Back from beautiful Busselton after an unplanned and unexpected holiday in the South West of Western Australia. Walking, swimming, sight-seeing and catching up with friends for a week has been invigorating.
For the first time that I can remember, I’ve suffered from post holiday blues.
As a full-time worker (and later a PhD candidate) I never experienced such lethargy. The end of holidays always meant I was refreshed, ready to get on with the next thing. Even short breaks were energising. Often, my holiday notebook would bulge with events that I looked forward to. Plans for new ventures bubbled. My energy levels soared.
The Dowerin Bed and Breakfast and its guests have been at my mercy for over a week. This old woman has masqueraded as the boss, while my sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Peter, are overseas on holidays. This is a diary of the week.
Dowerin is at the cross roads to a number of important places.
There are many responsibilities when you live in the country. I had to
Feed Hannah and her sisters. Which chook is Hannah?
The hens rewarded us with real farm eggs with orange yolks. The guests and my husband, John, and I ate them for breakfast almost every day.
Admire one of the garden rooms from the outside.
Choose my favourite.
Set the table for one guest for a 6.15 a.m. breakfast. (The next morning there were five for people for breakfast at 6, and no time for photography!)
Explore the in the shed at the bottom of the property
and discover John, hard at work.
Photograph reluctant neighbours.
Persist until I found some that were more amenable
Park in the main street, which was never a problem, especially on a Sunday. It is difficult to believe that during the Dowerin Field Days at the end of August space will be at a premium.
Find this Tin Dog on the edge of a paddock. This is the emblem of the town, about which a whole post could be written,
and also a bookshop in the middle of town.
Find a sunny spot on a verandah of the main house where I could do a spot of craft work – but where, sadly, I wrote not one word of my new book for a whole week!
A full wood box and several stoves
kept us warm on the odd wintry night
What more could anyone ask for during a week in the country?
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The quaint Hampton Arms Inn in Company Road, two kilometres south-west of the Greenough Hamlet, is one of only a handful of Australian colonial hotels that has survived from the nineteenth century.
Opened in 1863, not long after the Greenough Front Flats were first settled, the building retains all of its original architecture and form, with a central two-storey section and single storey wings on each side. In its hey-day, the Inn was a focal point for social gatherings, balls and meetings of all kinds for the settlers in the district.
Not surprisingly, this charming old building was classified by the National Trust in 1977 and placed on the Register of the National Estate in 1978. It was placed on the Shire of Greenough’s historic buildings list in 1984.
Lovingly restored by its current owners, Judy and Brian Turnock, it still functions as a licensed inn. A restaurant and upstairs accommodation, with patchwork quilts on the beds, add to a homely welcome.
The day John and I visited, members of the Geraldton Yacht Club and their guests from other clubs were celebrating the end of the racing season. They had taken over the beer garden and welcomed us warmly, but there was barely seating room for two more people.
‘That sounds like a pleasant enough place,’ you might say.
But the Hampton Arms Inn is much more than a pleasant pub. Apart from its historical significance, what amazed us was the completely unexpected second-hand bookshop, which starts in the bar and spreads into at least four of the ground-floor rooms. There were tables and chairs in these rooms, for the benefit of customers.
Owner Brian, a genial host who on the day we were there doubled as the bartender, describes this part of his business as ‘Hampton Books at the Inn: Rare and out of Print, a place where you can browse an antiquarian bookshop with a beer in hand.’ As well as the physical bookshop, Brian also runs an online bookshop at email@example.com
I didn’t ask his age; it’s not the sort of thing one does. But now I wish I had and that he hadn’t been so busy with the yacht club in the courtyard. I would have liked to talk to him more. I wanted to know what brought him and Judy to Greenough. I wish I’d asked what prompted them to take on such an enormous restoration project and how he came to develop his bookshop in such an out-of-the-way place.
I have probably missed the opportunity for a different post, one about another person who is ageing in style.
But during that day in Greenough, what could have been more appealing to John and me, a couple of passionate readers on holidays, than to spend an afternoon browsing among books we loved, and making small-talk with the owner of a bookshop?
We discovered a wealth of Australiana, included some books that had been companions in our long-ago childhoods. We also spotted other favourites and came away with an armful of reasonably priced volumes, chosen almost randomly from the wealth on offer – delightful reading for the rest of the time we spent in Western Australia’s Mid-West Region.
This unexpected, well-hidden treasure trove was, indeed, as its owners say, a bibliophile’s dream come true.
The tiny hamlet of Greenough, four hundred kilometres north of Perth and thirty south of Geraldton, draws me like a magnet. Every few years I have an urge to return, and each visit enriches my understanding of who I am and where I’ve come from. This is the place my maternal great-parents helped to settle, and where my mother and her siblings grew up. Greenough is my living history.
Childhood for my siblings, cousins and me was peppered with stories about the early days in the area. My mother, grandmother and aunts were accomplished story-tellers who regaled us with their versions of life on the land on the back flats where they lived, separated from the front flats and the Hamlet by a low limestone ridge.
My great-grandfather was a Pensioner Guard – a soldier who fought in the Crimean War and who came to Western Australia in the mid-nineteenth century as a guard on a ship transporting convicts, These men were promised an allotment of land in Greenough. He and hundreds of others took up their parcels of land where they eked out a living for their wives and children.
Some of the stories I heard as a child were of hardship and isolation and desolation – especially stories about devastating floods which washed away houses and fences and cattle. Those were like other floods that over the years had left a rich deposit of alluvial soil, which grew crops without additional fertilisers. As a child, I loved to hear about other people’s possessions being washed along in the currents and about the valiant rescues of people from roofs of their houses.
But my mother also told me about the way my feisty Aunty Ivy, who was about eight years old, fought with the son of the police officer and locked him in a cell in the lock-up. She got into terrible trouble, of course, but she said it was worth it.
There was a story about my aunts Josephine and Ivy, who were sitting up in front of a horse-drawn sulky on their way to the hamlet with my mother and her little brother sitting behind. My uncle Percy, a toddler, fell off the back of the cart. My mother claims the big girls wouldn’t listen to her because they were too busy threading beads as the horse ambled along. When they finally took notice, the little boy was running along trying to catch up to them.
It was 38 degrees Celsius last week when John and I were in Greenough, but my skin was goose-bumpy when we went into the one-classroom school where my mother and her siblings were educated. The room is sanitised now, the floors and desks polished, a tourist attraction. But I could imagine it as it might have been all those years ago. My mother was proud of the role she played as a ‘monitor’ when she was the oldest child in the school, with the job of helping the teacher and the younger children.
My maternal great-grandparents were of strong, Irish Catholic stock, so it is no surprise that they went to Mass on Sundays, celebrated St Patrick’s Day and the children were baptised. St Peter’s Catholic Church is still a ‘working’ church, where Mass is celebrated every Sunday. This is the church where my grandmother, Catherine Buckley, married Samuel Rogers in 1902.
Seven buildings still line the main street of what was once a thriving settlement. They’ve been lovingly restored by the National Trust, Lotterywest and other benefactors and together show a mere fragment of how life might once have been in Greenough.
A handful of other buildings in the district have also been restored. Several are private homes, glimpsed behind trees from the road. The museum was once the home of a prominent pioneer family but the stables, flour mill and store adjacent to the old homestead have collapsed in ruins.
Many of the original stone buildings were demolished and the material crushed by men on the dole during the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. The crushed stone was used to make roads.
There are historical records as well as descriptions of the day-to-day lives of the more prosperous families who first settled the region. But the people who lived on the back flats were away from public notice, and few records have been found about them.
However, this trip I found a mention in a document in the Geraldton museum of the delicious butter made by ‘the Buckley’s’, my family, and sold in the Greenough market. Last trip I discovered a record of the croup suffered by my Auntie Evelyn recorded in the apothecary’s notes in 1917.
A few years ago I wrote a novel which I set in Greenough and Geraldton. I never completely finished it. Now I’m itching to take it out again and dust it off. Perhaps I have enough energy, insight and knowledge after my latest visit to Greenough to think about reworking it.
My husband and I have begun to talk about an overseas holiday at the end of the year. I’m amazed how quickly the mention of a holiday sends us to our tablets to research new venues and the old ones we love and return to often.
‘It would be fun to act as if we were tourists in Perth for a change,’ I suggested. ‘Let’s find some places we haven’t been for a while. And some new ones. Let’s pretend we’re seeing this city for the first time.’
Before we go anywhere new, John and I make lists of the major and minor things that we’d like to do while we’re there. With a list that includes experiences that take a whole day to those that take half-an-hour or less, we never run out of ideas.
Because we are an old man and an old woman, we build in lots of rests – but that doesn’t mean we always find a park bench or have afternoon naps. Often we catch a passing bus or ferry to an out-lying suburb or village we would not otherwise see. Our spontaneous bus trips have yielded some of our most exciting travel events and richest memories, to say nothing of the best meals in local cafes where tourists rarely venture.
A few minutes research was all it took to find plenty of new things to do in Perth. With the scene so easily set for a mini-break, we invited my daughter, Anne to join us. Together, we made a list of twenty places close to Perth that could fulfil our fantasy of a short holiday.
Each morning for a few days we set off, open to the wonder we might experience if we were in some distant location. Days with temperatures in the low 30s, sandwiched between heat waves, were perfect for our too brief stay-at-home-holiday. We didn’t always stick to the list; in the end we made several spur-of-the moment decisions which were also very satisfying.
One new place we wanted to see was the Rio Tinto Naturescape in Kings Park, opened at the end of 2011. Part of Kings Park overlooks the Swan River and the city of Perth. It is said to be one of the largest inner city parks in the world. Until a few years ago, I hated the thought of development of the Park, but having seen the changes wrought by the Kings Park Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, I now welcome the new. This innovation did not disappoint.
We knew we’d enjoy our visit better if we had a child or two with us, so we enlisted my granddaughters Amelia Nancarrow (12) and Claire Linton and her daughter (my great-granddaughter), Elizabeth, who will be three in March.
Designed and constructed with the help of a large donation from the mining company, and with the support of other benefactors, the 60 000 square metres of bush has been landscaped to provide an area where children can be free to build cubbies, climb rocks and towers of different heights, swing from ropes and trees and become immersed in free play in the bush.
The natural-looking creeks and pools took me back seventy years, to when Dog Swamp in Yokine – now the site of a large shopping centre five kilometres from the centre of Perth – was indeed a swamp. Dog Swamp was two block from where I lived with my parents in North Perth. It was where we built cubby houses in the bush, and the ‘big kids’ made canoes from old corrugated roofing iron. We little ones watched enviously as they paddled (and often sank) their craft, while we played in the murky water on the edges. I have no memory of adult supervision – in those days the big kids were expected to look after the little ones.
Two Nature Activity Officers greeted us at the entrance. They were clear that this is not a playground but a naturescape, and that there is a limited visitor capacity at all times. Bookings are essential for large groups. School classes are invited to participate in the education programs provided.
There are a few simple rules:
- Adult supervision of all children is mandatory
- Stay safe – watch out for the natural hazards one expects in the bush: prickly bushes, spiders, bees, snakes and water
- Take your rubbish home
- No picnic rugs, folding chairs or anything that detracts from the natural appearance of the area.
Other rules preclude throwing rocks; riding bikes, scooters or skateboards; pets; smoking and alcohol; balls; large shelters and birthday parties.
But the rule I like best of all says, ‘Shh…Listen and be gentle. You are entering a fragile, natural environment. Please look after each other.’
A gentle hush permeated the area for the whole time we were there. We heard birds, but no raised voices; there was laughter and obvious cooperation between children and parents. Children of all ages, including Amelia and Elizabeth, challenged themselves to climb rocks and ropes; paddle in pools with sharp, rocky bottoms; walk on logs across streams; find tadpoles and little fish; build cubby houses.
There was a level of intensity through the area that I don’t very often observe, as children learned about the environment by playing in and reacting with it, rather than on playground equipment and playing fields. Parents and grandparents sat on logs and watched the children, or involved in their youngsters’ play.
This grandmother/great-grandmother went home feeling peaceful and full of creative energy. Our tourist outing to the Rio Tinto Naturescape in Kings Park was an eye-opener, a trip down memory lane and a joy. I can’t wait to go back.