Chauncy Vale. Beautiful Tasmania
HOBART REGION. CHAUNCY VALE CAVES
|Leave underground caving to the wetsuit-clad and discover the joys of dry caving on an easy walk in the heart of Tasmania.|
|Walk. Chauncy Vale:||7km loop|
|Time required. Chauncy Vale:||2-3 hours|
|Best time. Chauncy Vale:||Mild, clear day in spring or autumn (the lagoon and creek dry up in summer and Caves Track can be slippery in winter after rain)|
|Grade. Chauncy Vale:||Easy (with short climb)|
|Environment. Chauncy Vale:||Dry sclerophyll forest, sandstone caves|
|Best map. Chauncy Vale:||This one|
|Toilets. Chauncy Vale:||Toilet at start of walk|
|Food. Chauncy Vale:||None|
|Tips. Chauncy Vale:||Day Dawn, the house built in 1916-18 and given to original owners of the land (Nan and Anton Chauncy) as a wedding present, is open to the public on the 1st Sunday of each month from 2pm til 4pm.|
Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Tasmania’s oldest private conservation areas. Gazetted in 1946 after an application by Nan and Anton Chauncy, it was bequeathed to the local council on Anton’s death in 1988 and is now managed by a council sub-committee. Chauncy Vale, adjoining Flat Rock Reserve, purchased by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy in 2006, and Alpha Pinnacle Conservation Area together protect over 1000 hectares of the Southern Midlands.
Chauncy Vale is a sanctuary for resident nomadic and migratory birds, including ten of Tasmania’s 12 endemic species. You may see wombats, Bennett’s wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots, perhaps even an endangered Tasmanian devil or uncommon eastern quoll. Snakes number among the reptiles that thrive here, so watch your step. The long list of native and endemic plants recorded on the property includes more than two dozen orchids. Walking tracks extend through the sanctuary to Flat Rock Reserve but the walk described here shows off the sanctuary’s geology and flora; the more observant you are, the more wildlife you will see.
Chauncy Vale is 4km east of Bagdad, a small town 40km north of Hobart on the Midland Hwy. In Bagdad turn east into Chauncy Vale Rd and follow it 4km to the gated sanctuary boundary (entry is a $2 donation). Having closed the gate after you, drive about 700m to the end of the road, beyond the information shelter and picnic area. The walking track starts past the gate across the road here. Much of Chauncy Vale is dry sclerophyll forest of white peppermints (eucalypts) and the walk begins among these tall trees with smooth, cream-streaked grey trunks.
At a junction about 50m beyond the gate keep right on vehicle-wide Caves Track and then ignore the right-hand Winter Track, which loops back to the information shelter. At the next junction, step from the vehicle track onto the narrower Caves Track, which heads right and uphill towards a rocky ridge, through cutting grass, wattles, almost fluffy green native cherry trees and tall gums. The track crosses and then steps up beside a narrow gully, the climb bringing you face to face with squared-off rock faces above the valley floor. Keep a look out for camouflaged grey-and-white mountain dragons (small thorny lizards) among the leaf litter and rocks.
Following the track left past a beautiful leaning gum tree, you come to undercut sandstone sculpted into sedimentary tiers and drilled with holes; this is the first of Brown’s Caves and from here you can see down Brown’s Caves Creek valley and out to the plains beyond. Past a slab of sandstone jutting from the cliff you’ll come to steps leading up into a sandstone ‘vestibule’ opening into a roomier cave, both with sculpted walls. Sandstone wears to powder that can make the rock slippery so take care as you step up into the first cave and duck through into the bigger one; they could have been purpose-built for sitting and looking out over the treed sanctuary.
Beyond those open caves you pass a hole naturally drilled up into the hill and 50m or so further along you can clamber up into another cave with honeycomb internal walls. As you zigzag down the hill, you’ll pass a tunnel cave drilled into the sandstone, its mouth right beside the track. Sanctuary co-founder Nan Chauncy was a celebrated children’s author who died in 1970 a year after the publication of her twelfth novel. These caves possibly and probably inspired her first, published in 1947, a best-seller called They Found a Cave. Early in his illustrious career, Launceston composer Peter Sculthorpe wrote the score for the successful film version of the book, which was released in 1962.
Down on the valley floor in a sea of bracken there’s a junction marked with a wooden post. You could turn left here for a shorter loop back to the parking area but even in summer it’s worth turning right for Guvys Lagoon, a great birdwatching spot when there’s water. Cross Brown’s Caves Creek, often bone dry in summer, and continue upstream along the opposite bank. You are now treading the Old Road Track, which shortly turns left away from the creek and doglegs up and around a low ridge through scruffy eucalypt forest. This track gives a good view back to the cave and the cliffs above. Protecting the peregrine falcons that nest in these cliffs was a major impetus for Nan and Anton making their home a wildlife reserve. The cliffs are out-of-bounds for visitors.
Invaded by shrubs in a couple of spots but easy to follow, the Old Road Track brings you to another junction. Ignore the Flat Rock Lookout option to the left and keep right for Guvys Lagoon, about 200m further on and gently downhill through eucalypts trailing bark streamers. Dry sclerophyll forest becomes very dry sclerophyll forest in summer and Guvys Lagoon shrinks to a puddle; animal droppings on the mossy lagoon floor indicate the importance of every water source to sanctuary wildlife in hot weather. Multiple shades of green, yellow and brown also make it unexpectedly photogenic. At wetter times the lagoon is a wonderful bird-watching spot and you can identify what you see from photos at the information shelter on the road out.
Backtrack from the lagoon to the Caves Track junction and follow the valley-floor track over the rock-floored creek and downstream. The Chauncy family used to wash in the creek at Eves Bath (signed); in summer it dries to another puddle fed by a trickle, down a water-cut incision in the creek bed. You may see eels here, and wallabies and echidnas on the final 800m walk to the car. The track shelters in a patch of dense, leafier trees before pushing on through open eucalypt forest to finish.
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