Focus on Trails – Granite Nature Trail

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Focus on Trails – Granite Nature Trail

  1. Home
  2. Latest News
  3. Focus on Trails – Granite Nature Trail

The trail in the spotlight in this edition of ‘Focus on Trails’ is the Granite Nature Trail found in McFarlanes Hill Regional Park. This trail is a 4 km loop with lots of different scenery and nice views. There are some challenging track sections with very uneven and rocky parts so sturdy footwear is recommended. There is also a stile to navigate and an open-weave mesh bridge section (photos below), both of which are not dog-friendly unless you can give them a helping hand. The trail can be accessed from the chicane gate off Felltimber Creek Rd (which is where this article begins), or from the McFarlanes Hill fire trail. When this trail was walked on a sunny day last week, a snake was spotted slithering off into the grass so perhaps do still keep an eye out, but hopefully winter has well and truly arrived now and they will cease to be so active.

Right, let’s begin! Through the gate and up to the first Aboriginal interpretive artwork which tells of the importance of the different rocks in this landscape. If you look closely throughout the park, you will see examples of all three types of rock – igneous granite which forms from cooling magma, sedimentary mudstone which forms when fine-grained sediments compact, and metamorphic slate which is formed by the metamorphosis of mudstone or shale under pressure and heat. Also keep an eye out for quartz which was used by Aboriginal people to make tools.

Entrance off Felltimber Creek Rd.
Interpretive sign.












Once you have navigated the zigzag track of the first section up the side of the hill, the path branches – this is where the loop joins so it doesn’t matter which way you choose, but if you want to get the steep section done first, take the path to the right. This leads up a rocky path to some rewarding views of the surrounding hills and parts of West Wodonga. There are some white cypress-pines (Callitris glaucophylla) here – not a true pine, but named so as they resemble northern hemisphere cypress trees. The Callitris trees are found only in Australian and New Caledonia, with 13 of the 15 species found in Australia. White cypress is an important tree for Aboriginal people, with the resin being used as a waterproof adhesive and the termite-resistant wood being used for woomeras, canoe poles, and spear shafts. An antiseptic oil in the leaves is extracted by soaking the leaves in water to make a wash, or mixed with fat to make an ointment that can be applied to the body.

White cypress-pine.
White cypress-pine cones.










Up we go!
A rocky path.












Beautiful views.

Continue up the hill and over the stile to join the McFarlanes Hill fire trail. The landscape here is grassy but still rather dry at the moment! There are usually always grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) and swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) grazing here, so keep those pooches on a lead to ensure all our furry friends remain safe. Wallabies and kangaroos belong to the same family (the Macropodidae) which also includes rock-wallabies, tree-kangaroos, pademelons, quokkas, nailtail wallabies, and typical hare-wallabies. There is no scientific distinction between kangaroos and wallabies, but rather the species smaller than 20 kgs tend to be called wallabies. All of the kangaroos and wallabies belong to the same genus, Macropus, except the swamp wallaby! It is classified as the sole living member of its genus due to a combination of genetic, reproductive, dental, and behavioural characteristics that set it apart from all other wallabies.

Over the stile.
More spectacular views on a clear day.












After a while (of still going up!), the Granite trail splits off from the fire trail. There are signposts to keep you on the right track. As you start to come down the hill and around back towards Felltimber Creek Rd., there are a few little bridges to cross. No water to be seen under any of them yet though.

Through another gate after leaving the fire trail.
Wayfinding signs will keep you on track.












On the protected side of the hill, you’ll notice more trees and bracken ferns (Pteridium esculentum), which are an Australian native and widespread across Victoria. Aboriginal people crush and roast the roots for food, while the young stems are rubbed onto the skin to relieve insect bites. Bracken is eaten by swamp wallabies but is poisonous to cattle. You will also traverse past clumps of native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) which looks similar to invasive blackberry, but has differently shaped leaves. Small, deep pink flowers are produced from October to December followed by red berries through to April.

Bracken fern.
Native raspberry.












Further along the track is a sign explaining the geological history of the region, along with some information about Aboriginal uses of the various rocks.


Mesh – a hazard for dogs.
A geological history of the area.











Over this side of the hill, some fungi have been starting to appear, including white punk (Laetiporus portentosus), found growing on a stringy bark, and Postia pelliculosa on a pine log. White punk has been used by Aboriginal people as a kind of tinder, by lighting a dried chunk of the fungus which then smolders slowly and can be transported from place to place. And here’s a helpful hint: use a small mirror to observe the underside of fungi without damaging it.

White punk.
Postia pelliculosa.









How to use a hand mirror to observe fungi. This one was seen at Castle Creek Conservation Reserve.

An interesting plant along this damper section is the liverwort growing amongst the mosses on the cut sides of the track. Liverworts are a kind of nonvascular plant called a bryophyte which also include mosses and hornworts. They don’t contain the structures (xylem and phloem) for transporting water and nutrients found in other plants, but rather simply absorb substances across their thin surfaces. These plants also do not flower. Instead, they reproduce sexually by spores which are usually on a structure called a sporophyte that looks like a stalk with a capsule at the top. They can also reproduce asexually by gemmae which are tiny green balls about half a millimeter in diameter, found inside gemma cups. A drop of rain can splash the gemmae out and if one lands in a suitable environment, it will grow into a new liverwort.

A thallose liverwort.
Close-up of gemmae inside a gemma cup.









Perhaps you’ll be inspired to get out on one of the many local trails this weekend. Don’t forget to take some binoculars (lots of scarlet robins have been seen lately), a mirror if you’re a fungi hunter, and a hand lens so you can appreciate those tiny details of the wonderous natural world! Happy hiking!

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