Balingup Racecourse Flora Reserve
Directions - Located 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.