the bottom of Needles Ridge, Greg and I waded across the Werribee River, which was fairly deep due to the recent rains. We then walked 250m along the river bank (now within the Werribee Gorge State Park), before recrossing the river and entering back onto private land. We then followed Falcons Ridge, a narrow spur leading directly up to Falcons Lookout. Like Needles Ridge, Falcons Ridge has been used as an access route into the gorge for generations. Once again this entire ridge is situated on privately owned land. At Falcons Lookout we re-entered the park and continued on to Ironbark carpark and back up to Western Bluff carpark at where we had left our car.

Crossing the Werribee River. This is the maximum depth I would ever cross a river without a fixed line.

Unless you pay close attention to the map, I would say that the vast majority of visitors to the park  have no idea that a large and significant section of the Werribee Gorge region is privately owned. The current landowner appears to allow walkers access to the park (unofficially) and for this we have to be very thankful. But it does raise an interesting question, which is what happens if a less understanding owner decides that walkers and sightseers should no longer have access? There are also other issues. In effect Werribee Gorge State Park only covers half of the gorge and Parks Victoria must be severely compromised when attempting to plan and effect its conservation management policies (the intrusion of weeds and feral animals immediately spring to mind). Walking trails, even on private land, also need to be maintained and marked, something land managers such as Parks Victoria are best able to do. Werribee Gorge State Park is one of Melbourne’s most valuable and spectacular wild locations and the fact that half of it is without any form of conservation protection is disappointing to say the least. Surely it is time that the state government and Parks Victoria take steps to purchase this land and create a Werribee Gorge State Park that is worthy of the title.

The Needles from the entrance to Ironbark Gorge. The Needles are privately owned.

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Goldfield Chimneys

Over the last few months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the bush checking details for our forthcoming walking guide, The Goldfields. Having now walked several hundred kilometres of trails I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the 150-year-old stone chimneys which litter much of the region. These crumbling structures appear in the most unlikely places, often a couple of hours walk from the nearest road. I’ve come to value sitting next to these chimneys and letting myself wonder as to those who long ago sat in this very place, warming themselves by the flames, perhaps cooking a kangaroo or mutton stew. In most cases these chimneys had been constructed by gold miners and perhaps much of their talk had centred around the hope that tomorrow would be the day that they would finally strike it rich. And maybe these fireplaces had also seen the reflections of gold nuggets, caressed by the calloused hands of happy diggers. The original timber buildings that enveloped these chimneys long ago vanished, having almost certainly fallen victim to the periodical bushfires that swept the area. Or maybe they just collapsed and were swallowed up by the forest from where they had originated. But the chimneys, constructed from local sandstone, still stand, defiant against the unfolding years and with only the memories of the dead to keep them company.