Meet the Walcha area National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger, Piers Thomas.
How long have you been a ranger for National Parks, and what do you love most about your job?
I have been a ranger for National Parks for over ten years, beginning in Armidale in about 2000 doing a few temporary jobs and then starting in Walcha in 2002.
The best thing about my job is the diversity and the parks that I work in. Every day can be different, from organising weed spraying, talking to park visitors, managing threatened species, fighting bushfires and making sure our campgrounds are in good condition. I’m also lucky enough to be looking after some spectacular wilderness areas in Oxley Wild Rivers, Werrikimbe and Carrai National Parks. Unfortunately, I also spend time in the office answering emails and things, but you can’t get away from that.
Where are you stationed, and tell us about your team and services …
I work in the National Parks office in Walcha, as part of a team of 17 permanent staff. There are 4 rangers, 1 area manager, 2 admin staff and 10 field staff. We look after 15 national parks and reserves that cover over 180,000 hectares.
Most of our parks are east of Walcha in the headwaters of the Hastings and Macleay River systems, but there are a few down near Nowendoc, and one small nature reserve about 40 km west of Tamworth. In these reserves we have over 1,000 kilometres of roads and trails to look after, 10 picnic and camping areas, about 18 lookouts and also about 18 huts scattered throughout the parks, so we are never short of things to do.
Tell us about the new walk you are launching?
The Green Gully Track is a new, long distance walking track that we have just opened in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. It is a 4-day, 65 km loop walk that takes you deep into the heart of the Green Gully gorge.
The unique thing about the Green Gully Track is the fact that you don’t need to carry a tent, as there are restored mustering huts to stay in each night. Each hut has six stretcher beds, a pit toilet, rainwater tank, gas burner ring, basic cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils and an outside picnic table. As an added bonus, your first and optional last night is spent in Cedar Creek Cottage, a three bedroom house with a fridge, fully equipped kitchen, gas barbecue, hot shower, flushing toilet, bunk beds, lounge chairs, huge verandah and slow combustion fire. As each mustering hut is small, group size is limited to six people, but you are assured of a bed each night in a rustic hut.
Bookings are essential though, to make sure that the huts aren’t already being used. Being a loop walk, you can also park your car and come back to it 4 days later, so you don’t need a car shuttle to pick you up.
Who would suit this kind of walk?
You need to be a fit and experienced bushwalker to do the Green Gully Track, as you have to walk over 16 km per day, and some sections are very steep. About 70% of the track is along old management trails that are easy to follow, but there are sections where there is no marked track and you just have to follow a ridge or creek until you see a sign pointing you in the right direction – so you need to be able to find your way in the bush. Each day is different, ranging from walking along the trail that separates the Green Gully Creek and Kunderang Brook gorges on day 1, enjoying the awesome view from The Rocks Lookout and dropping down a steep ridge to Green Gully Hut on day 2, and then spending a long day wading in and out of Green Gully Creek on day 3. The last day involves a very steep climb that climbs 600 m in less than 3 km and then a 10 km walk back to Cedar Creek Cottage, so it’s not for the faint hearted.
What can one expect to see on the walk?
You will see a spectacular part of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park that very few people have seen, as the start of the walk is a 2-hour drive from Walcha, and the mustering huts were all privately owned until about 6 years ago. Green Gully Gorge and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is also home to some of the best populations of the endangered Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby left in the world – over 90 different colonies have been recorded in Green Gully alone, and the Green Gully Track takes you right past some of them.
Each of the mustering huts still have a real pioneer feel to it, right down to the old bottles, calendars and horseshoes that you still find scattered around in the huts. A short booklet in each hut also explains some of the history of the huts as well, giving walkers a real connection to the cultural values of the gorge, as well as the natural values that they are experiencing.
How can our readers book in for the walk?
The easiest way is to go to the website: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/greengully then scroll down to the Green Gully Track section. This web page has booking forms, frequently asked questions, a few images of the walk and contact details. Alternately, you can just ring the National Parks office in Walcha on 6777 4700, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org