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.
2015 with Elaine, Sharon and Kaye on Clyde Mountain
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.
2006 Val leading Mary, Betty and Bronwyn on a packwalk in the Budawangs
2006 The Green Room in the Budawangs
2006 Budawangs Packwalk
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.
2008 Descending Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island
2018 Snorkelling with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef WA
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.
Leaving Guerilla Bay with Bev Dent and Joe Jurisich
On Spotted Gum Road in Murramarang
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.
2018 Diving with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef, WA
2018, With Betty in Karijini, WA
2018 Ningaloo & Karijini Camp, WA
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.
1996 With Betty and Pat on Franz Josef Glacier, NZ
2000 Looking sprightly on the track in Nepal
2000 Val and Pat with group of walkers in Kathmandu following descent from Kalar Patar
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.
2015 With Irene McPherson and Trish Eccles at BBBW 30th Anniversary Dinner
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.
2011 Val & Betty walking in the Cinque Terre, Italy
2011 Our 2 National Treasures in the Cingue Terre
Erika & Philip Cleaver
Memories from the Western Australian Camp in 2018
2018 How to look stylish while sitting in the dirt in WA
2018 Preparing to don a wetsuit for the whaleshark dive, WA
Christine & Brian Mercer
Some memories on the track with the Mercers
BBBW Kangaroo Valley Camp
On a headland in Murramarang with Brian and Pat
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
2019 candid shot of Val soaking up the surrounds
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.
Val with Bob Thurbon and Kay Vine
Havin’ fun – you betcha!
With Betty and Elizabeth Mitchell somewhere high with views
Shimmying down the rock chimney at Chalwell Galleries on Mt Buffalo
and on the Larapinta Trail in the West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs with Kay and I …
View from Counts Point, Larapinta Trail with Kay and Donna
Larapinta Trail ghost gum
Ainslie Morris & Mike Reynolds
What sad news! We have many happy memories of walks and overseas trips with Val, and will miss her.
1996 With Ainslie, Betty, Mike and Pat on the Milford Track in New Zealand
1996 with Mike and Ainslie on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
2005 with a group of bushwalkers at Macchu Picchu, Peru
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.
2014 Ever the elegant bushwalker, with Rodney on Pig Road
2014 with Martin, Betty and Pat on the Monga Mongarlowe Mine Ramble
Photos from Valerie’s walk on the Overland Track in Tasmania with me in 2007
2007 On the climb to Mt Ossa (Tasmania’s highest peak)
2007 With Mary at lunch on the track near Windemere Hut
2007 With Mary on the rocks overlooking the Acropolis