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Velo-City: Perth » Bush Trails of WA

Bush Trails of WA

Just like its population, WA’s rail trails are concentrated in the south west of the state, but they still offer a variety of landscapes for cyclists to enjoy.

The trails closest to Perth provide a glimpse into the heritage of the metropolitan area and remind users of the importance of the water pipeline and the railway network in the early development of the state. Paradoxically, we now have a limited and fairly inflexible regional railway system which makes it challenging for cyclo tourists to get about easily.

The Mundaring hub
Only a 40 minute drive from Perth, the township of Mundaring provides a focal point for several of the well known trails which are popular with day trippers. The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail retraces 59 kilometres of the old railway that linked the port of Fremantle with the wheatbelt town of York during the 1880s. It takes in historic railway stations; the iconic, 340m Swan View Tunnel, which provides a thrilling ride through almost total darkness at its centre; and the John Forrest National Park. For mountain bike enthusiasts, this trail also runs right by the Goat Farm, a purpose built MTB park with XC and DH runs.

The Railway Reserves trail forms a 41 kilometre loop with an 18km “tail” which connects the towns of Mount Helena and Wooroloo. The popular Trek the Trail walking and cycling community event is held on the Railway Reserves each September.

Mundaring is also the start (or finish) point of the Kep Track, a 75km multi-use trail, designed for cyclists, walkers and horse-riders, which shares the route with the Railway Reserve Trail between Mundaring and Wooroloo, before continuing east to the farming town of Northam. The Kep, which is mainly on rail reserve, is named for the Nyoongar word for water, and fittingly it connects with sites significant for their water, such as Mundaring Weir, Chidlow Wells, the Avon River and the iconic Kalgoorlie-Perth water pipeline, which it follows and crosses at various points. As the Kep runs through a number of villages such as Chidlow and Bakers Hill, it is possible to make a multi-day journey of it or do it comfortably in one day. Some hard-core trail enthusiasts complete the Kep as an out and back route in a single day, but then there’s the danger of not having time to stop and smell the flowers, literally. This would be a pity, because there are some highlights on the track which shouldn’t be missed, such as the Bakers Hill Pie Shop, a more or less compulsory halfway stopping point.

Heading south
For those who want to head south, rather than east, the Munda Biddi Trail also starts in Mundaring, sharing territory with both the Kep Track and the Railway Reserve Trail in places around the township. The Munda Biddi is the longest cycling trail in the state, meandering almost 500kms through scenic river valleys and the magnificent eucalypt forests of the State’s South West between Mundaring and Nannup.

The Munda Biddi uses a network of bush tracks, firebreaks and disused railway formations and for those who are looking for more than just a day ride, it provides purpose-built campsites with roomy huts, situated a comfortable day’s ride apart. It has also incorporated a number of existing, shorter trails to form loops that provide interesting detours along the way or may be more convenient than point to point trips for day-tourers.
The Munda Biddi Foundation hosts a number of events each year, and its Executive Officer, Crystal Reed, said that these were an effective way of getting people started in trail riding.
“The Munda Biddi Trail ranges from wide, flat rail trails to challenging single track, so we provide events and activities that are suitable for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. This gives them the experience to take on more challenges if they want. For example, we run women’s only skills and maintenance sessions, events for younger riders, trips for over 55s, and “super-charged” routes for experienced mountainbikers.
“Each May we hold a free introductory Munda Biddi ride, which includes free bike hire, as part of the Perth Autumn Festival.
“We also recognise that the social component is an important factor, so we have pampering rides (with a massage and chilled champagne waiting at the end); star gazing night rides; cider tasting and birdwatching rides.
“We can help people with bike and equipment hire, so that they can get a taste of the Trail without having to make a big outlay,” said Crystal. “Often people will try one of the events out of curiosity and then come back wanting to explore the Trail in more detail.”

The second part of the Munda Biddi, which will join Nannup with the southern coastal town of Albany, is expected to be completed towards the end of 2012, with progressive openings in towns along the way, and at almost 1000kms of continuous tracks it will be the longest off-road cycling trail of its kind in the world.
To celebrate the opening of the final section into Albany, the Munda Biddi Foundation is planning to hold a fully supported “Munda Biddi Epic” ride in 2012.
The Munda Biddi Foundation appointed a Community Development Officer in 2010 to foster business opportunities and Crystal said the “Epic” would highlight the potential of cyclo tourism in the towns along the Trail.
“We’re still collecting and analysing the data, but there’s no doubt that the Trail brings benefits to the local communities,” she said. “Cyclists tend to be bigger spenders than motorists, because they are more dependent on their local environment than car travellers, who might just whiz through several towns without stopping.
“Cyclo tourists often spend about $150 per day and they average about three and a half days per trip, so with the current annual numbers of about 21000 riders on the track they are pumping well over $11 million into these communities,” said Crystal.
Louise Stokes, Community Development Officer with the Shire of Nannup, said the opening of the Nannup section of the Trail has resulted in a huge growth in cyclotourism to the town.
“We’ve seen the numbers and the diversity of cyclists increase. We get a lot of small groups of just three or four riders, quite a lot of larger groups of eight to ten, as well as more individual riders,” she said.
“One of the other noticeable changes has been the increase in the number of female cyclists coming through.
“The Munda Biddi has provided us with a great opportunity to develop Nannup as a cycle-friendly town and people are embracing the idea. We have had community projects, for example creating imaginative bike racks that are works of art, as well as more mundane, but equally important ventures such as installing water fountains, ablution blocks and outdoor showers at the point where the Trail comes to town,” said Louise.
Other cycle friendly initiatives in Nannup include proposed bike hire and bike touring companies; provision of basic bike necessities such as tubes and parts in the hardware store; encouraging the general store to stock a range of dehydrated foods for campers; holding regular pasta nights and providing a Laundromat for travellers.
Joining the dots
The Kep and the Munda Biddi projects provided connectivity between a number of shorter, but disjointed, rail trails and this formula is being repeated in other areas as well. Another interesting rail trail project planned for WA is a joint venture between the National Trust and the Shires of Busselton and August-Margaret River which would provide more than 100kms of track along some of the oldest rail formations in the state from Busselton Jetty, south along the coast to Flinders Bay Jetty in Augusta. This project would connect a number of smaller existing rail trails and would pass through farmland, national park, karri forests and vineyards, taking in wine and surf locations such as Cowaramup and Margaret River.
National Trust Interpretation Manager Anne Brake said the project should be up and running within five years, and if it is it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for extended cycle tours of WA’s south west.

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