Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Orroral Heritage Trail

Trevor suggested that we do a walk this week and thought that perhaps one in Tidbinbilla would do however I have pretty much exhausted the Tidbinbilla walks so I figured that it was time to look at some of those in the Namadgi National Park.

Namadgi covers a huge area and there are plenty of trails. Some are short, others longish. Some are easy, others moderate while others are just plain hard. I selected that Orroral Heritage Trail as it was longish, 12km return, but only classified as moderate. Trevor did not want a walk that was overly difficult and this one seemed to fit the bill.

So, today, after lunching at Brothers Oven we headed off. We were equipped with our day packs and were carrying wet weather gear as the day promised some rain. In reality were were carrying almost a much as we will be on most days when we do the Coast to Coast walk. We were wearing our hiking boots as I was expecting the ground to be wet following the recent rain. We also had our short gaiters to combat the effect of grass seeds on our socks.

To get to the start of the walk we had to travel through Tharwa and then towards Adaminaby, along Naas Road. We called in to the Namadgi Visitor Centre to check that the chosen trail was open and to use their toilet facilities. According to the ranger on duty their was no problem with the trail however it might be a bit wet underfoot.

Our starting point was some 19km from the Visitor Centre. From Naas Road we took Boboyan Road and then Orroral Road which we followed until we reached the Orroral Campground, our starting point. The road was sealed all the way out but quite narrow and windy. There were a number of low level crossings which were not to be crossed if covered with water. Fortunately the crossings were dry. A number of rural properties still operate through this area and passed the odd cluster of farm buildings. These places really are isolated, tucked into valleys with steep sides.

There were no cars in the carpark when we arrived so we were able to select a shaded spot in the hope that the clouds continued to clear.

A lovely old tree in the camping ground
The camping ground was quite spacious with reasonable facilities given its remoteness. Perhaps we should consider a camping trip one of these days ... on seconds thoughts perhaps not!

The camping ground is tucked down near the Orroral River and the trail follows its course up the valley, sometimes quite close to the river and at other times moving away from it and up on to higher ground away from the marshy flats.

The track meandered up and down through open forest with a grassy understory. the track was generally quite narrow forcing us to walk in single file for much of the first few ks. While there were a few large trees, as evidenced by the one down at the campground, most of the trees were saplings leading us to conclude that they have grown since the 2003 bushfires raged through the area.

The slender trunks of the saplings suggest that most are quite young

 Along the trail were notice boards providing information about the area and features that we encountered. While some of the boards were faded the intent was good and it provided sufficient information to keep up our interest. It always helps to have an idea of what it is you are actually looking at.

Every now and then we saw clusters of huge granite boulders scattered randomly about.Geologically, the area started life as ocean floor on which silt was deposited over eons. The ocean floor was then thrust upwards and now sits some 900m above sea level. The surrounding hills range from 1200m to over 1600m above sea level.. As we saw when walking in the Victorian alpine region the uplift has exposed the layered rock and this has then eroded. Next came volcanic action ... hence the granite tors and boulders which are a feature through our local ranges.

The boulders were huge. Perhaps I should have got Trevor to stand beside them to demonstrate their size.

A number of wooden bridges crossed streams, some of which had water, others dry even though there had been recent rain. Eventually we came to a footbridge across the Orroral River which took us out of the forested area and onto the cleared valley floor.

The babbling brook otherwise known as the Orroral River
Once over the river we started encountering track markers. These were important as there was quite a bit of marshy land to cover and picking the wrong path could have left us with very wet feet.

A guide post. Can you spot the next one?
By this time the clouds which had looked like they were clearing had decided to return.

We are quite used to seeing kangaroos, sometimes in quite large mobs, around the Taylor Nature Reserve and Michael and I have seen large gatherings of roos on some of the meadows at Tidbinbilla but I was not prepared for the number of kangaroos we encountered today.

The kangaroo population in Namadgi was definitely going strong.

The Orroral Valley is long and wide and the early settlers had taken advantage of its terrain and cleared much of the valley floor and then ploughed the resulting cleared land. The slopes are well timbered even following the fires of recent times.

The site of the first European settlement in the area is marked by a plaque. There is no substantive evidence of that original dwelling or any of the other buildings.

Continuing up the valley, crossing a number of swampy areas, we finally sighted the Orroral Homestead. Scattered across the valley were a shearing shed, which was used for local dances and currently is in a state of disrepair, the remnants of the 1950s house which was removed after it had been vandalised, an orchard and the Orroral Homestead.

View up the valley with the homestead and other bits and pieces

Fences have been erected around all but the shearing shed although most are in a state of disrepair. Kangaroos were everywhere. I am not sure what the fences were meant to stop.

Kangaroos under an apple tree in the remains of the orchard
The remains of the 1950s house
Here is a series of photos of the Orroral Homestead which probably dates back to the late 1860s. It was built of slabs and consisted of three rooms with a separate kitchen. Only a chimney remains from the kitchen. There is a verandah along the front of the homestead which looks out onto the Orroral River and Cathedral Rocks  which stand out on the ridge across the river.

The back of the house

The front of the house with the verandah
The kitchen chimney stands a little way from the back of the homestead

And here is the shearing shed:

A short distance from the homestead were dilapidated cattle yards which were occupied by kangaroos!

By the time we left the homestead it had started to rain. We did put on our rain jackets and we were pleased when the rain cleared as the day was reasonably warm and it was hot walking in the jackets.

The last part of our walk was along part of the Australian Alps Walking Track which runs from Walhalla through the Victorian Alps through the Snowy Mountains and then Namadgi ending up at Tharwa. We had walk along bits of this track during our Great Alpine Walk week.

We continued up the valley towards the site of the Orroral Tracking Station which had operated in the valley from 1965 to 1984 before being dismantled. The remains have got informative explanatory plaques.

There is a picnic area at the with tables dotted around a shady area. You can also get to the site without doing the 6km walk that we did.

Looking back along the valley over the remains of the dish platform
After wandering around the tracking station site and visiting their welcome toilets we headed back the way we had come.

We encountered more light rain but decided to keep going without rain jackets as it was still quite warm.

Trevor stopped on the track with examples of the regrowth all around
All in all this was quite a pleasant walk over relatively flat terrain. The round trip of just on 12kms took just under 3 hours which included frequent photo stops as well as plaque readings and checking out the homestead and the other relics.

I'm pleased that I wore my hiking boots as the track was often rough and rocky when it was not marshy/swampy.

And as for the kangaroos ... what can I say? We did see quite a few birds. There was plenty of evidence of rabbit activity, freshly dug holes with rabbit droppings nearby, however we only saw two rabbits. Perhaps we would have seen more if we were walking in the early morning.

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