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 …

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