Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Warrumbungles and beyond

Post 100 on the blog .........

Having overnighted in the Warrumbungles, Mark has today continued on via Coonanbarabran and the Pilliga Forest reserve towards Narrabri. I made a brief mention of the Warrumbungles yesterday and it is clearly an area worthy of designation as a National Park. Clicking on the link will take you to the web pages of the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service where you can read lots about its interesting scenery and wildlife.

The 'spires' in the landscape are essentially the more resistant remnants of the ancient shield volcano which once covered a large part of the surrounding area. Millions of years of erosion and weathering have removed the surrounding softer rocks, leaving the plugs and dykes as prominent features in the landscape.
After cycling close to the Parkes Observatory a couple of days ago as described in this posting ,
Mark's route today has taken him very close to another internationally famous observatory at Sliding Springs (above)located just to the north west of Connabarabran. It is described as Australia's "premier facility for optical and infra-red astronomy". It has several large telescopes including the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope. Even if you have only a passing interest in astronomy, I would encourage you to click here to link to the AAT webpage and to have a look at some of the 50 favourite images (link in the right hand side bar). They are stunning! The time lapse ones of the night sky are awesome and I wish I could put one on the blog. However, they are strictly copyrighted so you will have to look for yourself but please do as they are really wonderful!

As the location map shows, Coonabarabran is located in the north east of NSW - probably a day and a half's cycle from Queensland/NSW border. As the photo below shows, it has the air of a 'frontier' town. This Wikipedia entry about its shops and services made me smile!

Being a small country town, Coonabarabran has limited shops. There are two major chain shopping centres, Woolworths and Coles plus the fast food stores Subway and Eagle Boys Pizza. There is a newsagency, and two video hire stores, as well as a local bakery, catering service, two Chinese Restaurants, a Thai Food store, Mini Golf, and several hotels. The second part of Mark's route today has taken him through the Pilliga Forest reserve. It looks much hillier than the flat plains of recent days but hills and forest probably makes a welcome change from endless fields. It would appear that Pilliga Forest is an important remnant of the once more extensive semi-arid temperate woodland in Australia. The dominant species is Cypress Pine. There is a vast network of roads throughout the scrub, many of which are former forestry roads. The forest once supported a large forestry industry in the surrounding towns (harvesting mostly cypress pine and ironbarks) however this has been greatly scaled back since 2005 when much of the forest was "locked up" by the NSW government for environmental conservation.

Fire plays a major role in the ecology of the forest with many plant species depending on fire to regenerate. However in unfavorable conditions fire can be extremely intense, spread very quickly and threaten nearby properties as well as laying waste to entire ecosystems. If intense fires occur less than 15 years apart there can be a loss of plant and animal biodiversity .

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