Markets and Meadows - Guildford
Fishmarket Reserve and Kings Meadow Reserve are on the banks of the Swan River in Guildford. We set out to walk a loop following the Swan River from Fishmarket Reserve to Moulton's Landing before returning along the Helena and Swan Rivers via Kings Meadow.
We parked at Fishmarket Reserve, a natural reserve dotted with mature trees and winding pathways. The town of Guildford was established in 1829 as an inland port so farm produce and other goods could be shipped down river to Perth and Fremantle. In 1831 markets were established to sell livestock, vegetables and fish and although the markets themselves didn't last, as the site was subject to flooding, the name Fishmarket Reserve was retained.
We wandered upstream along the edge of the river past the large overhead water pipe and the jetty on the opposite side, at the base of Success Hill.
The top of the reserve lies opposite the junction where the Bennett Brook tributary joins the Swan River, a spiritual site where the Waugal lives. According to Noongar culture and beliefs the Waugal is the serpent that created the Swan (Derbarl Yerrigan) and Canning (Djalgarra) Rivers.
Here we hit our first hurdle as private property meets the river frontage. There was actually a very rough trail along the steep river bank but we were not game to take it so we turned around, retracing our steps to try walking an anticlockwise loop.
Wandering back past the entrance wall we realised we have been to Fishmarket Reserve before on the Great Valley Rally, a self drive tour designed for kids to explore the Swan Valley. I remember searching the entrance wall for the clue - to no avail then or today!
We followed the river's edge under the railway and traffic bridges getting a different perspective to our Earlsferry and Bassendean Walk, along the opposite bank of the river.
Beyond the bridges we found an explanation for the curious bubbles or mist we had noticed on the Swan River when we explored Point Reserve on the opposite bank. A nearby pumping station must pump water into the river at this point, creating the bubbles.
We weren't really sure where this path would take us and eventually signs warned that this was private property but the fencing stopped short of a narrow well developed riverside track about 25m long. We could see the car park at Kings Meadow on the other side so we forged ahead offering a silent thankyou to the owners for keeping access open. Kings Meadow is a wide open space with several picnic benches, wood burning barbecues and a small playground. There were several people fishing on the banks of the river in spite of signs saying the river front was not stable. You can see the timber beams shoring up the edges and they don't look particularly safe!
Kings Meadow Reserve can be accessed from Hill Street if you prefer not to walk across private property. Kings Meadow fronts both the Swan and Helena Rivers as this is where the Helena River flows into the Swan. From the playground we followed a rough trail along the edge of the Helena River, skirting a large swampy patch where the trail split into a wider track and a narrower, less distinct trail closer to the river. Naturally we chose to explore this one, peeking through the trees to Iho Park on the other side (another one to explore!)
The trail passes under the old wooden Johnson St Bridge, which carries the Great Eastern Highway, where we found some graffiti. The timbers and pylons under the bridge also hold lots of colourful graffiti and pictures, reminiscent of Canning Bridge.
From here we diverted right to hug the edge of the river again. The wide open spaces continued and were lovely and green with winter grass. Upriver we could see posts and trusses, perhaps the remains of an older bridge. The path passes behind the Perth Polo Club field. We continued walking near the river for most of the length of the polo grounds and got a closer look at the old river crossing. Not really wanting to leave the beautiful river we reluctantly diverted across the vast polo fields to head out through the gates (there is access to the side if the gates are closed).
From here we wandered up Meadow Street passing a few of the historic sites on the Swan Valley Heritage Trail and on the Guildford Heritage Trail. We stopped for a caffeine fix at the quaint Poste Cafe housed in the old Guildford Post Office. This cafe combines a nursery, gardens and a cafe and there are so many lovely spots to sit and enjoy your cuppa, both inside and out. The old rooms are beautifully decorated and provide an intimate location for a special morning or afternoon tea celebration. The outdoor tables have large fluffy rugs provided to keep you snug when it is a little chily.
Having previously explored the Guildford Heritage Walks we tried not to get distracted by all the heritage site signposts and continued on to Moulton's Landing.
Knowing we couldn't walk back along the river to Fishmarket Reserve we checked with some locals to see if we could follow the river and shortcut to the end of Swan Street West. They suggested we cross the reserve back to Swan Street at Stirling Square. After rains the edge of the reserve was a little soft underfoot but we kept our feet dry emerging at the eastern end of the dirt road which "connects" Swan Road and Swan Road West. Following the dirt road we discovered a number of places where planks have been laid across the little "stream" at the edge of the reserve so we could have continued along the river and still been able to cross back to the dirt track. Where you cross will depend on how wet the ground is....all part of the adventure!
The road was quite pleasant to walk along with views across the meadow to the river. Until we saw the large puddle across the track! We forged on and luckily managed to get around the muddy puddle (only just) by stepping across some very narrow and well spaced dry bits! As we continued along the dirt track (grateful we didn't have to turn around and retrace our steps!) we could see the wetlands stretching down to the river. There is a reason all of this land is natural reserve....it's the river floodplain. We were lucky, not only that we managed to sneak through but because this area was lush and verdant green after all the rains. It might not be as risky to take this track in the dryer months but it would also not be nearly as pretty!
After passing the wetlands on the western edge of the track we emerged onto higher ground at Swan Street West which we followed back to Fishmarket Reserve. As intended we had managed to walk a loop following the Swan and Helena Rivers around the Guildford bump even though a small portion was inland. We didn't map this walk but estimate it was about 5km in length, taking around 75 minutes excluding the caffeine stop!
You can access the riverfront by parking at either Fishmarket Reserve or Kings Meadow Reserve. Both of these reserves have picnic benches, wood fired barbecues and small traditional playgrounds but neither has toilet facilities.
I think this walk is particularly beautiful during winter when the green grass contrasts with the red dirt, the sun shines gently through the trees and sparkles off the water with kayakers paddling up and down the river lending a splash of colour.