Sandy Maley, WA
16 January 2020
About six years ago I walked from Walpole to Northcliffe. I’d previously walked and paddled extensively in the southwest but several sections were new to me. I already loved the karri around Deep River and had special memories of paddling down the Shannon. On this trip I fell in love with the Pingerup Plains, the forested hills and fantastic rock outcrops. The constantly changing vegetation was fascinating—magnificent karri, gnarled old jarrah/marri woodland with its grass trees, tall thin kingia, carpets of stunning flowers, tall melaleuca trees lining creeks, waterlogged plains dense with sedge and the most amazing variety of flowering shrubs and herbs. So when I retired and wanted to give something back to the Track I was delighted to find the Mt Chance to Broke Inlet Road section was in need of a volunteer.
Mount Chance shelter became a special retreat from the insane modern world and felt like home. I started most mornings with tea on top of the rock peak watching the sun light up the tops of the karri trees as mist rose from the plains. The day ended similarly watching the sunset before rushing down in the last light. Occasionally I took my bivvy bag up and slept on top. The moss beds on these peaks of granite are exquisite—brilliant green moss, tiny orchids, sundews with delicate white flowers and sticky red stems.
I divided the section into three parts. One day walk out from the shelter, clearing as I went. Next drive to the Pingerup Track and walk north. Then walk south either later that day or the next day. Finally drive down to where the Track crosses Broke Inlet Road and walk in from there. The section near Broke Inlet Road often had a lot of fallen branches so could take longer than planned. The bits on the slopes of Pingerup had patches of swamp banksia that grew at a tremendous rate and fell onto the Track making a nasty prickly mat for any unfortunate walker.
Often it was just me at the shelter. I’d have lunch at my favourite rock staring at moss gardens or sitting up on my lunch tree—an old knobbly marri that had slumped to a 30degree angle so I could climb up and perch on its wide branches. This not only gave me a better view but was above March fly altitude!
So what did I actually do? My tools were: Fisker Loppers with a good strong blade and long handles, a Trojan mini pick with a nice sharp wedge end, a small folding pruning saw, shears and secateurs.
For banksia thickets and small overhanging branches the loppers were the go. Really thick branches needed sawing. The main issue with banksia was lifting the material off the Track.
Karri needs little work as the undergrowth is fragile or easily removed—jarrah can require more, as the small shrubs constantly try to invade the Track.
Most invasive is the tea tree. Left alone the tea tree melaleucas grow very tall and spindly and then fall over onto the Track. Best to keep them cut short. There are also very prickly shrubs like the hakeas that I’d cut well back. The edges are wildflower heaven with many orchids, stylidium and other small herbs.
Now for the plains. Firstly watch out for any new swamp banksia seedlings—pull them out fast! Not to be confused with the other banksia that is slower growing and fairly little in number. The tea-tree grows fast out here but most difficult can be the sedges. These are slowly moving back onto the Track and once established are hard to remove. If small, a pick swing does the trick but their bulbs are deep and it takes a lot of swings to dig out an established plant. I found I could clear the sides of most sedge leaves and small bush branches by whipping along with the shears. This was OK at first but after having a longer than usual time between visits I was horrified to find parts of the Track had disappeared under a mass of luxuriant sedge and shrub!
Other tasks were occasionally dragging trees off the Track and digging out drainage channels for some of the inundated sections. The pick was once again perfect for this. I find people often place branches across these parts usually in a way that further stops the drainage and increases the depth of the pool. A bit of clearing can often drain the pool.
Unfortunately I can no longer manage the work and my recent trip will be my last. A good time to leave as it is looking very sad after the last big burn. No Banksia thickets and few flowering shrubs so less birds and no honey possums seen. A lot of damaged trees. But for someone new it will be exciting watching these things re-emerge. There is always some stunning plant and this time it was the masses of white Clematis in the karri areas. With fewer shrubs the kingia really stand out and the hidden rock surfaces can be spotted. Please don’t walk on the moss beds though!
I hope whoever takes this on loves it as much as I have. Good luck and enjoy.