A little bush town, the surrounding countryside and the river a few kilometres away sparked a life-time of memories. John and I spent a week in the town at the beginning of this month. Dwellingup has changed over the years, but in many ways it stays the same. It is still a quiet country village where people make their own fun. Houses owned by weekenders sit beside those of regulars and day-trippers also visit especially on weekends.
Changes to Dwellingup
Changes have enhanced this little bush town. The sports oval still has a football field, but the Shire recently enhanced the playground and added a much-used skate park.
The Tourist Information Centre by the railway line still provides valuable information about things to do and places to go. But an interactive display adds loads of information, beautiful photography and history of the area in an easily-accessible way.
Not only that, they’ve added a modern cafe at one end of the Centre. While many patrons sit at conventional tables, others recline on large blue beanbags on the grass outside, or use the platforms made of wooden pallets.
Subtle and not so subtle changes could change a place dramatically. But nothing spoiled the Dwellingup I knew.
John and I spent the week in the house owned by my daughter, Jenny, and son-in-law, Simon. Crafted by the previous owner, a builder, and enhanced by Jenny and Simon, the house and garden ooze charm.. It’s by far the most comfortable place I’ve enjoyed in Dwellingup.
People in their mid-eighties holiday differently from youngsters. We got up late. Went to bed early with our books. Took photos. Walked the short distance to the centre of the town and drank coffee and ate cake. Sat and admired birds in the beautiful garden. Below, photos of part of the garden. You can see why birds visit.
John lit and tended the wood fire. My plans included cooking absolutely no meals for a week. And I did it! We ate lunch out and snacked for the evening meal. Wonderful!
We shook off the remnants of a debilitating virus we’d picked up and came home with plans and ideas. Nice!
Some memories of this little bush town
My family know these stories, and so do some of my friends. But, feeling self-indulgent and sharing memories is what older people do. Right?
First family camping trips
My first memories of Dwellingup are vague, scattered. My family of six children and I first camped by the Murray River, about seven kilometres south of the little bush town in the 1970s.
The town itself seemed light years away, so engrossed were we in the business of living in two tiny tents, lighting fires to cook and being adventurers. We reluctantly drove back to the general store for ice and to top up our supplies.
I was nervous. Alone with all that responsibility. Kids between two and fourteen years of age. But our first holiday as a single parent family sowed the seeds for numerous similar trips to Dwellingup and elsewhere.
The environmentalist organisation Down to Earth held a confest (conference-festival) at the river near Dwellingup in 1978. A mention of what some Western Australians called ‘the Hippy Festival’ can be found in archives here. I could find no other references online. Strange.
The week before, by then an experienced camping family, we spent time at a place on the river called The Stringers. The Australian Broadcasting Commission filmed my family – big kids swimming, smaller ones climbing over a log and playing on the edge of the water. The ABC showed the clip of the peaceful river with my children as a lead-in to a feature story about the behaviour of so called hippies during the festival.
John and I went to the Stringers. Still beautiful although recently flooded, and the camping area re-sited fifty metres from its previous place on the edge of the water.
Camping with my children paved the way to continued camping with them when they also had children. Dwellingup and the Murray River nearby were our go-to place for most of the year. We camped at different areas along the river innumerable times. We also camped elsewhere, and eventually I took children without other adults. Such happy memories!
Times changed, as they do. Another Dwellingup adventure became possible when Jenny’s friends, Pete and Jandy Lowe, bought a weekender in the little bush town. Holiday after holiday, they let me use their dear little house, an original miller’s cottage on a quarter acre block.
We explored the bush away from the river. Dams. Remnants of a Prisoner of War camp. Creeks. Apple and quince orchards. We sewed. Knitted dolls clothes (and once even knitted dolls). Somehow, we made bread rolls, cheese and apples for picnic lunches seem exotic. We bought fresh apples every day from Vergones store, still there.
I loved the pleasure of grandchildren without their parents, and they enjoyed the freedom that came with our shared holidays.
Pete and Jandy still go to their house. It was lovely to catch up with them during our recent holiday.
Now that my enthusiasm for the little bush town has been reignited, I can foresee many more holidays there.
I wrote about another vacation with John – Holiday in the Swan Valley in Springtime.