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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.