Swarbrick Art Loop
Start - North Walpole Rd, 8km from Walpole
Length - 700m (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Pavement
Vertical Climb - Flat
Time - 15-30 Mins
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 28th December 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
The Hike - If you are doing a lot of the well known tourist stops around Walpole (Valley of the Giants, Giant Tingle Tree etc) then you will notice the word Swarbrick pop up. It's also a name my sister had jotted down of things she wanted to see while we were down in Walpole so after completing an amazing section of the Bibbulmun in the morning, we had lunch and then set off with the full family in tow. Forming part of the Walpole Wilderness Area, Swarbrick is 8km north of Walpole and consists of a short loop trail taking you into the Karri forest to hopefully connect you a little better to nature through the power of art. Instead of featuring a halo tree or a river like the three other short trails we had visited (both were great places by the way), Swarbrick is an art installation designed to connect the area's colonial history to the forest it has severely impacted. The location for the art loop was chosen because this was a site where conservationists fought to preserve the Karri forests around Walpole and we have them to thank for Walpole still being home to the towering Karri/Tingle forests (although logging in the area still goes on thanks to the baffling decisions made by the Barnett Government). Leaving the car park, the first thing you will notice is a giant door that serves as an information board for what to expect on the trail. The paved trail then snakes through the forest, past moss covered trees and towards the first and most impressive piece on display, the 39m long stainless steel mirror wall.
My first impression was "wow, that's a really big mirror" and I couldn't wait to try and get some interesting photos. As I walked past it and read all the events and quotes that are cleverly hidden from far away, the purpose of the wall really hit home. You get an understanding that so much of the forests in Western Australia have been cleared, which is pretty evident when you drive around the South West anyway. Although work has been done to protect vast quantities of forested land, the majority of the damage has been done and it won't take much more until we are left with nothing. The effect of reading the quotes & events and then looking up at your reflection is a very confronting message, what are you doing to help the forests? Most of this of course will be lost on people who just visit, read a few things and remark how cool the mirror looks. At the end of the mirror there is a doorway that leads to the loop section of the walk and here is where you will find the other art installations. An information board accompanies each piece of art explaining what it represents although you could easily take away your own meaning. Unfortunately the last piece of art was not there as it had either been taken or vandalised so that put a bit of a dampener on the visit. Coming back to the mirror gives you one last chance to admire the piece before heading back to the car park, hopefully with a new perspective on the forest.
Final Thoughts - The past destruction of so much of the forested lands in Western Australia is a sad story and one that unfortunately isn't over. What Swarbrick allows is a reflection of what is still here and offers up a thought provoking attempt to connect people to the forests and their past to help protect them in the future.
Whether or not you take anything away from a visit to Swarbrick, it is nice to know at least something is here to educate people on what damage we have done since colonial powers arrived in Western Australia (and are still doing).
While it may be a little underwhelming for some, especially those that have experienced Sculptures by the Sea at Cottesloe, the experience is what you make of it and is best done with silent reflection and at a slow pace.
It's certainly worth the drive from Walpole and connects what you see at the other Walpole Wilderness sites to some of the issues facing the forests today. Ironically, Swarbrick is located on Logging Rd according to Google Maps.
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