Ride of the Month: Lavender Federation Trail, Monarto
Dale Manson guides mountain bike riders through a 15-kilometre section of the trail, starting and finishing at the Monarto Sporting Complex.
For those mountain bike riders who prefer an alternative to the extremely rocky and treacherous terrain of many trails in the Murray Bridge region, yet still hunger for excitement, the 15-kilometre return-loop ride from the Monarto oval up the Lavender Federation Trail will satisfy that need.
With ample off-road parking, clean public toilets, a children’s playground and modern barbecue facilities, the Monarto Sporting Complex provides an ideal starting point for some quite nice mountain, gravel or road bike rides.
However, this loop ride – incorporating the Lavender Federation Trail – is purely suited to mountain bikes.
Riders setting off from the grounds of the Monarto oval through the front gate should immediately head down Hartmann Road, which has its intersection located directly opposite the oval.
Located one and three quarter kilometres down Hartmann Road on the right-hand side, riders will need to enter the Monarto Woodland precinct via a limited-access swing gate installed especially for walkers and cyclists.
However, bikes would be best lifted directly over the plain wire fence alongside the gate instead of being put through the small access area of the swing gate.
At this point riders will immediately notice the revegetation efforts of government and private groups within the Monarto Woodland conservation area.
Here the shared-use Lavender Federation Trail also shows the benefit coming from the tremendous joint efforts of local walking and mountain bike trail maintenance groups, with ample directional signage and the trail itself having been painstakingly established from scratch.
Quite soon, most riders enjoying the flowy mountain bike ride find themselves stopping to admire the historic ruins of a pioneer farmer’s homestead.
This is a special treat, as most of the other historic pioneer barns and houses in the region were bulldozed as part of the original 1970s land clearance for the aborted Monarto city development.
One benefit to come from that 1970s initiative was the mass planting of native woodlands as part of the overall design of the proposed Monarto city, with the scrub area currently ridden through being one of them.
A little further along the trail is an exhilarating “big dipper” crossing of a dry creekline.
At first sight the massive up-and-down appears quite daunting, but when mountain bike riders relax and put their trust in their bikes’ capability to negotiate the steep downhill with enough oomph to get up the other side again, this creek crossing becomes one of the features of the entire ride.
A little further along the trail, riders find themselves going along the top edge of a quite steep and severely eroded creekline, probably the legacy of historic farming practices from a time when the original Mallee scrub was cleared to create cropping ground.
After riding 2.5km from the entrance to this woodland block, the exit gate comes into sight, adjacent to the locally well known “five ways” intersection of Frahns Farm, Hartmann and Browns Roads.
It is at this point that the exciting downhill Highland to Browns Road section of the Lavender Federation Trail exits.
It can also be ridden uphill to Highland Road from here, but the grind of that effort would be excruciatingly slow and turn excitement into drudgery.
The best option for this ride would be to continue in a southerly direction along Browns Road until an open area designated for horse float parking is reached on the right-hand side.
Riders entering the woodland area from Browns Road through the access gates installed in the fenceline of this parking area are then able to choose their own route through the area, provided they head in a westerly direction toward Highland Road.
Once the gravel Highland Road is reached, riders need to head in a northerly direction along the road until they reach the peak which is marked by the private property sign, Bremer Brae.
Directly across Highland Road from the Bremer Brae sign is a gap in the fenceline leading to the start of the exciting 2.5km Highland to Browns Road downhill section of the Lavender Federation Trail.
Riders shouldn’t be tempted to beat speed records on their bikes accelerating down the slope, otherwise they would miss the incredible the beauty of the surrounding native bushland.
At the end of this downhill single-track mountain bike trail, riders once again come to the five ways intersection and have a choice of returning direct to the Monarto oval along the 3.5km gravel Hartmann Road, or via the previously ridden Monarto Woodland single track, adding another three quarters of a kilometre to the return journey.
An optional extra to this ride, for people wanting to do a few more kilometres of gravel road and experience the very flowy 6km Olearia Trail, would be to continue along Browns Road past the horse float parking area instead of entering the woodland area.
Browns Road terminates at the Princes Highway, adjacent to the entrance of the loop Olearia Trail on the other side of the highway.
While the 6km Olearia Trail circuit can ridden as many times as desired, it needs be exited at the same point as originally entered.
Once exited, riders then cross the Princes Highway again and proceed in a northerly direction along the gravel Highland Road until they reach the entrance to the Lavender Federation Trail downhill section opposite the Bremer Brae sign.
This ride is suitable for intermediate off-road mountain bike riders and those who detest the rocky or seasonally soft sandy trails of many other locations.
As outlined, it is approximately 15km in length, or can be extended to near 30km when the optional Olearia Trail is added.
More rides of the month
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