Big Trees

Walpole is home to the rare towering tingle trees that sound like something from Roald Dahl (recall the “tinkle tinkle tree” in The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me).  But they’re very real, these giant red tingles that grow up to 75 metres high.

R and K inside a tingle

The tingles, which can live 400 years, have a girth of up to 24 metres.  The bottom of these giants are sometimes hollowed out and, in the 1960s, tourists used to drive through them.  This played havoc with the shallow root system, however; these days we take better care of our tingles.imageR among the tingles–Treetop Walk

We camped in D’Entrecasteaux National Park for three days, at Crystal Springs, a magical little forest camp in among (much smaller) moss-covered trees and bull banksia.  Next to our camp was the dirt road to Mandalay Beach–8 k that I walked to in the rain.

Stunning and treacherous coastline not far from the big trees: Mandalay Beach, home to yet another shipwreck

It rained and rained and we all played Uno.  R made puppets.  K read the second Harry Potter five times.  When the rain eased off K pretended to be a witch and R was her owl, bringing messages through the trees (practicing writing without me having to ask!)

After three days under the trees in the rain, we had to get going—no solar power for the fridge.  Mould growing on canvas—yikes!

We drove to the Gloucester Tree, a karri, 53 metres high.  In 1934, this was chosen as a fire look-out and they hammered metal pylons into the side of the tree all the way up.  You can still climb to the top with nothing but bits of metal to hold onto.  I cannot believe that this is still legal.

Gloucester Tree, WA

When we arrived, K sped up the tree in no time.  I climbed slowly after her, trying not to look down, methodically placing one foot above the next, and gripping those little metal bars tightly.

About halfway up, I wished I’d stayed on the ground.

Looking down from the Gloucester Tree–from

But I kept climbing.  K, having reached the top, started coming down again.  “No, go back,” I said.  So she went back and waited for her old mum.  I’ve never been so scared.  There’s nothing between you and the ground.  But I made it!  And the view, looking out over the green tops of all those giant trees, was peaceful and serene.

We went down and Lee had a go. K climbed went up a second time.  This time, near the top, she let her feet dangle and swung from one of the pylons.  “You’re giving me a heart attack!” I signed.  She laughed.

Then she put her feet down and started signing back to me.  “Don’t sign!” I said.  She just smiled, and scurried down, as if she was climbing the smallest ladder.

Surprisingly, no one has ever fallen off the Gloucester Tree, but there have been two heart attacks at the top.

Author: sarahklenbort

I'm a Brisbane-based writer and mother of two children--one deaf and one hearing. I'm also a sessional academic at the University of Queensland, where I teach literature and creative writing. In 2016, my husband and I took the kids out of school and travelled around Australia with a camper trailer, visiting deaf schools along the way. When we found Toowong State School, it was so good, we decided to move to Queensland! We still have the trailer and take off for the bush whenever we can.

5 thoughts on “Big Trees”

    1. Thanks, Maria! Must give credit where it’s due, however. I took photos only from the ground. The one from above was taken by a braver climber than me and found on


  1. I have almost exactly the same photos! There is also an amazing walk you can do through all of this area called the Bibbulmun Track – it takes 3 weeks to walk from Perth to Albany through these beautiful forests. If you’re interested, nearly all of Tim Winton’s recent books are all set around Walpole, so you can now picture it as you read.


  2. 2/3B was very excited to receive our postcard from K. We loved reading it and seeing what she is up to. Hello from all of us in Adelaide.


  3. 2/3B was very excited to receive our postcard from K. We loved reading it and seeing what she is up to. Hello from all of us in Adelaide.


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