Also known as Mt Piper, this 827 m peak lies on the eastern margin of the Strathbogie Tableland and is one of the more recognizable and accessible local peaks. Like many peaks in the Strathbogie Forest, Mt Barranhet is forested, so when you reach the top, glimpses of the surrounding landscape have to be discovered – that’s part of the magic.
The peak has steep sides and is one of the more mountain-like mountains in the forest! Because of its steep sides, it is often mistaken for an old volcano. Whilst the northern parts of the Strathbogie Ranges are indeed volcanic, Mt Barranhet is squarely in the granitic zone.
Trees and rocks
The forest on Barranhet supports a variety of eucalypt species. Chief among them are the Manna Gum, Messmate Stringybark, Victorian Blue Gum, Narrow-leaved Peppermint and Broad-leaved Peppermint. Soil depth and moisture, exposure to the elements and aspect combine to determine which species grow where, as well as tree form. Many trees are stunted, wind damaged or have developed thick, sturdy trunks that anchor them in place.
But it’s not all about trees. The north and west upper slopes of the peak have rocky areas which are habitat for the special plants and animals that do best where trees are absent and the sun bathes (and, at times, bakes) the ground. The southern slopes, not far from the access track have some stands of large, impressive Messmate Stringybarks that somehow eluded the axes and chainsaws of previous times. By contrast, the eastern slope, below the track you walked in on, has trees of very even age
A special place
Mt Barranhet is part of a 900 ha block of native forest that has been largely cut off from the rest of the Strathbogie Forest by pine plantations established in the 1970-80s. It is connected to Bald Hill Bushland Reserve (south-west) by private native forest and to other areas of public forest by road reserves and forested creek lines. Mt Barranhet itself is part of a conservation zone set aside for the threatened Powerful Owl. Forest on the lower slopes and along Seven Creeks were also previously home to the only known population of Yellow-bellied Gliders (Petaurus australis) in the entire Strathbogie Ranges. Sadly this species now appears to be locally extinct.
Mt Barranhet is a special place – how could it not be with such an exotic name! And maybe that’s why I’ll stick with Barranhet, rather than the more pedestrian Piper. If anyone has clues about how the peak was named, or where the name might come from, please leave a comment.
Just as lines on a face, or the back of the hands speak of a life lived, the creases, spouts, burls and epicormic growth on this ancient Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) speak to changing fortunes, resilience and perseverance. The time of day – light and shadow – to photograph this battle hardened specimen was perfect.
Access to the peak is via Mt Piper Tk, off Old Bonnie Doon Rd. After crossing Sevens Creek, turn right and drive along the track that follows the creek for about 200 m. Then turn left and follow the steep perimeter track, on the edge of the pines, for about 1 km. This is always a 4WD track – after heavy rain it may be impassible. [An alternative route is through the pines, but that requires permission from Hancocks Plantations.] The track into the forest is narrow, flanked by steep slopes and often obstructed by fallen trees and branches – don’t risk getting your car stuck with nowhere to turn around. Park your car at the edge of the plantation, where the track turns north into the forest; it’s a gentle and beautiful 800 m walk to the peak. Once near the top, make your own path to the summit – the busk track continues down-slope to the north, but can be rough and obstructed.