We set off for the 32 km combined sections 2 and 3 early, looking to a finish by 1:00pm (before it got really hot – the forecast maximum was 37 degrees!).
Stage 2 starts at the Federal Highway at Watson and the mainly urban setting for the previous walks it was good to be heading back in the bush setting. The path was well-marked with the centenary trail sign posts as we headed for the northern border camp site.
The early morning sun made for some lovely scenes looking back towards Mitchell and then Harrison in the foreground, and Black Mountain in the distance. Whilst the Majura Parkway is under construction there is a need to cross Horse Park Drive but that is the last time throughout the next 30km that you cross any roads.
As we entered the fenced Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve we noticed more wildlife and more fallen trees.
The TAMS website explains this:
Another obvious feature of the Sanctuary is 2000 tonnes of large dead logs distributed in patterns that are similar to fallen trees. Plants, animals and the immediate environment adjacent to the logs are being studied.
In relation to the fence, it is one way of removing the threats posed by feral predators and herbivores. Researchers are studying the effects of removing foxes and cats on native animals as well as investigating the effects of reintroducing locally extinct native species on the woodland ecosystem.
As we rolled up to the entry point at the Mulligans Flat reserve, the heavy duty gate and fence made it clear we were entering a serious conservation area. Once we began to see the native plants and wildlife – even two echidnas! – we could see for ourselves the difference that keeping out feral animals and other predators can make.
The Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary is part of the vision to restore the rich variety and abundance of woodland habitats and native wildlife that were present here before European settlement.
A very significant feature of the Sanctuary is the absence of feral predators and herbivores. As research informs our understanding of woodland ecosystems, reintroduction programs are planned for animals known to have occurred in the Canberra region, especially ‘keystone’ species that have a disproportionately large restorative effect on their environment.
The first release of a species that has recently disappeared from Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve was the Brown Treecreeper in 2010
About the Mulligans Flat fence:
The Sanctuary fence encloses approximately 450 hectares of Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and has a perimeter of 11.5 km. The fence design is largely based on the cat, fox and rabbit-proof fence surrounding the Arid Recovery Reserve near Roxby Downs, South Australia (Moseby and Read, 2005) with specific design adaptations to cater for the grassy-woodland habitat developed by ACT Parks and Conservation Service, local experience in ACT reserves, and consultation with fencing contractors.
Nineteen gates are located on the main management tracks along the entire length of the fence to facilitate public access in the Sanctuary and to allow for routine and emergency vehicle access. Each gate has a self-closing mechanism designed to maintain the integrity of the barrier to predators, and remote sensing of the gates alerts ranger staff to any malfunction to gate closures.
The fence is 1.8m high, with 7 plain wires supporting rabbit-proof mesh (30 mm), two electric wires, a 60cm ‘floppy overhang’, and with trenched/buried netting for a width of 45cm on either side of the centre of the fence.
Just outside of Gungahlin we arrived at the Mulligans Woolshed – a fantastic old shed which was re-located and now provides some great information on local wildlife and farming history. It was a perfect spot for a quick rest, a bit of fruit and a comfort stop before heading off for the northern campsite.
The Mulligans Woolshed that is now used as the Sanctuary Centre, was once located in the nearby ‘Forest View’ property on Old Gundaroo Road (now the central heritage walkway through Forde). Constructed around 1930 from local timber, it is likely that the roof was replaced at a later date. In June 2010, the woolshed was transported in one piece to its current site.
Before this, another woolshed and yards existed here but they were destroyed by fire during the 1996-97 summer. In the open area around the woolshed the large trees are mainly mature Yellow Box Eucalyptus melliodora with their characteristic shaggy brown bark on the trunk and lower limbs.
Coming out of the Mulligans Flat reserve we enjoyed a kilometre or so on the beautiful path alongside Forde. It’s no surprise that so many people have wanted to move to the area and enjoy the beautiful stunning surrounds.
Climbing the hills out of Gungahlin towards the NSW border, the degree of difficulty stepped up a notch. Combined with the rising temperature, the terrain was a test for legs which were really starting to feel the workout.
The downhill slope to the new Northern Border campsite was a satisfying way to arrive at our main stop and meal break. A new facility built for the Centenary Trail, the campsite is a tranquil spot and the amenities make it a great option for dedicated hikers who don’t mind bedding down in a swag for the night. While there is tank water, there’s no drinking water so make sure you bring plenty.
Once we were well into section 3 we realised we needed to be pretty business-like about getting to the end. Still a good 10 kilometres to go and little relief from the hot sun made this section of the track feel like a true test. While we had to complete a couple of steep climbs, the views while walking along the side of One Tree Hill – back south towards Canberra – were amazing.
The trail corridor is annexed from the adjacent private property by two fence lines. Along the trail there are two cattle crossings to let the land owner move stock between paddocks.
Having descended back into Hall Village the fatigue was replaced by the sweet feeling of success – and a cool drink of water.
37 degrees combined with a 33km walk made this the toughest stage of my Centenary Trail walking so far taking just under 6 hrs to complete. If you don’t want to walk stages 2 and 3 together you can do variations such as camping at the Northern Border campsite overnight or cut t short the stage 2 walk at Forde (around 10 kms) and then walk from Forde to Hall (approx 20 kms) to cover the rest of stage 2 and all of stage 3. Even though it was a tough walk it was amazing to see Canberra from high up on the northern border – something you couldn’t do because the properties are private rural leases. Resuming a corridor through the area was a real achievement. I think this is my favourite stages so far.
When I started this walk I wanted to do one stage per month – I’m on track so far having completed Stages 1-4 including the Mt Majura, Mt Ainslie and Black Mt climbs since I started in November 2013.
Completing every stage makes me keener to walk the next and I am looking forward to Stage 5 Black Mountain – Stromlo Forest Park (22.4km) in February.
Based on my approximate calculations we are 72.2km down with approx 75km and three stages to go. Nearly half way!