The mist was still hanging low and damp over the paddocks as we drove out of town. Glorious rain had fallen the day before ensuring our walk in Fern Tree Gully would be bright and fresh.
Tie on your walking shoes, we are headed out for a short stroll through the Australian bush.
The Fern Tree Gully Environmental Reserve is a small patch of nature that adjoins larger areas of native bush and private property, almost connecting with Wollemi National Park. This Crown Land was gazetted as a reserve in 1994 to protect the special plant communities that exist in its sheltered nooks and crannies.
The Reserve is managed by a group of passionate of volunteers who over the years, have secured grant funding to carry out maintenance as well as install signage, boardwalks and a very atmospheric composting toilet.
Turning off the Bylong Valley Way at the blink-and-you-miss-it signpost, you bump over a narrow sandy track heading deep into the bush for a good 2.3km. I don’t blame you if you start to question whether you are actually going in the right direction. I certainly did! Drive slowly and observe the colourful eucalypt trunks as they peel and shed their barks revealing rich cream and bright orange hues.
Here are the Nuts and Bolts of this little walk:
- Distance: The Fern Tree Gully loop is around 2.5km in length.
- Rating: I would give it a ‘moderate’ rating. It is not hard, but there are a few short, steep sections and some stairs.
- Terrain: The first section of the walk is fairly level as you follow dirt paths through open woodland, you then descend (or ascend depending on the clockwise/anticlockwise direction you take) 100 steps to arrive at the bottom of the gully. There is some clambering over rocks and logs.
- Path: The paths are all dirt and loosely made (i.e. no edging) except for a short boardwalk right at the bottom of the Gully. Be careful on the boardwalk as it can be quite slippery after rain.
- What Else There is to See & Do: There is another short walk you can undertake close by – the Sydney Peppermint Walk – which is 2.8km in length. I didn’t have time to complete this path and will save it for a return visit.
- Who is this walk for:
- Fitness: You need a basic level of fitness and stability to enjoy this walk. It is not hard. Just take your time on the steeper and slipperier sections.
- Birdwatchers: If you are a ‘twitcher’ you will be in Heaven. If you move quietly through the bush you may be rewarded with glimpses of lyrebirds, rare powerful owls, scrub turkeys, glossy black cockatoos and endless parrots and small birds. I walked with the Mudgee Bushwalking Club and 25 pairs of feet and well-exercised vocal chords were not really conducive to spotting rare wildlife! J We did manage to spot the rear end of a lyre bird rapidly disappearing into the scrub and we did enjoy being serenaded with an orchestra of bird calls, whistles and chirps.
- Botanists: Will be in a similar kind of Heaven. Gorgeous rock orchids, delicate ferns, statuesque tree ferns, sculptural figs strangling and clinging to everything in their path and giant elkhorns are all tucked away at the bottom of the Gully. And you would never know it was there unless you descend the stairs. Note: this area was affected by the devastating bushfires of 2019/20 and it is slowly recovering its former glory.
- Mobile Phone Coverage: Telephone reception is patchy to non-existent.
- Water: Take your water bottle with you. There is a small water tank at the picnic/parking area, but the quality of the water cannot be guaranteed.
- Sun Protection: Wear a hat and sunscreen. Even though there is some shade on the path, the Australian sun is unforgiving.
- Snakes: This area would be prime snake country in summertime. Be conscious of your surrounds and be careful where you step.
- Bushfires: Avoid cigarettes or any naked flame. You are driving and walking through remote patches of Australian bush with no real escape routes, so take care.
- Toilets: A mudbrick composting toilet is available for your seated pleasure at the picnic/car parking area. BYO toilet paper, just in case
- Fern Tree Gully is a gem. It is packed full of little surprises. The contrast between the open eucalypt bush above the Gully and the moist, mossy lushness at its depths, is both stark and amazing. It feels like you have stepped into a completely different world and microclimate.
- It was sad to see many of the stately eucalypts toppled over as a result of the fire and, at the same time, inspiring to see the new growth shooting off the sides of ‘dead’ trunks and new seedlings determinedly poking through the earth. It just confirms the power of Nature.
- This is a walk for all the senses. The rough texture of the tree trunks scream out to be touched, the sounds of the birdlife hidden in the canopy, and the smell of the eucalypts releasing their oils. A delight!
Life is good in the Aussie bush.
What short walks would you recommend?
What: Fern Tree Gully is not a National Park as such, it is a reserve, so the amount of infrastructure may not be of the same quantity and quality that you find in larger parks. To me this gives it a more natural feel and anyway, the classy mud brick toilet more than makes up for the lack of graded roads.
Where: Fern Tree Gully is located approximately 17 km North of the village of Rylstone in central West NSW.
When: I recommend that you start this walk early in the morning when it is quiet and fresh, and there is an increased chance of seeing native birds and other animals such as wallabies and possums. If you can visit during the week rather than on weekends you may have the whole place to yourself.
Why: Why not? It is a beautiful, short walk with something for everyone. Children will especially love this walk as there is so much packed into a short distance.
How: You will need a car to access Fern Tree Gully reserve. There is no public transport. While the road is a little bumpy it is accessible to all types of cars except perhaps, the lowest slung sports car.
Who: Everyone except those with accessibility/mobility difficulties.
Related Posts: For another gem in this part of the World, DON’T miss a paddle at Dunn’s Swamp. It sounds ordinary, but it is Paradise! Click here.
Related Blogs: If you don’t believe me about the joys of Fern Tree Gully, see what Edward has to say (and enjoy his photos) at Hiking Scenery.
Read About It: Need some more Aussie short walk inspiration? If Yes, then get 60 doses of inspiration from a copy of Lonely Planet’s Best Day Walks in Australia. Available from Book Depository.
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