Most bushwalkers walk in nature because they love the environment. They aren’t about to thoughtlessly damage it. By following HikeWest’s Minimum Impact Bushwalking Code and adhering to good bushwalkers’ standards they will minimise their impact on the natural environment that provides us with so much pleasure.
All walkers are encouraged to stay on trails when possible, for reasons of safety, ecological hygiene and compliance with parks management zonings etc. But there are many suitable areas where experienced bushwalkers may legitimately go off-track to enjoy a quieter, more immersive walk in nature, away from the comfort of the formed and often busy trails. Read More
Known off-track walk routes in the Darling Range near Perth have been walked by bushwalking clubs and others over many years yet mostly show no evidence that walkers have passed through. Yet off-track bushwalkers are occasionally accused of thoughtlessly ‘trampling’ and ‘bush-bashing’ through sensitive vegetation in our diminishing forest environment. This reflects some basic misconceptions about off-track walking and the actual environment in which we walk:
- The jarrah forest and wandoo woodlands are typically mostly very open, with sparse to patchy understorey and ground-cover;
- The ground surface is most often a hard, pebbly lateritic surface, which is not vulnerable to compaction effects and lacks any dense ground cover of vegetation;
- Elsewhere the surface is typically (between prescribed burns) blanketed by a cushion of leaf litter rather than ground cover vegetation;
- Walkers seldom choose identical paths along a general route, so typically no worn track develops;
- Where denser heathlands occur, animal tracks invariably provide an easy way through;
- The vegetation itself is typically harsh and prickly (and may harbour ticks!), so bushwalkers are not tempted to force a way through denser patches;
- Experienced bushwalkers have the sense to avoid treading carelessly on ground-cover that could conceal a snake;
- On the granite outcrops it is generally easy and safest to keep to the barest and driest rock surfaces to avoid damaging and slipping on more fragile moss-covered areas or on darker-stained patches which often become treacherously slippery when wet;
- All walk areas are periodically controlled burned which temporarily removes most groundcover and other understorey in any event. Walkers avoid the sooty, freshly burned areas at a time when fresh vegetation is re-emerging.
Sadly, despite bushwalking’s minimal impacts, much of the jarrah forest and wandoo woodlands close to Perth that we walk in today in state forest areas of the northern Darling Range will eventually be profoundly impacted and fragmented by bauxite strip-mining, greatly reducing quality bushwalking opportunities in the region. Most bushwalkers value walking in high quality, undisturbed natural or near-natural environments which the extensive rehabilitated mined areas cannot provide.
One of the best ways to discover responsible off-track walking and where to walk in WA is to join a bushwalking club. In addition to a more intimate and often more challenging walk in nature, off-track walking with a club provides the opportunity to develop valuable traditional bushwalking skills and self-reliance away from the familiarity and security of the established trails. Considering the greater preparation and greater navigation skills required compared to on-trail walking, together with the wide choice of suitable, attractive walk areas in the Darling Range near Perth, off-track walking in any one area is not likely to attract walkers in large, unsustainable numbers.
“Minimal Impact Bushwalking” – in online Bushwalking Manual (Bushwalking Victoria)
“Sustainability of traditional bushwalking – Strategic implications for bushwalking in the Perth region – a bushwalker’s perspective” – Dave Osborne (WalkGPS), from July 2017 presentation (pdf; opens in Google Drive, including speaker notes).