Better Fagus Viewing
Written by Adrian Blackman
Secretary Friends of Mount Field
This project involved completing the Lake Fenton Fagus Walk thereby providing easy access for fagus viewing. Fagus, Nothofagus gunnii, is also known as Deciduous Beech. It is a small tree endemic to Tasmania’s high country and is Australia’s only cold climate winter-deciduous tree. Beginning in autumn the normally bright green leaves change colour to yellow and then to rusty red and gold before falling. This “turning of the fagus” is a local phenomenon that draws crowds of sightseers. Mount Field National Park is the best location to view fagus in southern Tasmania. Within the park the Tarn Shelf region usually has an outstanding display but to get there involves several kilometres of bushwalking. Fagus also occurs in the park in the vicinity of Lake Fenton. Some fagus trees may be seen from the road but the best location is a few hundred metres away along the Lake Fenton walking track. The Lake Fenton Fagus Walk has been developed to allow easier access to this fagus viewing spot by visitors who may not wish to or may not be able to traverse a lengthy and rough bushwalking track.
The Lake Fenton Fagus Walk begins at the Lake Fenton car park. The first 200 metre section utilises an existing good quality track to a bridge over Lady Barron Creek (the bridge was funded by the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife). This present project that completes the Walk involved making more accessible 370 metres of an existing bushwalking track from the bridge to a good fagus viewing location. Although this particular section contains a bit of duck boarding it is mostly rough and rocky and in places wet. It passes through stands of fagus and a variety of other unique vegetation. Scenic views are of Lake Fenton and, more distantly, the Rodway Range (often carrying snow in winter). One of the major management strategies set by the government for Mount Field National Park is for it to be a tourism icon that “will be promoted to encourage locals and visitors alike to appreciate, understand and enjoy the park’s natural and cultural values, as well as the wide range of recreational opportunities it offers”. The now completed Lake Fenton Fagus Walk will certainly help in accomplishing those aims.
The Lake Fenton Fagus Walk has been a joint activity by the Friends of Mount Field (FOMF) and the local Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) with funding provided by the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife. The grant was mainly used for the purchase of gravel and to employ a skilled track designer who could help with the construction and provide invaluable advice (and equipment) to the FOMF volunteers who did most of the work. The major task involved improving the existing track surface by removing rock intrusions and adding other rocks to muddy areas to provide a flat and dry walking surface—often above running water in the old track. Where appropriate, drains were made and gravel placed to fill in irregularities and provide a smoother walking surface. A section of an existing board walk was repaired by installing new supporting posts to secure the structure. A motor powered wheel barrow for gravel transport and a variety of winching equipment and a flying fox for rock movement were very useful and provided new experiences for the volunteers. Most of the gravel was still carried most of the way by hand in buckets—no new experience there however. Work was completed during four days in late 2019 with volunteers contributing 227 hours equating to $6810 (at $30/hr).
In summary the newly completed Lake Fenton Fagus Walk now allows easier access for viewing native vegetation and scenery throughout the year and particularly so during the “turning of the fagus”. Additionally it is protecting the bush by encouraging visitors to stay on the well-defined path. Water quality in this drinking water catchment area is also being improved by ensuring users do not walk in wet patches creating muddy water that drains into the lake.