More interesting facts about Barrington Tops

The suspension bridge over the Williams River at Blue Gum Loop near the site of the old Barrington Guest House. Photo courtesy of National Parks and Wildlife Service
The suspension bridge over the Williams River at Blue Gum Loop near the site of the old Barrington Guest House. Photo courtesy of National Parks and Wildlife Service

Welcome to part five of the 50 years of National Parks series celebrating that 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 

It’s a special time in the organisation’s history and a great opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved over the past five decades.

Over the coming weeks additional articles of the series will be published by the Gloucester Advocate online to help celebrate the anniversary with 50 interesting things about the national parks of Barrington Tops and the NPWS.

The next 10 interesting things:

41. The Barrington Tops region is the only recorded locality for the extremely rare mineral Barringtonite (MgCO3.2H2O) discovered in 1965 at Tomalla. Barringtonite forms as cold-water cascading from a waterfall leaches magnesium from basalt and produces colourless crystals.

42. Barrington Tops wilderness is home to one of the state’s few remaining populations of almost pure-blood dingo. Research suggests that dingos can play a role in keeping down the numbers of feral cats and foxes which are a key threat to native wildlife. NPWS also has an extensive local wild dog control program in partnership with neighbours and Local Land Services to help manage the impacts of wild dog predation on livestock. The historic Dingo Gate on the western edge of the plateau is a local icon and remnant of past management.

43. The rare powerful owl, one of Australia’s largest birds of prey, snatches greater gliders and other nocturnal tree dwelling mammals in a silent but deadly swoop. Three other threatened owl species find a home in Barrington Tops.

44. Across the plateau there is a large infestation of Scotch broom – a weed  introduced to Australia from Britain in the 1800’s as a garden ornamental and substitute for hops. It escaped into the Barrington Tops from the original Tubrabucca homestead. NPWS currently manages the weed by spraying under a containment strategy and trialling various biological controls.

45. Selby Alley and Munroe bushwalking huts were constructed by members of the Newcastle Bushwalking Club (formally the Newcastle Technical and University College Bushwallking Club) in the 1950s and 1960s. Selby Alley is named after the man himself – a founding member of the club. Selby was also active in the moves to have Barrington Tops declared a national park. Munroe Hut was named after Darby Munroe, a notable member of the club at the time of construction. The locations of both huts were chosen to ensure that they could only be located by someone who could use a compass.

46. The area’s reserves include a serpentinite rock outcrop at Watchimbark. This unusual rock has naturally occurring asbestos and its minerals mean that only certain plants can survive on its soils. Hence, we have spinifex porcupine grass and Mallee eucalypts very close to the coast. These form the understorey beneath forests of grass trees. There are a number of plant species here that don’t occur anywhere else, including an acacia and a casuarina species.

47.  NPWS has been very effective at containing wildfires within its boundaries. Over the last ten years only 10 per cent of fires that started on NPWS land escaped park boundaries, while 23 per cent of fires on our land started off-park.

48. In 2012/13, NPWS exceeded all records for hazard reduction treating 207,569 ha  with over 320 hazard reduction burns. In 2015/16 NPWS achieved its five-year rolling target treating, on average, more than 135,000ha.

49. Two years ago, an extremely rare and cryptic ground orchid was discovered in the southern foothills of the Barrington Tops. This Rhysanthella species lives entirely beneath the leaf litter and only occasionally sends up a small obscure flower head. It also dies off at one end and grows at the other, so it moves through the forest over time. It is possibly a distinct species to the only other example found and hence could be the only one of its kind in the world.

50. Explorer Ludwig Leichardt traversed the Mt Royal Range in 1843 on his explorations between the Hunter and Morton Bay, QLD. He “lived a hermit’s life for about three weeks at Mt Royal, ...I was between the horns of a wild bull; I was almost burnt to death in a hollow tree – so I hope to become seasoned for the interior.”

“I lodged myself in a hollow black butt tree in which I could just extend the full length of my body. I took the leaves of the fern tree and spread them over my lodgings. A cheerful fire was burning before it. So I lived alone, accompanied only by my dog, making excursions to the different parts of the mountain. Mount Royal, which is above all description magnificent, laying this mountainous country like a map before your feet, with all the valleys and brooks which rise from its flancs. At nightfall I descended to my hollow tree, prepared my tea, wrapt myself in my blanket and watched Orion and Sirius gliding slowly through the foliage. The flying squirrel commenced to call, the Wallabi came from the brush to browse on the rich grass of the forest and the mountains. I felt myself exceedingly happy, dreamt with open eyes, till the eyelids became heavy and the head sunk to the saddle which formed my pillow.”