Catherine Boyd tells us why the pristine wilderness of Barrington Tops is so special.
Gondwana, a title that is synonymous with such words as wilderness, ancient and dinosaurs.
It was around about 180 million years ago that Australia began separating from Africa, South America, India and Antarctica and became its own continent. With this separation came the distribution of a certain type of environment that is now found in only very few places in the world. Some of which are UNESCO listed, meaning the area has World Heritage significance. Living in the Hunter region, I’m lucky enough to live very close to one such UNESCO area, the beautiful Barrington Tops.
Along with its sub-alpine woodlands and old growth forests, what makes this place so special is the cool temperate rainforests. These rare rainforests are home to the Nothofagus moorei, better known as Antarctic Beech. These living relics are an evergreen tree with glossy green leaves, they can grow to heights of 50 metres and the trunk width can be several metres. It is here you will walk among giants that are thousands of years old.
The Gondwana aspect of this park will leave you nothing short of enthralled
What makes Barrington Tops so special, is that it has the winning combo of Gondwana boasting rights as well as the pristine wilderness. Unspoilt thanks to minimal infrastructure and the fortune of being a bit further away from the big smoke, you constantly have the feeling it is just you alone in the great outdoors.
Now for the important details! There are many walks that you can stroll along to get glimpses of the towering beech trees. I have walked all of them and it is impossible to pick a favourite. I highly recommend you write a list of the following walks and endeavour to walk them all at some point in time. Which walk you do depends on which section of Barrington Tops you are visiting, as there are multiple access points.
Honeysuckle Forest Walk
If you are up in the Polblue section of the Tops, you must head straight to the Honeysuckle Walk. A short loop walk that boasts some of Barrington Tops’s tallest beech trees. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might see the changing of the colours of the leaves. This is when the forest floor is turned into something from a fairy tale, all the greens and russet reds are just stunning. And if you do the whole drive from Moonan Flat over to Gloucester, you will also drive through some stunning sections where the road is lined with these unique trees.
Antarctic Beech Loop
Another walk that leaves you thoroughly enchanted is the Antarctic Beech Loop. Accessed from the Gloucester Tops section of the park, you have the option of either the long or short loop. Both are stunning and wind themselves around some very pretty creeks and waterfalls. You can also add this onto the River Walk and Falls Walk and make a day of it, this is known as the Gloucester Tops Circuit. It is not uncommon for this section of Barrington Tops to be shrouded in a silvery mist, a truly amazing experience!
It is not uncommon for this section of Barrington Tops to be shrouded in a silvery mist, a truly amazing experience!
Burraga Swamp Track
Lesser known, but still equally beautiful for its magnificent beech trees, is the Burraga Swamp track. An easy return walk that winds around ancient trunks that are moss and lichen covered, resulting in an amazing forest experience that involves every shade of green. As well as the forest bathing you will also discover another rare feature of this Australian landscape, a hanging swamp, which has existed for thousands of years.
Corker Trail and Careys Peak
If you fancy a more challenging walk where you ascend through a huge variety of terrain, then the Corker Trail is for you. You will definitely be challenged on this walk as the elevation rises sharply over a relatively short few kilometres. However, you will be rewarded by walking up and into some magnificent beech forests. If you are lucky with your timing and it is snowing, they and the surrounding tree ferns will be snow-capped. Another reward of this walk is reaching the Barrington Tops plateau and having some jaw dropping views from Careys Peak Lookout.
Lastly if you are keen for a multi-day experience then the link trail is for you. Connecting Gloucester Tops to Careys Peak, it takes you through some beautiful terrain including forests of Antarctic Beech.
It is so hard to describe the majesty of Barrington Tops' cool temperate rainforests using only words. And the photos in this article, while giving some visual insight, pale in comparison to the actual experience you will have when you visit here.
The Gondwana aspect of this park will leave you nothing short of enthralled. You will have the most amazing bird song to listen to as you walk along and you will be witness to an amazing variety of endemic plant species that have grown up and around the mighty Nothofagus moorei since it first began to grow.
All the unique flora and fauna that make up this world heritage National Park is yours to enjoy. And as you walk through this ancient landscape remember to tread gently, respecting it for the environmental treasure it is.
There are very few pockets of these unique forests that still remain.
As well as having its connection to Gondwana heritage, Barrington Tops also has claim to being the southernmost part of the Australian mainland that has this prehistoric environment.
There are very few pockets of these unique forests that still remain. More than ever, Barrington Tops is an invaluable green park due to the recent fires where many of NSW Gondwana forests were destroyed.