Featured National Park

Roger Lembit, Convenor, NPA’s Park Management Committee

Barrington Tops National Park and State Conservation Area make up an area of about 83,000 ha of reserved land. Additional forested land is managed by the Forestry Corporation, including Stewarts Brook, Barrington Tops, Bowman and Chichester State Forests. There are strong vegetated links northwards towards Nundle and Nowendoc around the head of the Manning River catchment.

The Barrington Tops National Park forms the southern end of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, inscribed as a World Heritage Area in 1986.

History

Barrington Tops lies at the boundary of three Aboriginal territories, the lands of the Worimi people of the south-east, the Biripi people of the east and the Wonnarua people of the west. Evidence of their occupation of the Tops includes camp sites, artefacts, scar trees and ceremonial places. Many of the roads and tracks in use today likely followed routes used by Aboriginal people.

Settlement by Europeans in the Gloucester-Manning area took place in the 1820s and 1830s1. Timber getting was one of the first activities, concentrating on the Red Cedar of the sub-tropical rainforests of the river valleys. Cattle grazing followed as land was cleared. A hut on Edwards Plain, south of Polblue Swamp, was built by W.H. Edwards in 1910. This became a focus for adventurers and naturalists, exploring the natural features of the Tops1. This included an expedition in 1915 which collected specimens for the Australian Museum and the Linnean Society of NSW. Increased interest in the recreational value of the Tops in the late 1920s and early 1930s coincided with a significant increase in tourism to places like the Blue Mountains. Myles Dunphy promoted the idea of a Barrington Tops primitive area after a 1924-25 walk across the Tops with the Mountain Trails Club1.

In 1969 the first area of park to be gazetted as Barrington Tops National Park was created from about 14,000 ha of Crown Land and the smaller Gloucester Tops National Park. A major addition in 1984 was secured as part of the Wran Rainforest Decision and the larger Park was included in the World Heritage area, along with other northern NSW rainforest parks in 1986. Outcomes from the Northern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) process saw additional areas added in 1997 and 1999, when significant areas of the National Park were also declared as wilderness.

Landscape

The current landscape has developed as a result of volcanic activity 40-45 million years ago, which followed the formation of a rift valley that formed as New Zealand split away from Australia. The high plateau and upper ridges feature forests on basalt soils.

Vegetation

Barrington Tops is renowned as being one of the few places where remnant Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei) forests remain in New South Wales. Beech forest, a type of cool temperate rainforest, demonstrates our Gondwanan links to the ancient forests of New Zealand and Chile. Antarctic Beech trees also live in adjacent forests including Montane Forests dominated by Mountain Gum (Eucalyptus dalrympleana) and Snow Gum (E. pauciflora). There are also areas of sub-tropical rainforests, wet sclerophyll forests, bogs and fens, and grassy balds.

The large size of the Park and extreme altitudinal range mean that there is a high level of fauna diversity. This includes threatened species including the Broad-toothed Rat, Spotted-tailed Quoll and Rufous Scrub-bird. Over 200 species of bird have been recorded in the park2.

Recreation

The high plateau is a great place to get away from the heat of the Hunter Valley plains. The drive from either Scone in the west, or Gloucester in the east, is scenic and offers many opportunities to savour the landscape. There are a number of camping areas on the Plateau, either in the Park, the SCA or the State Forests.

Other ways of accessing the park are through Paterson and/or Dungog from the south, Singleton in the south-west, or along the Gloucester Tops Road from Gloucester.

Burruga Swamp is an iconic destination in the south of the Park featuring beech forest and a sphagnum bog.

There are a myriad of opportunities for walking, camping and birdwatching. Walkers can enjoy a one hour walk around the Polblue Loop Track or a multiday walk exploring deep gorges, spectacular ridges and the montane forests and glens.

Management

Those who visited the Park in the 1980s and who now return will be surprised how much of the plateau forest has been invaded by Broom (Cytisus scoparius). Efforts are being made to contain this weed, focussing on access tracks and preventing further invasion into highland swamps.

Foxes and feral cats threaten native fauna in the Park, including the endangered Broad-toothed Rat. There is active program to monitor pest species numbers using cameras.

The water mould, Phytophthora cinnamomi, causes root rot of native plants and has emerged as a threat to montane ecosystems in the Park. Access along some traditional walking routes is not permitted as there is a large quarantine area in the Park.

Barrington is a very large and diverse Park. It deserves a spot in any nature lover’s itinerary. Be sure to visit a local town on your way in or back out.

Extra references

1 Office of Environment and Heritage (2010) Barrington Tops. The Guide. OEH, Hurstville.

2 Wright P. (1991) The NPA Guide to National Parks of Northern New South Wales. National Parks Association, Sydney.