Trail walks trending

Trail walks trending

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Ferndale resident Prunella Riddle said the lack of travel options available during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired her to take on the Bibbulmun Track solo. Photograph - Richard Polden.

Figures from Trails WA have confirmed what many have suspected – the popularity of trail walking and hiking has skyrocketed over the last two years of COVID restrictions.

The peak hiking body launched their new digital platform last week, and executive officer Ag Sleeman said trailing had reached new heights during COVID.

“From May 7, 2021 to May 7, 2022, we had 33,466 visits to our website searching for trails in the City of Gosnells and the City of Canning,” she said.

“81 per cent of these were unique visitors.

“Although spread across the year, the busiest months are July to August, you see that the most popular are related to waterfall trails.

“This is unsurprising and there are some huge shifts day to day which probably correlate with downpours.”

Some 76 per cent of those 33,466 visits relate to Sixty Foot Falls in Gosnells’ Ellis Brook Valley, while other popular trails include Blue Wren Ramble Trail and the Canning River Wetlands’ paddle trail.

For avid hiker Prunella Riddle, this all correlates with what she has seen first-hand.

The Ferndale mother of three teenage boys has been hiking since she was a child, and she said she had witnessed the increase in hikers and bushwalkers during the pandemic.

She also thinks the reasons for this increase are the restriction on travel, restrictions which prompted her to take on the Bibbulmun Track solo.

“There’s definitely been an increase, you can see that statistically but you can also see it when you’re out taking on the trails,” she said.

“I think there’s a lot of people who would normally go elsewhere, probably overseas, and because they haven’t been able to, they’re looking local, looking at things they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time.

“I did the Bibbulmun track solo this year and I’m firmly in that boat, it was always something I wanted to do and the pandemic gave me that opportunity.

“Normally I would have gone overseas, but because of the pandemic I did the Bibbulmun and without the pandemic I probably would never have done it.

“People do trails for a physical challenge, I do it for wildlife and meeting locals in the area who you’d never normally meet.

“A lot of people have taken up hiking for some decompression from the stress that’s come with the lockdown, for me it’s more for self-discovery.”

Ms Riddle’s favourite tracks are Ferndale to Kent St Weir and the City of Gosnells’ Sixty Foot Falls.

“I walk from Ferndale to the Kent St Weir, that’s the one I do the most, and the Sixty Foot Falls is really good, I’ve done that four or five times and If I’ve got overseas visitors – although there haven’t been many of them lately for obvious reasons – that’s where I’d take them, it’s quite spectacular.”

Sixty Foot Falls has recently been closed by the City of Gosnells, with Mayor Terresa Lynes saying bushland conservation groups back up the statistics.

“Local ‘Friends’ groups have reported an increase in walkers and additional maintenance is currently underway at Ellis Brook Valley’s Sixty Foot Falls Trail to prepare for the upcoming winter and spring when this trail is at its most popular.

“Currently, $70,000 of trail upgrade works are underway along 178 metres of the Sixty Foot Falls Trail at Ellis Brook Valley, with further works anticipated next financial year.”