Denmark - Nornalup Rail Trail
by Janet Cameron
I regularly travel to Peaceful bay between Denmark and Walpole and have often seen the signs for the Denmark - Nornalup Rail Trail. Being a keen trail user of walk trails, cycle trails and in particular bridle trails, I was very keen to one day do this trail.
Some information about the trail is available on the Rail Trails website,
however I felt that before travelling seven hours with a horse in a float I needed more information! Accommodation was easily sorted for both horses and riders as I have friends living in the area. However after checking the website "Have Horse, Will Travel"
I discovered that horse and rider accommodation is available at Cinnemon Coloureds Farmstay, 8km from Denmark. Bev McGuiness from Cinnemon Coloureds Farmstay, kindly posted me a great map - a free Street Guide of Denmark, Peaceful Bay and Nornalup which is available from the Visitor Information Centre and other tourist locations. Being a member of the local historical society, Bev has a wealth of knowledge about the trail.
Next I contacted the secretary of the Denmark Pony Club and sort permission to park our floats at their grounds which is at the end of one section of the trail. Linda from Denmark Pony Club was able to tell me that mobile phone reception is "patchy" along the trail, water is not readily available at this time of the year and that most horses would need to be shod unless particularly hardy, as there are some gravel sections on the trail. Armed with this information, I now felt confident to gather a group of fellow enthusiasts, set a date and travel down to do the trail. Our group consisted of four riders, five horses (one was led) and three in the backup crew for the first day.
The first leg to be tackled whilst we had a backup crew, was the section from Parker Road - Denmark. We floated out from near Bow Bridge to Parker Road. The backup crew were then taking the cars and floats to the Denmark Pony Club, leaving both floats and one car and returning to meet us at McCloud Road for lunch and then returning to Denmark to await our arrival. If you did not have a backup crew, the closest place to leave a vehicle would be the Kent River Winery which is about 1km back towards Bow Bridge on the South Coast Highway.
We unloaded the horses at Parker Road and no sooner had the floats disappeared than we were lost! We followed a track with the Denmark - Nornalup Rail Trail sign on it next to the South Coast Highway and it came to a dead end in about 1km! Further investigation showed that the trail actually started about 200m further down Parker Road!! Once on the trail it was clearly marked and we did not get lost again. Our fantastic back up crew provided lunch at McCloud Road for horses and riders and then on into Denmark. This section of the trail is 33km, mostly beautiful firm tracks with some gravel tracks and sections on the road. The trail goes through farmland and bush, some water was available in the gutter near McCloud Road and possible access to streams crossed if you carry a canvas bucket. Including our lunch break, this section took about 5 hours. Mobile phone coverage was indeed patchy in case of emergencies but we did get coverage in places. for
The next day we said goodbye to our backup crew who were returning to Perth. We rode out from the yards where our horses were kept and joined the trail at the Bow Bridge end (there is a gap in the trail between Bow Bridge and Parker Road due to the lack of bridges ove the Kent and Bow Rivers). This section of the trail is 14km. It is quite overgrown for a short distance about 5km from Bow Bridge, is sandy in places and there are 2 very narrow boardwalks we crossed on the way out - not really suitable for horses but once we were on them we couldn't get off or turn around and it was a case of one on all on as if the rear horses had not followed the front ones may have tried to go back to their mates causing a problem. Thankfully the boardwalks were safely negotiated. When we reached the junction of the trail and Conspicuous Beach Road, we met up with two local riders who offered to show us an alternate route back so that we did not have to negotiate the boardwalk again. As the remainder of the trail followed Station Road into Nornalup and was just a gravel road, we decided to go with our guides Karen and Charmaine who took us up Nut Road and showed us a spectacular lookout over the ocean and then on an alternative track which rejoined the rail trail.
On the third day we floated our horses back into the Denmark Pony Club and rode the rest of the trail out along the Wilson Inlet for about 10km until the trail met the South Coast Highway and then back again. This ride was particularly spectacular with views over the inlet and riding through the forest. The bird life was amazing.
The Denmark - Nornalup Rail Trail is an easy ride going through some beautiful country. The peacefulness of the area makes it well worth travelling down to Denmark. The amazing thing was that we did not see any signs of trail bikes when riding. In fact hoof prints were the only sign we saw that anyone was using the tracks at all except when we went through the town of Denmark wehere we met a couple of cyclists and people walking dogs.