A couple of weekends ago we revisited the Old Timberline Trail in the St John Brook Conservation Park near Nannup in Western Australia's south west. As we walked we were enveloped by eucalyptus perfume.
Walking along the Old Timberline Trail it is hard to imagine its past. The echoes of axes and saws, the thud of falling trees, the shouts of work men, and the rumbling of the timber trains over the lines have all gone. Now only birdsong or the rustling of a kangaroo in the bushes breaks the silence. Wildflowers brighten the undergrowth beneath the jarrah trees, and the flash of blue and red of a tiny wren lands and then is gone in an instant.
First settled by Europeans in 1857, Nannup’s history revolves around the timber industry and the opening of the railway line in 1909.
The Timberline Trail is a moderately easy 20 kilometre walk and cycle trail between Nannup and Cambray Siding, following part of an extensive network of disused forestry railway lines which once transported timber hauled by wood fired steam driven locomotives from bush camps to Barrabup Timber Mill and then to Busselton Jetty for export during the early 20th Century.
The Trail, which can be broken into sections making it ideal for day or overnight walks, is marked by white triangular signs displaying an axe. Interpretive signage along the way gives walkers a historical insight into the timber industry and the life of the timber cutters. The majority of the railway sleepers have been removed but a few can still be seen along the Trail.
The first 10 kilometre section starts at the old railway bridge in Nannup, crossing the Blackwood River near the caravan park and winding its way to the Workman’s Pool campsite. From here it is 1.2 kilometres to Barrabup Pool where there are camp sites higher up away from the water. Then 4 kilometres to Sleeper Hewer’s camp where there is a timber overnight hut. From there it is 4.8 kilometres to Cambray Siding.
The St John Brook Conservation Park helps to preserve the riverine ecosystem and biodiversity of sheoak, bull banksia, jarrah and marri trees, swamp peppermint and wonnich scrub which supports around 38 bird species, eleven mammals and many other creatures. You will notice the changes in vegetation as you walk along the trail. Although spring is the best time for wildflowers, there is always something flowering in the Australian bush. In June look for Banded Greenhood Orchids growing in an old stumps by the track.
Below you can see pineapple bush, dryandra, coral fungi, banded greenhood orchid, eucalyptus, and banksia
Between Workman’s Pool and Barrabup Pool, the Trail follows the ridge line above the Brook and then down through stands of wattle trees.
A picnic area and platform overlooks tranquil Barrabup Pool. This pool was once for the exclusive use of the Mill Manager’s family, while the workers used Workman’s Pool. It is now a popular swimming, recreation and picnic area. There is a path suitable for wheelchairs and prams, and also toilet facilities.
From Barrabup Pool a bridge crosses St John’s Brook and climbs up through jarrah and banksia trees to join the old railway track on the ridge line above the Brook. It is a shady easy walk. Not far along the track deviates towards the Brook before looping back to the Potato Patch where vegetables were once grown and transported to the Barrabup Mill Store by horse and cart.
|The Potato Patch|
After walking through an area of dryandra and a section dominated by tall pineapple bushes, the track deviates to the right off the main trail and goes steeply down to the Brook leading you to a disused timber railway bridge spanning the gully. The bridge was constructed by manual labour over 80 years ago. The huge beams were hewn from trees at the site and the bridge built following rough plans that were revised as the bridge progressed. Please be aware of caution signs and do not venture out onto the bridge.
|disused timber railway bridge|
As the railways expanded, so did the demand for railway sleepers. Prior to World War 1 there were around 800 sleeper cutters working in the bush along the railway line between Nannup and Busselton. A sleeper cutter would be away from home a week at a time, living on basic food supplies and sleeping in canvas tents or simple wooden shelters in the bush.
|Sleeper Hewer's Hut|
From the hut it is as easy walk to Cambray Siding. Whilst little remains at Cambray Siding, you can see where the “navvy gangs” who travelled the railway lines repairing the tracks once lived.
You can also see evidence of how the timber fellers worked, felling 30 metres high and two metres wide trees by axe and saw whilst standing on a plank inserted above the base of the tree. This required strength, skill and fearlessness, making the timber fellers the glamour men of the industry.
|Tree stump showing cuts where planks were inserted|
From here it is only a couple of minutes to the parking area and the intersection with the old Nannup to Wonnerup railway line and the Sidings Rail Trail. Part of the Munda Biddi bike trail from Perth to Albany, this dual use cycle and walking trail runs from Jarrahwood to Nannup.
It is approximately 15 kilometres from here back to Nannup along the Sidings Trail, or you could arrange transport to pick you up at Cambray for your return to Nannup.
|disused railway near old Cambray siding|
St John’s Brook is thought to have been a travel route for the Aboriginal Noongar people. It is believed that Nannup means ‘a place to stop and rest’. You can certainly still do that today in Nannup. Nestled on the banks of the Blackwood River surrounded by forests and rolling farmland, Nannup is a quiet place to take time out.
|Nannup on a quiet Sunday afternoon|
Whilst in Nannup, be on the look out for the famed Nannup Tiger – the Thylacine – the largest known carnivorous marsupial, it is now officially extinct, although stories still abound of its existence in the forests around Nannup. Perhaps you may see one along the Timberline Trail.
Where is it: Nannup is located approximately 60 kilometres south-east of Busselton on the Vasse Highway.
The “Old Timberline Trail” is a 20 kilometre walk and cycle trail which commences from the old railway bridge at the end of Brockman Street near the Nannup Visitor Centre, travels through St John’s Conservation Park and ends at Cambray Siding.
Nights can be very cold so bring warm clothing and bedding.
For more information click on the links below -
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed this walk down the old Timberline Trail. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week.
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