HERE in Emerald the botanic gardens are highly regarded by both our locals and to the many visitors to our region.
Sunday morning strolls, families and friends playing and socialising and the many avid fitness fanatics all share the gardens and the idyllic surrounds that the gardens provide.
We as locals are fortunate that the botanic gardens are right here, smack in the centre of town.
Just a little further south along Rifle Range Road there is a lesser known jewel, a small slice of natural habitat that is the home to some of our national and iconic native animals and also a space open to the public where we can walk a bush track, whistle to the numerous birds, kick a few stones along the gravel track and as they say, be one with nature.
Pardon the pun, but the Rifle Range Nature Refuge is abound with kangaroos and a menagerie of native birds call the Brigalow home.
With a few introduced species thrown in, the early morning bird songs are a great way to start any day and for the last few weeks this is exactly how my days have started.
The sights, smells and sounds of the bush at early morning make the exit from a warm bed truly worth it.
People that know me will tell you I am a man of bulk, no shrinking violet and to be honest, exercise is not one of my high priorities, a sleep-in is good and early morning walks rate right down there with trips to the dentist or being caught in a category 5 cyclone with no room service.
I like bacon and eggs for breakfast, but here I find myself, 6am three days a week treading the tracks less trod through the Rifle Range Nature Refuge.
The Nature Refuge encompasses 80 hectares of bushland made up of five walking, hiking, and biking (peddle power only please) tracks and on the odd occasion I have also seen a few horse hoof prints in the dust.
I don't think that there are free ranging brumbies in the refuge so I can only guess that a horse ride in also OK.
The walks are easy and if this man of bulk can do it, any one from the age of two through to 110 could easily go for a stroll in this little piece of Australiana.
The entry points from Pilot Farm Rd, Rifle Range Rd and Mayfair Dr are well signposted with interpretive panels showing the walks and the distance shown of each track. The tracks are easy to follow, well defined and for those who may weary from the stroll, a couple of seats are placed along two of the walks.
Don't expect to see a coffee cart or a cold drinks stand along the way so you will need to stop off in town and buy a coffee or a bottle of water but please, if you take your rubbish in, bring your rubbish out, there are no bins and there are better places to have a ciggy and definitely no fires; we like our lizards frilled, not grilled.
To quote a fellow "stroller” of the refuge "Whether you love running, riding your push bike, bird watching or simply going for a stroll, these tracks enable people to take full advantage of this historic piece of bushland. From the incredible plant and fauna species to the indigenous culture, there is just so much to discover and explore.”
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