Duration: 15 minutes one way
EAST GIPPSLAND IS A SPECIAL place on many levels. Unfortunately for you I am going to talk about the level of biogeography. This heavily forested, and sadly heavily logged, region is where many kinds of animals and plants common on Australia’s eastern seaboard exist at their southernmost extremity. What that means is you get a bunch of pretty exotic stuff living side by side with your usual Victorian wildlife.
Take the Cabbage Tree Palm, for example. This particularly gangly palm tree will be fairly familiar to many people. You see them in gardens all over Australia. But there is something quite thrilling about seeing it grow wild among an otherwise ‘ordinary’ Victorian bush landscape of tree ferns and gums.
On the way home from a camping trip to Sydenham Inlet on the eastern edge of Cape Conran Coastal Park, I needed to take the dog for a walk. It’s six hours to Melbourne and Pipit is a one-year-old whippet. This was the first of three scheduled stops. Don’t believe anyone who tells you whippets are couch potatoes.
Turning off the Princes Highway, I drove for 10 minutes down a dusty dirt road as spots of rain fell from a leaden sky. The weather was particularly sultry on this New Year’s Eve as I turned into Cabbage Tree Creek Flora and Fauna Reserve.
The walk started at a verdant picnic area. I had already squished 27 mosquitoes by this point, so gorgeous as it is, I would not recommend lunch here.
The walk is a very short dirt trail through mostly open woodland. You could walk it briskly in 10 minutes one way, so go slowly and appreciate the atmosphere. I did – and even with my dog on a lead I spotted a lyrebird scratching around in the undergrowth and my first Rufous Fantail posing on a branch.
Back to the point of the trip and the main stand of Cabbage Tree Palms came into view halfway into the walk as the woodland opened out onto a clearing. There aren’t many, but they are an impressive sight, not so much dominating the edge of the clearing as sharing it with some beautiful gum trees.
Cabbage Tree Palms (Livistona australis) spend their first 12 years as shrubs before developing into the more famous palm tree habit of a tall thin trunk topped with a mass of fronds. These younger palms were also lurking in the undergrowth around the picnic area waiting to shoot up in due course.
Past the palms and we went back into denser woodland and a shallow creek. Here we saw the lyrebird and Rufous Fantail. A little further and we came across a pile of decaying vegetation. Pipit took great interest in it. I quickly saw the object of her attention was a water skink. After that, the trail emerged back onto the access road. You can either take this route back to your car or retrace your steps. We chose the latter; this is a fantastic hidden gem of a walk definitely worth doing twice.