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Werribee Gorge – Halfway a Park

View from Needles Ridge. Everything on this side of the river is private property.

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.

Crossing the Werribee River. This is the maximum depth I would ever cross a river without a fixed line.

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.

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Goldfield Chimneys

Over the last few months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the bush checking details for our forthcoming walking guide, The Goldfields. Having now walked several hundred kilometres of trails I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the 150-year-old stone chimneys which litter much of the region. These crumbling structures appear in the most unlikely places, often a couple of hours walk from the nearest road. I’ve come to value sitting next to these chimneys and letting myself wonder as to those who long ago sat in this very place, warming themselves by the flames, perhaps cooking a kangaroo or mutton stew. In most cases these chimneys had been constructed by gold miners and perhaps much of their talk had centred around the hope that tomorrow would be the day that they would finally strike it rich. And maybe these fireplaces had also seen the reflections of gold nuggets, caressed by the calloused hands of happy diggers. The original timber buildings that enveloped these chimneys long ago vanished, having almost certainly fallen victim to the periodical bushfires that swept the area. Or maybe they just collapsed and were swallowed up by the forest from where they had originated. But the chimneys, constructed from local sandstone, still stand, defiant against the unfolding years and with only the memories of the dead to keep them company.

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Daywalks Around Victoria Updates & Corrections

Walk 2 (Lorne Forest Walk)
p16. Kalimna Falls Walking Track and Link Track are currently closed. You can complete the walk by following Garvey Track (from Sheoak Picnic Area) to Sheoak Track. The alternative walk (Sheoak Picnic Area to Swallow Caves) is also closed. Check out for further details.

Walk 4 (Around Aireys Inlet)
p24. Currently there is no access to Painkalac Reservoir, including along the walking trail from Distillery Creek and Moggs Creek picnic grounds. We have been told it will reopen within a few months. Gentle Annie and Moggs Creek Tracks are closed. Check out for further details.

Walk 6 (Major Mitchell Plateau)
p32. The road up to Mt William is currently closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out for further details.

Walk 7 (Mt Rosea and Sundial Peak)
p38. The road up to Sundial Carpark is currently closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out for further details.

Walk 9 (The Fortress Caves)
p50. The Victoria Range and surrounding vehicle access tracks are currently closed due to flood damage. Buandik Campground is also closed. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out for further details.

Walk 13 (Langhi Ghiran)
p68. Lagoon Track and Link Track are closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out for further details.

Walk 17 (Clearwater Creek)
p90. Clearwater Creek is correctly known as Watties Creek according to the Parks Victoria website. This makes much more sense. The confusion appears to have come from the 3rd edition of Meridian’s Lerderderg & Werribee Gorges map which calls it Clearwater Gully. There is already a Clear Water Creek just north of O’Briens Crossing.

Walk 19 (Pyrites Creek)
p98 There has been some trail maintenance done in Wobbly Gully during Autumn 2011, which has made the trail much easier to follow.

Walk 20 (Mt Kooyoora)
Kirwans Track and Mount View Road are currently closed to vehicles due to flood damage. These tracks may still be open to walkers. If so you should be able to start and finish the walk at Melvilles Caves Campground. Call Parks Victoria or check out for further details.
p103. The campground mentioned is Kiata Campground, this is a mistake as Kiata Campground is in the Little Desert! Obviously it should be Melville Caves Campground (which has no shelter or water).

Walk 25 (Cathedral and the Jawbones)
p124. The map icon places the Cathedral Range incorrectly.

Walk 27 (Pine Mountain)
p136. Pine Mountain is a return walk, not a circuit.

Walk 29 (Mt McDonald)
p146. The fire trail between Low Saddle Road and North Ridge Saddle appears to have become overgrown (post fire regrowth) and is no longer easy to follow.

Walk 31 (Mt Feathertop)
p161. The map indicates Federation Bungalow Site. This should be Feathertop Bungalow Site.

Walk 35. (Cape Liptrap Coast Walk)
p178. According to Parks Victoria Five Mile Track is ‘closed until further notice’ ( It’s always been very wet during the winter months but it’s obviously got a lot worse. The access path from the lighthouse road to the beach was a little bushy (and steep at the end) but was never a real problem. Looks like things have changed. The grading of the walk is now probably difficult. I suspect that as less people visit this remarkable stretch of coast the walking trail along the top of the limestone cliffs will also get more difficult to follow.

Walk 36 (Oberon Bay)
p184. The southern park of the park (beyond the airbase, 14km within the park) is closed due to recent flood damage. This walk is therefore not accessible at the moment. Check out for further details.

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New Title: Daywalks Around Victoria

My latest walking guide, Daywalks Around Victoria, will be in the shops tomorrow. The Open Spaces team (Katherine, Tracey, Ti and I) have worked on this guide over the last year or so and we believe it sets a new benchmark in Australian walking guidebook design.

It also marks a major step towards our aim to combine traditional book publishing with online content and compatibility. Daywalks Around Victoria is the first book of its kind where each walk can be freely downloaded as a GPX file for use in a hand-held navigation device, or as a KMZ file to be opened directly in Google Earth. Daywalks Around Victoria features 36 walks that I feel best represents Victoria’s diverse and often unique geographical regions. Many of these walks have been popular to generations of Victorian walkers while others are almost unknown. I have no doubt that some of these walks are among the best of their kind in Australia. Like our previous titles Daywalks Around Victoria will have dedicated update pages on our web site at where readers will be able to check on trail closures, changes in conditions or approach issues. Daywalks Around Victoria is has a RRP of $29.95 and will be available in all leading outdoor equipment stores in Victoria and from our online bookshop here.

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Mt Kooyoora

Karen making her way up through the open woodland to the summit of Mt Kooyoora

One of the 36 walks we are featuring in our soon to be released Daywalks Around Victoria will be a traverse across the summit ridge of Mt Kooyoora, the most northerly mountain in the central Victorian goldfields area. Mt Kooyoora State Park is a real gem and is located 220km northwest of Melbourne, about 35min drive from Bendigo. The walk we are covering leaves White Swan Mine and climbs to the summit of Mt Kooyoora itself. The walk then continues along the West Ridge to Mount Kooyoora Track and returns along quiet vehicle tracks back to the carpark. This 10km circuit involves some off trail walking but it is very easy to navigate. Mt Kooyoora and its exposed ridge is covered with lots of granite outcrops, slabs and boulders and offers the best views in the region. A great walk to do in Autumn, winter or spring.

Mt Kooyoora and its north-facing granite slabs are an imposing sight.


Glenn walking along the West Ridge in a park-like setting.
There are lots of attractive old yellow box in the park.
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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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Cathedral Range Visitor Updates

Step construction at the Sugarloaf area

With plenty of work going on at the Cathedral Ranges, thought it would be good idea to get the information around. Not only are there major works going on with tracks, the new shelter and toilet facility is being built in the Sugarloaf area along with an Information Board to give visitors a little background of the area.

Laying the slab for new Shelter at Sugarloaf

The Jawbones track will be closed for major track works Monday to Friday from November the 29th until Christmas . This means the only access to the Farmyard and the Jawbone climbing areas is via Ned’s Gully or Sugarloaf Saddle. During this time period the track will reopen on weekends.

Also, please take note of the logging information below. As soon as PV have firm dates for when this work will actually begin we will let you know. St Bernards Track will most likely remain open for sometime yet. However Little River Track will close as soon as any works begin.

Logging of the pines at Cooks Mill will be recommencing this summer. At some stage in the near future machinery will be forming an access track through the central Cooks Mill campground and down the Little River Tr. Then the cutting of pines will begin. Over the Christmas holiday period the only logging activity taking place will be pine cutting from the 10th Jan, and log carting from the 17th Jan – all logging works will cease over the Australia Day weekend Friday, Saturday Sunday and Monday

The impacts logging will have on visitors are:

– Restricted camping around the central Cooks Mill area (Tweed Spur will remain open

– Closures to both Little River walking tr and St Bernards tr

– Sharing the road with logging trucks (after the 17th Jan, and possibly before Christmas)

– Machinery noise after the 10th of Jan and before Christmas.

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A Walk in Walhalla

After the Beechworth walk didn’t muster up to expectations I decided to check out the walking potential of the Walhalla region instead. I only had one more walk to include in our soon to be published Daywalks Around Victoria and Walhalla’s historic tramwaysd seemed to tick all of the necessary boxes for possible inclusion. Just to be sure I called Andy Gillham, Senior Ranger for Baw Baw National Park. He was really helpful and indicated that the Old Steel Bridge spanning the Thomson River was to be reopened this week. This was perfect timing as the bridge had been closed since the 2009 fires and was integral to our proposed circuit.

Karen and I set off from Thomson Station on the banks of the Thomson River. It was a perfect day, hundreds of wildflowers lined the path and the river sparkled in the sunshine. Parks Victoria have done a great job maintaining the old tramway which the walk follows. We walked up to the Old Steel Bridge, crossed over and walked along the tramway around Mormon Town Spur and up Stringers Gorge to reach Walhalla in the early afternoon. Named after the glorious place where slain Vikings would go to after death, Walhalla is one of the most celebrated gold towns in Victoria. Gold was discovered here in 1863 on Stringers Creek and between 1880 and 1885 Walhalla grew to a population of more than 4000 people. At that time there were 10 hotels, 3 breweries, 7 churches and even a newspaper. I can’t imagine how this frontier town survived with almost no level spaces. We had a great lunch in the cafe attached to the Star Hotel and walked on down to Walhalla Station. We bought our tickets ($12 each) and caught the 3pm Walhalla Goldfields train back to Thomson Station and our car. The walk was a winner.

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Beechworth Historic Park

Karen and I were up at Beechworth Historic Park in North East Victoria last Sunday to complete the research on the last walk to be included in our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and in the end we decided to drop the walk from the book. Before I launch into my reasoning behind our decision I want to point out that I am well aware of the poor funding Parks Victoria receives and that most Parks Victoria staff are doing their best with limited resources. However, it wasn’t until we had walked 4km along the trail that we arrived at a permanent looking sign informing us that the next section of trail had been closed to walkers as the bridge over Spring Creek had been removed (see the image). I later talked to Parks Victoria and was told that the trail closure is a ‘fairly’ permanent situation unless they get funding to replace the bridge. What really annoyed me was that at the main carpark (at the Powder Magazine) there were no signs informing walkers that the trail had been closed. Basically you had to walk 4km to find out that the trail had been closed. Neither were such changes indicated on the Beechworth Historic Park page of the Parks Victoria website. Not good. What is even more annoying is that having decided to disregard the sign we discovered that the creek was nothing more than an easy step across. It was no more difficult an obstacle than possibly hundreds of other creek crossings on hundreds of other bushwalks encountered in Victoria (many of them managed by Parks Victoria). Sure, the creek may on rare occasions flood but surely this is where a walker uses his or her experience to make a decision as to whether or not it is safe to proceed. The implication I gathered from Parks Victoria is that walkers visiting Beechworth Historic Park cannot make such decisions for themselves because of the ‘type of walker’ who visits the area. I’m still not quite sure what that means. As it was we decided that we wouldn’t include the walk in our next book as many casual walkers would feel uncomfortable in negotiating an officially closed trail (even though Parks Victoria cannot actually stop anyone from using this route).

Beechworth Historic Park has some wonderful walking terrain. I’m also certain that many visitors to Beechworth have no idea how breathtaking the surrounding bushland really is. What is badly needed is a walking trail circuit incorporating both the Cascades and Woolshed Falls and which doesn’t follow any 4WD tracks just because it is cheaper and easier to align them that way. The trails are currently a dogs breakfast and it appears that no real planning has ever taken place. And it is worse now that the trail linking the Precipice to the Cascades has been closed. It’s true that there has been an effort to put in good signage but that is doesn’t hide the fact that Beechworth Historic Park is mainly a series of compromised patched together trails linked by old and current 4WD tracks that seem to go nowhere. Such a shame.