Monday, 15 June 2015

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Mundaring Weir to Ball Creek

A relatively leisurely sectional day walk on the Bibbulmun Track, this short return walk leads from Mundaring Weir through the area's historic precinct. Taking in views of Lake CY O'Connor before heading to the Perth Hills Discovery Centre and the Bibbulmun's second campsite at Ball Creek, a return walk is rewarded with a stop-in for lunch at the Mundaring Weir Hotel. An excellent beginner's walk. 

Distance: 13.6 km (return)
Gradient: Moderately easy ascent to Hills Discovery Centre 
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained, with much of the area around the weir on paved path
Quality of Signage: Well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information. 
Experience Required: This section could be walked with little to no Bushwalking Experience
Time: 3.5 Hours, including lunch at Mundaring Weir Hotel
Steps: Notable flight of steps leading from Mundaring Weir and some near the hotel. 
Best Time to Visit: Winter/Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The Weir is easily found along Mundaring Weir Rd. We used the car park just to the south of the Weir wall itself. This car park can be very popular, and is often full before midday in winter and spring. Those looking to do a shorter walk could park a second car at Perth Hills Discovery Centre to make for less of a return walk from Ball Creek. 

When dividing up the Darling Scarp Section of the Bibbulmun Track into Day Walks, the section from Mundaring Weir to Ball Creek ended up being the shortest of the lot. At 6.8 km, it almost didn't seem worth heading out for, so I ended up making it a 13.6 km return walk to at least give it a bit of challenge. This was still fairly easy, and gave us a chance to have a break from the car shuffle routine as it only required one car to complete. 

We parked our car at the car park just south of Mundaring Weir. From here, the track walks across the top of the weir wall, with views of the No. 1 Pump Station and the rest of the precinct immediately below. 

On the other side of the dam wall is a bust statue of C.Y. O'Connor, the engineer responsible for the Mundaring Weir. Western Australians learn about C.Y. O'Connor in primary school, and he is held up as something of a visionary, given he was the engineering genius behind the Weir, the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme and Fremantle Harbour. These needed public works projects were extraordinarily expensive, and public pressure from the press eventually got to him. O'Connor ultimately committed suicide before the completion of the Weir, and was eventually proven right when it became a massive success. 

From here, the track rises up a gentle but significant set of stairs, leading to a rose garden and some grassy areas filled with fairly tame kangaroos. 

The Track then crosses right in front of the Mundaring Weir Hotel. Although founded in the 1890s, the two storey structure dates from 1906, and remains a popular restaurant and entertainment precinct with locals.  

The hotel is well known for its concerts, with a large outdoor amphitheatre playing host to mainly older established Australian acts.  

Beyond the hotel the track follows the Golden Pipeline Trail - a driving trail that follows the pipeline from Mundaring Weir to Kalgoorlie.

The Bibbulmun then turns right and across the road into the scrappy Jarrah woodlands of Beelu National Park, an area that protects the catchment area of the Weir.  

The walk in this area is pleasant but not exactly spectacular, with the main highlight being views of Mundaring Weir and Lake C.Y. O'Connor behind it. 

The track leads to the Perth Hills Discovery Centre, an information centre and camping ground. Given its close proximity to Perth, the camp grounds surrounding the centre are very popular with families. While not the best camping spot in the Perth area (I would rather travel a bit further to Dwellingup), it is a good place to learn basic bush and camping skills. Walkers looking to do a shorter walk can also use the Centre as a place to park a second car, as it offers a shorter return walk from Ball Creek. 

The scrappy Jarrah woodlands continues beyond the Discovery Centre, leading to Ball Creek campsite along a easy gradient. 

The campsite is a fairly standard Bibbulmun Track hut, with a bit more cleared, open space around it than at Hewitt's Hill. As with many of the huts in the section, Ball Creek is fairly small, and also features a slightly unusual design with an angular front wall. From here, walkers doing this day walk can return back the same way they came. Having a leisurely day, Alissa and I decided to stop into the Weir Hotel for lunch. The hotel offers decent pub grub, with a Lamb Spit Roast every Sunday. 

After lunch, Alissa and I decided to return to our car via the alternate route to the bottom of the dam.  

This is area is well worth checking out as it features the No. 1 Pump Station, which operates as a Museum. This lower area used to also be a great place to watch the Weir when it overflowed. Alissa and I independently visited the Weir the last time it overflowed in 1996. We were lucky to see this as water from a full dam is now pumped into an emptier one, meaning it is highly unlikely we will ever see Mundaring Weir overflow ever again. 

All in all, this is a relatively short and easy day of walking on the Bibbulmun Track that would be even easier if utilising a car shuffle at Perth Hills Forest Discovery Centre. With the Mundaring Weir and its historic precinct playing a pivotal role in the day's walking, it is almost a pseudo-urban walk rather than a true bushwalk and the least wild section of the track. What forest is in this section is relatively boring. Still, it does serve as a good starter walk, and can be nice change of pace from more serious walking elsewhere in the Darling Scarp. 


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