Wongamine Nature Reserve
Start - Bejoording Road, Near Toodyay
Length - 6.1km (Loop)
Rating - Black
Terrain - Vehicle Track, Off Track Wandoo Woodlands
Vertical Climb - 102m
Time - 2-4 Hours
Cost - WalkGPS Membership Required
Signed - No, map and GPS waypoints required (see WalkGPS website)
Date Hiked - 5th June 2021
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Balardung People
Directions - Located 80 minutes north east of Perth, from Roe Highway take Toodyay Road east and follow it all the way to Toodyay. Turn off at Goomalling-Toodyay Road just before the town centre and follow this for 16km until you reach Bejoording Road. Turn left and keep going for 1km until you see the car park on the left. The walk starts from the CALM gate.
The Hike - One of the highlights of my hiking season in 2020 was heading out to the small pockets of remnant woodlands east of Perth and walking the routes set out by Dave from WalkGPS. Tiny dots on the map among a vast sea of land clearing, these isolated islands are home to a richness of biodiversity that defies the relatively small area they occupy. Having done the "hiking degustation" of Clackline, Bobakine and Mokine, I was excited to have a free morning to check out another of the shorter routes at Wongamine Nature Reserve near Toodyay.
Wongamine promised more of the same kind of enjoyment with Wandoo woodlands and seasonal creek systems to explore so on a crisp winter morning I headed out to investigate. With a lunch scheduled in for just after midday, I left before dawn to get out past Toodyay and back again with time to spare. The 6km loop that Dave has mapped out (WalkGPS subscription required to download maps and access the route information) doesn't sound like a lot but this is mostly off track and requires good navigation skills. Add in taking a lot of photos and it's not unusual for me to average less than 2kmph for these walks so I gave myself a good time buffer. The drive was a pleasant affair, although passing the recent Wooroloo bushfire zone wasn't a nice sight as there are a few good hikes in there that will take quite a long time to recover. As I approached Toodyay I was blanketed in some serious fog that I was hoping extended out towards Wongamine because it always adds an extra element to the photos.
Stopping a couple of times on the side of the road leading out to Wongamine, I witnessed a pretty cool sunrise through the misty conditions. I eventually reached the car park on the edge of the reserve and the sight of the old CALM sign on the gate put a smile on my face. For those that aren't familiar, CALM is what DBCA are today but about three name changes ago so this is a very old sign. The reason I love it is because they seem to have forgotten these small pockets of land in their management plans so they are rarely burnt and because of that, are a good representation of what the entire area used to look like before it became one big sheep paddock (one of the reasons I stopped eating meat was to due to this issue). It also reminded me of the Clackline walk as there is a similar sign there and I have fond memories of that experience. As I arrived at the car park my cars temperature gauge was reading 1C so this would be a jumper and beanie walk until it started to warm up.
Loading the walk up on my phone, the first section is along old vehicle tracks so I could ease into proceedings and get a feel for this place. Immediately I was introduced to the reserve by the local bird life with some Pink and Grey Galahs making a racket, joined by some Corellas squawking about in the nearby Wandoo. With the misty conditions, it felt like another world and I got the feeling I was in for something special as I made my way along the vehicle track. One of the first things I noticed were the termite mounds scattered around the place and once again thought to myself "this is prime echidna territory". Given my luck over the years and the time of day, I was unlikely to come across a spiky monotreme but one can dream. Walking in a westerly direction, it was nice to not have to shoot into the sun but I couldn't help but turn around every now and then to get the golden rays of light poking through the canopy of the Wandoo and Salmon Gums. With my eyes scanning the undergrowth for any little details that stood out, I would end up finding quite an array of different flora.
Reaching the edge of a creek system that the vehicle track runs parallel to, there was an abundance of life along here with Wattle, a Snakebush and even a tiny little Bunny Orchid. I was happy to see one on my hike the previous week at Bungendore Park and as one of the early bloomers in the Perth winter, they mark the start of the cold and enjoyable part of the hiking season. Speaking of orchids, one of my missions for this hike was to see if I could spot the Winter Spider Orchid as a friend had been out here recently and had found a large grouping of them. I had not got the coordinates off her so would be relying on my own spotting abilities to find them. Given Dave has a few different routes this walk could take, I was hopeful but wouldn't be too annoyed if I didn't see any. The early finds along this first stretch were keeping a smile on my dial as I came across a thicket of She-Oaks that had a lot of different growths off it, along with the various forms of the female flower. While the end result of the female flower is the hard, knobbly cone, the early stage is a prettier red flower that pops up from the branches.
As I made my way up the hill and towards the end of the vehicle track, the mist was still hanging around and creating a stunning scene behind me. I've had to cull about half of the photos I edited up for this walk (still have seven galleries worth) but a lot of the early shots were rays of sunshine breaking through the mist. Reaching the end of the vehicle track, you turn right onto another track and follow this briefly before beginning the off track walking that will take you all the way to the end of the loop. It was fairly obvious where Dave wanted to take the walk with a bit of a hill extending up in front of you so I found the path of least resistance and continued on. As a general rule, Dave doesn't take the route in areas you have to bush bash so there is usually a way to avoid pushing your way through dense bush if you search around. The end goal of this section is to reach the lateritic breakaway at the top of the hill, a geological feature that pops up on these walk frequently for good reason. Along with being a high point of an area, the walking is made easier by having a rocky formation to follow plus they are kind of pretty.
This one was pretty large and I enjoyed spotting a lot of different mini caves in the rock that I'm sure is home to a few locals when the weather gets bad. Not wanting to disturb any of these areas with my presence, I took some photos from a distance and went about climbing up the rocks and onto the platform overlooking the surrounding landscape. With a chilly Makuru morning lingering, the fog had blanketed the surrounding farmland as far as my elf eyes could see. In the distance were what looked like islands with a couple of small hills poking out from the calm, white sea and it was possible to imagine that there hasn't been a massive amount of land clearing around here. Taking many photos and breathing in the whimsical views, I explore the top of the breakaway for a little longer as the route takes you along the crescent shaped arc that it has formed. There are a number of interesting Wandoo trees along here with all kinds of gnarly shapes and colours. They are one of my favourite trees in WA and are quite photogenic when the light is out.
Leaving the rocky route of the lateritic breakaway, you head downhill towards a creek system that given its height compared to the rest of the reserve, would rarely have water flowing through it. The sparse nature of the undergrowth makes the walking easy and with no water flowing, I could walk right up the middle of the creek before heading uphill on a vehicle track. This area contained a large number of red wildflowers that I believe are in the calothamnus family and provided a splash of colour. As I headed up the short hill to the highest point of the walk, I switched over to facing the eastern side of the park and the warmth of the sun. Having made good time so far, I decided to take a break in the sunshine so sat myself down on the vehicle track and had a drink while I bathed in the sunshine. I love stopping in one place and just refocussing my gaze to my immediate surroundings as you end up discovering a lot more details. While this area was a bit sparse given the vehicle track, I enjoyed looking down the hill towards one of the optional route diversions Dave describes and also off into the undergrowth where a few Balgas were located.
While I was resting, a couple of Galahs came over and started creating a bit of noise, perhaps not happy I was walking through their home. These noisy birds certainly are curious and because of that, are often quite easy to photograph as they tend to stick around longer than others. Over the course of the morning I managed to get a lot of Galah photos but have limited my inclusion in these galleries to a select few. Having warmed up a bit and enjoyed a short break, it was time to move on and venture off track again. Pointing myself in the right direction, it would be more traversing through open Wandoo woodlands and with the sun now out in full force, it was looking very pretty. Making my way downhill, it was a case of not being distracted by the fantastic scenery and staying on course. The next waypoint was the edge of a steep creek system that I was looking forward to exploring when I was reading through the trip notes. These Wandoo creeks provide some fantastic photo opportunities as you usually find some of the bigger examples here and from a lower perspective they look even more impressive. Reaching the edge of a sharp drop-off, there is an animal track leading along the edge that is a natural path to follow and provides some nice views overlooking the creek below.
This area is where I really started to slow down but it wasn't to do with difficult terrain or technical navigation, I was just in awe of what was around me. Once I was down in the dry creek bed, the next kilometre or so would just be spent following the natural path of the creek as it wound through the path of least resistance. It was absolutely stunning down here with the high northern flanks of the valley covered in thick Wandoo trees and the deep crevice providing a cosy feeling to the walking. Being a natural gathering point for the water, there is more flora here thanks to the life giving properties that that water source provides. I spotted a single flowering of Hovea and a couple of varieties of Hakea, including one that I believe will be a Pincushion variety when it flowers but I was a little too early for that. One disadvantage of walking along the creek bed was the number of spider webs that form over this insect rich part of the landscape. Constantly walking with one hand out to cut a path through the webs, the one thing making it easier was that I was walking east and they were mostly illuminated. Reaching one of my favourite spots on the walk, there were some thick boi examples of Wandoo, including one towering over the creek as it clung to the edge of the banks.
As I continued along downstream, I found a couple of places where natural pools had formed but none of them held significant amounts of water. The bedrock was starting to show more and more, with some quartz providing some nice colours to the dark browns and greys of the creek bed. I lost track of time through here as I was absorbed in my surroundings so was a little surprised when I looked at my watch and discovered I would have to get a hurry on. Continuing along the creek, there are a few points where various tributaries converge into the main channel, providing a new view or wider track to negotiate. Nearing the turning point of Dave's route, it became obvious why he turned when I caught sight of a large pool of water that I assume the nearby farmer had created with a small dam. Wanting to get back into nature and not stare at the farm that borders the nature reserve, I climbed out of the creek and headed back towards the general direction of the start. This brought about more pleasant Wandoo woodlands and a much drier feel than the protected creek I had just been walking through.