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Pssst ... I know a secret. I know the location of the best natural display of wildflowers in the Perth metropolitan area. It's Ellis Brook Valley Reserve, and if you come at the right time of year you will be amazed by the brilliant colour and array of wildflowers. If you have enough time after flower gazing there is also the photogenic Old Barrington Quarry and great views over the Swan Coastal Plain from the top of Sixty Foot Falls.
Ellis Brook Valley Reserve, which is part of the Banyowla Regional Park, is a Perth walking gem. If you come at the right time of year (later winter and spring and rain-dependent) you will be amazed by probably the best natural display of wildflowers in the Perth metropolitan area (see the photographs below for just a small selection of the display). If you are interested in the wildflowers of Western Australia, I recommend a Guide to the Wildflowers of Western Australia by Simon Nevill, a great identification book for the wildflower novice.
Apart from wildflowers, Ellis Brook Valley Reserve is also well known for the dramatic cliffs and emerald green waters of Old Barrington Quarry. The panoramic views from the top of Sixty Foot Falls are also a highlight.
Ellis Brook Valley caters for all abilities, with the wheelchair accessible Easy Walk Trail (symbolised by a red echidna) and the slightly more difficult Blue Wren Ramble Trail and Eagle View Trail (symbolised by a blue wren and green eagle respectively). For the more adventurous types, there is also the Sixty Foot Falls Trail (symbolised by an orange goanna) which obviously takes you to the top of Sixty Foot Falls but also passes by the cliffs of the Old Barrington Quarry. For more information on the individual trails please visit Gosnells.wa.gov.au which provides maps in .pdf format.
The route I suggest is provided in the map above. It includes almost all the trails (a little bit of Easy Walk Trail is missed) but also additional sections and a walk along Rushton Road to make the route a loop which starts and finishes at the entrance to Ellis Brook Valley Reserve.
So, let's start at the entrance on Rushton Road and walk in a clockwise direction (which leaves the Eagle View Trail, probably my favourite section, for last).
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Walking through the first carpark and the Honeyeater Hollow picnic area we soon reach the western end of the Blue Wren Ramble, which snakes its way along a mostly hidden Ellis Brook. A common flower species around here is Mouse Ears (Calothamnus rupestris) ...
and also Myrtle.
To the north of the track are Ellis Brook and the high hills of the valley.
The trail crosses Rushton Road and into thick bushland.
Flowers are plentiful and spectacular.
The Blue Wren Ramble diverts from Ellis Brook and into the hills. Providing views over the area.
Back on Rushton Road, it is past the Valley Head Carpark and onto the Sixty Foot Falls Walk Trail.
Time to head uphill. On the way up the views get better and better.
But don't forget to look down as you never know what you will find.
Upon reaching the top you will find brilliant views down the valley, over the Swan Coastal Plain and to the Perth CBD.
For those a little more adventurous, cross the water, pass through the bushes and do a bit of rock scrambling to reach the very top of the falls. Be very careful along here as it is a long way down ... Sixty Feet is my guess.
The top of Sixty Foot Falls is a good spot for rest before you embark towards the Old Barrington Quarry.
On the way to Old Barrington Quarry, there are views over the valley, plenty of wildflowers and numerous species birdlife.
As you walk down you will notice a large chain-link and barbed wire fence. You are getting close to the quarry. The cliffs of Old Barrington Quarry are rather treacherous so the installation of the fence is for your safety, but sometimes you need to take a risk and cross the threshold.
The hole in the fence is the location of many an Instagram and Facebook photo and is synonymous with the Old Barrington Quarry. I am a bit of a wuss so I can never get that close to the edge. This is as close as I will get.
Much safer views of the Old Barrington Quarry can be sort by continuing downhill and taking a right (north-east) onto a gravel road which leads to the quarry floor.
Head back out of the quarry and continue along the Sixty Foot Falls Trail. To your left (south) is another smaller abandoned quarry.
Definitely not as exciting as the Old Barrington Quarry, but this spot was exciting for me as it was the first time I spotted a Splendid Blue Fairy Wren in full plumage.
I have spotted a few of these guys around Ellis Brook Valley Reserve (funnily enough never on the Blue Wren Ramble) but it is almost impossible to get a good photograph as they are so quick and jumpy. Keep your eyes peeled.
Back on the trail, there is a cleared section (probably part of the old quarry) which provides views over the valley and to Sixty Foot Falls in the distance.
Heading future down to Ellis Brook you will soon find yourself back at the Valley Head Carpark. From here you can return via the Blue Wren Ramble or as shown on the map above, just walk along Rushton Road. It isn't the most inspiring walk but there are still views along the way.
Heading west, about 1km along Rushton Road you will come across a dirt track that leads to the Eagle View Trail. Personally, this is my favourite section. It isn't very long at all but you could spend ages here. Why? Flowers, flowers, flowers. Specifically Feather Flowers and Starflowers, en masse. Just take a look!
The photographs really do not do the place justice. Obviously, the flower spectacular isn't like this all the time. If you want to time it right, just search recent posts on social media to see if the flowers are in bloom. I have visited the area from early September to late October and found the Eagle View Trail in full bloom.
After returning from the Eagle View Trail take a left (south) on an unmarked track which will leads to the Easy Walk Trail. Don't let the fact that it is unmarked fool you. It was along this section that I found these.
My first ever Cowslip Orchid (rare, but not that rare, but then again, I have only ever seen one other) and a Common Fringe Lilly (rather common, but not Feather Flower common, they are often hiding in the shade).
After a short walk, you will find yourself on the Easy Walk Trail. There are two options on this trail and the map above details the longest of the two.
The Easy Walk Trail is so named as it is flat as a tack and the path is well maintained. Not the most exciting walk, but a few gems do exist.
At the end of the Easy Walk Trail you will find yourself at Rushton Road and back at the start of the loop. It is from here you can head home or utilise the toilet facilities (composting toilet) and the picnic areas at Honeyeater Hollow.
I hope you enjoy the walk.
Personally, Ellis Brook Valley is a favourite of mine. I felt like a kid walking around here for the first time. Not sure what it was about this place ... Wildflowers I have never seen before? Pushing my way through tunnels of Mouse Ears bushes to find a babbling brook surrounded by colour? Hunting down my first ever sighting of a Splendid Blue Fairy Wren? Or crawling through a hole in a fence to tip-toe my way to the edge of an abandoned quarry? Whatever it was, I had a blast and will forever be memorable.
Gosnells.wa.gov.au: The Gosnells local government website which details the walk and provides a .pdf format map.
WayTooMuchCoffee.com: Great photographs of the trails around Ellis Brook Valley Reserve (also details plenty of other activities to do around Perth).
TheLifeOfPy.com: Really good hiking website detailing walks around Perth and Western Australia's South-East.
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