Members’ Memories & Photos of Valerie Harris

Here is a collection of individual members’ memories and photos of Val.  The most recent posts appear at the top of the page.

Bob Thurbon & Elaine Edwards

Valerie was an old friend of Elaine’s from when she was an instructor for Elaine’s kids at the pony club.

E and me met because Valerie and I were chatting at the 2012 Xmas party at Goldfields, when Elaine walked in the nearby door, and Valerie invited her to join us.    We clicked, and feel indebted to her for that.

Though I feel sadness at the sudden loss of Valerie, I feel more that we were privileged to have shared some time and experiences with such a remarkable and charming person.

She certainly had style and grace, and I will treasure our visits with her to many beautiful places in the bush.

I am pleased that my photo of her at the remarkable spa pools, where I gave her the title of “Queen of the Bush” is now in her tributes on the website.   Many will celebrate her life and her magic.

So many good things have come from the Bush Walkers.   I hope we can resume activities soon.


Mary Taylor

Valerie and the Budawangs:  I have enjoyed many adventures and happy days and nights on the tracks with Val over a number of years. She introduced me to her ‘bush’ and made me an enthusiastic bush walker.

The first is walking in the Budawangs and realising that night and darkness  would soon be upon us. We were walking along a good track that looked suspiciously to me as if it could well lead to a private property. Val declared that we should ‘camp’, which meant sleeping in our sleeping bags in the open on the track. My concerns that maybe a vehicle could drive along the track in the dark were met by a reassurance from Val that couldn’t possibly happen. As it turned out no vehicle ran over us in the night and apart from a light fall of rain, we spent an uneventful night, if not a particularly comfortable one under the night sky.


Helen & Martin Ransom

It was during our first bushwalking camp to Bendethera in 2006 that that we first met Valerie.  Up until then we had only heard of her bushwalking prowess, particularly for the harder more remote tracks and pack walks.  On that camp she was one of the first to lower herself on the rope to descend into the main cave at Bendethera and she happily waded through thigh deep water in the Deua river as we followed our leader, Len.

We decided, during our ascent of Mount Gower on Lord Howe Island in 2008, that at 76 Valerie was probably one of the oldest people to have conquered the climb for that most fabulous view – see the photo following as she again hangs onto a rope to begin the descent.

Never one to miss an adventure, and as part of the BBBW group in 2018, Valerie snorkelled in the Ningaloo waters off WA to see a whale shark, see the photo from the dive company as Valerie, with the pink flippers follows the rope back to the boat.

A true legend of the Club.


Denise Strickland

These photos, especially the group photo, show that Val was an active and loved part of our Club right up until the COVID break.  She in turn enjoyed walking and the friendships that she made over the years. She will certainly be missed.


Rob Lees

When I think of the term ‘ strong competent woman’ I see an image of Val Harris. I only hope that when I reach my late 80’s I will be doing the same hiking activities she was enjoying right up to the end. I had the pleasure of attending many of Val’s hikes to the gold mines in the foothill ranges. They were always in challenging terrain, inevitably including a few good hills and always ending at an interesting feature, be it an old gold mine or waterfall.  Val knew how to lead an interesting walk.

Val attended a camp I led in 2018 to the Karijini in Western Australia. Even with temperatures in the 30’s, across jagged terrain with little shade and camping on truly hard rocky ground Val was out there enjoying herself. She hiked down into the steep gorges of the billion year old rocks of the Karijini with the strength and determination we have come to know from Val.

Never one to shy away from a new challenge we have photographic proof of Val swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. The charter boat crew were very surprised when they heard how old Val was and claimed she holds the title of the oldest client they have ever taken out for a blue water dive. We weren’t surprised as we expected nothing less from this strong competent woman.

Val will be missed out on the trails but her legacy will endure as we have GPS mapped many of her walks and can thank her in the years to come.


Pat Retter

I feel devastated at Val’s passing.  We were close friends and usually talked on the phone one or more times a week.

Our friendship went back to the start of the Club and she often led two walks on every program until others stepped up to contribute as well.  Val introduced some of the Club members to back-packing, including me, also in the early days of the Club.  Many happy exploratories were had in the Budawangs..  The Budawangs were her specialty,  and she continued doing back-packs as long as she could – the last just a few years ago under the care and leadership of Ian Barnes.

Val and I spent a month trekking with a small group in Nepal, up almost to Kalar Patar from down at Jiri Jiri in year 2000.  Quite a trip.

Tasmania was another favourite of hers and did the Overland Track together in 1998, and she had many enjoyable trips to Tasmania, the last one on her own and sleeping in her Troopy along the way.

Val was always thinking up where to lead walks which continued until retiring from being a walk-leader last year.   Naturally by then her walks had changed from being hard to easy ones – but never mind she was out there doing it.

I’m sure all who knew her will miss her very much, and extend their sympathy to Va’ls “family” of Vicky and Caddy.

Rest easy Val, we shall all miss you.


Mary & Stan Marchant

The memory of Val’s indomitable spirit, all the bush walks we have shared, and her warm generous personality is her parting gift to us all.


Sharon Macdonald

Val, along with Betty, taught me heaps about Bushwalking and especially Backpacking. A great mentor and role model, strong, independent, intrepid and of course, forever elegant. Even wading through water up to her armpits, Val glided along with her scarf casually slung around her swan neck.

Here are some photos of Val, along with our other National Treasure, walking in the Cinque Terre in 2011 on a Italian walking trip she had organised for four of us.  So sad, but so lucky to have known her.


Erika & Philip Cleaver

Memories from the Western Australian Camp in 2018


Christine & Brian Mercer

Some memories on the track with the Mercers


Donna Garten

I was fortunate to walk with Val, albeit in her latter years, which was probably a blessing because it meant that I could keep up with her!  However, it would have been quite the experience to have shared a pack walk with the great lady, something that wasn’t to be.  Last year I attended my first ever pack walk and turned to both Val and Betty for some very sage advice.  We had a chat about what gear to take, what not to take and we also discussed food options.  I went away from that particular walk with many of Val’s wise tips running through my head.  Then, two days later, she rang me at home, ‘Donna, there was something else I had to tell you, it’s very important.  Keep your toilet paper dry, put it in a plastic bag.’  Val went on to tell me that she had been on a pack walk and had the unfortunate experience of getting her one and only roll of toilet paper wet whilst crossing a river.  She spent that night walking the fine line of drying her toilet paper to an acceptable level without setting fire to the whole roll.  We had a laugh and I assured Val I would put my toilet paper in a plastic bag, which I did do.  Thanks for the memories Val.  Keep on hiking.

One of my favourite shots of Val taken in the Monga in early 2019


Donna Franklin

I remember on my very first walk with the Club whoever drove me to the walk told me to avoid any walks led by Val or Betty (I wrote down their names on my program so I would remember) as they were too difficult!  Of course in time I rose to the challenge of Val’s wonderful walks and will always be indebted to her for sharing some of her favourite places.  A great friend and an amazing bushwalker who will be missed and remembered – it’s hard to grasp she is gone.

Here are some more photos.  I especially love the last one, taken at Bright – 86 and still shimmying down rock chimneys – what a legend.

and on the Larapinta Trail in the West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs with Kay and I …


Ainslie Morris & Mike Reynolds

What sad news!  We have many happy memories of walks and overseas trips with Val, and will miss her.


Joan & Bob Barrass

For the last half hour we’ve been looking at every bushwalking photo for the last many years of camps and walks and realise how lucky we are to have so many happy memories.  Here are two photos of Val from our collection.  We will never forget her.


Mary Taylor

Photos from Valerie’s walk on the Overland Track in Tasmania with me in 2007


Tribute to Valerie Harris : 7 September 1931 – 24 May 2020

Dear Members,

Batemans Bay Bushwalkers’ tribute to Valerie appears below.  If you wish to publish your own memories or photos of Valerie to our website, please email them to and we will post them to our Member’s Tribute Wall.

1992 Valerie Harris in Sugarloaf Creek

It is with deep sadness that we farewell Valerie Harris who passed away at 2100 hours on Sunday 24 May 2020.  We have lost a great bushwalker, leader and friend.

Valerie was a unique member of Batemans Bay Bushwalkers, the only member to have walked with the Club throughout our entire 35 year history.  She was there in 1985 at the very first meeting held to garner expressions of interest for a bushwalking group in the Batemans Bay area, when she volunteered to lead 2 of the first 4 walks arranged at that meeting.  Val’s last walk was in March this year at Maloneys Beach just before the COVID-19 pause.  She was a prolific and passionate walk leader and up until she broke her pelvis a few years ago, she led at least 4 walks every year, sometimes more.

I first met Valerie 16 years ago (she was a mere 72 years old), when I signed up to join her on a Hard/Exploratory walk in the Turtle Creek area, off No Name Firetrail in Monga National Park.  I found myself in a deep, narrow creek gorge where we eventually had to scale the high vertical walls to access the ridge Val wanted to find.  I remember clinging by my fingernails to this rockface, seriously out of my comfort zone.  We did get out of the gorge, and bashed up to the ridge, down the other side, and to finish, walked up the steepest gravel firetrail I may have ever seen.  Since then I’ve followed Val down into Sugarloaf Creek on the Clyde Mountain where the going was so rough my watch was torn off my wrist; plunged off the steep side of Misty Mountain Road through thick rainforest and lawyer vines to find the Buckenbowra River in the valley below, and then back up the hill again; and into the Budawangs where we battled our way through trackless hakea scrub.

I suspect most everyone who has walked with Valerie has had similar experiences.  She led many easier walks as well, but was renowned for her hard, and mostly exploratory excursions into the remote wilderness.  She loved every moment of those walks, and she loved showing them to her faithful followers.  And we just kept turning up for more – for the chance to experience more challenges, and more adventures to hidden bush treasures in the company of this vibrant, capable woman.

Over the last 10 years, Valerie has been sharing her walks with other leaders, so that today we can still enjoy the backcountry walks she so loved.  To name just a few, we have mapped her walk into the Strangler Fig on Durras Mountain; the Durras Mountain old farm track walk;  her Carters Creek and Sugarloaf Creek walks; and her Bimberamala Mine and Black Diamond Currowan Mine walks.  Every time we create a new map for the Club from one of Val’s walks we marvel how she navigated the bush so well without a GPS to create such challenging and interesting routes.  She has left us with an enduring legacy to enjoy for generations to come.

Valerie led many a backpack through the Budawangs before retiring her pack in 2015.  Her last packwalk was into the Ettrema Gorge in Morton National Park west of Nowra, led by Ian Barnes.  Ian’s purpose was not only to explore the area, but also as a tribute to Valerie and Betty who had visited Ettrema years ago and wished to revisit it in their elder years.  This is not a walk for the faint hearted, mostly trackless in steep rocky country, with a lot of creek wading – Valerie was 83 at the time.

Farewell Valerie, you will long be remembered, admired and appreciated by those who have travelled with you to the wild and beautiful places.

Karen MacLatchy on behalf of Batemans Bay Bushwalkers


The early years …

The 2000’s …

Most recently …


Water way to go for Bay’s bushwalkers

Wednesday 20 May 2020 – Article published in the Bay Post / Moruya Examiner

Batemans Bay Bushwalkers have about 200 members that love bushwalking with a number that like to explore the region on water.

The Eurobodalla coast has a number of estuaries, creeks and slow flowing rivers that are ideal for exploring with a canoe or kayak.

Generally the group goes out for a paddle about twice a month, with members providing their own craft and mandatory life vests.

On the first paddle for 2020 in February 2020 saw the group launched at Durras Lake boat ramp early in the morning when the normally busy lake was still calm and winds were almost absent.

Nearly all the margins of the lake have been fire affected and recent rains have seen the water level rise dramatically, however the lake is still closed to the ocean.

Fortunately Durras Lake is in the Marine Park and is not closed.  The group were able to skirt the northern burned shore and paddle quite far up the flooded creek at the back of North Durras.

The paddlers saw Burrawangs sprouting in the fire zone and it was obvious that the forest was beginning its regeneration.

The final paddle back to the ramp included exploring the flooded wetlands near Durras Village, before an increasingly strenuous paddle into a rising headwind took the paddlers back to the ramp.

The walks program is presently suspended due to coronavirus and members look forward to the day when their program can resume.

Report adapted by the Bay Post. Original report by Rodney and Gay.


Batemans Bay Bushwalkers take a trip to Broulee Island 33 years ago

Sunday 3 May 2020 – Following article published in the Bay Post Online edition

As the coronavirus keeps everyone at home, the Batemans Bay Bushwalkers have been reminiscing about walks from years ago (story written by Jeanne Medicott, Bay Post incorporating information provided by Karen and Gay)

This week heralds 33 years since the bushwalkers undertook a hike to Broulee Island at a time when the island could only be accessed by boat and the logistics involved in getting there were time consuming.

“Ron Thompson brought his rubber-duck around from Tomakin and then spent the next three to four hours ferrying the 52 walkers across to the island and back again,” a spokesperson for the walkers said.  “The walkers were surprised at how deep the channel was between the island and Broulee Headland.”

These days walkers don’t need a boat to access Broulee Island and for Batemans Bay Bushwalkers it continues to be a popular walk.

Once on the island the walkers climbed a steep overgrown track to the top of the cliff where they visited the old grave located there. The grave is that of Elizabeth Maleber who passed away on June 27, 1842 aged 45.

Elizabeth and her husband Abraham Maleber lived on a property on the Moruya river where Abraham made a living transporting goods along the Moruya River and on occasion to Broulee.

Elizabeth’s grave is said to be one of the oldest known graves in the entire south coast region.

After visiting the old grave the walkers made their way to the northern side of the island and inspected the ruins of the old jetty.

Back in the 1840’s, Broulee was the only port between Wollongong and Twofold Bay and up to six sailing ships a day could be anchored in Broulee harbour, however all that remains of the old jetty today is four posts sticking out of the sand and one steel railway track projecting onto the beach.

For more information on Batemans Bay Bushwalking Club and their walks, please visit

Club winds back clock during shutdown

Wednesday 22 April 2020 – Following Article published in the Bay Post


Making the most of the shutdown, the Batemans Bay Bushwalkers have been looking back over their old records and thought it would be fun to share with readers.

The Club started in June 1985 and will this year be celebrating 35 years of walking.

The Club’s second walk in June 1985 was to the summit of Mt Dromedary, then part of Bodalla State Forest.  Mt Dromedary was officially handed over to Yuin ownership and management in 2006 and renamed Gulaga, now situated in the Gulaga National Park.  The mountain was originally an active volcano, thought to be 3 km high.  It has eroded over millions of years to 806 m high.

The 11 km (return) Gulaga walk has something for everyone, for example –  the tors are the remains of the hardest granite left behind after the mountain eroded to its current height and the rainforest tucked under the summit of the mountain, where the rare pinkwood tree grows and flowers in late February.

The mountain was also the scene of frantic activity from the 1860s to the 1920s when alluvial gold was discovered and mined. Relics such as a stamper battery and foundations of a miner’s residence can be discovered amongst the dense bush.

To the Yuin people, Gulaga is known as the Mother Mountain, and has always been a woman’s place. It includes sacred sites where Aboriginal women would retreat for storytelling, ceremony and childbirth.

The summit itself is disappointing because views are blocked by tall trees.  However, there are views from several spots along the walk track.

Although the mountain was not burned in the 2019/2020 bushfires, the Gulaga National Park is currently closed to visitors while NPWS conducts ground and aerial pest control programs as part of the bush fire recovery.

The Batemans Bay Bushwalkers are looking forward to the day when they can walk to the summit of Gulaga again.

Karen and Gay

Cullendulla Crossing

Thursday 19 March 2020

Photos provided by Brian and Mary

A perfect autumn walking day was enjoyed by our small group, led by Brian.

The air was cool and crisp as we began with a stroll along Maloneys and Long Beaches and then took a tea break before climbing to the top of Square Head. Looking out towards the Tollgates, the bay was glassy, the views clear in every direction, and the atmosphere wonderfully calm. It was a delight to follow the track up and down across the headland through the burrawangs and eucalypts just soaking up the quiet.

The track ended down at Cullendulla Creek and much laughter was heard as we readied ourselves for the crossing. Wendy bravely offered to test the depth, and as a result, we went further upstream before paddling knee deep across the creek to Surfside. Lunch in the shade, then the final beach walk in the breeze saw us return to the car park.

Many thanks to Brian for leading a great day on what has become our last official club walk for the present.


Pedro Point to Congo Creek & Pedro Swamp

Saturday 14 March 2020

Photos provided by Mary

10 walkers met in an optimistic mood that the weather forecast was going to be accurate and that the rain would rapidly pass through. By the time we arrived at the start, blue skies to the south and west were promising a fine morning.

Our walk of 9 kms took us through lightly forested, no tracked areas with patches of lime green grass to Pedro Beach where Bob pointed out various animal tracks in the dunes. Recent Emu and perhaps fox prints were identified and Ghost Crab holes. We took a brisk walk along the beach to the dunes where we enjoyed morning tea in the sunshine.

We made our way back through the scrub and forest to a good track and eventually to a very pretty open forest of Spotted gums where Bob had situated a large log, the site for lunch.

Bob, being a local of the South Head area, was able to tell us a great deal about our surroundings and the people living there. This local know how was the reason we were able to walk randomly in bush with little or no track to Pedro Beach and back through forest that was certainly new to most of the group.

Thank you Bob for having so much confidence in the varsity of the weather bureau, it was a very pleasant morning.


Moruya Bunker Walk

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Photos provided by Brian and Helen

Twenty two members and three visitors were treated to a new walk on a beautiful autumn day.  The Moruya Bunker Walk involved a tour of four little known bunkers located around the vicinity of Moruya racecourse.   These bunkers were constructed during World War Two.

The club was fortunate to secure the services of  local war historian Gary Traynor who accompanied  the group, providing expert commentary with a comprehensive and informative account of the history of the bunkers.  Built by the RAAF,  these bunkers served as part of the coastal defence system against a potential Japanese and/or German invasion.  By 1944 the concrete bunkers had been established as part of a fully functioning reserve air base where aircraft could refuel whilst looking for submarines or conducting surveillance conveys.  The Moruya racecourse was the site of three runways with all four bunkers housed nearby.

The walk began at a bunker which is now used by the Moruya Pistol Club as an indoor range.  This underground bunker was previously used as an operations centre.  The group was given special access to this bunker and it was fascinating to observe such a well preserved building that still provided a functional service so many years after the war.

We commenced our walk, passing bunker number two, which is an above ground bunker situated in the grounds of Moruya speedway.  This above ground  bunker would have been used for storage and rudimentary protection against shrapnel.  We then continued our walk onto the racecourse proper to bunker number three.  This bunker is similar in construction to the previous bunker, also being above the ground.  Gary gave another presentation, showing us where an aircraft made an emergency landing during the war close to where we were standing.   It was great to have the opportunity to access an area normally off limits to the public.

Following morning tea we made our way to the fourth bunker  which is similar in construction to the pistol range bunker.  This underground bunker was used as a radio operations centre and was constructed well away from the runways so that it could maintain operations if the aerodrome was bombed.  Two rooms were used to house radios, generators and engines and at each end a pill box allowed sentry duty.  The bunker was constructed in a giant sand hole and covered with remaining sand to camouflage it.

Whilst visiting each bunker, our guide Gary informed us of many stories relating to the war and Betty recounted her experience as a six year old, with her family sitting around the transistor radio listening to the broadcast informing listeners that Australia was now at war.  Betty clearly remembers that day.  What a moment in history!

After seeing all of the bunkers we made our way towards Bengello Beach.  On the way Betty’s trusty boots decided, after many many kilometres, to call it a day and blow a sole.  Bob T was going to be nominated to piggy back Betty for the remaining five kilometres but in sheer desperation to avoid this task he dug deep into the bowels of his back pack and pulled out a roll of duct tape.  After some expert repair work, Betty’s boots were ready for another 5000 kilometres and off we went.  We continued on to Bengello Beach and back to the cars where we thanked Gary very much for a most unusual and entertaining tour.

Donna G.

Mossy Point to Broulee and Return

Sunday 8 March 2020

Photos by Tom and Gay

Twelve members completed an easy/medium 10 km walk around Mossy Point and Broulee on Sunday.  The walkers started at the boat ramp at Mossy Point and upon rounding the headland overlooking North Broulee beach were surprised by the amount of people down on the beach and the activity on the water.

The walkers managed to make it safely through Art on the Path without buying anything bulky that would need to be carried for the next 7 kms and then spent a leisurely morning tea at the lookout overlooking South Broulee while Gay, the Walk Leader, handed out chocolate treats in honour of International Women’s Day.

The group wandered around Shark Bay and back over to North Broulee to discover the reason for the extra activity on the beach was the annual Broulee Bay to Breakers Ocean Swim.  The walkers were fortunate to be there for the start of one race and while the water looked inviting and with the sun shining, all agreed that walking was really their thing, and so decided to continue on walking back up the beach.

The leader led the walkers back to the boat ramp via a little known path completing the final leg along the banks of the Tomaga River.   A very lovely few hours enjoyed in the seaside villages of Broulee and Mossy Point.


Maloneys Beach Murramarang NP Circuit

Saturday 29 February 2020

Photos provided by Joan and Karen

On a beautiful morning we met at Maloneys Beach, eighteen members and one visitor. We struggled through the mob of kangaroos and headed up Pine Knob Road, soon to arrive at a huge fallen tree. It had been logged probably over a hundred years ago when logs were pulled out by horses, but had been left behind when found to be hollow. Soon we saw three Glossy Black Cockatoos eating Casuarina cones, a rare sight.

After posing for a photo we turned east along the ridge top with views back over Maloneys Beach and southwest towards Batemans Bay, a superb view. We continued east to another small headland where we had morning tea, sitting on logs labelled “BBBW only”. From there we had a view of a small bay where there are a few houses. It was always called “the judge’s land”, but after his death the fenced off land was resumed by the NPWS for Murramarang National Park.

We followed old fence posts to the “canoe tree”, its clear canoe shape cut into a huge tree, probably about 150 years ago. Returning west we had a view down on to a beach which should remain unnamed, devoid of buildings and people, backed by green (not black) forest. Once down on this beach we found invasive sea spurge so it was not as pristine as it looked.