Our travels around Australia on horseback start in our own back yard. For years we have been hearing about the development of a horse trail that follows the old stock routes: The Warren Blackwood Stock Route.
The route is promoted as:
“a 320km bridle trail based on the old stock droving routes of the original farming families of the south west. The trail meanders through some of the most picturesque countryside in the south west, through Karri and Jarrah forests and farmland toward the south and west coasts. The bridle trail includes 8 equine friendly camp sites dotted along the route, at intervals of between 30km and 45 km, and sections of self-reliant trail to explore toward the coast. The trail will provide an opportunity for trail enthusiasts to experience living history by following in the footsteps of the pioneer farming families that opened up the coastal south west.” (Shire of Bridgeton website)
For us it is the perfect opportunity to get our feet wet in what will become an epic journey on horseback. This is how we experienced the Warren Blackwood Stock Route.
At the time we started thinking about our journey not much of the Stock Route was done yet, we saw some markers but that was about it. After the official opening things started happening and the camps were built. Extremely impressed so far, we started scouting the area and the trail by car. At the time of this writing, not much official info is out there yet. Some tourism maps show the trail, there is a printable mud map and then the trail markers and camps themselves. In hindsight we found out that the trail isn’t actually completed yet, which we didn’t know. Stay tuned for more facilities, maps, website and brochure. And enjoy our pre-view!
Day 1 Mottram Camp
We started our trip in Manjimup, where we left our friends place and headed out to our first camp along the Stock Route, Mottram Camp, at the back of the Warren Equestrian Centre on Kimber Road. The actual trail starts on Milyeannup Coast Road in the Scott River area. It then meanders towards Nannup and Bridgetown, before heading down to Manjimup where we picked it up.
First impression of the camp was a flock of sheep that were sharing the camp site with us. Lucky they were impressed by the truck and didn’t escape when I drove in (don’t forget to close the gate!). It had rained a lot in the days before and the soil was a bit boggy at the entrance. The camp site itself is built up on some gravel so it was nice and dry there. The set up consists of a long drop toilet (with toilet paper!), 4 yards in a square, a level sitting area, a compost bin for manure, fire ring, a shelter and at the back of the shelter a tap with town water. Great luxury as we can carry only so much water for the horses.
(Note: you will need to book this camp via the Warren Equestrian Centre)
Day 2 Muir Camp
We had been to this camp before to check it out. It is beautifully set in the bush at a dam site with nobody around, a pretty spot and very peaceful. When we arrived, it was raining a little and the horses needed a blanket, but in the morning it was beautifully sunny and I decided to stay a little longer to enjoy this magical spot. If only all camps could be this way we would be laughing, but I’m sure they don’t come much better then this one.
The camp itself; the shelter, horse yards and toilet are in the bush and can’t really be reached with a float, let alone our truck. A 4WD would probably make it, but the spot to put the vehicles is just outside the bush along the gravel road you come in on (Smeathers Road). Park right next to the dam, that is full of marron by the way ssst!
To get to the camp you follow a little track for about 50m, where you will find the toilet, then 50m further up is the shelter with a rain water tack (advice is no drinking water) and fire ring. The yards are found another 50-100m down the track which then brings you to the official entrance to the campsite. Again 4 nice steel yards, in a row this time with sand base and compost bin.
The only downside is that the horses are a fair way from the truck. That means a lot of carrying stuff and you can’t really hear when something is wrong. Good thing our boys behave themselves well.
Erwin’s ride here from Mottram Camp was a pleasant 30km ride along farmland and bush. Mostly big gravel roads with some smaller tracks and plenty of water to wade through. Up to belly high in some places (we travelled beginning of November). He lost a boot in the water as the mud must have sucked it off. He had a lovely picnic lunch at Dingup Church amongst the pretty flowers.
Day 3-4 Egberton – Warburton Camp
Today Erwin arrived after 33 long km’s. The track had been very hilly, and it was raining most of the time. Good day to arrive at the Egberton – Warburton camp that is located at the Quinninup Eco Tourist Park. It provided us with a hot shower and a pub meal at the Quinninup Tavern. We decided to stay 2 nights to give the horses a bit of a break.
The ‘camp site’ only consists of 4 steel horse yards, plus there is room to park the float or in our case the truck. Not knowing what the situation was I rang the Caravan Park the day before to book in. They said I could park anywhere in the CP as there was plenty of room. Cost quoted was $35 per night for the 2 of us and Olly was welcome as well, as long as he was on a lead.
When I arrived, it was raining so I stopped the truck at the office to have a look on foot to find a good spot. I realized the CP sites where a fair way away from the yards and there was also room at the yards to park, but no facilities near. I decided to go for a coffee at the Tavern and a walk around Karri Lake with Olly before deciding where to park up.
As I said it was raining quite a bit and I didn’t fancy carrying all the horse gear and feed such a distance, so I decided to park at the yards. We could still use the facilities of the Caravan Park and have a hot shower, only no water/power at the truck.
Erwin arrived and was happy with the setup, enjoyed a long hot shower and we met up with some friends at the Quinninup Tavern for an awesome meal of Seafood Laksa and Goat Curry.
We ended up paying $20 per night camping fee.
Day 5 Shannon National Park Camp
Shannon NP has done a good job putting horse facilities and a range of trails into a National Park setting. If you are not following the Warren Blackwood Stock Route you can choose from 3 other rides that loop back to the camp. The Showpony Circuit is 7km, the Cowbells Loop is 17km and the Saddlebags Trail is 20km. Beware although the trails meander through some nice bush, most are big gravel roads, so make sure you put boots or shoes on your horses.
The horse area is separate from the general campground, it’s located at the former oval and is fully fenced. As at all camps so far, there are 4 yards in a block, a water tap near the yards and 2 manure dump points. Getting in and turning around is easy as there is plenty of space and good gravel roads. Although the camp can handle plenty of horses and campers, you will be fighting over a level spot!
The facilities to use, toilet and shower, are in the main camp area, a good 500-700m away up the hill. If you do make the track and want a hot shower you might need to light the woodchip burner for warm water. Not ideal, but better than nothing, I guess.
Cost of the camp is the same as in lots of National Parks, $15pp for the night, we hadn’t counted on the $15 vehicle fee and were lucky to have enough cash on us to put in the fee box (located near the yards). All up $45 for the night, let’s say it is for all the other facilities we used up until now as well. You can book here.
Day 6-8: NOT Steve’s Road Stopover
First day of ‘real’ adventure for us. No mobile phone reception, so no way to communicate with each other (other than leaving messages drawn into the gravel of the road). As we lived in the area, we scouted out parts of the route before to get a bit of a feel for it. Also then we didn’t find Steve’s Road Stopover, same as now. I drove along Deeside Coast Road and didn’t come across a camp at all. Maybe it will still be built, maybe we just missed it, maybe it will never be. Time will tell.
Anyway, lucky we already knew that there might not be a camp tonight. As we were scouting, we drove further along till the Cheasapeake Road intersection, turn right and after about 50m or so there is a water hole that you can park next to. Obvious no facilities other then the water (which is always handy). We put our yards up (electric tape in the inside) in front of the truck and the horses were sorted.
NOTE: After the Great Forest Tree Drive turns left, continuing along Deeside Coast Road is a big warning sign: 4 WD only, rough road (you will find the same sign on the other side coming onto Broke Inlet Road) Now normally I wouldn’t turn into a road like this with the truck. But again, because we knew the area, we knew the truck could handle it. As it happened to turn out, they were just grading the road. A couple of small sections I was worried about, some hills, some road hazards, potholes, but all in all a good gravel road. I think the signs are more for the sections towards the coast and Broke Inlet. When we are camping, I had to laugh as a BusWest bus drove right past our camping spot!
The route along Deeside Coast Road is a little boring, it is just a long, straight, big gravel road to follow. Some nice landscapes, but not really worth the ride. We stayed at (NOT) Steve’s Road camp for 2 more days. Giles had a little trouble with his hind leg (swollen and a limp), so we decided to give him some rest. The 30 km between camps is catching up and it’s pretty tough on horse and rider (Erwin had a stiff neck and shoulders).
While camping here, we spoke to the ranger who dropped in. Dpaw doesn’t manage the Stock Route as it does the Bibblemun Track and Munda Biddi trail. He confirmed there was no camp at Steve’s Road and he thought there neither was one at Broke Inlet (the last camp of the route). Our plan forward (now there are no more official camps) is for Erwin to ride ahead and find a spot and I will follow with the truck.
Day 9 Cheasepeake Road (11.5km from turn off)
Erwin left this morning down Cheasapeake Road towards Broke Inlet. The plan was he would ride Tonto and see how many km Giles could handle. I would leave 2 hours later and catch up to them, which I did. Giles was OK so Erwin told me to keep driving for another 5km or so to see if I could find a suitable campsite. After about 2km I saw a side road that I thought might do. To my surprise I actually stumbled into a campsite. No facilities, no water but level gravel parking spots, off the road with enough space for the yards and the truck. Walking into the bush at the side of the camp was a beautiful area of granite outcrop with lots of pretty flowers and moss. Bonus! Every camp has it’s own treasures.
I think this might even have been a stockmen camp at one stage. We saw an old loading ramp and a discarded water tank, some old tin and other old building materials.
Day 10 Broke Inlet Road – Bibblemun Track Crossing
We decided to do the same as yesterday. Erwin would start riding and I would follow 2 hours later with the truck. I drove the rest of Cheasapeake road and turned into Broke Inlet Road. It was a beautiful drive, lots of karri trees, nice coastal shrub and a fairly good road. Couple of potholes and corrugation but nothing too serious. We were lucky there was still water along the road, so Erwin could give the horses a drink along the way. Not much to eat though. They are losing a little condition, but nothing they couldn’t handle!
We skipped the last ‘camp’ of the route Camfield. One because the ranger thought there was no camp and two because Wikicamps and a friend told us that access was by 4 WD only. Lots of sand that I was not going to risk with the truck. Wikicamps did show an area to park further along Broke Inlet Road, where the Bibblemun Track crosses. I passed Erwin on the road, all good with the horses. They were enjoying themselves. I passed and found the site, basically the same as the day before. Gravel parking space, level, old cattle ramp, no facilities. We found water at the bottom of the hill before the camp. Gave the horses a good drink and took some buckets up with us.
Well, that was the end of the Warren Blackwood Stock Route for us. We enjoyed ourselves and had a great introduction to longer horse trekking. Loved having the facilities, horse yards and marked route to start our adventure with. It takes a lot of thinking and planning out of the equation. We found the distance between the camps was a little too much for the horses. In theory they can do 30+km per day but it starts adding up if you do it day after day. Some camps a little closer to each other would be great, especially in more hilly country. Make sure to plan a couple of rest days.
Warren Blackwood Stock Route
As for us, we travelled the Stock Route before it was completely finished, which we didn’t know. We heard there were going to be even more facilities, like bunk beds in the shelters. Hopefully, the route will be finished soon with some more information about the actual track, contact info on who to speak to about camps and which ones you need to book where.
We definitely need more of these routes, they are great fun. (Just a thought, why not make the Munda Biddi open to horses. I’m sure we could make that work.)
For now, if you require more info contact:
Warren Blackwood Alliance of Councils (WBAC)
0409 112 529 firstname.lastname@example.org