Meandering the Western Australian Wheatbelt
The Southwest corner of Western Australia is classified as a biodiversity hotspot and boasts over 8,000 species of wildflower, with more than half of these being endemic to the area. Western Australia’s wildflowers extend throughout the state with different species predominant depending on climate and soil type.
Flowering starts in the north of the state—the Kimberley, Gascoyne and Pilbara—in June and July. Blooms flower as the weather warms, with the show of colour spreading southwards as spring progresses.
The Wheatbelt springs into flower in between late August and October. I decided to take a meandering trip through the Wheatbelt areas to explore and experience the wildflowers. My drive took me from Albany on the south coast to Dongara in the mid-west where I visited and stayed with family for a week before continuing my journey southwards to home. I camped for three nights on the outward journey and two on the return trip, choosing small country towns or bush campsites for my overnight stops.
Pingrup Silo Art
Wheat silos are a predominant feature of many Australian country towns. They are used for storing grain prior to shipment either overseas or throughout Australia. In their original state, they are functional, but not very attractive.
In recent years, a trend of painting murals on wheat silos has developed. These are large-scale artworks, generally depicting some aspect of the local community or its history, and can be quite stunning. In the Eastern states, the silo art trail is popular with travellers. Western Australia is a little behind on this trend, but it is catching on with several new silo artworks completed this year. The silo at Pingrup was painted recently with rural images of horses and dogs.
Kwolyin was once a thriving town with a busy social and community life. It is now abandoned, and the church is the only building still standing. The church is still used today, along with the cemetery and memorial garden. There are a few other remnants of the town, including a cricket pitch. The area previously used as the football oval (Aussie rules) is now available for camping, with toilet facilities and a camp kitchen at one end.
Kokerbin Rock is several kilometres from Kwolyin townsite. It is a huge granite outcrop towering above the mostly flat terrain. Granite outcrops are common in the Wheatbelt, exposed as softer materials have been eroded away. A drystone well at one end of the rock remains intact, although in poor condition.
In pioneering days, drovers constructed wells to water their livestock near the base of these rocky outcrops. The wells collected and stored water runoff from the rocks during winter to provide a reliable water source during the hot dry summers.
Gorge Rock Dam near Corrigin is another example of water harvesting and storage utilizing runoff from a granite outcrop. The dam served not only to water livestock but also as the first swimming pool in the area.
Canola and Grain
During spring, the Wheatbelt is at its best with grain crops growing and canola flowering. The contrast in colours over undulating hills and flat plains is stunningly beautiful.
Coalseam Conservation Park
Located between Mingenew and Mullewa in the northern Wheatbelt, Coalseam Conservation Park was mined in the early 1900s. However, although the quality of the coal was good, the seams were too narrow for mining to be economically viable and the mines were abandoned.
Coal seams can be seen in the strata along the bed of the Irwin River. It is a fascinating area—both geologically, and for its flora and fauna. Originally, the area was much higher but has been eroded over time. Carpets of everlasting daisies—both white and pink—along with pom-poms create seas of colour contrasting with the rich earthy colours of the rocky terrain.
Caron Dam is yet another example of the spirit and resourcefulness of pioneers in the area. Its construction includes a bitumen catchment area and a manmade channel directing water flow into the dam. To reduce evaporation, the dam is covered with a corrugated tin roof.
The dam was constructed using bullocks and hand tools for the use of the railway. Trains were of vital importance for transporting wheat to the ports, and goods to the country towns. Goods are transported by road now, in trucks or road trains, but the grain is still transported by rail.
I was delighted to find numerous fringed lilies while exploring this area.
Wildflowers by the Roadside
The magic of wildflowers is that you don’t need to go for a long trek through the bush to find them. They grow in the gravel all along the roadsides and brighten the drive with splashes of yellow, pink, and purple.
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© 2019 Nan Hewitt