Leaving Albany we headed 50 Klms North on the Albany Hwy to Mt Barker. Not so long ago the area was known for its apples but today the region’s agriculture is based on sheep, cattle and cropping. Vineyards also play an important role throughout the Plantagenet District of which Mt Barker is the administrative centre. The town serves a wide agricultural community within this vast district and although the major shopping centre of Albany is ‘just down the road’ it still maintains a strong local retail centre providing all the necessary requirements of the community. The Plantagenet District vineyards are quickly establishing themselves as a premium cool climate wine region and the towns proximity to the Porongurup Range and Stirling Ranges where wildflowers are a major tourist attraction, (in season), has put Mt Barker on the map as an ideal stopover spot. Kendenup, a small town 18 klms from Mt Barker, is the site of WA’s first gold mine operation.
From Mt Barker we headed off to the west along the Muir Hwy towards Manjimup. This road took us back into the great southern forests and we turned off about 20 klm before Manjimup
towards Quinninup. Situated smack in the middle of the Great Southern Karri Forests this little town was established as a timber camp and today caters for bush walkers and visitor accommodation in the original timber cutters cottages. No facilities to speak of as Manjimup is not far up the road. We felt that there was a bit of an ‘alternative feel’ to this small town (in a nice sense!) which was surrounded by forest.
Not far away now was Pemberton our destination for the night where we free camped at Big Brook Arboretum. Just 3km from Big Brook Dam along the Karri Forest Explorer Drive is the Big Brook Arboretum. Here, we wandered among the many plots of exotic trees that were planted here to see how they would grow and respond to the local soil and climate, and to determine their potential plantation value. This was a fantastic camping spot costing us only $7 for the night. At Big Brook Dam, a sandy beach has been created for safe swimming and a sealed 4km disabled accessible walk trail leads you around the dam, ideal for someone who was about to turn 60!!
Pemberton sits in a quiet
valley surrounded by some of the tallest trees in the world and this is why we came here along with all the 1000’s of other tourists that visit each year. This is the heart of Karri country, with 4000 hectares of protected virgin Karri forest in the nearby Warren and Bedelup National Parks. Many of these trees are over 400 years old and are the tallest trees in WA and captivate all that visit here. There is nothing more awe inspiring than standing next to one of these huge ancient Karri trees and looking up into its distant crown. Nothing perhaps, except peering down from the top of one of these giant trees! A series of fire lookouts were constructed in the top of some of these giant Karri trees in the 1930’s and 40’s. These lookouts in the tree tops were a way of spotting fires in forests, a common occurrence in Australia. These lookouts albeit on the top of a man made structure, or in a tree like this, could best be described as a garden shed up in the air constructed in high places affording commanding views across vast tracts of forest. The most popular tree lookout
in the Pemberton area is the Gloucester Tree with its fire lookout 60 mtrs above the ground. Much of this surveillance is done today by aircraft.
Access to the Gloucester Tree lookout is via 153 spikes stuck in the tree spiralling around the trunk and this is not a climb for the faint hearted. Unfortunately for me I was not allowed to climb the tree as I had on ‘inappropriate footwear’ , thongs, (fortunately I had read the night before that you could not climb unless you had on shoes!). Trish managed to get up 6 rungs so I could take a photo, but even then I had to lie on my back as she would not go any higher!!
This was and is still principally a Timber Town and this features heavily in its history, buildings and current industry. In 1912, the timber industry took off with 3 mills operating. The superb strength of Karri made it an obvious choice for sleepers on the Trans-Australian Railway Line. Many of the Karri sleepers were used in the first stage of development of the London Underground and a great many other railway lines in the UK. While the mills
and the town continued to prospered from timber, new industries developed, irrigated farming became possible and potatoes, vegetables, tobacco, hops and other crops became widespread giving rise to some of the States premier agricultural land. Trout, Perch and Marron can be found in Pembertons’ rivers and streams which also attracts many visitors during the respective fishing seasons. Marron is a name given to two closely related species of crayfish in Western Australia, they make excellent eating, very similar in taste to lobster. Given that they are a freshwater species, they are far less salty and provide an overall sweeter taste.
As with most of these country towns we visit, the Visitor Information Centre is always a good place to stop for maps, info etc. and Pembertons’ was no exception. In fact this was one of the best we have been in, situated in the old school house and incorporating a fantastic pioneer museum we were met inside the door by 15 orphaned baby kangaroos, (Joeys), bouncing around and enthralling all the visitors , even posing for photos as you will see.
Pemberton was a great stop and full of interesting places to go and things to see all
What is for morning tea Mum?
within the confines of a magnificent forest of giant Karri trees.
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