We pulled out the maps, scoured the guidebooks and dived onto the internet for we had a weekend free and were looking for things to do around Walpole and Pemberton that were off the beaten track.
The weather is cool, overcast with grey skies but with intermittent sun bursting through and we set off south.
In Walpole it’s cooler than Bunbury by quite a few degrees and we arrive just as the sun is setting at Che Sera Sera chalets where we are to stay in a little wooden cottage called Boderlup.
Dave quickly finds matches, kindling and wood.
We light a fire and open a bottle of red wine before throwing some steaks on the barbie and making a fresh salad. Aah, life is good.
In the morning we are disturbed early, too early, by magpies who seem to be doing aerobics on the tin roof.
We have coffee, then head off from Che Sera Sera along Bridge Road, turning right onto the North Walpole Road before stopping at the Swarbrick Art Loop for a cultural half hour in the depths of the forest.
The hills are rolling and lush, in stark contrast to the bleached-out fields further north around Bunbury (Why live in Bunbury?) from where we’ve come.
This is settler country, where in the 1920’s large tracts of virgin land were given to immigrants willing to make a new start in this verdant tract of the deepest south west where huge Karri trees and Red Tingle trees have gnarled old girths large enough to drive a car through.
We pass an artist’s studio and gallery before reaching a gravel road where the gravel is loose and driving attention is required. An avenue of Karri trees line the road as if they are the bastion of a grand entrance to somewhere special – which they are because they herald the beginning of a thickly forested area, all stately and secretive.
A fire to our right still smoulders and evidence of a bush fire which didn’t cross the road is quite obvious for quite a few kilometres, and I shudder as I imagine the force of summer fires still to come.
Mount Frankland and the National Park is to the right as we turn left to Fernhook Falls along Beardmore Road where the gravel is more compact but it’s wise not to take the corners too fast because it’s hard underneath and loose on top. For safety we decided to engage 4WD.
We come to Fernhook Falls – this is Jarrah country – there are an abundance of white flowers in spring, pink fairy orchid, banksias, pink boronia, marri, chorilaena with oak shaped leaves and kingia.
It’s beautiful. Beautiful, this south west corner of Australia.
The Deep River
The Deep River is brown from the tannin caused by plants breaking down and decomposing in the river but the water is still ‘pure’ because 95% of its journey is through forested catchment areas – in fact it’s one of the purest rivers in the SW.
It starts 52km north near Lake Muir then runs on from Fernhook meandering for 42km to the Nornalup Inlet in the South, and Dave wonders if he could kayak its length.
At Fernhook there’s a good information board by a clean, undercover Barbie and picnic area. On this information board I see that in 1911 a settler declared:
“I love this forest and this river! Luckily I’ve been able to purchase a bit of land on the Deep. I’ve put up a few tents and now this is home.”
We walk along the track via concrete and boardwalks to Powell’s Pool, a great place for a swim in the sepia tinted water.
At Fernhook you’ll find: huts and a tent site, picnic tables, walking track and gas bbq’s. Did I say you should take your canoe?
After Fernhook we continue onto the South West Highway and near Pemberton we turn off along a ribbon of gravel until we pop out on a leafy lane called Burma Road which is actually a tourist drive leading behind the Gloucester Tree into Pemberton.
A Kookaburra flies across the road, cackling, and we know we’re in bird country again – for Rosellas and Port Lincoln parrots are inclined to land on your head and arms if you stand still long enough in the Gloucester National Park.
We park at a cafe in Pemberton and have a curried egg sandwich and quiche to fortify us for a bike ride.
Then, leaving the car at the Visitor’s Centre we unhitch the bikes and cycle to the Gloucester Tree where Dave just has to shin up and down it’s huge trunk once again, his feet clinging to the iron bars that span its girth as they spiral onwards and upwards, and upwards to the treetop.
Then we ride back through the village and up and down the hilly back roads to Big Brook Dam which is 5km from Pemberton.
We cycle the 3km around the sylvan dam listening to bird calls, watching the sun play on the great expanse of water and then head back into town for a Magnum ice cream. Much deserved after a bike ride from 1.30 – 3.30pm.
”A great time of year to cycle – weather breezy, cool in the forest but hot out of the shade.”
I love Swarbrick – the Walpole Wilderness Discovery – which is 8km from Walpole heading towards Mount Frankland and on the North Walpole Road. You’ll find beautiful old growth karri forest and a 500 m return walk through the trees where there are sculptures and art exhibits that present perceptions of a different nature.
Fancy an Eco Cruise? I do. There are interpretive cruises departing from the Walpole Jetty Area going into the Walpole Nornalup Marine Park and the Walpole Wilderness Area leaving daily at 10am.
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