Karagullen to Eagle Rock

Trip Leader: Glenn Bignell

When:  25th September 2011

Location: Karagullen WA 6111 to Eagle Rock


There are two manner of 4WD trips to enjoy… the “slog the car and the driver” type and the gentle “cruise and enjoy the bush” type….. Karagullen to Eagle Rock was a well researched,  interesting and informative, easy drive through the hills back of Perth. 

We gathered 9am at the Gull Service Station, cnr Brookton Hwy and Canning Rd., and set off taking an unexpected route back towards Roleystone where Glen revealed to us an open culvert called the Canning Contour Channel. It was a Depression Era public works scheme to carry potable water, entirely gravity fed, from just below Canning Dam through the hills following the natural contours around and above Roleystone and Kelmscott to a screening, fluoridation  and pumping station near Gosnells…then to the city’s pipeline distribution system. 
Unbelievably this open concrete culvert was part of the drinking water supply to Perth from 1949 until 1975.

Driving on from the walk to the Contour Channel we were shown the still functioning Roleystone Theatre and local General shop both dating from early 1900’s,  a section of old road that is still cobbled along one side, through to Pickering Brook and the old sawmill that at one time had a contract to supply sleepers to an Indian Railway.   On to a site of an old Forestry settlement at Carinyah, converted during war years to a Defense Forces training ground. 

‘Somewhere’ along the way we gathered on a very lifeless rock and stopped for morning tea while  little Emma celebrated her 2nd birthday in the best way… in the bush.   Nearby was a strong smell of lemon in the air. This may have been a Darwinia citrodora but those searching could not find the plant. Climbing over the shrubbery were coral vine, white ‘Old Mans Beard” and twisting up to bare stems and twigs were the interesting insect catching Drosera (Climbing Sundew). 

We continued along the Carinyah Bike Trail onto Ashenden Rd. and to the old Barton Mill site.
This surprising large open clearing, green and grassy, once  housed a community of  about 200… families and single men, tennis courts,  public hall and a railway line.

During 1939, when the distance to stands of millable timber made the operation uneconomic, the Mill closed  but was transformed into a Prison in April 1942 when the Fremantle Prison was occupied by the military authorities.   Thirteen prisoners escaped the very first night.!

In 1975 the Barton’s Mill Prison closed reopening in 1977 for “suitable” prisoners of minimum security risk,  and remained open right up until 1989.   The area now is a network of rock foundation walls, poorly defined roads, and an old dam. The site is very popular with motor bike riders, one of which decided to accelerate through the middle of our convoy doing a wheel stand, then took a very elegant tumble.. rolled the bike, rolled himself  and thankfully hopped up none the worse for wear.

Glenn’s masterstroke of organization was to invite for the day Ms Penny Hussey who spoke at our August meeting.  While Glen was boosting our local history knowledge,  Penny kept us aware of both  native and introduced flora, in the areas through which we traveled.
Since this area of Barton’s Mill is no longer inhabited nor the gardens managed, Penny pointed out the many introduced plants that have become feral… bridal creeper, arum lily, Watsonia, freesias and other bulbs and grasses from Africa which may gradually replace other native vegetation unless an effective weed eradication program can be undertaken.

On then to Eagle Rock a granite outcrop SE of Roleystone for our caffeine shots and food… and a walk up the rock.  Glenn’s initial plan was for Eagle Rock to be a way point along the route but because we were all so interested and spent so long on the rock it became the destination.  It helped immensely to have someone with us who actually knew what she was looking at , and was able to impart this knowledge so engagingly.  

Granite rock such as this provides a growth habitat for lichen, moss, herbs and low shrubs giving shelter to small birds and mammals. The mossy mats act as water sponges to hold the soil on the rock for plants to grow.   Some plants were so tiny and had flowers so small that to see them sharp eyes and some “belly botany” was almost needed.   Fortunately none of us needed to resort to lying in the mud or the soggy moss to see some of these plants.   Penny changed the concept of granite in our thoughts from “just a rock” to a ‘living changing organism’.

Wheel tracks in the mud on one section of the granite were present showing severely damaged moss mats in which tiny orchids were just beginning to push through. The effect now will be the scouring of the disturbed soil leaving the rock bare and unable to sustain that  original growth.
Also apparently, rocks are a natural store for carbon. Perhaps a promotion Respect the Carbon Storing Rock with a symbol of a 4WD and a slash through it might be a public education tool that may help make a difference.

3pm and looming rain clouds persuaded us to return to the vehicles and head home.
Our illustrious leader thanked us all for coming and proceeded to give us directions home with a with a “follow this track here, then take the gravel road,   take a left ,  and a turn right… and there is your highway… and your point was?… Glenn???
A unanimous  “We’ll follow you”   !!

A great trip… now we just need the next bush drive to proceed from Eagle Rock to see the remainder of the route Glenn had planned?

Trip Notes by
Stella Weldon and Judith Brinkley

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