Saturday, 27 July 2019

Harewood Forest Walk (Harewood Forest Conservation Area)

A short 1.2 kilometre return walk in Harewood Forest Conservation Area, the Harewood Forest Walk explores a stretch of forest along the Scotsdale Brook. Starting on Scotsdale Rd, the trail crosses a bridge and follows a well formed track along the brook through beautiful Karri forest with views of the brook along the way. An easy but mildly undulating trail, this is a good low challenge family-friendly option for tourists in the area

Distance: 1.2 km (return)
Gradient: Relatively gentle throughout, with some mild undulations through the forest
Quality of Path: A mix of purpose built walk trail and some boardwalk
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed, with clear trailhead and information panels throughout
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: <1 Hour
Steps: Several steps near the bridge
Best Time to Visit: All year
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts along Scotsdale Rd. From Denmark, head along Horsley Rd to the roundabout and turn right to head east on Scotsdale Rd. Continue on Scotsdale for 9.2 kilometres. Car park and trailhead are on the right

Back home in Western Australia after our Sydney trip and completing the Cathedral Range Northern Circuit in Victoria, Alissa and I realised we had a brief window of opportunity to head south and visit Alissa's parents in Denmark. The walking goal for the weekend had been to tackle the ridge walk from Mt Magog to Talyuberlup Peak in the Stirling Range on the Sunday (which ultimately was a failure), however we decided to make use of a relatively free Saturday to complete the Harewood Forest Walk Trail. This is a trail Alissa and I have driven past many many times as we are members of the Harewood Estate Wine Club, however its short length always made it a bit of an inconsequential curiosity. After some fairly epic walks (the Rodriguez Pass in the Blue Mountains and the Cathedral Range Northern Circuit), the 1.2 kilometre trail was just the ticket for a lazy Saturday stroll. 

From the small car park on Scotsdale Rd, the trail crosses a newly constructed bridge across Scotsdale Brook, which presumably replaced a more characterful wooden foot bridge that would have been there previously. 

Once on the other side of the brook, there is a fork in the trail. The main trail continues to the left, while a shorter side trail leads to a picnic table. While the area is quite nice, this is not a super exciting spot that to me is too close to the road to be of real interest - especially since there is another option a mere 600 metres away that is more secluded.

After checking out the picnic table, Alissa and I continued along the walk. Being a short, family-friendly trail, the walk features a number of panels that provide information about the history of the area. Additionally, some older plaques attached to wooden pedestals identify the names of species growing in the Harewood Forest. 

While a short walk, the trail is of a very good quality, being entirely single file walking track. In spite of its very close proximity to the major wineries of Scotsdale Rd, the area has all the peaceful and majestic qualities of the Karri forest that makes it one of my favourite forest types for hiking in Australia.

While the trail is largely linear in nature, there are a number of ad hoc side trails that have formed that lead down to the brook itself. These are worthwhile short side trips as they provide a closer look at Scotsdale Brook than is possible from the main trail.

The area along Scotsdale Rd was heavily logged during the late 19th century, so it is amazing that there are some tall Karris that can be found along the brook. While we have enjoyed the massive height of the Karri forest on many hikes in Western Australia, there is nothing like heading somewhere else in Australia (like our recent trip over east) and being reminded just how impressive these tall trees can be. 

The cloudy conditions on the day were perfect to capture a shot straight up at the trees towering overhead. 

Further along the trail, a boardwalk provides a dry boot experience through an area that would undoubtedly be muddy after winter rains. 

Towards the end of the trail, the forest appears less tall and impressive as it did in its earlier stretches. This area had been cleared of all its useful timber at by the early 20th century and is a younger regrowth forest. 

The walk ends at a second picnic table. While the forest is younger in this part of the walk, the quieter nature of the area makes it a better place for a picnic after a short walk. 

Past the picnic area, the trail actually continues onwards to Scotsdale Brook, and I get the impression that this used to be a longer walk that Parks and Wildlife have now made shorter and easier to maintain by placing a sign near the table that indicates that it is the end of the trail. One possibility for its previous form was a loop walk back to the car park along the road, however it is now considered a Walking Risk due to the winding nature of the road and the high number of tourists driving through the area. 

While I agree that walking back along the road is not worth it both due to the risk and the boring nature of the walking, it is worth continuing a short distance down the trail to check out a lovely, tranquil spot along Scotsdale Brook as it makes its way past a series of boulders along the creek bed. 

After appreciating the views of the brook, Alissa and I retraced our steps back to the car as we enjoyed the same Karri forest scenery in the opposite direction. All up, the walk took about 30 minutes to walk in its entirety, including the extension to the brook at the end and stopping to read some of the signs. The suggested 90 minute return time for someone taking a leisurely pace would be comically slow. Somewhat hilariously, this was listed as a moderate walk while John Chapman referred to the significantly more challenging Grose Valley walk we completed just two weeks prior as the similar sounding difficulty of 'medium'!

In spite of its extremely meagre length, the Harewood Forest Walk was at least a very enjoyable easy stroll, filled with some nice Karri forest on offer. While it will hardly be remembered by Alissa and I as one of Western Australia's most epic or spectacular hikes, the trail serves its purpose of providing tourists with a short and easy walk with which to engage with the Karri forest. Given the longer trails we'd just completed, the Harewood Forest Walk was exactly the kind of low challenge trail we were looking for on this day, and is a perfect accompaniment to some wine and cheese at one of the nearby wineries or Ducketts Mill. 


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