FR Berry Reserve
Start - Off Reen Road
Length - 2.7km (Return)
Rating - Green
Terrain - 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 41m
Time - 1 hour
Dog Friendly - Yes
Signed - Yes, Follow the Numbered Posts
Date Hiked - 31st May 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Directions - Located in Gidgegannup, from Roe Hwy, take the Toodyay Rd exit heading east. Follow this up the hill and turn left at Reen Rd. Follow this for 8.5km until you reach the entry for the reserve on the left (it's signed).
The Hike - With 2020 just getting weirder and weirder as each month came along, it was nice to see Western Australia getting away relatively unscathed from the COVID-19 pandemic. With regional borders opened it meant access to some areas close to Perth that were previously out of bounds were now in play. One area was Gidgegannup and although the main attractions here are Paruna and Noble Falls, I had a couple of smaller walks on my radar that I wanted to visit. With that in mind I donned my red leader shirt and assembled Grey Squadron for our first hike of the season. Over the lockdown we had caught up by playing online games and organised Zoom dinner parties but it doesn't beat hanging out in person so a half day of hiking was arranged. After a lovely toasted sammich breakfast provided by Jen and Aron we headed out to the first walk that due to a couple of reasons I won't be posting on the website.
With some inclement weather hanging around, we drove out to the second hike that is located at FR Berry Reserve in the picturesque hills of Gidgegannup. Hoping it would stop raining but remain cloudy so I could enjoy some nice conditions for long exposure shots of the waterfall along Wooroloo Brook, we sheltered in the car park area while waiting for Jen and Aron to finish getting petroleum for their automobile. Alarmingly the emergency hazmat suit in the hollowed out section of the toilet block had been pilfered so it would be a risky operation from this point on if something happened that required a hazmat suit. With Jen and Aron finally here I made Aron carry my tripod as punishment and we set off to find the trail. From the upper car park head down the hill until you reach the little walk sign at the boom gates and head along the 4x4 track that forms the trail. Rather than follow metal markers, the trail has a series of numbered posts with various flora or fauna related information squares showing you what is there. The numbers relate to various points on the City of Swan map that can be accessed here.
Being the end of autumn and the transition between the Djeran and Makuru seasons, a lot of the wildflowers that are shown on the posts were not in flower. To start with the walk is pleasant with a corridor of vegetation lining the trail as it crosses a stream that feeds into Wooroloo Brook. Stopping to take a lot of photos I soon fell behind but that just meant I could get some wide shots of the group walking ahead. With the rain still falling and the vegetation all wet, it provided a lovely opportunity to photograph everything dripping in water droplets. While Djeran had been yet again drier than usual, the past week had been fairly wet so I had a small hope that some early wildflowers would be out. I spotted a familiar red flower in the distance and sure enough it resembled the Silky-Leaved Blood Flower (Calothamnus sanguineus), providing a touch of colour to the predominantly green landscape. With the others now well ahead I only snapped a couple of photos and hurried to catch up. With a series of granite boulders strewn up and down the hill, I didn't catch up very quickly but I'm not sure anyone missed me too much.
The trail joins the area lining Wooroloo Brook and there are several paths ducking off to various vantage points overlooking the valley. With no sight of the others I checked out a couple of them including a small granite platform that provides a lovely view over the valley to the east (and the gloomy skies heading out to the Wheatbelt). The sun made a brief appearance, long enough to illuminate the water droplets clinging to one of the needle like bushes close by so I rushed to take a few photos as it looked pretty spectacular. I rejoined the squad as they had stopped at one of the side trails that led down to a set of small rapids on the brook. A good taster for what was to come later on, we admired the flowing water and continued the short distance to the end of the trail. Heading up one of two small hills on the trail, it's fun looking up the slopes to a pretty spartan landscape and a solitary boulder just sitting on the edge of the hill. Reaching the start of a granite slope you spot the big highlight of this trail, the falls along Wooroloo Brook and the big boulders sitting in the middle of the granite valley. This is what drew me to the trail and I was happy to see that the week of rain resulted in a decent flow of water.
With the rain still falling and not wanting to get a spotty lens (it still happened anyway), I covered my camera and tripod with my rain jacket and stood over it like a human umbrella, much to Aron's amusement. While I was adjusting my camera settings and putting on filters, I noticed a ghost like figure standing by the water just staring into the brook. Legend says it's the ghost of an old farmer that lost his favourite sheep in the falls in 1884 and he comes back every now and then to stare blankly into the water and ponder where the sheep has gone. I count myself very fortunate to have seen him and I hope one day he is reunited with the ghost of his lost sheep. If you can't see him on your visit, the rumour is he'll leave sticks in your pockets just for a laugh so don't be alarmed if you find some. With the ghost disappearing I moved around various points capturing the flow of the water as it is channelled through the deep red of the lower granite. While the long exposure shots allow more light into the camera and thus a stronger sense of colour, the rock here really is that intense red you see. It's quite remarkable and the patterns that have formed as the water has eroded away at it over the aeons are truly spectacular. Tomas said it looks like sand patterns at the beach and I'd have to agree with him.
The rain continued to fall and I could tell the others were getting a little restless standing at the top of the hill in the drizzle but I was only going to be here once and they were quite happy mocking me from a distance. After taking many photographs I finally relented and an important question arouse from the group "bakery?". The answer to that was a resounding yes so we headed back the way we came ready to enjoy a warm and well earned treat. The group thundered back down the hill and consumed with thoughts of being dry, soon left me lagging behind as I found more interesting things to photograph. Boulders and trees I'd missed on the way out could be seen clearer from this vantage point and I also spent a bit of time trying to photograph some bees that were hanging around a patch of wildflowers. By the time I reached the split in the track where can take an alternate route back to the car park, the group was already in the distance. I decided to let them go on and take the loop trail back to the car.
Heading up a little hill, it's much of the same type of forest but something different to finish with so that's nice. I'm sure in spring there would be a lot more to see on the lower slopes but for me the more enjoyable part was reaching the same stream you cross over at the start but higher up. The valley is a little steeper and there is a good stand of golden Wandoo here to enjoy along with a flowering Hakea. It would take a lot more rain to see the stream flowing but it had been wet enough for the track to turn a little muddy, much to the enjoyment of the family that I had caught up to here. Rounding the corner it's just a case of finding a path back to the car park where I was reunited with the squad who had wondered where I had disappeared to. Everyone was very soggy and keen to head off so we loaded up in our cars and drove out to the always lovely Gidgegannup Bakery for a warming lunch of pies and sausage rolls. We weren't the only ones so it was great to see everyone out and about again (and practising good social distancing).
Final Thoughts - This one ticks all the boxes for a popular hike in Perth with it being short, dog and family friendly, a cool water feature and some nice forest.
While it is a little far to travel for one hike, you could easily link up Bells Rapids, the smaller trails in Paruna and Noble Falls if you wanted to make a day of it (although dogs are not allowed at Paruna).
There are signs of dieback in the park so please do not go off trail and if you are a regular hiker then be sure to carry a spray bottle of methylated spirits mixed with water (about a 60/40 split is good) to use on your boots before and after the hike.
I'd love to come back on a warm spring day and have a look at all the wildflowers plus have a bit of a dip in the cooling waters of the falls.
Get out there and experience it!!
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