Upper Yarra Track Winter Route: Downey to Newlands

Last Monday we spent ‘beating around the bush’ near Downey (Tanjil Bren area). Downey is another one of those ‘lost’ towns of the Victorian mountains. Pretty much all that remains is this huge sawdust heap in the forest: how many woodland giants went to make it up I wonder? Mostly the trees milled here were fire killed mountain ash from the vast ‘Black Friday’ fires of 1939

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We were looking for a ‘closed road’ which shows on the map Noojee North T8122—3-N. The GPS claimed it crossed the river around about here, but there was no sign of it.

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West Tanjil River.

Turns out the GPS and map are seriously ‘out of kilter’ in this small area of map. I have found this before, eg on my walk to Mt Darling last year (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/snowy-bluff-mt-darling-wilderness/) I guess up to a km wrong! This meant I did a fair amount of bush bashing no doubt along what had once been old snig tracks etc, finding nothing but photo ops. This GPS inaccuracy may be because the phone cannot ‘see’ all the satellites on account of heavy tree cover, proximity to mountains to the North & etc. I have had the same experience with satellite phones. Epirbs no doubt also have this problem! It draws the lesson that you always need to be able to find your way with your unaided intelligence and experience.

Finally we managed to locate the spot where the ‘road’ had crossed the river. Several huge pipes still lying in the river bed over which we were able to clamber without even getting our feet wet. This was on the way back actually. On the way across we took off our shoes and waded in our Crocs, as it did not appear we could make it dry-footed across the pipes. The water was so chill Della practically had a seizure. Sissy!

After we had crossed the old road was easy to see and we followed it a couple of kms up the mountain, but not quite as far as Newlands Rd. In places the way was unclear as it was very overgrown, whilst in others three semi-trailers could have passed easily. There were huge cuttings where there roar would have echoed mightily long ago.

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Disease can sometimes look beautiful: observe this amazing gall.

Della has not quite recovered from her (second) eye operation, so we turned back without having found our way to Frangipani Saddle where this route meets the ‘Upper Yarra Walking Track’ thus completing our ‘Winter Route’. There is always room for another adventure. It will most likely be a couple of weeks before we get back as we are working in the kids’ store Xmas-New Year. The path is  marked the path (with tape) from the end of the driveable section of Saxtons Rd (which begins in Tanjil Bren), so you may have a chance to finish our exploration before we do. Be sure to also check out the ‘Tramway Falls http://www.theultralighthiker.com/kirchubel-if-you-go-nowhere-else-in-the-world-at-least-go-here/ on the left fork (this one is the right fork: PS: the map is more or less correct; it is the GPS location which is wrong).















4 thoughts on “Upper Yarra Track Winter Route: Downey to Newlands”

  1. Love the blog, it has given me lots of ideas of places to explore. I managed to break through the old closed road that closely follows the ridge up to the end of Newlands on the weekend. It was a hard slog, especially at the end where all signs of the road disappears. The path is marked now – though not as well at the top. I’m glad I had my gps to retrace my route. It was a great day.

    Google maps also shows a road that heads east along the river up to the end of another closed road that extends from Newlands which is on the vicmap topo. On the ground this appears to be the case, though only followed this section a short distance. Have you looked at this route?


    1. hI pAUL, Thanks very much! WE FOLLOWED THE CLOSED ROAD FROM dOWNEY East and then A LONG WAY UP THE HILL, MARKING IT WITH TAPE AND ROUGHLY CLEARING AS WE WENT BUT WE DID NOT GET ALL THE WAY TO nEWLANDS. iS THIS WHERE YOU WENT? Caps lock stuck on -sorry. There was a point where this road split, one going up and one continuing along the river – is this the one you mean? We are also looking at a route from Strahan to the Block 10 Rd. And closed road that goes from Cone Hill to the Toorongo Falls – marked the start with tape. It looks good going. I also want to check out the closed road from the Rabbit Patch to Toorongo Rd. If I can get through there I will try to make a path up the ridge from the Rabbit Patch to Cone Hill. This would give access to the UYT from public transport in Noojee. Your route will create a wonderful loop walk incorporating the Baw Baw section with my ‘Winter Route, which should make @ a week’s wonderful walking.

  2. Hi Steve, great resource you have here.

    I’ve read your notes on the UYT and have just found this page on our return. What a coincidence!

    Just back from a bit of exploring with my partner up Big Tree Rd to Downeys. I was looking at a way from Tanjil Bren up to the AAWT near Whitelaw, as it turns out just like you!. Our first day turned into a bush bash as the track that heads east from Big Tree Rd then loops back west to Chinamans Tk was in desperate need of some TLC. We backtracked to an old road that heads north to cut off the loop and bush bashed 200m through the forest to reach Chinamans Tk. After reaching the end of Downeys track we continued towards the river finding the old pipes. Noticed your blue ribbon along the way. I too wasn’t sure if this was the crossing so we continued along the river to the sawdust heap at the old mill site. No evidence of a track there either. At this point we called it quits and headed back. It’s a shame some of the tracks aren’t a little better maintained as it’s sure a beautiful area and would be a great way to access Baw Baw. I’ll be back to find the route through to Newlands Rd soon.

    It was a warm day and quite a few snakes along the way…Copperhead, Tiger and what I think was a Red Bellied Black.

    We’ve done several walks along the AAWT. The last we walked from Baw Baw to Mt Howitt over 14 days with a food drop at Mt Skene. In 2 weeks we leave to do the Thawra to Thredbo section. We also walked from Big Pats to Ada Tree Carpark and back in July this year with a night of snow at Starlings Gap.

    Keep up the good work and maybe see you out there one day!


    1. Hi Gerard – and thanks. I will explore two other possible routes back to the UYT (instead of just walking up the Link Rd): Kirchubels Tramline and a route from Strahan to the Block 10 Rd. I will probably look for Saxtons Rd junction with Newlands when I walk across from Mushroom Rocks to Newlands (soon). We got pretty high up on the South Face but were still about a km from Newlands. Some great timber up there though. A route through from Tanjil Bren would be good. I also want to find a route from the Yarra Falls to the Toorongo Falls so people can use the Noojee public transport. Lots to do – and I am old and have still lots of work on the home farm to do. At the moment working desperately on our water supply. I looked at your pics of your Big Pats and Baw Baw walks on your Facebook page – I hope you don’t mind? If I could have a track description from you and maybe use some of your photos, I could complete my instructions about this section a lot sooner than seems likely at the moment. Likewise your snaps and description of the walk from Baw Baw to the UYT turnoff past Mt Whitlaw? I gather you found plenty of water along the way – at least near the Whitelaw Huit site? I see you also have a Jack Russell and a girl who is willing to accompany you into the wilderness – lucky man. Perhaps you could treat her to a pair of Gossamer Gear hiking poles? Cheers, Steve Jones.

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