Sunday, May 18, 2014

Whipstick Loop, Blackwood

Today we enjoyed a walk along the Whipstick Loop through the forest near Blackwood.

A previous adventure along the Heritage River Trail introduced us to Blackwood. This little town is nestled in the historical Victorian Goldfields, on the Lerderderg River, about 89 kilometers northwest of Melbourne. The Whipstick Loop provided another opportunity to explore the forest with it's unique flora and fauna.

The walk notes for the Whipstick Loop provided by DSE, suggest a starting point in Jim Cann Reserve and completing a five kilometer loop walk. Our variation of this walk commenced in the town of Blackwood, from the community hall on the hill, along a few side streets and then followed the Great Dividing Range Trail until it joined the Whipstick Loop near the Whipstick Creek.

Up that hill?? Are you kidding me??

Yes, there was a bit of uphill climbing involved in the walk. As with all hills, if tackled at an easy, steady pace, you are up them in no time with energy to spare! A walking stick or two also helps keep the knees going a bit longer by taking some of the load of a heavy pack!

Fire blackened tree trunks.

Have you noticed the photos are substantially larger in this post? Well, there's two reasons. Firstly, squinting late at night is not good for the eyes! Secondly, we saw so many tiny wee little fungi on this walk, bigger pictures means you can see them better!

The first fungi we discovered was purple! A cluster of them were poking their heads up through the ground and leaf litter. Before we see more fungi photos, here are a few shots of trees, people standing amongst the trees and some more trees!

What a loopy trail!

The Whipstick Loop Walk meanders through the Wombat State Forest. This area was originally inhabited by the Dja Dja Wurrung people and extended over a wider area than it does today. 

Gold was discovered in the mid-1800's and the Forest was extensively mined resulting trees cleared to access potential gold deposits and to make wooden products such as mine shaft supports, tramway sleepers and fuel for fires. After the goldrush the forest was proclaimed a forest in 1871 which meant extensive land clearing and logging was prevented and saw the introduction of "managed" saw-milling operations. As trees were not replanted and saplings were burnt off and the forest became a 'ruined forest' and abandoned for agricultural purposes.

In the distance...

Remaining relatively unused during the 1900s, the forest regenerated itself which resulted in more logging in the 1960's. It was not until 2001 after community pressure for the Wombat State Forest to be sustainably managed and is currently under the management of the Department of Sustainability and Environment. The forest is an example of community forestry management with no extensive commercial logging. But for how long?

View of trees at morning tea.

Old growth forest is dwindling in Victoria. The trees in these photos are young in comparison to the length of time the forest has covered this land.

After walking along the Great Dividing Range trail we joined the Whipstick Loop trail and walk through the valley next to the Whipstick Creek. The photo below shows the turning point where the track crosses the creek and loops back down the valley the other side of the creek.

The Whipstick Creek

The creek wasn't exactly over flowing with water today!

Historic Tree

The tree in the above photo is marked on the map as having historical significance. It was the largest tree we saw in the forest. It large girth can be clearly seen when compared to the two tree admirers. Too bad the biggest tree in the forest if dead! Hopefully the current generation of trees  is allowed to widen their girth so there are many large trees in the forest for future generations to admire.

Not a mine!

Why is the Wombat Forest called the Wombat Forest? Because of all the wombats of course! We did not see any wombats on our walk today but their homes were certainly evident. 

Another fun guy!

Wait, there's still more fungi to come!


Bushwalking is not the only recreational activity allowed in the Forest. Tracks have been set aside for 4-wheel drive and dirt motor bike enthusiasts. The road snaking it's way through the trees in the above photo is very steep. Two motor bike riders managed to 'rev' their bikes up the hill. They were very noisy! At least they kept to their track and soon they were a distant memory.

Another one!

Pink Heath

This is not a fungi. This is the floral emblem of Victoria!  Very Epacris impressa!

The sun peak through the clouds and gave the forest floor a golden glow.

The track!

A mine shaft!

The above photo is of one of the largest mine shafts in the area. A wooden fence prevents the very inquisitive from getting too close. It must have been very hard work digging these mine shafts. It is hard to imagine how anyone could climb in and work in such confined conditions!

The Garden of St Erth

The wonderful Garden of St Erth is situated in the forest near the suggested DSE starting point for the Whipstick Loop walk. It was a great place for our lunch and hot refreshing tea or latte. Please don't think we do this sort of cafe lunch stop all the time. The Walkabouters are a serious bush walking group! (insert winking emoticon!)

 After lunch its was back to the walking track passing some more mine shafts!

Creek bed or water race?

Okay! Here they are, a plethora of fungi! The damp, dark conditions of the creek valley were perfect for fungi. The following is a small selection of our discoveries!

WOW! So many different sorts! Some were so tiny and delicate just sitting on the damp decaying bark of old trees. Whilst others burst through the ground, shoving leaf litter aside in their wake! 

There are known to be hundreds of fungal species throughout the Wombat Forest. Not only do they play a vital role in recycling decaying plant and animal matter, they also form important symbiotic relationship with living plants and trees which help them grow better.

It was a good thing there were sign posts to show us the right way to go!

It would be easy to get lost in this bush if you left the track.

Almost there!

The uphills provided us a big challenge but we were all up to it!

Soon we were back in town and enjoying a nice cup of tea in the local drinks establishment!

Another wonderful day walking in the great outdoors!

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