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Balingup Racecourse Flora Reserve

Balingup Racecourse Flora Reserve


DirectionsLocated just outside of Balingup, head north from town for three kilometres until you see the signs for the Flora Reserve on your right hand side. Unfortunately the turn happens during the middle of an overtaking zone so be careful when there is traffic around. Follow the entry road all the way to the information shelter that is on your right. Park up and choose your route. 

The Hike - The Balingup Racecourse Flora reserve was a place that always caught my eye when travelling along South Western Highway and I kept meaning to add it on to a future visit. It's taken until 2022 to do just that, with an adventurous day out hiking the Greenbushes Loop and the Bridgetown Jarrah Park. Leaving this one to the end of the day, so I had a proper amount of time to take in the first two, I drove the pleasant route through backcountry roads from the Bridgetown Jarrah Park, through Greenbushes and on towards Balingup. 

Having not done much research about this place (not that there is much info online about it), other than knowing there are a few trails located here, I was going in with an open mind and secretly hoping to find a few orchids. The starting point is a bit underwhelming with an open patch of ground containing some weedy grass and an information shelter that doesn't look quite complete (or I'm missing what design language they were trying to pull off). Having a look at the info boards there, I picked out a route that would take me around the Racetrack Walk with a side trip up to visit the Possum Tree Walk. Passing a few picnic tables as I made my way down the old vehicle track towards the Racetrack Walk, the larger trees here were nice to see and provide a bit of shade for potential picnickers. Initially I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the old racetrack lined with mostly dead Bracken Ferns, creating a depressing stretch of walking. Continuing on, the quality of the surrounding forest improved with less Bracken Ferns and more species you'd expect like Snottygobble, Zamias and Grass Trees. 


My first wildflower finds were all Native Wisteria as I passed the Kangaroo Paw Walk, one I decided to skip in the interests of time. Following the old racecourse as it looped around on sandy tracks, the scenery continued to improve with some acceptable views looking ahead through the canopy, even if it seemed a bit same-same. I scanned the undergrowth for different flowers or fungi but instead found none. The understory plants improved with older Grass Trees appearing and a few more Snottygobble but compared to the two hikes I'd done this day, it wasn't terribly great. The old racecourse section seemed more of a novelty than a nice way to showcase the surrounding forest so I was looking forward to the Possum Tree Walk as it headed up into the forest. As I approached the turnoff for that walk, I found some things to brighten up my mood with a fungi in the sand (although it could have been scat), a Giant Banksia and some Holly-leaved Hovea. 

Buoyed on by something other than Native Wisteria (which I do enjoy but had been hoping for more), I headed up the hill and into some proper looking forest. An early Hibbertia find was another good sign as I walked up another vehicle track, following the orange painted posts that mark the route for the Possum Tree Walk. While this area has most likely been logged heavily in the past, there are a few mature trees around that provide a bit of character. With the grey skies now set in for the afternoon, I was starting to lose the light a little, so hurried along to get the full walk in before dark. At the top of the hill I spotted some Honeybush and was closer to the loud calls of a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. Tricky to photograph when they are high up in the trees, the grey conditions weren't helping but I just one shot of one that I've stretched the boundaries of editing to make it noticeable as anything other than a black blob. Spotting an orange post in the nearby bush, I followed it through to the edge of the forest, where it loops back around near some farmland. 


Taking the opportunity to say hello to some nearby sheep, I turned back and headed into the forest to begin the return journey along the Possum Tree Walk towards the Racetrack Walk. Eventually popping back onto the sandy confines of the old racecourse, I spotted a Prickly Bitter Pea before coming across the yellow posts that mark the start of the Emu Bush Walk. Deciding to follow it because anything had to be better than the old racecourse, I was prepared to be disappointed by not spotting any emus. As I was to find out, the trail is named after the Emu Berry Bush, not the flightless bird. As I had read about at the Bridgetown Jarrah Park, the Emu Berry is the only Podocarpus in Western Australia, an ancient survivor from Gondwanan days. Unlike the one at the BJP, this one had fruit on it, so that was a plus. The finish of the walk was quite pleasant thanks to the single track providing a more closed in experience and there being a variety of different wildflowers including Prickly Moses and a white Myrtle, plus a pretty brown fungi.