Parks Victoria (in conjunction with the Department of Sustainability and Environment) have just released the new Marysville Trails brochure. Open Spaces was commissioned to write the text. Following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 pretty much all of the walking trail infrastructure in and around Marysville was wiped out. Parks Victoria and DSE have done an enormous amount of work since the fires and all of the walking trails are now open. The brochure describes 7 walks in the immediate Marysville area (Marysville Forest Trails), 4 walks along Lady Talbot Drive (Lady Talbot Trails) and 2 walks in Cambarville (Cambarville Trails). The brochure has clear maps and is colourfully illustrated. The free Marysville Trails brochure is available from Parks Victoria (ph 13 1963), and from the Visitor Information Centres in Healesville and Marysville.
Each spring I set aside a day to walk the remarkable tramways that weave through the forested hills surrounding Poweltown in the upper reaches of the Yarra Ranges. In 1912 Poweltown was born when the Powell Wood Processing Company opened a large mill on the banks of the Little Yarra River. The steam train had arrived in nearby Warburton in 1901 and the timber industry flourished in its wake. Hundreds of men were employed to fell the tall trees, mainly to supply the rapidly expanding growth of Melbourne and Geelong. In those days it seemed that the forests stretched forever. This was an era of selective logging, long before mechanisation stole most of the timber-worker jobs and long before wood-chipping and clear-felling became the norm. Ninety nine years ago the loggers of Powelltown would cut the trees by hand, using cross-cut saws and axes. It was a dangerous game and loggers were a genuinely tough breed.
Steam-powered winches would pull the logs up through the forest to narrow-gauge tramways, which were used to transport the timber to nearby sawmills. One of the best walks in the area follows the Walk into History, which utilises various tramways linking Big Pats Creek with Starlings Gap and then on through the Ada Valley. Along the way there are plenty of reminders of the past. Occasionally you will find a collapsing trestle bridge balancing across a creek or gully, thick green moss hanging from its now rotting beams. Twisted metal tramlines hide among the leaf litter, sometimes still attached to their original sleepers. Large metal boilers, rusting bogies, pin couplings and various bits of machinery sit quietly beneath the blackwoods and mountain ash. Ninety nine years of history, slowly being swallowed by the bush.
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.
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 January 2011 rains did a considerable amount of damage across the state and Parks Victoria (and other public land managers) correctly responded by limiting access to a number of parks and reserves while risk assessments were carried out. In some cases parks were closed in their entirety (You Yangs Regional Park and Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve spring to mind). The Grampians National Park was also hard hit with landslips cutting key access roads and some popular walking trails. In March further deluges and high winds saw Wilsons Promontory National Park closed. Recently there has been some criticism in the media questioning why Parks Victoria are taking so long to reopen walking trails and other infrastructure. I understand that risk assessments are necessary (and take time) but what I can’t understand is why some trails are closed for so long afterwards.
A good example of what I feel is an unnecessary trail closure is the Anakie Gorge Walk in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. The Brisbane Ranges suffered quite a bit of damage earlier this year and the Anakie Gorge Walk was closed when its steel bridges and long sections of paved trail were washed away. Prior to this the Anakie Gorge Walk was probably the most popular trail in the park as it linked Anakie Gorge and Stony Creek Picnic Grounds (about 3.1km one way). A great deal of time and money had been spent bringing the trail up to a very high walking trail standard. I’ve always suspected that building such a costly trail in the confines of a narrow-sided gorge (that is by its very nature prone to extreme periods of flooding) was asking for trouble. The recent floods confirmed my suspicions. In the months following the flood a great deal of tree debris was cleared away. As it now stands the Anakie Gorge Walk is very easy to follow having only a few rock-hopping creek crossings to contend with. No big deal. Most average bushwalkers wouldn’t even blink an eyelid at these ‘difficulties’ and there is absolutely no reason that I can think of as to why the walk is still closed.
Of course Parks Victoria must consider safety and liability issues and I understand some of their concerns. On the other hand let’s be sensible about this. A sign could be erected stating that flood damage has occurred to the original walking trail and that walkers should proceed with care. I’m sure Parks Victoria fully intend to rebuild the bridges and surfaces in the gorge once the funding is allocated. But my 100,000 dollar question (only a wild guesstimate) is how long will it take for the funding to be allocated? I suspect it will be a long wait. I also have to question the need to rebuild this walk up to the previously high standard it enjoyed. It will most likely only get washed away again in the future. Such high-quality walking trails have a place in metropolitan parks, but I need a lot more convincing that they need to be built in locations such as Anakie Gorge. What we really need are increased funds for maintaining trails that already exist. I guess my question to Parks Victoria is pretty simple. If the vast majority of walkers can still safely enjoy the Anakie Gorge Walk why is it still closed?
Karen and I completed a walk last weekend in Lerderderg State Park linking Short Cut Track, Trout Track and Clear Water Creek / Ambler Lane. We finished the walk along a short stretch of the Lerderderg River back to O’Briens Crossing. It was an excellent outing and will almost certainly be included in our forthcoming new walking guide to Melbourne’s Western Gorges (the Brisbane Ranges, Werribee and Lerderderg State Parks). What really amazed us was the amount of flood damage and debris along the river.
The section of trail I’m talking about runs along the Lerderderg River from the Tunnel to O’Briens Crossing. In the past this was definitely one of the most enjoyable short walks in the park as it had wonderful river views combined with rugged cliffs, stands of tall manna gum and plenty of gold history along the water race. Over the last 10 years this trail fell into major disrepair and parts of it were downright dangerous (particularly in wet weather). What I’m hoping is that Parks Victoria will now re-look at this trail (starting along Byers Back Track) and make it one of the key circuit walks in the park. It will take a bit of work and lots of flood debris will need to be cleared but there is no doubt that this trail could be the showcase walk in the Lerderderg State Park. Interpretation signs could also be installed. Right now the walk is closed and with good reason. You can’t even see the trail in places as it is buried under piles of timber. I just hope that Parks Victoria allocate the necessary funds and rebuild what could be one of the best trails near to Melbourne.
Following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 pretty much all of the walking trail infrastructure in and around Marysville had been wiped out. I was in no doubt that repairs, rebuilding and realignments of this trail network would be at least a few years away. These fires meant that users of our Daywalks Around Melbourne book no longer had access to the seven described walks (walk 61, 62, 63, & 64 in the Marysville and Lady Talbot Drive area as well as walks 65, 66 and 67 in the nearby Lake Mountain and Cambarville area).
Last week I spent a couple of days in Marysville with Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). I was fortunate to have been shown around the new trail infrastructure by Simon Gough, the Bushfire Recovery Project Co-ordinator for DSE in Marysville, and by Mark Krause, the Assistant Ranger in Charge for the Yarra Ranges National Park. It was a fascinating and very informative tour and I learned a lot about the difficulty in repairing, designing and building walking and cycling trails. DSE and Parks Victoria have done an enormous amount of work since the fires and the good news is that most of the trails are now open. Those that aren’t are perhaps only a couple of months away. Bushwalking always been a major attraction for visitors to Marysville and the reopening of these trails will be seen as an important step towards recovery.
Here is a listing of the walking trails in Daywalks Around Melbourne and their current status.
Walk 61 (Island Hop & Red Hill) The new walk is called the Michaeldene Trail and is a circuit following some of the original historic tramlines. The major attraction is a wooden platform overlooking the rushing Taggerty River. The circuit walk is currently closed but will hopefully be open before winter.
Walk 62 (Keppel Lookout & Stevenson Falls) Now called the Steavenson Falls Trail there has been some major realignments (especially above Steavenson Falls). The trail will be open in the coming spring and I have no doubt that it will be an even better walk than it was in the past.
Other trails in Marysville that are nearing completion (but which are not described in Daywalks Around Melbourne) include the Beauty Spot Trail (all new timber boardwalks and bridges), Tree Fern Gully Trail (wide compacted gravel surface for walkers and cyclists), Gilberts Gully Trail (new boardwalks and steel bridges) and Wilks Creek Trail (wide multi-use trail out to Anderson Mill site).
Walk 63 (The Beeches) Lady Talbot Drive is open as are the two short walks up to Phantom and Keppel Falls. The Beeches Rainforest Walk has also seen a lot of work including the installation of floating boardwalks. This 4km circuit is open except for the timber bridge spanning the Taggerty River. The walk down to the cascades from the first carpark (Taggerty River Crossing) is called Taggerty River Cascades and has had new steps installed down along the river.
Walk 64 (Boundary Trail) This walk as described in Daywalks Around Melbourne is closed. Boundary Trail West is probably full of regrowth now and may not be easy to locate. However, Keppel Hut has been rebuilt and Boundary Trail East is open to the summit of Lake Mountain. I haven’t walked this section yet, but when I do I will post an update.
Walk 65 & 66 (Lake Mountain) All of the walks and mountain bike trails are open.
Walk 67 (Cumberland Walk) This is now called Cumberland Falls Walk and is open. The 2009 fires thankfully missed much the area around the Big Tree. Parks Victoria have installed a clinometer near the Big Tree which is used to measure the height of the surrounding mountain ashes. This can be used free of charge by the public. There are great views into the Cumberland Valley from the southern part of the walk. Parks Victoria have also opened another short circuit walk in the historic township of Cambarville. This easy loop passes the old Chalet Hubertus, school and sawmill sites. There are interpretation signs along the way.
Walk 80 (Olinda Falls) The northern half of VW Track has been permanently closed which means that this walk cannot be completed as described. See p.193 and use this map to continue walking down Olinda Creek Road to return via Bartlett and Barges Track. This will add at least 2km to the total distance as originally described.
The Burchell Trail has seen some major realignments. These changes effect a number of walks in our Daywalks Around Melbourne and Weekend Walks Around Melbourne guides. These changes are indicated on the new 1:30,000 Brisbane Ranges National Park map by Meridian Maps. Anyone undertaking the Burchell Trail or walks utilising sections of this walk should consult this map. It is also important to note that the current Parks Victoria Brisbane Ranges National Park Visitor Guide PDF does NOT reflect these changes and should not be used by walkers. The following walks are affected.
DAYWALKS AROUND MELBOURNE
Walk 18 (Three Creeks Walk): The Burchell trail now runs up next to Yankee Gully from the Crossing Picnic Area to Durdidwarrah Road. This means that you can walk on a trail linking the Crossing Picnic Area to Native Youth Track instead of walking up the creek bed.
WEEKEND WALKS AROUND MELBOURNE
The Burchell Trail (p44): From the 14km mark the walk now parallels Switch Road before dropping down to Stony Creek Picnic Ground. From Stony Creek Picnic Ground the trail now walks to Lower Stony Creek Reservoir (instead of following the Ted Errey Nature Circuit). From the dam wall the walk continues through what was once the Barwon Water Catchment Area (now incorporated into the National Park). This section of trail finishes on the Geelong – Ballan Road, crosses it and then follows Furze Track all the way to the Old Mill Walk-in Camping Ground. Probably the biggest change along the Burchell Trail is that it no longer finishes at Steiglitz. From the Crossing Picnic Area the new Burchell Trail runs up next to Yankee Gully to Durdidwarrah Road at the Pines Campground. The Burchell Trail then continues on to Fridays Track and through to finish at Fridays Picnic and Camping Ground.
Just reminding everyone using our walking guidebooks that entry to all Victorian parks (managed by Parks Victoria) is now free. This came into effect on the 01 July 2010 and marks a major policy shift for Parks Victoria.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
Point Nepean National Park
Mount Buffalo National Park
Baw Baw National Park (excluding the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort)
Mornington Peninsula National Park
Yarra Ranges (Mount Donna Buang)
If you hold a current annual pass you will be eligible to apply for a refund from Parks Victoria.
You can check out the following media release from the Premiers office for further details. http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/newsroom/10005.html
Walk 61, 62, 63, & 64 (Marysville)
Walk 61 (Island Hop & Red Hill) is now open.
Walk 62 (Keppel Lookout & Stevenson Falls) is largely closed. Yellow Dog Picnic Area and Stevensons Falls are closed as is the walking trail linking them. The walking trail to Oxlee and De La Rue Lookouts from Keppel Lookout is open. Robertson Gully Track is open.
Walk 63 (The Beeches) Lady Talbot Drive is open as is the two short walks up to Phantom and Keppel Falls. The Beeches Picnic Area and the surrounding walking trails are still closed.
Walk 64 (Boundary Trail) This walk is still closed. This walk is unusual as it follows a series of trails within both the Yarra Ranges National Park and in the adjoining State Forest. Sections of this walk followed non-maintained or officially not recognised trails. Therefore until a ground inspection of sections such as Goulds Track and Boundary Trail West are completed it would be best to avoid this walk. The main walking trail within the National Park (Boundary Trail East) is also closed.