Wadandi Track South
Cowaramup to Witchcliffe
Directions - Located between Cowaramup and Witchcliffe in the Margaret River Region of Western Australia, the trail head is located just off Bussell Highway in Cowaramup at Pioneer Park. Look for the Wadandi Track markers and head south along the pavement into the park.
The Ride - The Wadandi Track is an incomplete 108km rail trail that run between Busselton and Augusta but only has a couple of sections that are still accessible. The most popular of these sections in the stretch running between Cowaramup and Witchcliffe, previously called the Rails to Trails. While it can be experienced as a walking trail, the long, straight nature of this trail, plus the long length, means this one is best done on two wheels.
Having set aside a full day to tackle the two open sections of the Wadandi Track with my podcast partner, this would be the second section we would ride today. After enjoying the northern section before lunch, we were picked up by Alissa and driven to Cowaramup where we would start the second half of the day. Getting some fuel into the bodies thanks to a lovely roll from the bakery in Cowaramup, we refilled water bottles and set about finding the trail leading out of town. With this ride being less of a mission to locate where the old rail formation is and more of a "for pleasure" ride, this is the section I had been looking forward to the most. Heading into Pioneer Park, it was nice to see plenty of people enjoying this fine day and a Brenton See mural up against one of the sheds. Heading west from the park, the trail heads away from Bussell Highway and onto the old rail formation starting from the old Cowaramup Station. There is some railway paraphernalia to highlight the history of the area and it was good seeing it preserved to connect back to the old railway line.
This marks the start of the long and straight riding as you head towards Margaret River. This is why this is best done on a bike as it's over 5km before you even get even the slightest hint of changing direction and while the scenery is pretty, I imagine after an hour it would start to feel the same. For us on the bikes it was fun to sail through here at speed, only stopping to take photos, something I was doing a lot more than Donovan. I love this time of year in the South West as the variety of wildflowers that can be found is amazing and never gets dull to me. Spotting them while riding at 20kmph plus can be a bit difficult but after spending three weeks on the Munda Biddi, my high speed spotting skills had been honed to a degree. Early on there were some good finds with some bright white Pimleas, Purple Flag, Yellow Flag, Blue Leschenaultia and many varieties of Wattle. It wasn't just the wildflowers that were impressive, the narrow strip of forest through here was great to see with a corridor of Jarrah, Marri and the occasional Karri tree.
Catching up to Donovan, we were cruising along when we both spotted something that peaked our interest, an old railway siding that had survived the years of abandonment. Crossing Burnside Road, this ended the thin strip of vegetation as we entered a thick forested area that was heaven to ride through. Being surrounded by an abundance of trees and understory, the wildflower display stepped it up several notches to the point that the usually nonchalant Donovan was stopping to take photos. I always tease him for his ambivalence to the wonders of WA wildflowers as he is only impressed with "sledgehammer to the face" levels of colour, so it was nice to see him show some appreciation. While Donovan kept up a good pace, I couldn't resist stopping a lot thanks to the different varieties lurking just off the trail. That gave me plenty of opportunity to frame the forest just right with a Donovan in the distance to provide scale. I caught up to him just before Lear Road and we were greeted with an unexpected notice board. This was probably something we should have checked before coming out but the Wadandi Track around Margaret River was closed for renovations to the various bridges so we would have to follow a detour.
This was a little disappointing as I'd hiked in the area leading through Wooditjup National Park before and was looking forward to blazing through on the bike. The detour only takes you slightly parallel to the Wadandi Track and past what was one of the premier mountain biking areas near Margaret River, The Pines. We were a bit shocked to discover that the whole pine plantation where the MTB trails used to run through had been harvested, with the trails looking like they still existed. While writing this up I contacted Dave Willcox from Common Ground Trails and he confirmed this was planned and new trails have been cut into the landscape before they replant the pines. Donovan had a bit of a go on one of the easier to access trails before we moved on to enter the glorious forests of Wooditjup National Park. There are more MTB trails running through the Karri forests here and it's just a beautiful spot to enjoy nature that is right outside of the centre of Margaret River. Riding parallel to Bramley Brook, this was one of the best sections of the trail with Peppermints, Karri and just a lush feel to it. The detour took us along some single track I was familiar with having hiked the Margaret River Heritage Trail but it was an interesting experience dodging riders coming the other way.