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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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Lerderderg Gorge Flood Damage

Lerderderg River

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.

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The Pyrete Range (Lerderderg Gorge)

In recent months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time exploring the Pyrete Range, an isolated block of mountainous bushland on the eastern side of the Gisborne to Bacchus Marsh Road and a fairly recent addition to the Lerderderg State Park. Despite its nearness to the western suburbs of Melbourne (less than 15km) this surprisingly rugged area is little known and has only recently started to attract the interest of bushwalkers. It appears that quite a few mountain bikers use the northeastern end of the park but the rest of the range is very quiet. The main watercourse running through the park is called Pyrites Creek. I’m not sure why the range is spelled Pyrete and not Pyrite but I have a sneaky suspicion that it is a bureaucratic spelling error, committed at some point in the past and which has now stuck. The park is home to the threatened brush-tailed phascogale and there is a large area set aside as a reference zone.

It appears that Parks Victoria have tried to keep the Pyrete Range fairly low key and don’t seem to actively encourage visitors. There are only a few entrances to the park as it is entirely surrounded by private land. Parks Victoria technically don’t allow camping in the range although it seems to me that quite a few people access the lower sections of Pyrites Creek via private property and regularly camp in at least a few locations along its banks (within the park). The odd motorbike track and the remains of a recently built hut overlooking the creek (also within the park) only strengthen my feeling that adjoining landowners view the Pyrete Range as their own little bit of private wilderness.
Currently there is just the one (unofficial) walking circuit within the range and which is definitely one of the most enjoyable daywalks close to the city. I’m fairly certain that Parks Victoria don’t know of the existence of this circuit but because of its growing popularity (even with walking clubs) I have decided to include it in to our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guide. The walk follows old disused 4WD tracks for part of its length but the really enjoyable section of this circuit is along a stretch of Pyrites Creek itself. This wonderful creek is very easy to walk along and is reminiscent of nearby Lerderderg Gorge.

Having walked and waded along the Lerderderg River on many occasions I would have thought that the slippery nature of the Lerderderg’s riverbed would be replicated along Pyrite Creek. No such thing. Pyrite Creek is not in the least bit slippery. Even in the rain or thigh deep water it is an easy walk along the creekbed. I’m not sure if this is because the Lerderderg River’s slippery rocks are due to slime created by the position of Blackwood, old logging operations or simply that the rock is slightly different. All I know is that Lerderderg can be treacherous in the wet and Pyrites Creek is no problem at all. The rest of this circuit walk follows generally well-marked foot trails along a wonderful weaving gully which a local farmer (who appears to use this section of the walk fairly regularly) called Wobbly Gully. Somebody has done a lot of work along this gully to create a good walking trail, although, as I said it appears to have been regularly used for many years. There are a couple of campsites along this section of the walk, which again must have been created by visitors gaining access across the nearby adjoining private land. The total circuit is 13.8km and there is a great picnic spot about half way along its length. It really is an enjoyable experience and is totally different in character to nearby walks in Lerderderg Gorge.

The two photographs were taken along Pyrites Creek immediately after the January 2011 flooding rains. I was curious to see what the creek looked like once the initial flooding had eased. It was simply stunning. The colour of the stones on the creek bed were more reminiscent of Central Australian watercourses than those usually found in Victoria. As the population of Melbourne grows nearby bushland such as the Pyrete Range will come under increasing pressure from not only recreational users such as bushwalkers and mountain bikers but also from much more destructive motorbikes and 4WDs.  I know that funding is always tight but my advice to Parks Victoria is to start planning how best to manage this wonderful park now. The western suburbs are fast approaching and by the time the first houses reach the southern gate…it may just be too late.


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Razorback Spur – Lerderderg Gorge SP

Last Sunday Karen and I teamed up with friend Stuart Imer to check out yet another circuit walk in the Lerderderg State Park. Joining us were NZ couple Nic Learmonth and her partner Chris, who have just recently moved to Melbourne. Right now the river is flowing so it was a good opportunity to see just how difficult walking along the river was going to be in these conditions. Usually, when the river is dry, walking down the middle of the riverbed is fairly straightforward. We followed Razorback Track down into the gorge and was surprised to discover that it is possibly the easiest and most enjoyable access spur into what is regarded as the most remote central section of the gorge. Walking down the river was also easier than I expected as good foot pads existed along the rivers occasionally vegetated banks. Rocky bluffs forced us to cross and recross the river at least a dozen times but it was all very manageable (and a lot of fun). The only drawback was the gorse, a prickly introduced bush which has unfortunately invaded the length of the gorge. A gourmet lunch at McKenzies Campsite was followed by another hour walking downstream. At Ah Kow Ruin we left the river and climbed up the very steep Ah Kow Track. It was a big climb – a direct contrast to the gentle Razorback Track. Eventually we reached Blackwood Ranges Track on top of the range, crossed under Mt Blackwood and made our way up to its grassy summit area. We soaked up the last views of the day and walked on down Mt Blackwood Road back to our car at the start of Square Bottle Track.  My GPS indicated a total distance of 13.5km.

Stuart, Chris, Karen and Nic making our way down the Lerderderg River
Stuart, Chris, Karen and Nic making our way down the Lerderderg River
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Bears Head Circuit – Lerderderg Gorge SP

It’s hard to believe that so close to Melbourne exists such a gem of a park. The Lerderderg State Park offers a plethora of walk choices. We chose the Bears Head Circuit, a 15+k walk that keeps you interested from start to end. As all great walk stories must include, the weather was perfect. Starting off on what looked a little like the small village roads you see in the UK, we were surprised and pleased, to see an old Red Rattler on one of the side properties. Although in a state of disrepair, it didn’t fail to ignite the wanderings down memory lane. After about 10 minutes of childhood memories, we were eager to continue on and headed into the bushland proper. From the steep descent down the gorge, we were then greeted by a river which was far from a trickle. Our initial plans of walking up the river bed dry were abandoned. Rather than bush bash along some of the heavily vegetated banks we opted for walking up the river bed wet. What a great choice! The water was refreshing and allowed us to (carefully) traverse from one side to the other visiting the disused mining areas that were built along the banks. Dry stoneworked water races allowed us an even walking surface before once again heading off track for a bit of an explore or another dip of the toes, and legs, into the river. An exciting rock scramble up the Bears Head Ridge gave us amazing views of the park and beyond. Made all the more interesting by the fact that the the sense of remoteness we were experiencing was offset by the sight of Melbourne city not too far in the distance.

I had a brilliant day, it kept my interest up the whole time. Great little lunch and snack spots, history trips back in time and some very definite ideas about overnight camps.

bears_head_range
Wading down the Lerderderg River
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Lerderderg Gorge Emergency Markers

IMPORTANT UPDATE: All of the original EMERGENCY SIGNPOSTS in the gorge have been replaced with new EMERGENCY MARKERS by ESTA (Emergency Services and Telecommunications Authority). Of major concern, however, is that the original numbering has been changed. The old (original) numbering is still in use in a number of available publications, including two of our own books and in the very popular Lerderderg and Werribee Gorges Meridian map. Walkers using our guides and the Meridian map must not confuse the original numbering with the new numbering.

Please download the following PDF which spells out all of the changes and even includes the Emergency Markers GPS co-ordinates:

LERDERDERG STATE PARK EMERGENCY MARKERS

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Lerderderg Gorge Walk (p80)

This walk has changed very little over the last few years. Unfortunately, the continuing dry conditions has reduced even the largest pools of water to little more than puddles. There is still plenty of water available (much of the river now trickles under the pebbles) but do remember to take a filter kit. In the warmer months there are large numbers of red belly black snakes which seem to feed upon smaller prey, which are forced into using the small number of waterholes. The gorge has taken a real hammering over the course of the last ten dry years and many of the shade trees (the wattles) have either died or have lost most of their leaves. Large areas of blanket-leaves and hazel pomaderris have vanished. This spring (2009) the river has been occasionally flowing, which has been really wonderful.


IMPORTANT UPDATE (Spring 2009): All of the original EMERGENCY SIGNPOSTS in the gorge have been replaced with new EMERGENCY MARKERS by ESTA (Emergency Services and Telecommunications Authority). Of major concern, however, is that the original numbering has been changed. The old (original) numbering is in use in a number of available publications, including two of our own books and in the very popular Lerderderg and Werribee Gorges Meridian map. Walkers using our guides and the Meridian map must not confuse the original numbering with the new numbering. Please download the following PDF which spells out all the changes and even includes the Emergency Markers GPS coordinates: LERDERDERG STATE PARK EMERGENCY MARKERS

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Lerderderg Track (p68)

The Great Dividing Trail is closed (due to the February 2009 bushfires) south of Daylesford between Jubilee Hill and Leonards Hill Road. This is currently effecting about 8km of the trail. Note: There is a bus service running on a 12 month trial between Blackwood and Bacchus Marsh on Fridays. The bus leaves Bacchus Marsh at 2.15pm and arrives in blackwood at 2.50pm. It leaves Blackwood on Friday at 9.05am and gets to Bacchus March at 9.40am. You can connect to both the Melbourne and Ballarat trains.