Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Dell to South Ledge (Beelu National Park)


A decent and fairly easy loop walk in the Perth Hills, The Dell to South Ledge links two popular day use areas in Beelu National Park. Utilising sections of the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun Tracks, the trail features good views of creeks and the Helena Valley. Although a pleasant enough alternative to the first section of the Bibbulmun Track, a lack of outstanding features means this is ultimately far from an essential trail. 


Distance: 8 (loop)
Gradient: Mostly easy, level terrain with one or two ascents of moderate incline. 
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and well maintained, with some sections uneven and suffering from erosion damage. 
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, though missing markers at some key junctions. The Shire of Kalamunda's guide fills in the gaps and is essential. 
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 2 Hours
Steps: There are stairs leading up to South Ledge occasionally in a few other areas. 
Best Time to Visit: Late Winter/Early Spring, but okay from mid Autumn through to late Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Dell on Mundaring Weir Rd, 2 kilometres East of Asher Rd.



Although Perth's walking season starts in late April, it is not really until July through to September that the trails are at their absolute best. With spectacular waterfalls, pools and rapids, walks like Kitty's Gorge, the Echidna Trail, Piesse Gully Loop and Eagle View Walk Trail really come into their own after winter rains, and as such I prefer to save those walks for later in the year. Although featuring an ephemeral stream, the Dell to South Ledge Loop in Beelu National Park does not feature any falls or rapids, and as such seemed like a perfect option for walking in early May.

Having attended a wedding the night before, Alissa and I decided to head out in the late afternoon instead of our usual early morning start. The Dell is easily located along Mundaring Weir Rd, and features a large amount of parking. Given the vast network of cycle trails and its close proximity to the Munda Biddi, the Dell is very popular with cyclists - we must have been the only walkers out on the loop walk at that time of day. The trail starts near the toilets and passes behind it to the left. 





The Shire of Kalamunda have done a great job marking out this trail, and it is fairly easy to follow the directional markers. There are however a few unclear junctions where markers would be useful, and I would suggest using the track notes supplied on the shire's website. With these notes, the track should be no problem for anyone but the most directionally challenged to follow.



Shortly after leaving the Dell, the trail passes by the boundary of some farmland/very light residential. This section is fairly short, and features paddocks of cows that were sadly a fair distance away from us at the time we were walking.



From there, the track joins a section of the Munda Biddi. The mostly flat gradient in this section is clearly made for cyclists, and we appreciated the easy walking it provided.



The scenery is typical of the Darling Scarp, and is dominated by Jarrah woodlands and grass trees. Amongst the scrappier, thin Jarrah are a few taller and more mature specimens. Though the Jarrah forests closer to Perth are never quite the equal of those further south in Dwellingup (let alone the Karri or Tingle Forests), this was still very pleasant.



This section of trail runs alongside an ephemeral gully. Looking at old satellite photos, this watercourse is dry for most of the year, and only flows towards the end of Winter. As with most trails in Perth, August and September are truly the best times to be in the outdoors. This would be a very picturesque spot at that time of year.



Nevertheless, there is still always something to see and we were greeted by a family of Black Cockatoos as we continued on the trail. When comparing Beelu National Park to places like Stirling Range or Torndirrup National Parks, the lack of truly incredible natural features might make it National Park status seem questionable. When you take into account how the parks provide sanctuaries for endangered species like Black Cockatoos, Beelu's value becomes much clearer.



As with many trails in the Perth Hills, The Dell to South Ledge appears to have been constructed from the already existing criss-crossing trail network, and incorporates many very old trails such as a Bridle Path Loop. The signage is so old and weathered that it is literally falling apart.



The short descent down the Bridle Path Loop joins back onto the Munda Biddi. A while later, it then reaches a junction I have seen many times before. Marked by a sign for the Winjan Track (a long forgotten and obscure trail), this is point where the Bibbulmun Track and the Munda Biddi share a short section together. Walking from Kalamunda to Mundaring Weir, I've always been taken aback by the cycle traffic at this crossover point, and it was interesting to have taken the cycle path to this point instead of following the Bibbulmun for a change. 



The Dell to South Ledge loop follows the Bibbulmun from this point, and follows a section of old vehicle track also shared by the Kalamunda Circuit.



This is the first of two ascents, and while it is not overly steep, the erosion damage does make the track a little uneven. We've walked this before as part of the Bibbulmun, and it can become more challenging after heavy rains.



This is one of the best sections of this loop walk, as it takes in views of the Helena Valley and Mundaring Weir. There are many very mature examples of Wandoo along this section of track. With their white bark, I always find Wandoo much prettier trees than Jarrah, and they provide a nice change of pace from the grey-brown that dominates the Jarrah forest. Interestingly, Alissa and I were last here almost exactly a year ago, and the area looks decidedly lusher this year. This a great recovery from what was a terribly dry Summer, and bodes well for the Winter to come.





Having followed the old vehicle track from many kilometres, the trail ascends up a section of walk track. Still following the Bibbulmun, this is the longer of the two ascents although it is still fairly easy walking. The steps here are heavily eroded, and look like they will need repairs in the not so distant future.



The walk track leads to South Ledge, and it is at this point that the Dell to South Ledge loop leaves the Bibbulmun. The Bibbulmun continues on to Mundaring Weir via a lookout, while the loop walk turns right and heads back to the Dell.



Although initially following the South Ledge access road, the valley views here were some of the nicest during our walk. With the sun setting, the valley began to take on an orange glow and made for a final lovely scene before we took a right turn into less scenic Jarrah forest with old remnants of Pine Plantations. 



This was the dullest section of the walk, and also some of the least clearly marked. There were a few forks in the road with no clear trail markers, and required us to check the trail guide. At this point we ran into a number of cyclists returning back to the Dell. 



Overall the Dell to South Ledge was a decent enough walk that featured very good views of the Helena Valley and of the ephemeral streams along the Munda Biddi. Its relative easiness makes it easy to recommend to people of any level of experience, and its length offers enough of a distance to make it worthwhile without being too much of a challenge. That being said, I do think that walking Kalamunda to Mundaring Weir on the Bibbulmun Track is a far superior walk, as it contains most of the best parts of this walk within it as well as other excellent sections before and after. At twice the distance and one way, Kalamunda to Mundaring Weir would be a much harder walk than the Dell to South Ledge, however if I had a choice between the two, the Bibbulmun would definitely win out - as would the Mason & Bird/New Victoria Dam Loop we walked the weekend before for that matter. Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable walk that I would consider doing again after good winter rains. 

2 comments:

  1. Awesome!!! I want to do this walk on an early morning with my big lens in tow for some bird pics!!!!! ;)

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    Replies
    1. This would be a good spot for it given that it seems to be a haven for Black Cockatoos. I would also recommend The Spectacles in Kwinana - it is an excellent wetland lake and has a bird watching hut!

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