Mason & Bird Heritage Trail
The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail starts in the cul de sac opposite the Bickley Outdoor Recreation Camp but parking is available a short walk away at Hardinge Park which has picnic facilities and toilets. Please be mindful that this carpark is quite isolated and can be targeted by thieves. Make sure all valuables are out of sight. The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail is 4km one way but integrates very nicely with the Victoria Dam Walk Trail to make a 9km return loop trail. To get from the carpark to the trailhead follow the path parallel to Hardinge Road passing Bickley Reservoir and the Recreation Camp.
The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail reflects the beginning of the timber milling industry in WA. Benjamin Mason set up his second timber mill, the Hills Station, also known as Mosons Mill in 1864 to access the rich jarrah timbers around Carmel. In 1870 he took on Francis Bird, a young architect, as a partner. It is believed Bird designed the timber tramway which stretched from Masons Landing on the Canning River to the Hill Station. The 14km track was built by convict labour and took seven months to complete. When opened in 1872 it was the second railway in WA. The tramway was an inefficient and dangerous method of transporting timber and many valuable horses were killed on the dangerous curves and slopes.
The trail head sign is closer to a dirt track but quickly offers the option to divert downhill back onto the well groomed gravel trail. You can also continue on the upper rougher trail which appears to loop back onto the main trail (red line on map). We tried to do this on the return but took an incorrect turn off and had to turn back as the trail headed east so it's probably safer to take this trail from the beginning not a midpoint.
Here you can see the sharp bends (1) designed to slow the carriages down, not always successfully, leading to the death of many of the horses used to pull the trucks. Here we could also see across the valley to the very rugged Bickley Reservoir Trail which we had recently explored.
If you take the detour tracks towards the brook you will come to the remains of the old Boy Scout Association Camp (2) but we were not able to find any building remains. The next diversion is at (3) the remains of the Boys Brigade Camp - also no evidence of the foundations but at least there was a marker here.
The next stop as you continue along the undulating road is at Munday Brook Bridge (4) - a very scenic spot and absolutely worth the 15 minute easy walk to this point. The Munday Brook Bridge is the only one remaining of three bridges along the tramway and is one of Australia's oldest bridges. It was built in 1891 and although the decking has been replaced the piles are thought to be the original wandoo. If you walk across the bridge beware of the large gaps in the timbers. Can you find the memorial in a tree to an accident where the team was overrun?
A track to the right leads to Victoria Reservoir (5), Perth's first water supply dating back to 1891. You can follow the Victoria Dam Loop Trail to the Victoria Dam parking area and then rejoin the Mason and Bird Heritage Trail which will bring you back to this point.
Continue up the steep hill known as the Devil's Pinch (6) where the teams were unhitched for the downhill run - if the road was similar to today's rough eroded track it must have been a scary trip!
This section of the trail is very steep with loose stones and can be quite slippery.
The trail follows the babbling brook upstream and we stopped to listen to birdsong, appreciating the stillness of nature around us. You can see some old fruit trees, all that remains of the gardens (7) where fruit and vegetables were grown to supply Hill Station.
Trail marker number 8 - one of few surviving markers, indicates where the Kaolin Clay pit was located in the 1960's. The old Mill Town was probably located at the site of the current Rose Nursery (9). The trail then winds back on itself passing a privately owned orchard believed to be the site of Masons second mill (10). The trail emerges at the other trailhead located at the Victoria Dam parking area.
A few hundred metres from here along the road leading to Victoria Dam is the small grave of Francis Weston, who passed away on January 19 in 1876 aged only 2 days old. The Francis Weston gravesite has been tended by the Weston family for over 140 years and is now on the state’s heritage list. Both the headboard and the surrounding picket fence were made from local Jarrah by Richard Weston, one of the first mill workers in the area. To continue via the Victoria Dam Loop continue along the road until the trail diverges under the large power poles.
The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail is mostly a straight forward there and back trail but it does share some sections with the Kattamordo Heritage Trail. This trail was also created for the 1988 Bicentenary and runs for 27km from Bickley Reservoir to Mundaring Sculpture Park - not one you want to divert to by mistake! The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail also shares a section of the Victoria Dam Loop Trail. Having been established so long ago most trail markers and signs have degraded over time so it is recommended to carry a good map - print or digital - to keep you on the right track. The Mason and Bird Heritage Trail is also an unsanctioned Mountain Bike Trail and other Mountain Bike Trails intersect it.
This trail (yellow) took us about an hour each way - two hours in total. Taking the Victoria Dam Loop option (blue) will add on another 30 minutes. There are toilet facilities below the New Victoria Dam and at Hardinge Park. Parking is available at either end of the trail - Hardinge Park, which also has barbecue and picnic facilities, paved pathways and a small shaded playground or at the Victoria Dam Car Park which has no facilities.
After exploring this trail we visited nearby Fairbrossen Winery for a chilled glass of wine and a bite to eat.
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In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
As always when hiking in the bush please help to reduce the spread of Phytophthora Dieback by sticking to the tracks and paths, staying out of quarantined areas and, if possible, clean your shoes before and after hiking. A spray of 70% methylated spirit and 30% water can be effective.