Friday, 17 July 2015

Bridgetown and Beyond

Many of my childhood holidays were spent in the South West of this state, and yet sadly, I have barely any memories of my time there. All right, I was about 5 years old then, maybe 7, but the few snippets of memory I do have of those holidays cannot be placed in the landscape.

I remember walking around a caravan park early in the morning in wet duck-bill slippers. I couldn't tell you it was Albany. 
I remember playing on a boat in a park which was lower than the road. Don't ask me where. 
I remember the interior of Granddad's car as we drove down to Albany for a holiday. I don't remember the holiday though.
I remember the carpark of the place we stayed in Albany when we were on our way to Esperence. I remember the carpark of the Albany YHA. That, it would seem, is my only memory of Albany?

So... As I have no memory of being down in this neck of the woods, yet knowing I've been here, and having set part of my novel in Albany, I thought it was about time I visited it. 

The landscape needed confirming, the angle of the sunlight at 16:00 within one of the buildings, the view down York St. Additionally, there were historical buildings I'd discovered that needed visiting.
Just don't get me started on the location of the Albany Library.

Up for an historical adventure, and conveniently having already booked Friday and Monday off work, Claire joined me and we headed off for a long weekend of nature and history... and a bit of eating along the way.

Being of an organising persuasion, I'd already created a Google map of historical things of interest in Albany. To this we added wonders of the natural world, and a few other places in the general area that took our fancy.

Looking at our map, it made sense for us to swing down via Walpole as opposed to taking Albany Highway down, and so Thursday evening saw our first night in Bridgetown.

I know I've been there before, yet I have no memory of the place whatsoever.
Our accommodation was down some of the side streets of Bridgetown, in an area almost verging on farmland. Having arrived after dark, we snuggled down in front of the fire and left our little bit of exploring till the following morning. 

Set in a delightful garden, our accommodation was also home to a family of black cockies, some chooks and some beautiful plants. 


Breakfast at the Barking Cow and a stop at the Hansen's Hot Bread Shop later, we went for a slight wander, appreciating the yarn bombing down the main street and the termite-feeding ground that is the old train station. 

We resisted the temptation and went for Jam Donuts, Lamington and a Sticky Date Muffin instead. 

Despite being in a very sorry state, the station looked rather typically Federation to the extent that I could easily visualise long skirts and dapper gentlemen stepping off a steam train onto the crumbling platform. 

Leaving Bridgetown with morning tea provided for, and a car full of chocolate (barely an exaggeration) we hit the South West Hwy in the direction of Denmark. 

Morning tea stop.

With an interest in the natural scenery and anything vaguely historic, we were both happy to pull off the road to photograph rocky outcrops and the numerous rivers over which we passed.

As a result, our journey was slow, but well worth it. Even when trucks took the narrow bridges (on which we were standing) at full speed while we squashed ourselves against the railing.

About half an hour out of Manjimup we passed a rocky outcrop covered completely in moss and had to turn around and go back just to check it out properly. While all around was dense forest, some of it slightly charred, this was spectacularly different.

Barring a few loose boulders and some odd parallel lines up the slope, the whole rock was covered in mosses and lichens. Being the middle of winter, the moss was soft, waterlogged and several vibrant shades of green.

Despite being on the side of the hwy, it seemed to be a well kept secret, with even the frogs upset at the presence of curious humans.

On our journey down, our plan had been to visit Bartholemew's Meadery, Ducketts's Mill, Denmark Farmhouse, and SouthCoast Woodworks on our way around the coast. We succeeded in making it to the Meadery, for honey icecream, mead and beautiful honey, but all other shopping went out the window - we simply ran out of time.

Throughout the weekend, we were constantly entranced by the landscape through which we drove. From the bright green fields and sparkling dams situated in the corner of the fields to the natural forest through which the road had initially been cut.

Not your typical flock. 

It was a little worrying at times to pass through a landscape that was so charred, and not know whether this was the result of prescribed burnings (for reducing the flammability of the undergrowth, and plant propagation), lightning strikes or the arsonists we are not allowed to tie to a tree in the path of the fire they set. 

This was particularly the case as we knew we were heading into the region where the January fires had been.
However it was a joy to behold the bush slowly returning to life.

Next stop: Valley of the Giants

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