Walking in footsteps of history to open forests to new generation

Intrepid walkers Tiani Zia-Kane, Don Butcher and Pam Mitchell set out from Warburton with Walhalla in their sights. 174596 Picture: KATH GANNAWAY

By Kath Gannaway

Three modern-day explorers set out this morning (Wednesday 1 November) on a walk into history that could see the re-creation of the once popular trek from Warburton to Walhalla.
The six-day walk, hosted by Yarra Valley ECOSS and Warburton Environment and supported by Powelltown DELWP, will follow in part the track that was popular with walkers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In particular, it pays homage to Dr Annie Yoffa, the first woman to make the epic journey solo in 1928.
Environmental educator Don Butcher, Tiani Zia-Kane, a long distance walker and historian with Upper Yarra Museum and Warburton resident and long distance walker Pam Mitchell, were farewelled by supporters dressed in 1920s hiking gear of the style of the inspirational Dr Yoffa.
With part of the original track now under the vast waters of the Upper Yarra Dam and in closed water catchment, the new route will go through Noojee, taking in the beautiful Toorongo Falls, climbing to Mount Baw Baw and on to Walhalla.
Mr Butcher said they would pick up the route taken by Ms Yoffa after the upper reaches of the Yarra River and follow the Thompson River through mixed species rain forest, up to the snow gums and follow the old track to Walhalla.
“It’s not a Sunday weekend walk but for anyone who is reasonably fit and plans for it, it should not be particularly tough,” he said.
The three will walk the entire length, camping out overnight with others joining them at stages along the way.
“The goal is to get people back out into the forests,” Mr Butcher said.
“Prior to the 1939 bushfires there were a lot of people in these forests. They came out from Melbourne and used the timber tramways to get a lift up and down through the forests.
“This is a pilot where we will work out what works, what are the highlights and maybe where we have to tweak the route a bit to come up with a walk that could ultimately be recognised as an iconic walk.”
The Warburton Environment president Karina Doughty wished the walkers well.
“I think these three souls here are so brave,” she said.
“We wish them adventure, safety and inspiration.”
Warburton Environment and ECOSS have been preparing for the walk for some time, talking with government, bushwalking groups and other interest groups about their vision.
“This is the first step towards redeveloping a world class six-day walk from Warby to Walhalla, for everyone to enjoy,” Ms Doughty said.
“It will boost the nature-based tourism potential of the area and will showcase our majestic forests and local history.”
She said the vision was to build huts along the trail at intervals of 20 kilometres.
“At least one hut will be re-created using the original design, along with the appropriate infrastructure to make it an enjoyable, safe, educational and accessible walk for all bush walkers and giving people another reason to travel to the Upper Yarra Valley.”
The walk will finish in Walhalla on Melbourne Cup Day, Tuesday 7 November.
Follow this epic journey on www.facebook.com/WarburtonEnvironment
For more on Dr Annie Yoffa’s bush trek visit www.yarrarangesbushcamp.com/dr-annie-yoffas-1928-walk-from-warburton-to-walhalla-via-yarra-falls