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Escape to the Beeripmo Walk

Ben Spencer is our guest blogger for this week.

The First Day, Up, Up and Up!

The luxury of a long weekend presented the ideal opportunity to undertake the Beeripmo Walk – a 21km, two-day hike. Located about an hour’s drive west of Ballarat in the Mt Buangor State Park and Mt Cole State Forest, the walk promised to be a great introduction to what is one of Victoria’s lesser known bushwalking destinations. A major enticement was the walk-in campsite which could only be accessed by foot and which we hoped would provide us with a tranquil overnight setting.


My partner Aislin and I arrived at Richards Campground, the beginning of the walk, at about midday after a 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne. Surprisingly there were only two other cars in the carpark. We began our hike in the heat of the day – the sun beat down mercilessly as the track climbed steadily up through the forest. The going would have been challenging enough on a normal day but the heat combined with the weight of our backpacks meant that it turned into a slog. After about 30 minutes walking we managed to make it to the first point of interest, Raglan Falls. At the top of the falls we took the opportunity to throw off our packs and rest. There was little more than a trickle of water but the sound was soothing.

We couldn’t put it off any longer and eventually we shouldered our packs and continued the climb. The trail notes had listed this walk as for a moderate fitness level, which perhaps it would be without our heavy packs. As we approached Cave Hill the steepness of the trail abated for a time but still continued gradually upwards. Glimpses through the trees allowed us to gauge our altitude and a short time later Grevillea Lookout provided us with uninterrupted views of Mt Cole in the south and of the Western plains below. A higher mountain rose to the right of us which could only be the Sugarloaf, which was to form the next goal on our walk.

The rationale behind the naming of the Sugarloaf quickly became apparent as the track rose sharply – it was akin to a sugar cube bobbing in a cup of tea. After our earlier exertions, the climb was now even more challenging and our pace slowed considerably. The track wound back and forth up the cube – no doubt because heading straight up it would have required climbing gear! The path had definitely not been used that day because webs guarded by large spiders continuously blocked our path. A baby brown snake sunning itself on a tree stump was surprised by our appearance and hastily slithered back into the undergrowth. Eventually we struggled to the top of the Sugarloaf and rested for a while as we took in the vista.

It had been a very tiring day, the heat of the sun had thankfully diminished and we were looking forward to making camp. A little while later we reached the secluded Beeripmo Campground. It was everything we had hoped for. The site featured 10 quaint camp pads nestled between the tightly packed gums. There was not a soul to be seen, although a startled kangaroo noisily bounded away upon our arrival. We selected the best spot for our tent and set about establishing our home away from home. After a satisfying meal and with darkness now upon us, we took a short walk to a clearing and craned our necks skywards – millions of awe inspiring twinkles filled the black expanse above.

The Second Day, Mt Buangor, Then Down, Down and Down!

The alarm clock went off at 5:50am – the kookaburras were laughing to each other because the sun had started to rise. The trail notes suggested a similar walking duration as the previous day so we were keen to make tracks before the sun got too hot. We breakfasted and left within the hour, careful to adhere to the ‘leave no trace’ principle. There was still more climbing to do, this time to the top of Mt Buangor. The increasing warmth of the day was only slightly offset by a lovely cool breeze. After a short walk, the trail arrived at an intersection with one way heading to Mt Buangor and the other continuing along the Beeripmo walk.

As the top of Mt Buangor was a side-trip we concealed our packs in the scrub and began the climb, buoyed by the freedom of not having to carry a heavy load. The ascent was no where near as strenuous as that of the previous day, so were pleased when we soon found ourselves at the top. A lonely campervan greeted us on the peak, which was the first time we had seen other people since the start of the walk. The occupants were seemingly still asleep so we tip-toed past them to the lookout and were greeted by the most spectacular view of the walk. The outlook across the Western Plains was vast and we could see all the way to the Grampians National Park, towering in the distance. We soaked up the view then made our way back to the intersection, missing a turnoff on the way but thankfully adding only 10 minutes to the journey.

Pleased with our progress and with renewed energy and high spirits, we continued on. At Mugwamp camp we stopped briefly to apply sunscreen. There were no other campers. Back on the trail we continued gradually downhill, which was the only way left to go after having just ascended to highest mountain in the park. Every now and then the trail crossed quiet vehicle tracks but always plowed straight back into the bush again. As we descended the mountain the terrain began to change. At one point we headed through a dense patch of ferns that were trying to reclaim the trail as their own.

Eventually the trail cut into the side of a steep hill providing a route across what would have otherwise been impassable. With the sun still rising, we arrived at a sign indicating that Richards camp was only 700m away. Our descent from Beeripmo Campground had been much quicker than expected, no doubt due to the downhill gradient and much cooler conditions. Definitely a welcome change to the physical and mental challenges of the previous day. The walk had been an overwhelming success and I strongly recommend it to those looking for an easily accessible two-day walk.

 

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Mt Donna Buang, 1914; Sawmills and War

I found this really interesting article in The Argus from Friday, March 27th 1914. Reading it made me realise that logging in the Upper Yarra Valley was already of an environmental concern even 98 years ago. Exactly three months after this article appeared in the press, World War 1 broke out and Australia changed forever. Who knows, perhaps this early show of distaste against the actions of the logging industry may have taken root had it not been for two consecutive world wars. The photograph below is sourced from the State Library of Victoria. It is titled View of track through forest on Mount Donna Buang, Victoria’ and was taken in 1911. The photograph ‘Gully at Five-Mile Bend on road to Cement Creek’ accompanied the original article.

 

THE GULLIES OF DONNA BUANG
BEAUTIFUL TOURIST RESORT. DISAPPEARING BEFORE THE AXE
The Argus, Friday, March 27th, 1914.

Under the shadow of Donna Buang, within five miles of the little town of Warburton, are some of the most beautiful gullies in all the Victorian hills. The longest summer does not dry their sparkling streams, nor warm the cool air in the shaded glens. Ancient peace reigned there until the ring of the axe lately drove the lyre bird from its haunt among the fern. The mountain is being stripped of its beauty for the cash value of its stately trees.

Two or three years ago the Department of Public Works entered upon the construction of a coach road from the township of Warburton to the top of Mount Donna Buang, where snow lies in the winter some times 4ft deep. From the top of this peak the traveler looks down on the valley of the Yarra and the villages clustering along its banks. Far up into the farther hills both the river and the Woods Point road wander like two ribbons through the forest’s dark green. Realising the aesthetic value of the beautiful gullies and the lofty mountain peak, the department spent the sum of £3000 on the construction of the road. There was no cooperation, however, between the Forest department and the Department of Public Works. The object of the latter was to see that the money was not wasted by the destruction of the gullies and mountain streams that were expected to attract thousands of tourists to the place. The interest of the Forestry department seems to have been to obtain the greatest possible revenue from the saw-millers in the form of royalty on the trees cut down. After a delay of nearly two years, a reservation, only three chains wide, on either side of the road has been made by the Forestry department, after some of the most beautiful gullies have been either spoiled or quite destroyed. Even if the three chain belt is left untouched, the narrow strip will not conceal the bare mountain side beyond. The beauty of the gullies will be gone.

The road winds northward round the range until it reaches the head waters of the Cement Creek. This stream flows down a deep gully thick with ferns and moss- covered beech trees through which the tall mountain ash tower like the pillars of a vast cathedral. The bottom of the gully and the valley beyond cannot be seen. Only the echoes of the stream as it splashes far below, reach the ear with a soft, inland murmur. The road makes a sharp bend here, and a space has been made, wide enough for a coach and team to turn. The water bubbles from the mountain side the whole year through. Even now, in spite of the long, dry summer, the ground is still wet, and the air so cool that it strikes the traveler with a chill. How long this will last one cannot say, for a little further down the gully, so near that the steam whistle breaks discordantly through the stillness, a sawmill is busily at work, cutting its way through the bush for the sake of a few payable trees to be obtained. Before long all but the narrow strip reserved from destruction will be cleared. The beauty of the gully will disappear, and the creek, in all probability become a winter torrent, leaving in summer a paltry stream of water trickling down the seared mountain side.

These gullies have other values than the market price of the trees now growing in them. If properly preserved, they would bring to the district and to the state far more revenue and abiding wealth than the royalty, which for a little while, the saw-miller will pay. Around the road, particularly where it crosses the Cement Creek, a sufficient area should be reserved to maintain at least the illusion that the traveler is in the heart of a mountain forest.

 

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The Tipperary Track: Trail Update

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Karen on the Tipperary Track
Winter on the Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

It was a miserable wet and cold mid-winter’s morning when Karen and I dragged ourselves out of the warmth of a Daylesford Cafe and started out along the Tipperary Track. For the first kilometre or so we debated as to whether this was such a good idea. Maybe we are getting soft but the thought of another round of tea and toast was almost too much to resist. Eventually the drizzle moved off elsewhere (probably to Trentham!) and small daubs of watery blue sky appeared between the low cloud. We had decided to brave the elements to GPS the Tipperary Track for our next Goldfields walking guidebook. I was also keen on updating some of the details, which have recently changed.

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Wombat Creek Foot-bridge still waiting to be built.

Since the floods in early 2011 some sections of the Tipperary Track have been closed. Almost all of the bridges had been damaged or washed away, which prevented walkers using the western side of Sailors Creek and therefore reducing any loop-walk opportunities. This has been a real shame as it’s one of the best and most popular walking areas within the Goldfields region. Recently Parks Victoria reopened The Blowhole area so that walkers can access the full length of the trail, which is also part of the now very popular Goldfields Track. Three foot-bridges are still to be either finished or built. The two foot-bridges spanning Wombat Creek and Sailors Creek at Twin Bridges have concrete foundations but still no steelwork. The third bridge is located at Tipperary Springs and although closed it looked very close to finished. Probably the most solid and flood-proof of all of the bridges is the massive new stepping stones across to Bryces Flat. To me this appears to be the best and cheapest way to build bridges, especially in country that regularly sees alternating periods of drought and flood.

The Blowhole
The Blowhole. The Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

According to Parks Victoria the foot-bridges will be ready by this spring. Let’s hope so. If you are intending to walk the Tipperary Track right now though, you should be aware that without the bridge over Wombat Creek you will need to continue walking down the water-race on its southern side to cross the Midland Highway before entering the picnic area at Twin Bridges. It’s not a real hassle but just watch out for the traffic when you cross the bridge.

We arrived at The Blowhole just as the day was warming up (it must have been all of 8 degrees) and were now enjoying ourselves. The Blowhole was gushing with water and made for a fairly impressive sight. We continued on through Breakneck Gorge, which for me is the best part of the walk. The creek tumbled over it’s stony bed and the gorge’s narrow walls glistened with green moss. Every now and then a ray of sunshine penetrated the cloud and slid over a tree or a rock.

Isn't it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?
Isn’t it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?

Finally we left Sailors Creek behind and walked up along Spring Creek, again following a wide water-race overlooking the willow-infested creek. Somewhere down there was Liberty Spring, now no longer maintained. Not far along we reached Golden Spring, which is unfortunately still capped, although there are plans to repair it it some point. By the time we reached Jacksons Lookout it was getting late in the day. The steel and timber tower was very rundown and because of the surrounding trees there are no real views to enjoy. Jacksons Tower was something of a disappointing climax. Half an hour later and we were at Hepburn Springs Reserve. We had covered almost 17km in just over 4 hours. The cafe was shut and it was almost dark. A quick phone call and the taxi arrived a few minutes later. Soon we were back at the car at Daylesford Lake. We pulled out of the carpark just as it started to rain again.

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Silver Mine Walking Track

The Silver Mine Walking Track is located in the Snowy River National Park, one of Victoria’s most remote and least visited semi-alpine regions. By the time Karen and I parked our vehicle at the start of the walk at McKillops Bridge I had a fairly good idea as why so few people visit this place. The drive down McKillops Road is nothing short of frightening. Narrow, slippery and pot-holed, this veritable goat track winds down a seriously steep mountainside that was scarily reminiscent of the so-called roads I’ve too often encountered in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya. I for one was glad to have made it down to the Snowy River alive. I was still feeling wobbly-kneed as we set off along the Silver Mine Walking Track and I had to put in a big effort to keep up with Karen’s usual brisk pace.

Signpost at the start of the walk.
McKillops Bridge and the Snowy River.

After just a few hundred metres we joined Deddick Trail, which is actually a wide vehicle track. It was now becoming obvious to me that whoever named all of these roads and tracks definitely had a twisted sense of humor. Just as I was wondering how much more climbing we were going to have to do the signposted walk left Deddick Trail and plunged back down into the valley along Silver Mine Track.

Cliffs along the Deddick River Valley.
Wildflowers poke through the old tailings heaps.

Although the descent is very steep there are some wonderful views across the river towards Little River Gorge. A couple of old silver mines also help keep your mind off the relentless pounding of knees. By the time we reached the Snowy River we were getting very hungry. Anybody that knows Karen will also know that nothing is ever going to get in the way of a good lunch (or breakfast or dinner for that matter). We arrived at the Overnight Hikers Camp and made our way down to the river-bank where we spread out a feast of dips, ham, cheese, bread and fruit. We lazed on the warm rocks, dangled our feet in the cool water and watched a pair of eagles soaring high in the sky.

Up the steep Deddick Trail to the top of the range.
Cypress pine log cabin. Old silver mine relics.

 

After lunch we rejoined the walking trail, which now headed away from the river following a small heavily eroded gully and passing a few more long-abandoned silver mines. The remains of an old pine log cabin gave us some idea as to the hardships that these miners must have faced. The walking trail soon started climbing again and took us through stands of tall cypress pine via a long series of switchbacks. The unusual pine forest was reminiscent of walking through the valleys in Nepal. On top of the spur we made a short detour to the lookout. Here we could see the glittering Snowy River as it twisted and turned along the wide sandy flats. Today the river is but a shadow of its former self and I couldn’t help wondering what it must have looked like before we tore its heart out and redirected its once mighty flow into the Murray River, all in the name of progress.

The last section of the walk continues through more cypress pine forest and eventually we rejoined Derrick Trail at where we passed earlier in the day. We got back to the car at about 5pm.

Cypress pine forest.

The Silver Mine Walking Track is 16.8km, not 18km as the official signs indicate, nor 15.5km as the free park notes indicate. The walk takes about 5 hours but allow 6 hours to include lunch.

I’ve described the walk in detail in our recent Daywalks Around Victoria walking guide ($22.95), which is available from the Open Spaces online bookstore or from outdoor adventure stores and book shops.

You should also check out Parks Victoria Snowy River National Park page and download their Silver Mine Walking Track PDF.

The Snowy River, Snowy River National Park, Victoria.

NOTE:
The McKillops Day Visitor Centre is closed from 23 May to 15 June 2012 due to a goat control program. This almost certainly means that the walk will be closed also. McKillops Bridge is also closed for repair works until 22 June from 8am to 4pm. Check with Parks Victoria on 13 1963 for details.

 

 

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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.

CameraZOOM-20130519164237672

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Tarilta Creek Gorge Burn. The Unanswered Questions.

A couple of weeks ago Glenn Tempest wrote a blog about the March 2012 DSE burn in Tarilta Creek Gorge. Friends of the Box-Ironbarks Forests (FOBIF) also posted a critical assessment of the DSE burning operations in the Upper Loddon State Forest here. We know that many of you who use our walking guides and who especially love the box-ironbark forests of the goldfields region will be appalled at what basically amounted to an act of environmental vandalism. The Tarilta Creek Gorge is a much loved walk and it is not expected to fully recover for many years.

FOBIF secretary Bernard Slattery wrote to DSE with a number of questions. Paul Bates, Forest Manager, Bendigo Forest Management Area responded to these questions and FOBIF posted his reply on the blog DSE Answers on Tarilta Fire. This makes for interesting reading, if only because it shows that DSE have no intention in providing genuine answers to these important questions.

Glenn Tempest, author of Daywalks Around Melbourne and the forthcoming Goldfields Walks visited Tarilta Creek Gorge only a week or so before the burn. There were perhaps half a dozen trees along Limestone Track that had been raked. According to Glenn none of the old yellow gums within the gorge had been raked.
Above are a couple of Glenn’s photos that were taken on that day as well as a selection of photos taken immediately after the burn (courtesy of Rob Simons, a local landholder of which a section of the Tarilta Creek runs through). These images clearly show just how much damage has been done and of the enormous amount of silt and topsoil now filling the creek.

 

 

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Parks Victoria: Death By a Thousand Cuts.

This Easter weekend some state and national parks are facing industrial action by Parks Victoria rangers belonging to the Community and Public Sector Union. Most likely this will involve the locking of gates to parks which have single points of entry. The union has been in ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Victorian Government, having stated that Parks Victoria staff have not had a pay rise in almost two years. The sticking point is that the Baillieu government is refusing to increase its offer of a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise, plus whatever trade-offs can be obtained via productivity improvements. What makes this all the more unpalatable to the rangers is that 48 executive officers in the Department of Sustainability and Environment (the department that overlooks Parks Victoria), have shared a windfall bonus of $655,000 for the last financial year. That is an average of $13,645 for each officer.

Interestingly, the Baillieu government has declared that they will have no hesitation to putting on non-unionised strike breakers’ to re-open the park gates to the public. Environment Minister Ryan Smith commented that “It’s extremely disappointing to hear that the unions are trying to lock Victorian families out of our parks this Easter weekend”.

On the surface this may appear to be a simple wage dispute, but in fact it’s just a symptom of a larger and much more serious disease. It’s no secret that Parks Victoria is suffering from chronic underfunding. Parks and reserves across Victoria are seeing the results of decades of government cut-backs. These funding cuts effect our parks and reserves in many ways. From the supply of basic amenities (such as toilet rolls), all the way to establishing and maintaining user facilities such as walking and mountain bike trails as well as creating new management and environmental plans for the future. Looking after our public spaces is, quite simply, a massive job and if it is to be done correctly it will require substantial government funding.

The Cathedral Range State Park (just outside Melbourne) is a good example of just how much things have changed. Fifteen years ago there were three rangers looking after this very busy park (and the nearby small Buxton Gum Reserve). Over the intervening years the number of rangers have been reduced until today there is only one ranger visiting the park on two days a week. Other Parks, such as Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve and Mt Alexander Regional Park are good examples of public lands that have been all but abandoned due to lack of funds.

Regular readers of this blog know that although I’m a big supporter of Parks Victoria I’m also very critical of the gradual disintegration of our parks and reserves. Many Parks Victoria rangers do an amazing job in increasingly difficult circumstances. One of my ranger friends commented that ‘productivity improvements’ was in fact government speak for ‘saving money’. For bushwalkers this usually means letting walking trails and signage vanish. Fewer trails and lower maintenance means less money spent. Projections indicate that Melbourne will have a population of 5 million by 2020. With increasing numbers of users visiting our parks the question we should be asking is how exactly are Parks Victoria supposed to do a good job with correspondingly less money to spend.

Over the Easter period the following parks may be closed. Before we start getting angry with the rangers who are closing these parks perhaps we should consider the much bigger picture.

1. Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
2. Braeside Park
3. Buchan Caves Reserve
4. Cardinia Reservoir Park
5. Churchill National Park
6. Coolart Historic Area
7. Dandenong Valley Parklands
8. George Tindale Memorial Gardens
9. Lysterfield Park
10. Maribyrnong Valley Parklands
11. Maroondah Reservoir Park
12. Mount Buffalo National Park
13. National Rhododendron Garden
14. Organ Pipes National Park
15. Pirianda Gardens
16. Point Cook Coastal Park
17. Serendip Sanctuary
18. Silvan Reservoir Park
19. Tower Hill Reserve
20. Upper Yarra Reservoir Park
21. Werribee Gorge State Park
22. Wilsons Promontory National Park
23. Woodlands Historic Park
24. You Yangs Regional Park

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Tarilta Creek Gorge Burned by DSE

Tarilta Creek Gorge (Jan 2012) from Glenn Tempest on Vimeo.

Friends of the Box-Ironbarks Forests (FOBIF) have just posted a critical assessment of the recent DSE burning operations of Tarilta Creek Gorge in the Upper Loddon State Forest. You can read their blog and view some images at Tarilta Gorge: burned off, washed away. Essentially the DSE burn (CAS 0051, Limestone Track) was supposed to have created ‘a mosaic burn coverage appropriate to meet requirements of localised EVC’s [ecological vegetation classes] and to reduce the spread of fire.’ It’s in Zone 3 Ecological Management Zone (EMZ). According to FOBIF a DSE briefing last September indicated that in such a zone it would be expected that about one third of the area would be burned. This hasn’t been the case as it appears that a great deal of destruction has been inflicted upon this once beautiful location. There has also been a substantial loss of top-soils, which have washed into the creek and created large siltings (most of it ended up blocking Limestone Track Bridge).

Only a month ago my friends and I walked Tarilta Creek Gorge as we wanted to create a GPS of the route and take some new images. The walk is to be included in our forthcoming Goldfields Walks, which is due out in spring. You can read about our walk on my blog here. The short video (above) makes an interesting and disturbing comparison to the images shown at at Tarilta Gorge: burned off, washed away.

 

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Dogs in Parks

As the Access & Environment Officer for CliffCare, many of the articles I write are aimed at providing information to climbers on best practices whilst out climbing. Not only does this help with becoming better informed but in the long run it helps with maintaining access to the areas we love to climb at.  And if you use them, it’s fair enough that you should take care of them. Quite recently I wrote an article on dogs in victorian parks following a reported incident of someone bringing a dog into a National Park.  As the original discussion was on an online forum, it soon degenerated into a slanging match but I did think that whilst there are many dog owners who probably flout the rules in this instance there are also those that aren’t really aware of the importance of not taking our furry friends into National Parks.  This discussion is of course, not limited to just climbers. So many outdoor pursuits, especially walking, seem to be the perfect activity to bring your best bud along. And there are parks you can take them to. But they aren’t National Parks.  The following information below was taken from a PV fact sheet and pretty much explains the reasons why it’s not so cool to bring Fido or Fifi along.

So before you head off for the day, weekend or week, check on the parks notices to make sure whether they’re welcome.

DOMESTIC DOGS
Parks Victoria recognises that dogs are popular recreation companions and contribute to people’s health and well-being. Walking with a dog has many benefits, such as reduced stress, enhanced mood, increased heart and lung fitness and a number of social benefits. Many people enjoy walking with their dog in natural areas, such as parkland, open space, bush and coastal areas and Parks Victoria provides a wide range of opportunities throughout Victoria for people to experience people to experience the great outdoors with their dogs.
CAN
As a general rule, dogs are permitted in parks or areas of parks where the primary management purpose is for recreation, e.g. Metropolitan Parks, Reservoir Parks, Regional Parks and Forest Parks.
CAN’T
Dogs are generally not permitted in parks and reserves where the primary management purpose is for conservation, e.g. parks managed under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic.) and nature conservation reserves.

NATIONAL PARKS

Generally, domestic animals and other introduced animals such as dogs are not permitted in national parks established under the National Parks Act. This is to ensure that the park is managed in accordance with its objectives, to preserve and protect the natural environment and to conserve flora and fauna. Park rangers are often asked by visitors “why can’t I take my dog into the national park?” First and foremost, national parks are there to protect Australia’s native wildlife. They are vitally important for the many species whose survival is in danger. Dogs can have negative impacts on the natural and cultural values of parks, as well as impacts on the enjoyment and safety of other visitors.
Dogs can compete with or harass, chase, trample or prey upon native fauna, especially ground-dwelling species. Dogs can also disturb wildlife by their scent, sounds, scratching and digging. Dogs may also transmit diseases and parasites to native fauna, and their urine and excrement may attract wild dogs and foxes. Even if a dog is on a lead and is very obedient it would be impossible to have a rule which allowed some dogs (the quiet or small ones) into national parks and similar reserves but not others (the big and the boisterous).
Dogs are a potential source of annoyance, distress and sometimes harm to park visitors especially in camping and picnic areas, and when the animals are not under control. Some visitors are frightened of dogs or object to seeing dogs in parks because they are not part of the natural environment and make wildlife more difficult to observe. Dog droppings can cause offence to visitors, and have environmental, amenity and
health impacts.
Dogs are permitted in national parks for specific purposes.
These include:
Dogs which assist disabled people with their disability are permitted in all parks and reserves, with the exception of Wilderness Parks and areas closed to the public, e.g. Reference Areas
Dogs assisting police, SES or Defence Force in search and rescue or surveillance
Dogs in vehicles which are in transit through a national park on a major through-road / route travelling on bitumen roads which pass through national parks.

So after all of that – which may seem a little negative for dog owners who want to take their dogs to parks, I have listed below a selection of parks where they are more than welcome.

Albert Park 3km South of Melbourne CBD
Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park 10km South of Wonthaggi
Cape Conran Coastal Park 30km SE of Orbost
Cape Liptrap Coastal Park 10km South of Leongatha
Cardinia Reservoir Park 45km SE of Melbourne
Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park 60km East of Sale
Greenvale Reservoir Park 22km North of Melbourne
Hepburn Regional Park 5km West of Daylesford
Jells Park 20km East of Melbourne CBD
Karkarook Park 17km SE of Melbourne CBD
Kooyoora State Park 220km NW of Melbourne
Lerderderg State Park 75km East of of Melbourne
Macedon Regional Park 57km NW of Melbourne
Maroondah Reservoir Park 70km East of Melbourne
Murray-Kulkyne Park 50km South of Mildura
Silvan Reservoir Park 50km East of Melbourne
Westerfolds Park 16km NE of Melbourne CBD
Westgate Park 6km West of Melbourne CBD
Yarra Bend Park 4km North of Melbourne
You Yangs Regional Park 55km SW of Melbourne

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Mt Stapylton Loop Walk

I’d been planning to walk the Mt Stapylton Loop for the last year or so and it was only last week when I finally got the chance to do so. For anyone unfamiliar with the Grampians National Park, this 12.2km circuit walk traverses a series of exposed sandstone peaks and shallow valleys in the parks drier northern extremity. The Wimmera surrounds this rugged massif and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise how, in the not too distant past, the sea once lapped right up to the cliffs and boulders.

I left the Stapylton Campground at about 8am. It was a little earlier than I’d planned but I hadn’t accounted for nature’s alarm clock; a few dozen screeching cockatoos flying over my tent at 6am. The trail passes through low scrub for about 15min before crossing Pohlner Road. There are great views of the Mount of Olives, a tower of ochre-coloured rock, which reminded me of a rather more sad and weary version of the Pharos at nearby Mt Arapiles. By the time I reached the top of the range the sun had risen high in the sky and I was sweating from the climb. Here the trail reached an intersection and I turned north, a gradual ascent leading up through low bush.

After an hour or so I reached a major trail junction. Here I met a group of walkers who had come up from Mt Zero Picnic Area and were sitting on the rocks trying to figure out which way to go. All of the trail signs were laying in the trees, having been pulled from the ground. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. I pointed them in the right direction and they happily set off towards Stapylton Campground. I on the other hand continued on up towards the top of Mt Stapylton. The trail weaved its way up the northern side of the rocks before sidling up to a rocky ridge. Here a metal sign indicated that walkers should only proceed in good weather. No problem today.

The final scramble to the top is easy but exposed. In wet or windy conditions I would seriously think twice before attempting the ascent. A couple of years ago my partner and I arrived on the summit as black storm clouds gathered and a hot wind gusted from the north. Our hair stood on end and we could feel the crackle of electricity in the air. Needless to say we retreated immediately, managing to reach the safety of the trees just as the heaven’s opened up and the rain came pouring down. This time I arrived on top in perfect conditions. Fluffy clouds billowed above me and a lone kestrel danced on the breeze.

Mt Stapylton is only 518m above-sea-level but its isolated rocky mass and commanding position makes it one of my favourite viewpoints in the Grampians. Off the the northwest I could see Mt Arapiles and its distinctive tiny neighbour, Mitre Peak, rising above a sea of wheat stubble. As I turned counter-clockwise I could make out the bluffs of the Black Range and, almost abutting it, the entire backbone of the Grampians National Park as it stretched, broken and twisted, south towards the coast.

After an hour dozing in the sun I reluctantly left the summit and started down. Back at the junction I continued along the trail towards Mt Zero Picnic Area. The walk descends long rocky ramps past Bird Rock and underneath Taipan Wall, a soaring bastion of overhanging red rock, before meandering through the Mt Stapylton Amphitheatre. At the Mt Zero Picnic Area turnoff I pushed on a little further to the top of Flat Rock. This short diversion allowed me to look back into the amphitheatre and view the half-moon escarpment as it started to reflect the late afternoon sun. The final 4.4km of sandy trail led me down from the amphitheatre and back along the range underneath the Mount of Olives to where I rejoined my footsteps from earlier in the day at Pohlner Road. By the time I arrived back at Stapylton Campground the sun was low in the western sky and I was low on energy. Definitely time to warm up in front of the camp-fire and refuel.

Check out my other blog on the Hollow Mountain / Mt Stapylton Circuit Walk and associated images on my SmugMug site here.