Lake Leschenaultia is a recreational lake less than an hour’s drive from Perth. My husband and I went there there recently. John had only vague memories of the lake from his youth, but it is dear to my heart.
While I enjoyed this visit, I also felt a little sad. My children, and later grandchildren, and I spent many hours at the lake’s edge or in kyaks. We frequently slept a night or two in tents.
Perhaps I am simply nostalgic.My camping days are most probably over. At least camping in tents the way I used to love to do. There is something wonderfully freeing about camping that I miss. The smell of the bush, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) sounds of the bush, removed from ordinary concerns.
Camping life is leisurely. There is so much to do to keep the campsite running one feels well-occupied. One of my daughters said once that I was the only person she knew who could make a Women’s Weekly last a whole weekend without being bored.
The camping area at Lake Leschenaultia then was primitive. There was no access for caravans. Cars had to be parked outside the log-fenced area, so everything had to be carried from the car to our chosen site. But in those days that didn’t feel like a hardship.
Cooking on open campfires demanded foraging in the undergrowth for firewood, while watching for snakes. The fear of snakes gave an edge to our enjoyment. I’m not sure what I was thinking, lighting fires in such volatile country, but I guess the area was cleared enough to be safe. And everyone else lit fires.
The lake was constructed in the late 1890s from springs and creeks that converged in that spot close to the railway line. The water was pumped to the steam trains. Trains ran to the goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, 600 kilometres from Perth.
By 1945, the water had turned brackish and unusable, and the area became a recreational area.
Lake Leschenaultia derives its name from the blue and purple Leschenaultias, which flower abundantly in the surrounding bush in Spring. John and I were delighted to spot two shy, out-or-season plants in leaf-litter beside the path on the far side of the lake on our walk.
Lake Leschenaultia remains as lovely as ever. But now, instead of camping in a primitive bushy area, people camp in a proper area, where tents and caravans are welcome. An ablution block and camp kitchen have replaced the single drop toilet and campfires. Lawns are manicured. The walk around the Lake is on graded gravel paths. Playground equipment occupies children. A cafe serves breakfasts and lunches. In some ways the place is better, more welcoming.
But I struggle not to wish a return to the olden days.