Directions - Located ten minutes from the centre of Busselton, head south along Bussell Highway and then turn right onto the Busselton Bypass. Keep going until you reach the left turn for Queen Elizabeth Avenue, following this for 10km until you arrive at the car park on the left hand side. Head through the green gazebo to start to the loop trail, where you'll also find information about the reserve.
The Hike - Ambergate Reserve is one of many tiny postage stamp sized nature reserves dotted around WA that are there to represent what the environment used to look like before everything within sight was cleared for farming. Ambergate was originally part of the Group Settlement Scheme where British immigrants came out to WA in the 1920s to clear land for agricultural use. It was the brainchild of James Mitchell and the more I read about this guy, the more I tend to dislike what he did to the state in terms of encouraging excessive land clearing (he was nicknamed Moo Cow by local press).
You'll see what I mean about the postage stamp sized reserve if you change the map at the top of the page to Satellite view and zoom out until you can see Busselton and Cape Naturaliste. Now classified as a nature reserve and well looked after by the Busselton Naturalists Club, Ambergate Reserve is a really enjoyable space with a wealth of biodiversity that is best seen during the spring wildflower display. Because of the specific timing for seeing this place in its prime, I was saving this one for when I could get down during orchid season (Late September to November). With a rapid fire four day road trip planned for late September into early October, I actually visited Ambergate a couple of times. The first was a late afternoon stopover on my way from the Meelup Trail to that nights accommodation in Pemberton but after walking the first part of the loop, I decided the light wasn't good enough for capturing everything the way I wanted and I still had an hour and a half of driving to get to Pemberton (it was almost 5pm when I started).
Vowing to return, I did just that on the final day of the trip as I was back in the area to hike other trails. With a crisp spring morning providing a lovely atmosphere for sauntering through wildflower filled woodland, I was excited to see what I could discover. With the incredible biodiversity that Western Australia has to offer and Ambergate being regarded as a botanists delight, I knew this would be a special place. While there is a dieback station to clean your shoes, it's been vandalised by mindless idiots, which is why I always carry a spray bottle with 60% methylated spirits and 40% water in the car. The reserve is intersected by two roads so the loop walk is broken up into four distinct sections with different vegetation types and plant species throughout them. Having already walked this first quarter, I knew it contained a great variety of wildflowers. It is the most consistently forested part of the walk and early on I discovered Prickly Moses, a Swamp Spider Orchid, a Karri Spider Orchid, Rattlebeaks, Conospermum flexuosum, Boronia dichotoma and Milkmaids to name a few.
The path meanders through the forest, taking you past girthier trees, along patches of Balgas and showcasing the dozens of plant species that are found here. There are lots of signs along the way to tell you of certain plant species and I found these to be well placed and very helpful (which isn't always the case). This was useful when putting all my finds into iNaturalist as some of the uncommon plants aren't always easy to find in my many wildflower identification books. Taking my time, my spidey senses were working overtime scanning the edge of the trail for different shapes and colours. The wildflowers continued to amaze with Hibbertia, White Myrtle, Wiry Wattle, Common Hovea, Bitter Peas and Oaf-leaf Grevillea among the cool finds. You end up looing around this first quarter, reaching the edge of the reserve where you can see the surrounding farmland. I much preferred the inner sections of the reserve so was happy when the path took me back into the forest and to a point where I spotted another Karri Spider Orchid on the last visit. It wasn't hard to find again and the excitement of seeing a Spider Orchid never dulls for me.
Eventually reaching the end of the first quarter, you cross Doyle Road and continue on the other side. This is where I stopped on my last visit, walking down Doyle Road back to the car park, spotting more Spider Orchids just off the edge of the road. From here on out it would be new terrain for me and I couldn't wait to see what else I could find. Entering the second quarter, it is initially woodland but it doesn't take long for the Sedge Grass and open plains of White Myrtle and Short-Styled Grevillea to be the dominant vegetation type. This completely different visual was a nice change and the open vistas looking off towards a stand of trees in the distance made it feel like the reserve went on forever. Curving to the right, you leave the open plains and enter a thick tunnel of plants that includes Paperbarks, Sand Wattle Myrtle, Blue Smokebush and Pepper and Salt. Entering a shadier area, I was surprised to find a small lake with an island in the middle. This area has been heavily rehabilitated by the Busselton Naturalists Club and I appreciate the effort that has gone into preserving what is a vital ecosystem for a lot of native flora and fauna.