Sunday, 30 April 2017

Stathams Quarry (Gooseberry Hill National Park)


A short walk in Gooseberry Hill National Park, the Stathams Quarry Walk loops past Stathams Quarry - a popular rock climbing venue in the Perth Hills. Taking in most of the best features of Gooseberry Hill, the trail also passes the famous Zig Zag, the remains of the quarry's site office and lovely Wandoo woodlands. Unfortunately let down by poor signage, the Shire of Kalamunda's KML file is essential



Distance: 5.9 km (loop)
Gradient: Relatively gentle, with some moderate inclines
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and well maintained - a mix of single file walk trail, and sealed and unsealed vehicle tracks
Quality of Signage: Extremely poor - no clear trailhead and poor marker placement.The Shire of Kalamunda's route description, map and/or KML file are essential. 
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 2 Hours
Steps: Some informal steps over rocks
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access is via Lascelles Parade, which is a continuation of Williams St from Kalamunda. The trail starting point is 1.2 kilometres north of the intersection of Williams St and Gooseberry Hill Rd. 



Although the walking season for Western Australia generally kicks of in mid-Autumn, much of the bushwalking in Perth is still several months away from reaching its best. While the Southern Forests and the coastal walks along the Indian and Southern Oceans provide excellent walking early in the season, it is the flowing rivers and streams of a wet winter that really bring many of Perth's best trails to life. As such, I generally try to do walks that don't have a strong focus on flowing rivers and waterfalls early in the season, such as The Dell to South Ledge near Mundaring Weir, the Mason & Bird/New Victoria Dam Loop and the Ghost House Walk Trail in Yanchep National Park. With this in mind, Alissa and I decided to check out the Stathams Quarry walk - a trail we had on our 'to do' list for a few years but had been put off by the trail's notoriety for being poorly marked.


The trail starts at a gravel car park on Lascelles Parade, and features no trailhead identifying this as the start of a walk trail. A Shire of Kalamunda trail marker sign does at least indicate that this is part of a trail, with the first bit of the walk running alongside Lascelles Parade itself. This narrow, winding road does not have much of a shoulder for pedestrian use, and Alissa and I walked along the bitumen with some trepidation given the fact that cars were regularly careening their way around the bends. Walking along a dual lane unsealed road is not my favourite at the best of times, but walking on bitumen is even further from the ideal.


Eventually, some stretches of this roadside section of the track did feature cleared sections that were wide enough for Alissa and I to get off the road.


Although this stretch was not great walking, the views of the city from Lascelles Parade was nevertheless an impressive feature of this early stage of the walk.


About 800 metres into the walk, the trail passes a sealed car park at a major lookout. I find it bizarre that the the Shire of Kalamunda would choose to start the trail at the less obvious car park down the street when the better amenities of this lookout would make it the perfect spot to start the trail. Surely the more developed facilities of the lookout would make it the perfect place to put a trailhead, and might actually encourage more people to get out and use this trail!


400 metres from the sealed car park, the trail finally turns off the road and heads into the bushland, bringing with it a notable improvement to the walking experience.


Although the trail had been vague from the very beginning, the section along the road was at least very easy to follow. Once entering the bushland, Alissa and I were greeted by a network of crisscrossing trails, and had to regularly refer to the downloaded KML file of the walk provided by the Shire of Kalamunda. Due to the poor signage and the proliferation of alternate routes, I would suggest the KML file (or the route description and map) to be an essential requirement when undertaking this trail.


Although Stathams Quarry is the main feature of the walk, the trail also passes a smaller quarry on the way. Not long after passing the smaller quarry, walkers will reach a low chain link fence and a gate. The trail actually turns right and travels alongside the fence, however it is worth taking a slight detour through the gate to see Stathams Quarry from the top.


Approaching the edge of the quarry, large granite boulders have been put in place to prevent motor vehicles from accidentally driving over the edge.


The cliffs of the old quarry have since been converted to a popular and well set up outdoor rock climbing venue, with bolted sport routes being the dominant style of climbing on offer.


Although not exactly busy, there were still quite a number of climbers out on the day we visited.


An unfortunate aspect of Statham Quarry's close proximity to the city is the amount of graffiti on the rocks in the area, as well as discarded beer cans and bottles. Although I don't mind the more artistic style of the example pictured above, a nearby rock featured an unsightly tag of 'The Boyz' in giant spray paint. It's not as bad as the senseless and idiotic graffiti all over the Old Barrington Quarry along the Sixty Foot Falls Walk Trail, but its nevertheless a blight on the landscape.


Back on the official trail, Alissa and I followed the track as it began its descent to the bottom of the quarry.


This descent offered some good views to the north over the Helena Valley. The major pylons through the valley are the same ones seen in Kalamunda National Park along the Bibbulmun Track and Piesse Gully Loop.


Along the descent, an old concrete bunker can be seen. It would be interesting to know what this was used for back in the day, as it seems far removed from the main buildings visible further along the trail.


At the end of the descent, the trail leads to the lower level of Stathams Quarry, with a picnic table, toilets and other visitor facilities on offer.



From the quarry, the trail follows the entry road further downhill before swinging sharply left. Although the trail is fairly obvious, the turn is very poorly marked and is another example of why the KML file is worth downloading.


A highlight of this section of the track is the ruins of what I'm guessing would have been the quarry's site office. Heavily graffitied and reclaimed by nature, these buildings are the kind of place I would have loved to explore in my younger days when I was really into urban exploration - a hobby that came to an unceremonious end after being caught entering South Fremantle Power Station in my early 20s, and being let off by the police with a warning to never do it again.


The well constructed trail continues along the valley slope, passing through some pleasant native bushland.


The walk trail ends as it reaches the famous Zig Zag. Once part of the Upper Darling Range Railway Line, the Zig Zag has since been converted to a scenic drive - and a popular spot to watch the sun setting over the Swan Coastal Plain.


The Stathams Quarry Trail does not follow the Zig Zag for long, and instead continues south. Again, the signage in the area is woeful; I actually took the left side of the fork pictured above before Alissa alerted me to the fact that the right was the correct way to go.


The trail skirts by the back fences of several Gooseberry Hill houses, and it is easy to feel a bit envious of the stellar views these lucky people have.


With the outline of Lascelles Rd visible to the east of the track, it becomes fairly obvious that the track will have to rise again to return to the car. What is less obvious is the route to take to get there - it is particularly crucial to keep an eye out for what few signs there are and to check your location against the KML file!


Rising up the hill, the views across the national park are quite lovely, with granite outcrops and a  forest of Jarrah, Wandoo and Grass Trees providing an idyllic bush setting.


The home stretch ascent is particularly beautiful, with the trail rising up through a lovely stand of Wandoo - one of my favourite trees of the Darling Scarp. The landscape was made all the more brilliant thanks to the golden light of the setting Sun.


Initially rising up a moderately steep ascent, the track levels out to a more gentle gradient as it leads to the unsealed car park. All up, the walk took Alissa and I a very leisurely two hours - including the time spent exploring around Stathams Quarry.


This was a bit of a weird trail. Although signage along Shire of Kalamunda trails can be an issue, I feel like I can easily do trails like the Piesse Gully Loop and the Mason and Bird/New Victoria Dam Loop without having to refer to notes now that I've done them. I'm not sure I would say the same about this walk. No trailhead and infrequent markers that are poorly placed when they are placed at all makes this walk extremely reliant on the KML file, which probably renders this an uninviting trail for many more casual users. This is a real shame - although the scenery on offer is not exactly the Numbat Track or Kitty's Gorge, this was a surprisingly enjoyable shorter walk in the Perth Hills. Hopefully someone at the Shire of Kalamunda will get around to redoing the trail markers for this walk, however considering Mark from the Life of Py had a similar appraisal of the trail's lack of signage two years ago, I'm not holding my breath. 

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