South-west Western Australia has a long association with the timber industry. Before the European invasion this corner of Australia was covered in a huge ancient forest of Karri, Marri, and Jarrah trees. Timber was being cut here 130 years ago and exported all over the world. As is usual with the timber industry, the cutting was rapacious and pretty much all of it was cut down.
We’ve done a walk through Boranup Karri Forest near here, but it’s only re-growth forest (although, at 130 years old, the trees have made it to a good size); so we decided to head out to find some real old-growth forest.
When we were in Tasmania we saw some huge old swamp gums, (Eucalyptus regnans) so we were also looking to see some big trees, to see how they compare.
First stop on this long drive was Nannup for some morning tea. Nannup is a cute little town on the Blackwood River (the same river that Augusta, our house-sit hometown, is on, at the estuary).
Initially, Nannup was established as a grazing town, but became a timber production town.
Timber is a popular building material here, and the Nannup Bridge over the river is an all-timber bridge, with plenty of space underneath for the floods from the winter rains:
There’s also a cute, tiny little wooden church:
The Nannup Hotel, however, is an impressive brick structure:
The Four Aces
Our first big trees were the Four Aces, four old-growth Karri trees, growing evenly-spaced along a straight line, as though they were planted here for decoration:
We did a short bushwalk through the South-east Nannup State Forest from here. The forest is full of tall, straight karri trees:
While we were walking we went past another timber bridge, on the Donnelly River:
I noticed that this one even has a timber traffic deck under the bitumen. Timber bridge building uses unsawn and undressed timber – it’s really quite a craft! Both this bridge and the Nannup Bridge were well maintained and in excellent condition.
Our next tree was an old-growth jarrah tree near Manjimup, called the King Jarrah:
This one had a last minute reprieve from the axe: the day before it was to be cut down, in 1910, it was decided to preserve it for posterity.
Fire Lookout Trees
Fighting fires is an important part of forestry, and back in the 1940s fire lookout towers were needed. Rather than build expensive structures, suitable trees were used. There are still two of these trees left, and they are maintained for their historic value. One of these trees is the Gloucester Tree, near Pemberton, and this one is the Diamond Tree, near Manjimup:
If you look up into the crown you can see the lookout; it’s 52 metres above the ground. What you can’t see in this picture is how you get up to the lookout.
In 1988, as part of the celebrations for the bicentennial of the arrival of the first fleet that brought colonisers from England, another tree was set up as a fire lookout; this is the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree:
You can clearly see the lookout on the top; half way up the tree you can see a platform for resting during the climb.
To get up to the platform and the lookout there are pieces of re-enforcing bar driven into the tree’s trunk to use as the rungs of a ladder. The rungs spiral around the trunk like this:
These rung go all the way up to the three-level tree-top lookout, 65 metres above the ground:
This climb is open to the public, as it is on the two historic lookout trees. This is the information sign for the Diamond tree:
I climbed up about fifteen metres, but it was dusk, and I didn’t want to be coming down from too much higher than that as it was getting dark, so I came back down. (That’s my story, anyway!)
National park entry fees
If you’re planning to visit the Southern Forests and the lookout trees, you should know that some Western Australian national parks have an entry fee.
The Gloucester Tree and the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree are in fee-entry national parks, whereas the Diamond tree is not, so you can see it, and climb it, for free. The entry fee is only $13 per car for entry to all the parks (and therefore for both the Gloucester Tree and the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree) for one day, but if you don’t have much time, that may not be worthwhile to you, and you should concentrate on the Diamond Tree.
We saw some great trees on this journey and walked through some lovely forest. However, my verdict is that, while these Western Australian trees are impressive, the old-growth swamp gums of Tasmania are bigger, and a bit more impressive!
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