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.
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.
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.
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 Needles from the entrance to Ironbark Gorge. The Needles are privately owned.
I visited Werribee Gorge State Park on Wednesday. It turned out to be one of those perfect spring days that Melbourne is justifiably famous for. My friend, Ian, had never been to ‘the gorge’ before and I took the opportunity to show him around what I consider to be one of the most underrated parks near to Melbourne. It was also a good excuse to check out the new W. James Whyte Island Reserve (known simply as The Island). A new trail links the top carpark to The Island via some wonderful yellow box woodland. There are excellent views across Junction Pool and the trail allows walkers to experience a refreshingly new aspect of the park . It’s a steep climb to the top of The Island. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. It’s a BLOODY steep climb to the top. This massive basalt hill is part of the lava flow which originated from Mt Bullangarook near Gisborne. The views overlooking the gorge are arguably the best in the district.
The 204 hectare W. James Whyte Island Reserve was gifted to Conservation Volunteers in August 2006. There has been an enormous amount of work planting native trees and shrubs, as well as a concerted effort at controlling weeds. It really is an big task. If you are interested in donating a bit of your time to Conservation Volunteers in their revegetation of The Island, check out www.conservationvolunteers.com.au or contact 1800 032 501.