Mt Field I: At Our Back Door, and Worlds Away

When I was growing up in Hobart in the 1960s, we called Mount Wellington “The Mountain” and the Derwent was called “The River”. We also had “The Bridge”, “The Fountain”, “The Roundabout” and “The Rivulet”.

Can anyone remember other things we spoke of in this way? Please leave a comment.

Maybe it was a symptom of our isolation from the rest of the world. It certainly felt as if there was only one of everything.

On winter weekends, we went to “National Park”.

Mt Field National Park
Courtesy of Tourism Tasmania and Michael Walters photography

Our Park

By “National Park” we meant Mt Field National Park, but it was years before I learned the full name.

Of course, by the sixties, there were more than one national park in Tasmania. And even when it was founded in 1916, “National Park” was one of two. Freycinet National Park was established in the same year.

But Mt Field was the park we knew. It was an hour and a half’s drive from the city (it’s a bit quicker now), with another half hour or so up the dirt road to Lake Dobson.

Mt Field Lake Dobson Jan 05 237
by Martin Baker

We visited Mt Field at every opportunity. It was, in a way we never had to think about, “our place”.

I’m sure other people still feel the same.

Yes? Please comment.

Mt Field has always felt like Hobart’s own private retreat, very much part of our home.

At the same time, once you are there, you feel as if you are worlds away from anywhere.

Mt Field forest track pandani eguide travel flickr
Urquhart Track, near Lake Dobson, by eGuide Travel via Flickr

The  next post will cover the history of the park.

 A Glorious Book

As far as I can see, there is only one book that has ever been written exclusively about Mt Field National Park, and it’s a delight. This is The Field of Dreams, by Mark Clemens, walker, photographer, guitarist, and a beautiful writer.

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It is well worth a look. (Available online or from Fullers Bookshop, The Hobart Bookshop or the State Cinema Bookstore.)

Three reasons to go.

Mt Field NP has many extraordinary walks. Three of them I would count among the most beautiful easy walks in Tasmania. Two are very short. These are Russell Falls (with nearby walks to Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls) and the Lake Dobson Pandani Grove. The hike out to the Tarn Shelf is three hours and it’s susceptible to all kinds of mountain weather, but it’s well worth the effort.

Mt Field tarn Shelf Lake_Seal JJ Harrison Wkimedia
by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia

There are plenty of guide books and webpages to help you plan, and these walks are worth doing for their beauty alone. But if you think a small amount of history or botanical information will add interest and texture to the experience, you’ll find that in some of my other posts.

Of course, there are many other walks in the park.

Mt Field K-Col, looking towards Naturalist Peak and Mount Field West - Mount Field National Park by Trains in Tasmania on flickr
K Col, Naturalist Peak and Field West by Trains in Tasmania on Flickr

For more information, the Parks and Wildlife pages are a good place to start, and there are some helpful bushwalking blogs listed below.

A Huge Diversity of Plants

Mt Field National Park isn’t huge. At its widest points, it is about 15 kilometres from north to south and about 18 kilometres from east to west. But it showcases a wide range of flora. Being quite central, it contains elements of the vegetation of both of eastern and western Tasmania. Apparently another reason for the rich diversity is that there is a variety of geological substrates, including dolerite, sandstone, and quartzite.

And, of course, there is a wide altitudinal range. The lower zones of the park have wet and dry sclerophyll forests dominated by enormous swamp gums (Eucalyptus regnans).

Mt Field Eucalyptus_regnans Chrmichel wikimedia
by Chrmichel via Wikimedia

Further up the mountain road you will find mixed forests featuring sassafras, laurel and leatherwood, then sub-alpine forests of snow gums, beech myrtle (fagus) and conifers. There are also pandani groves, bogs and swamps (not pleasant to walk in, but ecologically important) and alpine plateaux.

“Over half the park is above 3000ft and that above 3500 feet contains wild moorland and rugged mountain ranges fashioned by glaciers in a bygone age. In this area are a score of major lakes and tarns.” Tasmanian Tramp No 11, December 1953, p29.

Mt-Field-West-plateau Mike Towers tasphotoalbum
Courtesy of Mike Towers and tasphotoalbum.com

“It is a feature of Tasmanian alpine areas that there is great variation in the vegetation over short distances – several distinct plant communities will commonly occur together in a mosaic.” Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania. 

Heather Gulline provided a detailed listing of the flora species of the park in the December 1953 issue of the Tasmanian Tramp, the newsletter of the Hobart Walking Club. There are several books about Tasmanian flora, and the Australian Plants Society website is thorough.  Parks and Wildlife have provided a Plant Checklist and a Guide to Alpine Plants.

Fauna

Because of the wide diversity of habitats, many animal species are present, including: echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) and platypus (Ornithorynchus anatinus).

Mt Field Platypus loic le guilly tasmania360
Platypus in Lake Dobson, courtesy of Loic Le Guilly, Hobart photographer

There are also padymelons (Thylogale billardierii), and two endangered species, the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) and the eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus).

Mt field eastern quoll Flickr Michael Barritt & Karen May
Eastern quoll, from Michael Barritt & Karen May on Flickr

According to Parks and Wildlife, bird species in Mt Field NP include 11 of the 12 Tasmanian endemic species such as the Tasmanian native hen (Gallinula morlieri)  and the pink robin (Petroica rodinogaster).

The  black currawong (Strepera fuliginosa) is everywhere, as is the grey or clinking currawong (Strepera versicolor arguta). The latter is not endemic but currawongs are ecologically important as a disperser of fleshy fruited plants. (Parks and Wildlife Service)

Some history of the park is covered here.

 

Some websites about walks in Mt Field National Park

http://hikinginsetasmania.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/tarn-shelf.html

https://www.bushwalkingblog.com.au/guest-post-photo-essay-tarn-shelf-circuit-mount-field-national-park-tasmania/

http://www.touringtasmania.info/tarn_shelf.htm

http://tastrails.com/category/location/southern-tasmania/mount-field-area/

http://ianfrasertalkingnaturally.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/mount-field-tasmanian-treasure.html

References and further reading

Allnut, Peter, Gilbert, Max and Thwaites, Jack (eds)  (1953), “Mt Field National Park”. The Tasmanian Tramp, No 11.

Briggs, J.D. and Leigh, J. H. (eds) (1992), Threatened Australian plants : overview and case studies. Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.

Clemens, Mark (2016), The Field of Dreams. Hobart, Tasmania. Mark and Janet Clemens.

Collier, Phil (2007), Rainforest Plants of Tasmania: plant identikit. Hobart, Tas. Australian Plants Society, Tasmania, Hobart Group.

Gibson, N., and Kirkpatrick, J.B. (1985), “Vegetation and flora associated with localised snow accumulation at Mount Field West, Tasmania”. Australian Journal of Ecology, 10, 91-99.

Gulline, Heather (1953), “Flora and Fauna Notes”. The Tasmanian Tramp, No 11.

Minchin, P.R., 1989: Montane vegetation of the Mt Field massif, Tasmania: a test of some hypotheses about properties of community patterns. Vegetatio, 83, 97-110.

Ogden, J., and Powell, J.A. (1979), “A quantitative description of the forest vegetation on an altitudinal gradient in the Mount Field National Park, Tasmania, and a discussion of its history and dynamics”. Australian Journal of Ecology, 4, 293-325.

Simmons, Marion, Wapstra, A and Wapstra H and the Launceston Field Naturalists’ Club (2008), A Guide to Flowers and Plants of Tasmania. Chatswood, NSW, New Holland Australia.

Taloiburi, E. J. (2009) “Comparative study of conservation challenges between Mount Field National Park in Tasmania and Komarindi Conservation Area, Solomon Islands”. http://eprints.utas.edu.au/22239/1/whole_TaloiburiExsleyJemuel2009_thesis.pdf

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=1494

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=18978

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3601

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=22268

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=6757

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/indeX.aspX?base=2736

Mt Field National Park Plant Checklist, http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=6761,

Alpine and Subalpine Plants of Tasmania, Introduction, http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=3216

Alpine and Subalpine Plants of Tasmania, Communities, http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3220

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-24/tasmanias-mt-field-national-park-celebrates-100th-birthday/7353282

Australian Plants Society Tasmania Inc. http://www.apstas.org.au/flora.html

http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/2006/04/lyrebirds-of-southern-tasmania.html

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