Golden Valley Tree Park
The Hike - With a free day to explore the area around Bunbury, one place on my "to-hike" list was the Balingup Golden Valley Tree Park and I was hoping I wouldn't be too late to experience the kaleidoscope of autumn hues this park is famous for. Located a short drive/walk south of the centre of Balingup, the park is well signed from South Western Highway and is the official exit out of town for the Bibbulmun Track. I arrived at the main information board and old homestead after a cracking morning exploring the Bridgetown Jarrah Park. This picturesque little building was once the main building for the farms that occupied this area and since 1980 the land has been turned into the 60ha arboretum that is the largest in the state.
The park is divided up into two sections, the World Collection and the Australian Collection. The appeal for me today was going to be the deciduous trees of the World Collection but I was interested to see how they had organised the Australian Collection so would be walking the entire 4.5km loop around the park. This meant driving a short way from the homestead to the World Collection car park and parking under the spectacular colours of the vibrant poplar trees. There are three loop walks you can do in the World Collection and I would be doing a combination of these as part of my larger loop around the entire park. My first visit was to the Sequoia Short Walk that take you on a flat loop to the duck pond and back again. With so many different varieties of trees it is made very easy to identify the names of each tree with a plaque in front of every tree telling you the name (both common and Latin) and who sponsors it (click here for more info on sponsoring a tree). With the sun out and a wisp of cloud in the sky, the foliage was looking spectacular as I wandered past cedars, sequoias, oaks and birches. Being a very dry autumn there was no water in the duck pond but I think this may have also delayed the onset of the annual leaf shedding so I shouldn't complain really. With a bit of imagination I could see the pond brimming with water and the grass transformed from a pale yellow to a lush green.
There is a cool little gate (one of many along the walk) just after you turn back towards the car park providing a nice photo opportunity. The walk back to the finish point takes you past some very old poplars, planted before WWII and some English Oaks that were planted just after the war. They provided a good amount of shade over the area and were so big it was pointless trying to fit them in one shot so I settled for shots of their leaves littering the trail. It looked like they were in the process of updating the old picnic area with a new gazebo and hopefully more trees will be planted in the space in-between the trail and Old Padbury Road. A wooden bridge was all that separated me from finishing this loop and continuing on to the next section. The next part of my journey would be utilising the outer half of the Pear Walk and the climb up to the Pear Lookout. Starting at the toilet block, the climb is a gentle incline past some pear trees before you pass through the gate at the top next to some pomegranates. The gates are there for a reason as I soon discovered the presence of a sheep population on the next part of the walk. I passed two men on my way up to the lookout and they looked to be having a leisurely afternoon stroll amongst the pear trees. The views back down the valley are impressive with a variety of colour and having a north facing disposition I imagine that sunsets would be magically from this vantage point.