Sunday 12 February 2017
Photos by Amanda, Lin and Philip
The heavily forested headwaters of the Mongarlowe River lie on the southern tableland just over the escarpment south of the Clyde Mountain. The area was State Forest with a history of 150 years of timber cutting. In the year 2000 it was dedicated as National Park. The impressive regrowth forest of tall trees, dominated by Eucalyptus fastigata (Brown Barrel, Cut tail), with its dense tree fern understorey in the moist gullies is very attractive for car based tourism.
One of the particular attractions of Monga, although small in area, is the cool temperate rainforest dominated almost entirely of Eucryphia moorei (Pinkwood). Most visitors see a small sample of it in the oft visited Penance Grove gully boardwalk but the most significant areas of up to 20 hectares, and once protected by Flora Reserve, require some special effort.
On this occasion 11 walkers, including two guests, visited the three most significant areas of cool temperate rainforest in southeast NSW.
The area is trackless and although the rainforests are near to existing roads they are surrounded by a thick eucalypt understorey of fern, litter and lawyer vine. Walking progress is slow and good navigation to find the shortest and least restrictive access is essential.
The most significant obstacles were near the edges of the rainforest where old eucalypts fall downhill and remain un-rotted for decades. Some were so large in length and diameter they required climbing skills to get over. In the wet conditions of the day we soon had muddy bums as we slid over wet logs and stumbled into the gullies.
Bursting into the rainforest brings a breathtaking contrast. The dense tree canopy means the understorey disappears with only patches of low fern at ground level. Despite the gloom, one has a park like view for great distance.
As we began to explore this parkland we found we could stroll about relatively unhindered. The ground was spongey from the many years of litter decay and matted fine roots. Moss and lichen adorned tree trunks and rotted logs. The impression was one of a fairy wonderland of elves and goblins, very different to the more open surrounding eucalypt forest.
The weather was misty, turning to light showers in the afternoon and everything became damp. Leeches were common.
The trees within the rainforest were almost exclusively Pinkwood, most with large and obviously old stumps from which coppiced stems sprouted. Some have grown up to dominate the canopy with fine bright green pinnate leaves – a Pinkwood signature. Some had lianas hanging from them. Their only companions were Dicksonia Antarctica, the Soft Tree Fern, and many of these were of significant size.
But, in one area a few giant old Brown Barrels remain, veterans of centuries ago when eucalypts dominated the site. And they were monsters, huge, metres in diameter. They don’t come any bigger and they were full of character with all the battle scars expected of very old decaying eucalypts. We paused beside them, even explored inside one, and took many photos.
We strolled around a couple of downed Pinkwood trees which appeared to have crashed to the ground within the last 24 hours. And we were witness to the roaring sound of a eucalypt giant on the next ridge falling and breaking apart as it hit the ground with a mighty thump. It was a sombre reminder of the dynamics of these forests – constantly changing in detail, if not in character.
Of the six hours walking, at least four were spent under the rainforest canopy, testament to the amount of time we had to enjoy the star attraction – fully developed Pinkwood rainforest over a relatively large area. A very enjoyable place indeed!