William Blake when he wrote his famous poem was thinking of the Bengal Tiger. We have/had tigers in Australia. Well kind of – hmmmm not really. The Tasmanian tiger or to give it its proper name the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) once roamed all over Australia. But by the time the island continent was colonised it was restricted to the rain forests of Tasmania. I wrote a blog post about them a while ago. The thylacine is a tourist draw card in Tassie and it has become an icon for the tourist industry, but they don’t have a monopoly on it. Down in the South West corner of Western Australia, in the Blackwood Valley is the sleepy town of Nannup. Many of the locals are convinced that the Thylacine roams the forests in the valley and consequently it is now part of Nannup’s tourism campaign.
As it would happen we found ourselves in Nannup the other week. We weren’t looking for the tiger, but we certainly found them as we walked up and down the main street. Again like in Tassie the thylacine has been “gnomified” and can be found in front gardens all over the shop.
It’s not the first time we’d visited the town, but we’d not been for a while and it had changed quite a bit. With the winding down of the forestry industry Nannup is seriously chasing the tourist dollar and the place has been titivated to reflect that. Once you were hard pushed to get a decent coffee now it seems that every other building is a cafe. It presents as a nice up beat place with a friendly vibe.
Our accommodation was ideally located in the forest and only a stone’s throw from Kondil Wildflower Park. The park consists of new growth forest which contains an incredible diversity of flora. There are three walking trails within the park and I walked two of them. The Woody Pear Walk which is a 1 Km easy walk trail and the the Wildflower Wander which according to the information board is 3.5 Km but according to my GPS is 4.9 Km – either way it’s an easy walk on well sign posted trails.
Below are some of the orchids I found while walking around.
This could have been titled Hyden – the return. Hyden is a small town in the middle of the Wheatbelt in Western Australia some 292Km east of Perth. Regular readers will remember that we’ve been before and maybe somewhat perplexed as to why we’d bother to visit again. Well Hyden’s claim to fame is Wave Rock which is a large granite rock face that has been eroded in the shape of a perfect breaking wave. More than 100,000 tourists make their way there very year. Most just stay about an hour before zooming off to another destination to get the perfect instagram shot without taking any time to see what else is there. A great shame really as there is so much more to offer. When I wrote about our previous visit I concentrated more on other sites and the Aboriginal heritage of the area. This time I’ll look at what Hyden has to offer in terms of the natural world.
We decided to make a three day trip and on our way we’d stop off in Corrigin whose main claim to fame is the being the holder of the world record for the number of dogs in a ute and being the home to a dog cemetery. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Corrigin is a bit obsessed with dogs. Anyway it was a nice spot to break the journey, stretch the legs, make the bladder gladder etc. Corrigin does have a pretty impressive wildflower drive which begins just opposite the dog cemetery just on the outskirts of town. Most people just pull up in their car, jump out and walk a couple of metres. They then declare that there’s nothing to see and rush off in a cloud of red dust. Just take your time and have a poke about and you’d be amazed at what you can find. Here are a few examples.
When we got to Hyden we drove out to the Wave Rock Resort on the shore of Magic Lake which is where we were staying. The lake is quite startling. It’s not very big but is comprised of crystal clear salt water with a gypsum base. That pale coloured lake bed combined with the water makes a giant reflector that takes on the colours of the sky so as the day progresses the lake changes colour. To add to it’s other worldly qualities is that it lies in the middle of a salt plain which is fairly uniform in colour and is covered in mainly scrubby bush and a smattering of trees. It all made me want to get the tripod and graduated neutral density filters out.
The next day we decided to combine the Wave Rock Walk Circuit with the Hippo’s Yawn Loop and the Breakers Trail to create a loop that would take us from the resort up to the Hippo’s Yawn then along the bottom of the rock out to the Breakers picnic area and then back to our accommodation at the resort. The best part of it was that we could take the dog as it is all very pet friendly. Along the way we hoped to see more orchids and birds as we passed through the salt plain and into the bush at the base of the rock.
When we got to the base of the rock the vegetation changed from the scrub of the salt plain to thick bush fed by the water run off from the rock. We both enjoyed pocking around in the undergrowth looking for flowers, taking photos of each other and trying to dissuade Frida, our dog, from trying to climb up the rock face in search of interesting holes. It was amazing to see so many orchids – the blue beards were like a carpet in places. It was absolutely wonderful to see.
All in all we had a great time. There is so much to see and do that we’re already talking about going again. If you are planning a trip to Wave Rock there is a whole lot more to it than posing for a selfie for Facebook on the rock.
Mount Field National Park is one of Tasmania’s oldest and most popular parks. The reason why is that within the park there are rain forest, alpine moorland, glacial lakes and snow gums. In summer the park is a blaze with flowers and in autumn it is a glorious golden hue as the vagus trees (Tasmanian deciduous beech) prepares to shed its leaves. There are a variety of walks within the park that go from being just a 30 minute stroll to 8 hours Alpine walks which require cross country skies in winter. The Russell Falls walk is one one of the most popular walks in Tassie, it takes you through a forest of ferns, eucalypts and myrtles on the way out to the water fall. It is only takes 25 minutes return and is suitable for for wheelchairs and prams. Another popular walk is the Russell Falls / Horseshoe Falls / Tall Trees Circuit / Lady Baron Falls walk. An unwieldy name for for a very pleasant 2 1/2 hour walk that connects three waterfalls and the Tall Trees Walk. It requires a bit more effort but is worth it as it gives you a very good look at the ecosystem of the lower park. My favourite walks the Pandani Grove Nature Walk which is located on the Mawson Plateau in the alpine areas of the park. This is the best way to experience the alpine ecosystem of the park and as you walk around the glacially formed Lake Dobson you pass through a forest of pencil pine and and pandani. This walk takes about 40 minutes. Last time we went to the park we did the Pandani but also tacked on a side trip to Platypus Tarn in the hope of seeing a platypus. This adds another 20 minutes on the walk but takes you on a quite steep and rough path and I’d recommend it only if you have proper walking boots and are prepared for cold and wet weather. We didn’t see any platypuses, but nothing in life is guaranteed.
What can you see in the park? Well Bennetts Wallaby and pademelon can often be seen grazing in the late afternoon and early evening at the picnic areas. Barred bandicoots are seldom seen in daylight hours but can be seen around the campsite and picnic areas at night looking for insects and worms. Also active at night are brush, ringtail, and pigmy possums. In the more remote areas of the park it may be possible to see Tasmanian Devils, eastern quolls and spotted tailed quolls. Again these animals are only active at night. All of Tasmania’s snake species are active within the park and caution should be exercised if you should see one as they are all venomous. A lot of bird species inhabit Mount Field, with the majority being found in the eucalyptus forest. Here you can see green rosellas, yellow tailed black cockatoos, yellow wattle birds, crescent honeyeaters, grey shrikes and currawongs. Harder to see, but still present in the undergrowth are scarlet and dusky robins and blue wrens. If you are lucky and in the alpine areas you may see wedge tailed eagles soaring on the thermals looking for prey. In terms of flora – basically you have three distinct ecosystems, dry eucalyptus forest, wet euclaypt forest (or rain forest) and the alpine heath. Below 670m you see dry eucalyptus forest which is your typical Australian bushland and is identified by the tall growing trees such as the swamp gum (the tallest hardwood tree in the world growing up to 100m tall) the white gum and the stringy bark. The understory comprises of native musk, and hazel or dogwood. Up to 940m is either closed rainforest or in the transition areas mixed forest. This is dominated myrtle-beech and sassafras with an understory of native laurel. In the gullies formed by the numerous creeks are several species of tree ferns and it is these most people think of when they hear the term temperate rainforest. At 880m and above the Tasmanian snow gum starts to dominate the sub-alpine forest. Past this and you see alpine heath of the pandani which with its palm tree looks can grow to heights of 9m. As you explore the areas around the lakes or tarns ( a tarn is a lake that was formed during the ice age when a glacier created a cirque, corrie or cwm which later fills with water) many shrubs grow mountain berries which introduce a splash of colour to the undergrowth.
If you want to spend more than a day in the park there is a campground for vehicle based campers near the visitor centre. It has a camp kitchen, shower block with laundry and barbecues. There are some basic huts for walkers in the alpine area, and these have basic facilities such as running water, a wood heater, and bunks with mattresses. All accommodation can be booked through the visitors centre on (03) 6288 11149. There is also some private accommodation outside the park.
…is the one you have got with you. It’s an old saying but it is a truism. I’ve always been a proponent of having a high quality pocket camera for those times when you don’t want to carry a camera. In the days of film it was my Olympus XA or XA4 (see the picture in the heading of the blog), but now it is Panasonic LX-5. The make or model is immaterial, really the main criteria is that it has to fit in my pocket and be able to produce a good quality A4 sized print. The irony is that most of my best-selling pictures have been taken with such cameras.
Yesterday was one of those beautiful winter days that makes living in the south-west of Western Australia so worthwhile. It had been a cold clear night and we woke to a crisp morning with temperature expected to rise to 23℃ – better than some country’s summer. So my partner and I decided to walking in the Darling Range just above Perth and we walked along Piesse Brook to a place called Rocky Pool which is a picturesque little spot. Once we got there my partner decided to sit and cool off her feet in the water and I decided to take a couple of shots for the relatives such as this one:
It’s fine as a family snap shot and it records a nice moment in our lives that we can share with family members living in the UK, but pocket cameras are so good these days they are capable of so much more. I turned 180º and looked at the pool at the bottom of the small water fall. It was a pretty vista and I wanted to record it but knew that the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor was not up to recording the huge subject brightness range of the scene. Hmm! What to do? I had no graduated filters, no tripod, no cable release, just my pocket camera. So I set exposure bracketing dialling in +/- 2 stops and handholding the camera just above the water took a series of shots while crossing my fingers. When I got home I fired up the computer and imported the pictures into Lightroom and then chose to merge them into a HDR using PhotoShop. After a bit of jiggery pokery playing around with curves and a couple of plugins I got this:
Not a great work of art but it is a pleasing shot that sums what a great time we had.
It really is a great time to be a photographer.
Just as a gentle plug a while ago I wrote and illustrated a book on walking in Perth, this walk was included. The book can be bought from tourist offices and good bookshops in Western Australia or it cane be ordered online here: