Lions Sandhills Walk Trail
Start - Cnr Frost Rd and Montgomery Rd
Length - 5.2km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 96m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 25th October 2016
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - From the centre of Donnybrook, head east along South Western Hwy until you reach Donnybrook-Boyup Brook Rd. Turn left here and then right onto Frost Rd. Follow this until you reach a bend and there will be an info board that serves as the trail head.
The Hike - After the slight disappointment of the Lions Forest Walk Trail, I continued on with my hiking tour of Donnybrook and made my way east of town to the starting point of the Lions Sandhill Walk Trail. Based on the trail notes and map, this one looked a little more promising with the majority of the walk taking place in the Ryall's Nature Reserve. The map shows a little parking symbol but the best you will find is a little space off the gravel road. Given the road is a dead end, I don't think the farmers will mind a car or two on the side of the road. Locating the start point is a matter of finding the modern looking information board, similar to the one found on the Lions Forest Walk Trail.
The start of the trail is very uninspiring with an exposed 4x4 track made up of very soft sand taking you towards Sandhills Rd. This shouldn't be a surprise given the trail name but it just doesn't feel like a very enjoyable hike for the first kilometre. An ominous find on the trail was the remnants of a dead fox and the skies started to drizzle. Normally I love a bit of drizzle but on an exposed sandy track with a road nearby it didn't add anything to the walk. From the trail description, the place was last logged in 1962 and I couldn't help thinking as I trudged along that in the 54 years they could have made more of an effort to rehabilitate the forest. As I was walking within a few metres of Sandhills Rd and being passed by the occasional car going at great speed, I was starting to think a visit to Donnybrook wasn't the best idea. Mercifully the trail moves away from the road and into the still patchy forest. Things weren't all bad as the wildflowers provided a nice distraction as the sun came out and it warmed up.
Not far along the path I found something I had enjoyed on the previous hike, a burnt out car body. The difference this time was it was an older style car that more aesthetically pleasing than a VN Commodore, which I'm not sure will ever be considered a classic. Making the scene complete was yet more kangaroo paws and a smattering of wildflowers. As you reach the top of the "climb", the views to the east open up and the dark clouds that rained on me earlier were providing a nice photographic opportunity in the intense sunlight. Every now and then you would round a curve and find another variety of wildflower contrasted against the brightness of the sandy track. At this stage I was hoping that the whole 5km loop wasn't going to be like this and my prayers were answered when I came across the boundary of a local farm and the entrance to an earthier path surrounded by a decent crowd of familiar Jarrah trees.
The grassy paddock was fun to shoot with fluffy clouds in the distance but I was more relieved that I was going to be back in the forest for the next stretch. A short distance into the forest I was rewarded with a sprinkling of rain that made me feel infinitely better than I had before entering the forest. With a proper canopy and a thick undergrowth full of colourful wildflowers, I was a happy camper as I slowly ambled down the hill. The rain fell a little harder but I didn't care, I was having too much fun exploring the undergrowth for new varieties of orchids, peas and flowers. At one point the entire undergrowth was filled with what I like to call the Miami Vice plant, the pink and orange pea that I'm 100% certain has a different name that I should endeavour to learn.
When the Miami Vice covering ends and the yellow wattle takes over you are almost at the same railway line that you come across on the Lions Forest Walk Track. As you are spat out onto the 4x4 track running parallel to the railway line, the trail takes a turn north and back towards the start. I took the opportunity to photograph the railway line again but be careful as it is occasionally still in use. It isn't long before you come across another little treat, a bridge over a very orange stream. It's nothing compared to what can be found on the Gloucester Route but it's nice to have some sort of feature to break up the walk. The trail continues on and you end up crossing the stream again when you come to another bridge. This one seems like a bit of a hack job with a steel frame and some unsightly wire mesh hanging off the side.
At this point though the stream is a little wider and easier to access so trying to get a better photograph became easier. There is one tiny hill left up to "uninterrupted views of the Donnybrook rural landscape" promised in the trail notes. While the views are alright in a couple of spots, it's mainly just messy paddock, fencing and cold sheds. I did pass the back of a farmer’s house and could hear the gobble gobble of a few turkeys mixed in with the familiar sounds of clucking chickens. Guiding me ever since the railway line had been a mix of proper trail markers and orange ribbon tied to strategic locations so when I couldn't see a trail marker on the gravel road I had been travelling on and the ribbon directed me into the thick undergrowth, I thought it was best to follow.
The ribbon was right as the trail passed through a very thick clumping of ferns where I eventually found a trail marker buried deep in the ferns. This was a pleasant surprise given the experience so far was to stick to roads where possible and avoid single track paths. The trail through the ferns was easy enough to navigate and eventually I was deposited not far from the start with another hike under the belt. I jumped in the car and headed into the centre of town to tackle the last hike of the day, the Preston River Walk Trail but given the trail could not be done as a loop due to the weir overflowing and I wasn't that impressed by it, I decided not to do up a post for it.
Final Thoughts - The start of the hike had me worried when the scene was gloomy sand tracks and sparse forest but if you can get through the first kilometre then you will find the trail redeems itself. The forest section in spring is a delight with the quality and quantity of wildflowers on display.
I would rate this one a lot higher than the Lions Forest Walk Trail but again, these walks are for those who are really into their hiking or looking for something to do while they are staying in Donnybrook.
Get out there and experience it!
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