The Granite
and Woodlands Trail

a new gravel road and insight into special places

300km from Norseman to Hyden
Western Australia

8 to 10 October 2006

It has taken us a while to write up this story because it had a big impact and because we were seeing something new and very special.

Every modern map of Australia shows the highway across the Nullarbor arriving at a T-junction at Norseman in Western Australia. You go north to Kalgoorlie and the goldfields, south to Esperance and the coast.

Our intention had been to go south. But arriving in Norseman we promptly took a little drive and walk on what was described as Site #16 of the Granite and Woodlands Walk. The language of the signs was unusual — very richly descriptive of plants and rocks and local history, easy to read, full of fun and poetically happy in its task. This is not the bread and butter of tour guides. There was no hype about commercial oportunities, there was nothing to buy, not even the beautiful guide - this is a link to the downloadable cover and inside cover.

What was even more intriguing was that the guide offered us an unexpected change of direction and thus was something we had to try... a 300km two year old gravel road directly west to Hyden

It was startling to drive out of Norseman on section 15 (the numbering of sections is from the west to the east and immediately cross a salt lake.

While offering simple sightseeing, the guide did more, in bringing into focus the relationships between soil and plant type and forests or scrub or shrub country associated with particular rock and soil types.

All this drive is through country with less than 12 inches (300mm) of rain a year, the figure below which crop production is impossible. The grazing of animals in such low-rainfall is possible if there is water under the ground. Here there is not, so here there is unusually little human disturbance or occupation by feral animals. There has been and is mining. Especially in the east, the geology supports a type of woodland which is associated with gold and nickel deposits and is still a magnet for prospectors.

The bottom of the sign authorised fossicking
— perhaps only because prospects are now slight.

As we drove on,
we found the richest deposits of wildflowers in man-made structures
— on roadsides and here in a road gravel quarry:
soil disturbance, seed movement, water runoff and catchment,
bare ground without competition and nothing to block the sun

All along the way there are helpful, informative, good-humoured signs.
At Disappointment Rock there are 20 signs along a 1900m path

We camped for two nights at McDermid rock

The vegetation on these rocks is very interesting and well explained.

One may, moment to moment, be affected by petrophilia

or petrophobia

Some seek opportunities to sit down

Ev of course, discovered, away from the marked track at McDermid Rock,
a 'wave rock' twice as long (if not quite as high) as the famous tourist mecca-ised
Wave Rock at Hyden

One of the key elements in the guide to the Granite and Woodlands Trail
is on transition from one type of vegetation to another, from low ground to high
or from one rock and soil type to another.
Our eyes began to open to this more as we travelled.

Our eyes can see transitions in the woodland
— you may need to visit to see this!

Go to next page of pictures of Granite and Woodlands Trail

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