Wireless Hill Park
Start - Wireless Hill Car Park
Length - 1.8km (Twin Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Pathway
Dog Friendly - Yes, On Lead
Vertical Climb - 25m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes, Follow the Round Markers
Date Hiked - 29th August 2020
Best Time - Late Winter to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
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.
What is enjoyable along this walk is the interpretive signing telling you little snippets from the indigenous history of the area. I'm always fascinated by what areas were like before colonial settlement and it's easy to see as you walk around what a paradise this place would have been, even in the reduced state it's in now. As we meandered along the path, we kept an eye out for wildflowers, orchids and birds. A large collection of Donkey Orchids could be found on the edge of the path and the great numbers reminded me of walking between Pelican Point and Nullaki on the Bibbulmun Track. The birds in this area were enjoying the late afternoon sun and I was lucky enough to capture a Red Wattlebird feeding in a nearby Parrot Bush. Turning in a northerly direction now, we started noticing more Banksia's but given their flowering season is summer to autumn, only the remnants of their bright flowers were left. Soon we were facing some lovely views of the Swan River and in the distance were the skyscrapers of the Perth CBD.
This provides a reminder that you are in the middle of a city and also gives a nice background object for some zoomed in photos. Looking down to Tompkins Park and the river was a nice treat and with a golden glow thanks to the afternoon light, it had a serene look to it. While admiring some of the taller trees in the area, I noticed that the almost full moon was looking very splendid against the soft, blue sky. While it only appears as a tiny dot in most wide angle pictures, I had some fun zooming in and seeing how much detail I could retain (quite a lot as it turned out). Unfortunately there are signs here telling you about the affect dieback has had on Wireless Hill and it was obvious looking at the sad looking undergrowth in places that it had taken hold. It's a great reminder to be vigilant with your shoe cleaning and to carry a spray bottle of diluted metholyated spirits with you in the car (60/40 mix should do it). Rounding one of the final corners of Yagan's Genunny, we caught a glimpse of the main buildings and the walk was over. This is the main picnic area and is home to the museum and a cool lookout so if you have the time it's a cool place to hangout. Walk over, we loaded the puppas into the car and headed home for a well earned meal of fish and chips.
Final Thoughts - Looking for a great spot to admire the wildflowers and orchids in winter and spring but don't want to travel a long way (for southern suburbs peeps at least)? Look no further than Wireless Hill.
Perth is home to a few of these remnant pieces of bushland and they are crucial in supporting the flora and fauna of the Swan Coastal Plain.
While it's sad that rampant development continues unabated in the Perth Metro Area, it is comforting to know places like this are protected, even if it's just a tiny pocket.
A big thanks has to go out to the Friends of Wireless Hill group that do a wonderful job looking after the bushland here. If you want to join one of their Sunday Bushcare days then click here for more information.
If you're a keen photographer, wildflower admirer or just looking for a new place to walk the dog then Wireless Hill has a lot to offer.
Get out there and experience it!
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