Wildflowers bloom in profusion in the bush in the Western Australian spring. They start late in winter in the warmer, northern parts of the state and sweep south, region-by-region.
John and I jumped at a September invitation from our friend Elizabeth Brennan to join the Karrinyup and North Beach Probus Club coach trip see the wildflowers at Blackboy Ridge Reserve in the Chittering Valley, 76 kilometres north of Perth, and for lunch at New Norcia.
We went with this friendly and inclusive Club on their trip to York (Western Australia) last year. I wrote about that trip here, and to Araluen the year before. We’d enjoyed both trips, and knew we’d be welcome and have a good time.
We were joined by residents from nearby St Ives Retirement Village. Forty-two people (counted by our meticulous tour guide after each stop) filled a bus for a day out of the city, during which we caught up with old friends and made new ones.
We experienced and learned new things as well as remembering old ones. This Probus Club certainly fulfils its charter to enable ‘Fun, Friendship, Fellowship and Intellectual stimulation’. Probus Club members obviously care about lifelong learning.
Our first stop at Blackboy Ridge Reserve marks the start of a walking trail of moderate difficulty. A wide variety of wildflowers can be seen in spring in this area.
The moment I stepped out of the coach, what might have been a typical scene from my childhood engulfed me (photo below).
We lived about five kilometres from the CBD, on the outskirts of Perth. The bush began a hundred metres from our house. Wildflowers grew in profusion and the local kids gathered there to play and to build cubby houses free of adult supervision.
As if living so close to the bush wasn’t enough, my parents took my siblings and me camping in the bush. Until ten or fifteen years ago, I camped all my life.
At the beginning of winter during my childhood, we went ‘gathering wood’ for the fires in our house. Usually a couple of families combined on these exciting outings, often into the hills of the Darling Ranges east of Perth. The men, armed with saws and axes, chopped fallen trees, often blackened from a recent bushfire. The women boiled a billy over a campfire and made cups of tea and produced home-made cake and biscuits.
We children picked wildflowers. That’s a shocking statement now, because that practice has been banned for many decades in order to preserve the environment and endangered species of flora.
Morning tea around the rough-hewn bush picnic tables at Blackboy Ridge could have been a Sunday picnic from my childhood. Instead, below is a photo of a group of fellow participants in this trip down memory lane.
Blackboy Ridge gets its name from what were once called Blackboys, but are now known as Grass trees. (Official name, Xanthorrhoea). These plants were used by the Aboriginal people for many purposes.
The grass can be used as thatch. The long hard flower stalks made spears spears. The flowers themselves could be used to make a slightly fermented drink. Finally, the resin that seeps from the plant makes durable glue. As kids, we used to suck and chew the resin as a kind of chewing gum.
You can read more about these fascinating trees on the Bush Heritage site.
Wildflowers and highlight
For me, a highlight of the day included the presence of tour guide, Bill Evans, of Casey Australian Tours. Bill is a botanist and environmentalist who has worked in the Australian bush for many years. Throughout our bus trip, he provided commentaries about the local flora as we drove to our destination.
At Blackboy Ridge, he took us on a short walking tour where he pointed out wildflowers and talked about them. Australia has over 12 000 different species of wildflowers, many of them found only in Western Australia.
A tour of New Norcia, a picnic lunch and afternoon tea on the property of Mary Clewes, a Probus Club member, at Gingin rounded out a very full day.
Thanks to the Karrinyup and North Beach Probus Club for an interesting and enjoyable day. Especial thanks to Elizabeth Brennan, who in invited John and me to join the Club’s outing. Pat Llorens did a wonderful job of organising this event and managed to reorganise seamlessly several times because of circumstances beyond her control. Casey Australian Tours ensured our comfort and wellbeing.