Families from The West Australian Family Bushwalkers Club spent the June long weekend away from the city in a very special place right on Perth’s doorstep.
Less than two hours from Perth, Dryandra Woodland is one of the prime places in the South-West for viewing native wildlife. Our club has been visiting the DPAW Congelin Campground and exploring the forest for years and were fortunate to spend a few wonderful hours walking the Ochre Trail on this visit.
The Ochre Trail started from the car park and within 100 metres we were all looking at the burrowing work of very busy echidnas. Amongst our group were parents with a life-long knowledge of nature, botany and ecology. They pointed out to the kids and other adults the very distinctive digging holes amongst the thick bark of a fallen dead tree made by these very famous Australian creatures. Sadly we did not see the echidnas at work, but we learnt what to look for in the bush in future.
A bit further on we came across a native cumquat tree right on the track, laden with fruit. The fruit was not yet ripe - it will change colour from green to red - but will make great jam when it does.
The group ambled along the trail through powder bark wandoo trees (which are that classic burnt brown and orange colour). We rubbed the tree trunks with our hands to get the powder, which the kids discovered makes an interesting face foundation. Over rocky breakaways common in this part of the world the trail reached its highest point, the former site of a fire lookout tower, where we stopped for a spot of morning tea.
Munching an apple, I sat on the ground right next to a ‘1080 Poison Bush’. Our knowledgeable parents explained the impacts of the ‘1080 bush’ and how Dryandra had been saved in the early days from sheep and cattle grazing due to this toxic little bush. The kids were also told about the DPAW program now using 1080 baits in Dryandra to control feral foxes and cats and how this then creates a conservation area for native mammals including numbats.
We then went on to my favourite section, where the trail follows a horseshoe-shaped ridge line that looks over and down into a steep valley. The view mixes textures and colours - grey-green undergrowth, orange and white trunked trees, the green of tree leaves, browns of the forest floor and the rich brown of coffee rock outcrops. All very picturesque – nature is truly the artist. I first saw this view in 1996 and 20 years later it still captivates me. It had the same effect on our group, with the kids and parents staring out over this very pretty valley for some time.
A few hundred metres on and we reached the Ochre Pit. It is an obvious excavation cutting into the side of the hill, where the soil is a striking and vibrant red colour. Soil samples were taken by younger kids who later spent the afternoon making paint, as well as painting on paper, on themselves and on me!
In no time at all (approximately two and a half hours from start to finish) we were back at the car park, with smiles all round and people saying they would come again. For many families it was their first walk in the Dryandra Woodlands. Once again the Ochre Trail had worked its magic.
The Ochre Trail
The Aboriginal heritage of Dryandra is revealed along the Ochre Trail. Interpretive signs along the way explain aspects of Nyoongar culture, including an ochre pit.
Distance: 5 km (return) Class: Medium Time: Allow 2 hours More info: www.parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/ochre-trail
The West Australian Family Bushwalkers Club
The West Australian Family Bushwalking Club Inc provides opportunities for family activities that encourage appreciation and enjoyment of the bush and the outdoors. The Club organises bushwalks, camps, cycle rides and related activities that are suitable for families with children of all ages.