Wireless Hill Park
Directions - Located off Canning Hwy in Ardross, take Riseley St south and follow this to the lights for Almondbury Rd. Turn right and take this all the way into the reserve. Parking is located at various points around the one way loop.
The Walk - Wildflower season in Western Australia is something special and getting to see a good variety doesn't mean you have to travel a great distance into the Perth Hills. While urban expansion and infill means Perth is getting much larger and slightly more dense, little remnant patches of bushland in the inner suburbs can be great for getting a taste of the bush while still being close to home. Wireless Hill is one of those places and is often highlighted as a great place to see some of the rarer orchids that can be hard to find on other trails around Perth. Having lived pretty close to Wireless Hill for all of my life and spent many spring and summer days playing cricket a stone's throw away at Tompkins Park, I haven't actually visited the park since I was a very young kid.
Given it's right on my doorstep and perfect for a relaxing stroll, I think a little bit of trail snobbery crept in to me until recently. It was actually Caris that suggested we visit and so on a perfect late winter's afternoon following an enjoyable catch-up with friends, we loaded up the puppas and headed up to Wireless Hill. Originally this area was home to the Beeliar people that lived along the rivers of the Swan Coastal Plain with the most well written about figure being Yagan who lived here in the early 19th century. In the early 20th century it became the first radio telecommunication site in WA with a giant radio tower constructed in 1912. Able to communicate with ships offshore, it was a vital part of Australia's communication efforts in WWI and WWII. The two marked loop trails are longer than I expected given the size of the reserve and combined they give you a 1.8km twin loop. Parking at one of the designated car parks, we unloaded the dogs and figured out a plan of action for the afternoon. Wanting to get in the wildflowers and orchids in good light, I figured that the Wildflower Walk would be the best place to start and then we would move onto Yagan's Genunny to finish with.
The Wildflower Walk is a little paved loop that runs parallel with the entry road before heading back through the bush. Don't let that fool you though as there is an amazing variety to be found here on either side of the path. Straight away you can't help but notice the abundance of Kangaroo Paws making a colourful splash and it didn't take long before we spotted our first orchid in the form of a Donkey Orchid. The undergrowth is wisely protected from trampling by fencing but there is no worry about not being able to see anything because a lot of the wildflowers can easily be admired from the comfort of the pavement. Little information plaques are dotted along the trail to tell you the names of the various species and as always with these info boards, they rarely line up to the exact location of what is shown. Some of the early finds included a Blue Squill, a Catspaw, Parrot Bush, a couple of Pink Fairy Orchids, the well named Granny's Bonnet, a prickly Acacia, Milkweed, a Rattle Beak Orchid and some Cowslip Orchids.
The Rattle Beak Orchid was a really cool find sitting in front of a Zamia Palm and as we continued along the path that lies furthest away from the road I was excited to see what else was here. Unfortunately the dogs weren't as keen to stop every few metres and poor Caris was in charge of them both while I indulged myself in photographing everything I could see. Bad news for the dogs in the end but good news for me as the quality through this spot was a little bit special. We met a nice lady who was also out with her camera searching for the rarer orchids and we swapped notes on what we had found so far. She let us know about the Spider and Dancing Orchids we would find further along and I reciprocated by telling her about the Rattle Beak, Cowslips and Fairy Orchids. With eyes scouring the undergrowth for any changes in colour I spotted a Running Postman, some Drosera and was lucky enough to get a decent shot of a bird having a rest on a Kangaroo Paw. Eventually though we spotted a glimmer of purple dancing on the wind and on closer inspection it turned out to be a Carousel Spider Orchid. Beautifully delicate, these wispy orchids are magnificent to behold in person and a little tricky to spot in the shadows of the late afternoon.
Making things a little harder was the wind that wasn't super strong but powerful enough to send the orchids swaying with just the slightest of breezes. With lower levels of light I had to crank the ISO to get a faster shutter speed and in the end I managed a couple of semi-decent shots. We moved on to find the Dancing Orchids that the lady had mentioned and right near the end of the Wildflower Walk I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. Hiding away on a turn in the path were about half a dozen of these smaller varieties that look amazing when you stop to really admire them. Very pleased with our wildflower and orchid spotting efforts, we finished the Wildflower Walk and headed off on Yagan's Genunny that starts at the same place. Heading off in a westerly direction, it didn't take long for the difference in trails to become apparent. While not a bad looking walk, the increase in weeds and overall appearance made it look like far less effort has gone into the restoration of this area of the park. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable as there are still mature trees and Kangaroo Paws everywhere but compared to the Wildflower Walk where you think you'll spot a new wildflower every few metres, this was a little different.