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The Kingdom of Py

The Kingdom of Py

My Bibbulmun Maintenance Section

I am fortunate enough to be able to look after a section of the Bibbulmun Track, joining an army of volunteers that care for and maintain this incredible 1000km long distance trail in Western Australia. On this page I'll go into the process of becoming a maintenance volunteer, my time over the years caring for this patch of forest in the middle of nowhere, and also document how it will be changing in the near future.

Key Information

Start

Dee Vee Road Crossing

Elevation

178m

Finish

Trees Road Intersection

Time

2-4 Hours

Length

9.7km

Traditional Custodians

Wiilman & Kaniyang People

Kingdom of Py.jpg

Getting a Section

Having taken up hiking as a regular pastime in 2014, a year into enjoying the trails around Perth I really wanted to give back in some form. With the Bibbulmun Track providing the bulk of my more memorable hikes during the early days of the website, with visits to Hewett's Hill, Monadnocks and Mount Cooke providing lasting memories, I decided in 2015 to enquire about volunteering with the Bibbulmun Track Foundation. 

So I emailed the then maintenance manager, Gwen, and was informed that I would be put on a waiting list for a maintenance section in the Perth Hills. At the time I didn't realise that the Bibbulmun Track was lovingly cared for by an army of volunteers that thoroughly enjoy looking after their little patch of the highly regarded long distance trail we are fortunate to have in Western Australia. A year went by and Gwen kept providing updates that no section had been made available yet, so I patiently waited. Then the autumn of 2016 rolled around and Gwen asked if I wouldn't mind traveling a little further to do maintenance, as a section north of Collie was available.

I was more than happy to travel if that meant getting one of my own, and it was official that 044 - Dee Vee Road to Trees Road in the Wellington District would be mine. Excited to head out there, in May I was introduced to the area when I attended the Wellington Field Day to meet fellow volunteers from around the area, help carry materials for a new bridge over Bell Brook, and get some basic training. Returning a month later to visit my section for the first time, I found a way through the maze of forestry and mining roads out there, deciding that the Trees Road end would be easier to find.

Being a year after the devastating bushfires that tore through this area, the blackened trees and green jumpers all around made things look a little messy but I was here and ready to discover what my section was all about. Unfortunately I had been handed one of the longest continuous stretches of vehicle track on the whole Bibbulmun Track. Over the years I've grown to appreciate the vehicle track part of my section but I'll talk more to that below. 

For the longest time I didn't see a soul walking through when I was out maintaining, apart from those I had brought with me. With the increased popularity of the track during the pandemic, along with interstate and overseas hikers being allowed to travel to WA once again in 2022, the past couple of years have been fun, sometimes bumping into half a dozen hikers along the way. A happy memory I have was in the spring of 2023, when I bumped into a pair of Canadian botanists and we had a grand old chat about the biodiversity that is found along the Bibbulmun Track, and what they had seen during the morning (which I was happy to help identify for them).

 

Looking after this small part of the track (just under 1% of the entire length) in the middle of nowhere is a great privilege that I don't take lightly. I plan to be the maintenance volunteer to the day I die, or cannot physically come out here, which will hopefully be a very long time. It's a wonderful thing to think about, the changing landscape over potentially another fifty years, and witnessing how everything will change and evolve, hopefully for the better.

The name Kingdom of Py is not some grandiose claim to the land but rather a nickname given to the area by my podcast partner, something I reciprocated when he became a Munda Biddi maintenance and I called that area "Dominion De Souza". I would never presume to claim any kind of ownership or control over the land here, I am merely a grateful guardian or custodian of this space, quite happy to visit four or more times a year to make sure walkers get the purest experience as they pass through. 

The Land

While I've done every Bibbulmun Track day on the website from a north to south perspective, the Kingdom I've always approached in a south to north way, thanks to parking at the southern end and doing an out and back trek for maintenance. The southern border on Trees Road runs parallel to the Harris River, and is a spectacular area for spotting the native flora that the river and swampy landscape supports. I'm always amazed stepping out of my car during winter and spring, seeing the variety of different species from just the first few steps. Leaving Trees Road, you join Seventy Seven Road for the briefest moment, where the area either side of the road gets inundated in late winter, providing a home for a great variety of wildflowers. Turning left, the track follows Wilshusen Road for the next six kilometres.

 

When I first walked this stretch, I kept expecting to see a waugyl pointing me off into the forest for some single track walking. That never happened and the whole stretch is along this one vehicle track, that given the amount of rubbish I have to pick up each time, is frequented regularly, despite being located within a Disease Risk Area off limits to vehicles. The scenery in places is actually quite nice, as you climb up a couple of hills to a high point of 354m ASL, the biggest elevation mark since leaving Mount Wells. Unfortunately the area was hit quite hard by the 2015 Waroona fires, and a couple of escaped prescribed burns since then have also wreaked havoc. As a result, there is a lot of epicormic regrowth (green jumpers on the larger trees) along Wilshusen Road, as the forest tried to recover. There are subtle changes throughout the course of this road walking, with thick sections of Prickly Moses that flower en masse with bright yellow carpets, dense patches of Zamias, and a great number of wildflowers lining the edge of the track in winter and spring.

 

Descending down the largest hill, you pass through a She-Oak grove before reaching another swampy section that is similar to the Harris River Flats. Using the vehicle track is necessary through here as it floods in winter, and here is where you'll find the greatest concentration of fungi, along with different kinds of wildflowers and some impressive bird life (if you stand still long enough). Rising up another hill, you return to the familiar Jarrah Forest for another couple of kilometres, before the real fun begins. Finally turning off Wilshusen Road, you turn right and onto a lovely section of single track that lasts for a further two kilometres, through some varied and diverse country. Warming up with a She-Oak grove, you head down towards a sandy section of trail on the border of the Jarrah Forest and the Swamp Paperbarks, where you meander through the landscape, spotting Swamp Banksia, Grass Trees and a lot of different wildflowers. Crossing a vehicle track, the laterite path continues through more Grass Trees, and towards one of my favourite areas, especially during wildflower season when a heavily vegetated patch turns into what I call the "Avenue of Pink", a field of flowering Melaleuca.

 

Just past this is an area full of Paperbarks, some close and some off in the distance, and in late spring, awash with Purple Enamel Orchids. Meandering between sand and laterite, a thickly vegetated area of Soapbush and Bracken Fern leads you to what is known as the "Plonkhole", a series of old timber posts in a rarely damp creek that are slowly crumbling away. On the other side, you pass through a thicket of Wattles, before entering an area with some ancient Grass Trees, upward of 300-500 years old by my estimates. Entering a patch of taller Jarrah Forest, this marks the end of the single track walking, as you join Seventy Seven Road again. Up and over a hill, with decent Jarrah Forest either side, and you've arrived at the northern border of the Kingdom where it crosses Dee Vee Road.

 

While unspectacular to some as they walk through, especially during autumn or the dead of winter, I've grown to really love what is out here over the year, and look forward to every visit. Change is coming though, and my aim of getting the track off Wilshusen Road might finally be coming true. Scroll down to the bottom to hear all about future developments, which will be updated in real time. 

The Flora

Western Australia is one of the best places in the world for wildflowers, and the South West corner of the state is home to about 6000 different species of trees, plants, wildflowers and orchids. Over the years, hiking has naturally led me to be interested in the native flora that WA is famous for, and especially in the last few years , I've taken a keener interest in seeking out as many different species as I can. This is no different for the Kingdom of Py, and every year in peak season (September or October), I undertake a thorough wildflower survey, hoping to discover new species each time (new to me at least).

Even from my very first visit, back when I didn't know much about flora, it was clear that this was a special area. Walking through two distinct areas, the laterite hills that are common in the Darling Scarp, and the low lying swampy areas in the northern and southern sections of the Kingdom. There is usually something in flower for most of the year, with March to April being the lean months, and August to November being the magical time of year where you never know what might in bloom. Some varieties I've only ever seen once, with the three different Spider Orchids I've seen during my time maintaining this section never seen again. The single track section between Dee Vee Road in the north and Wilshusen Road to the south is a joy to walk through in spring, with the changing landscape supporting a wide range of different species in all shapes, sizes and colours.

As I've become more invested in discovering different wildflowers, I've been cataloguing them on iNaturalist. There are some dedicated wildflower enthusiasts on there that are great with identifying or correcting my observations, and have been a big help in my development in the botany space. Over the years I've amassed a few wildflowers books, with the collection always growing, but with the diversity we have here in Western Australia, identifying a wildflower can be super tricky. All 139 species shown in the gallery above have been observed in the Kingdom (as at May 2024), and have been logged on iNaturalist. If you think I have one wrong then please create an account and search for it using the map feature to correct it. Click on the photos to go into Expand Mode, where you'll get their common and latin name.