Lions Forest Walk Trail
Start - Donnybrook Cemetery
Length - 3km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - 4x4 Track
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 85m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 25th October 2016
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
With battery charging issues hampering my planned week long trip I decided to end it early and save the remaining hikes for 2017 when I will have plenty of time to enjoy them.
Stopping off at my parents for a couple of nights before heading back to Perth I decided I would check out what Donnybrook had to offer hikers as it is only a 30 minute drive from the bustling city of Bunbury. A quick Google search found the local shire website detailing three hikes within a short drive of the town centre so the following morning I headed out there to see what they were about. Having visited Donnybrook a few times before, it is a town I enjoy mainly because I like that the town identity is associated with the apple. Passing a few local bakeries on the drive to the first hike I vowed I would stop for lunch and sample a variety of yummy goodness. My first hike of the day was the Lions Forest Walk Trail, named after the charitable Lions Club, not the man eating African cat. The starting point was ominously located next to the town cemetery but wasn't immediately obvious when I arrived.
I must have looked strange as the only person there wandering around the cemetery in my hiking gear looking for an information board of any kind. Having walked a loop around the cemetery I located a trail marker on the western edge and followed it back to the start of the trail. The information board for all those playing at home is located to the left of the cemetery and near the group of houses. The trail is quite new based the condition of the information board and it tells you a little about the walk and what to look out for. Being spring and having already sighted several large pockets of kangaroo paws, I was looking forward to a nice forest walk with plenty of wildflowers. Walking along the edge of a housing estate, an enthusiastic dog was giving me a loud welcome but quickly gave up once I had passed and reached the wooden arch that leads into the woods.
The start of the walk is quite nice with familiar jarrah forest mixed with a dense thicket of ferns and a large number of kangaroo paws. There is no escaping the fact you can see into people's backyards if you look left but I kept my gaze on the trail or trying to spot wildflowers, of which there were many varieties and colours. The first little bit is a climb up to the lookout but is more of a gentle slope. The information board promised extensive views over the town site but when I reached the top I was couldn't see much as the trees were covering the top of the hill. If there is a proper lookout then it isn't well signed as I doubled back thinking that I must have missed it but couldn't find anything.
Moving on I soon came to a fork in the trail with no trail marker telling me which 4x4 track to take. The map indicates that the trail continues on but it would be nice to have a trail marker there just to confirm (a common problem on this trail). Just around the corner and unseen from the fork there is a trail marker on the side of the trail, making me think why they didn't just move it 100m and clear up any confusion. I came across the same problem further on when the landscape turned into orange gravel and there were several paths that could be taken. Again a trail marker appeared later on with no real reason why it couldn’t have been moved to a more appropriate location. I guess I am used to trail markers being set at important locations so was a bit confused at the approach of whoever built this trail.
Eventually I came to one of the first intersections where you can take a choice of two paths. One path continues on towards South Western Hwy while the other doubles back to the starting point. Having decided when I first saw the map that I would just walk the perimeter trail and not bother with the shortcuts/double backs, I continued on. Although you can never escape the sounds of South Western Hwy on this section, it does come into view now but this also presents an opportunity to photograph the railway line. It is located just off the trail but be aware that it is still in use so don't expect it all to yourself. This area does provide a good view back down the railway to the forest and farmland.
With a few photos taken I moved on and came across the most disappointing part of this trail. While there is a burnt out car on the way to Mt Cooke, I think this might have happened in the bushfires of 2005. The burnt out VN Commodore shell I found was just the start of the unnecessary rubbish dumping I found along this section. Access to the area is quite easy on the 4x4 tracks and people have obviously decided it is easier to dump trailer loads of rubbish here than dispose of it properly. I know it's only a few individuals who have no respect for anything but it really spoils a walk when you see multiple piles of rubbish in the bush. Moving away from the unfortunate dumping, the loop takes you back into the forest and towards one of the nicer spots on the trail, a vineyard. With the 4x4 track getting a bit softer and a bit steeper, the views across the vines are a welcome distraction. It may not be the picturesque landscape of Margaret River but it is worthy of a picture and a break to admire the scene. All that is left now is to walk back to the starting point, admiring the wildflowers as the kangaroo paws become more prevalent the closer you get to the cemetery. I said hello to the friendly dog once again and made my way back to the car.
Final Thoughts - I'm going to be honest, this is not a walk I would visit again. If I was a local resident then it wouldn't be a bad place to take the dog in the afternoon but apart from the wildflowers, there isn't much on this walk to make it stand out.
The trail markers are poorly placed, the loopback design doesn't really make sense and you are always reminded that you are on the outskirts of a country town instead of being in a pleasant forest.
Part of this is to do with the lack of public land that hasn't been converted to farming or housing, meaning the small patches of trees are never too far away from a road or house.
Having said that, it does have some redeeming qualities. The wildflowers in spring were great and the collection of kangaroo paws were something I had not seen in such numbers anywhere else I have visited. Apart from that, there isn't much here you couldn't see elsewhere.
It's great that the Donnybrook shire has put in some work trying to create new trails in the area but this one is more miss than hit.
Get out there and experience it!
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