First on ground effort – Billy Brown Falls
On Sunday, November 6th a successful working bee was held at Billy Browns Falls walking track near Judbury in the Huon Valley. It was the first on-ground effort of the Wildcare Friends of Billy Browns Falls, a group with a mission to promote and improve the visitor experience of this beautiful short walk and surrounding forests.
Under the guidance of Parks and Wildlife rangers Ben and Shane, the volunteers’ first task was the installation of a sign on Judds Creek Road welcoming visitors to the Russell Ridge Conservation Area. This area forms a conservation corridor along a high altitude ridge between Wellington Park near Hobart and the South-west World Heritage Area. Previously managed by Forestry Tasmania, Billy Browns Falls is now within this protected area and its management has passed to the Parks and Wildlife Service.
12 km from Judbury, Billy Browns Falls are a hidden treasure of the Huon Valley, gushing down a steep-sided hidden valley accessible only to walkers. They are named after William Charles Brown, an early 20th century pioneer of the Judbury district who purchased 200 acres of Crown Land on the upper reaches of Judds Creek and with his wife Maud, produced cream and butter which was carted down to the Mosquito Point Jetty at Ranelagh and loaded onto steamers for sale in Hobart.
Even then the waterfalls were popular with locals for picnics, but the only way to access them was by scrambling up steep, slippery rocks, difficult enough in dry weather but dangerous and nearly impossible after rain. In 1993, local retired sawmiller Ron Woolley, together with his brother Peter and friend Bob Richardson, found a suitable route and cut a track into the Falls from the old Judds Creek Trail. Today’s visitors still follow that same route.
At the Wildcare working bee everyone pitched in to dig holes, assemble, erect and concrete the sign as well as documenting details for the asset register. Then it was on to the walking track where the project was to carry in and install a bench seat at the track’s highest point, a place where walkers can rest and absorb the peace of the forest after their climb. While only a short walk the track is steep and slippery in places. The first part of the walk ascends to a ridge before dropping steeply down to the valley floor, passing through a range of different forest types including some spectacular old-growth trees that have survived both wildfire and logging threats over the years. It takes less than an hour for someone of moderate fitness to reach the falls.
Volunteers and rangers on the day had to carry the wooden bench and steel legs, two bags of concrete, a full water container, crowbar and shovel, tools, and a chainsaw up the steep track to the top of the ridge. When they finally reached the spot the team swung into action digging holes and concreting the bench into position. Rangers Ben and Shane also cleared debris and fallen logs from the track.
Track design expert Martin Hawes also attended and helped out on the day, giving the benefit of his extensive experience. Martin has recently been engaged as a consultant to Environment Tasmania’s Community Forests Walks project and, on a recent field trip to view some results of that project, he made the acquaintance of Friends of Billy Browns Falls members who invited him to their working bee. Martin advised that the track would probably always be challenging in places due to the steepness and slipperiness when wet, but that should not be a deterrent to most people as long as they are made aware of the conditions.
After the bench was installed and quick-set concrete dried the group enjoyed a picnic lunch, then a few continued on to the falls, clearing more debris and windfall along the way. Three other walking parties were met along the track during the day, showing that the walk is valued by the community which is good news for the hard-working volunteers.
Future plans include a carpark for walkers, vehicle barrier at the start of the walk, drainage improvements in some muddy sections and the development of a picnic area at a picturesque waterhole near the carpark.