Delightful adventures in Dwellingup, Western Australia
The Bibbulmun Track & Munda Bindi Bike Trails pass through the small forested country town of Dwellingup, 100km (62miles) from Perth. The town hosts a permanent population of 560. Around a third of the homes here are weekenders or holiday homes, and a large number of dwellings here are bed and breakfasts or AirBnb. Population numbers mushroom during school holidays and weekends as people venture here for the many activities the area boasts. At the annual pumpkin festival an estimated 13,000 visitors descended upon the area.
I had the wonderful experience of visiting friends here during Easter and getting to know the area better. I enjoyed riding my bike around the town, seeing restored old mill houses. One property was even home to a small mob of kangaroos. This is not something you see in most front yards in Australia, contrary to the hopes of many overseas visitors.
My favourite of the six coffee shops - Touch of Aroma
There are six coffee shops that I counted in Dwellingup, but by far the most outstanding was Touch of Aroma. This tea room & shop is a trove of treasures run by the best gem of all, the owner Bev. Her devonshire teas are world class. I sat out on the front shaded deck and this was the perfect spot to watch people pass by while I enjoyed my delicious treats. A fellow diner asked Bev when he ordered if he could have two scones. Bev told him that one would be enough for him. As he told me this tale, we both laughed. He said he felt scolded! But Bev was right he told me after consuming his delightful feast, one was enough for him.
You don't just get food, drink and purchases here, you get an experience that is unique and what brings people to small towns.
Bev came to Dwellingup to buy a goat. She bought the whole goat farm and ran it for over 30 years. In 2021, in her 21st year of running Touch of Aroma, Bev said she will continue to run it as long as she can as she loves the interaction with people and enjoys a chat.
Her store sells teddy bears, homemade jams and preserves, jumble sale items, soaps, specialised crockery and many hand knitted and crocheted items. Some of the funds raised here go to cancer research and a lovely outdoor garden has been created as a memorial to family members who have had cancer.
Open 10am-3pm. 36 McClarty Street, Dwellingup
Dwellingup Country Markets
Country markets with handmade products are a fabulous affair. Throw in a CWA (Country Women's Association) sausage sizzle, cake stall and home made produce, and that will send most craft seeking adventurers into a spending frenzy.
At the CWA hall on the third Sunday of the month are the Dwellingup Country Markets. Local resident and crafter, Gloria's stall was amazing. She has a large variety of indigenous dresses, headbands and lap rugs. Her work is beautifully hand made and not many children could walk by at Easter time without asking their parents to buy one of her beautiful bunnies.
DeeAnn from Rockingham was another seller. You can see her stall in the background above. She comes once a month and says her husband Fred likes her selling at the markets as it gives him a chance to watch the footy in peace. DeeAnn likes getting out and meeting people, making new friends. Her good quality, fully lined bags sell well she said, with dog, cat and cow prints selling the most.
Burt started making wooden chopping boards only 5 years ago. He was bored when he retired and learnt how to make the Marri and pine chopping boards from youtube tutorials.
Two friendly young people, Abby and Charlie, were selling the produce of local Nola, including preserves, jams, pickles and chutneys. Abby and Charlie help her prep the foods and said she uses random recipes from old cook books. Ah, traditional recipes are almost always the best - tried and true.
Colleen organises the markets as well as sewing with her mum, sister and daughter. She said that a lot of the sellers are local. With around 15 stalls this is a friendly little market and a great fundraiser for the CWA. There are ten members of local CWA group, but only three are under eighty years of age. The cake stall had sold out of delights that day so the women (Bev, Trish, Colleen, Alice and Marilyn) were going home to make more scrumptious treats for the next day's market stall. The pumpkin scones had been a crowd pleaser, with cupcakes for children and fruit cake for adults being the next best sellers. Trish, one of the bakers, loves cooking especially paella and pasta dishes. She said that cooking relaxes her.
Forest Heritage Centre
Located just a kilometre from the visitor centre is the world-class tourism facility. This was previously a School of Wood, and is build of rammed earth with a unique three gum leaf design. Outside is a well signed walk through the forest, with many of the plants labeled. I loved strolling along the walk. It was peaceful, only the occassional sound of a bird to break the silence. The air smells fresher and everywhere you look there is something different to see. You can take a walk up the 57 steps to the top of a lookout and view the forest from a different angle.
Inside, I met with Cara the Centre Manager. She said that being nearer to nature teaches us, especially children, about the bush. The rooms here are available for crafters to rent, and people can do workshops such as soapmaking etc. There is a full chefs kitchen for cosmetic making. I met with Jenni, a leather goods maker. She was making leather saddles for wooden rocking horses. This is a part time passion for her as she also rescues old horses. Recently she made a custom designed saddle for a young girl with cerebal palsy, so the girl can ride a horse with her mum.
An upholsterer also works from here and Derek Prince has a showroom of his unique wooden furniture.
Australian products are available to purchase in the gift store. West Australian Wendy Binks is a well known Australian artist and has a house in town. Many of the products sold here feature her Stunned Emu design. She was commissioned to paint some of the large aluminium signs with emus that feature on the Forest Discovery Centre's Emu trail.
As the Bibbulmun Track & Munda Bindi Bike Trails pass through the town, it was identified there was a need for showers, toilets and laundry facilities. This is one of the best set ups I have seen in a town. 24 hour laundry and locker services are available for those using the trails here. The modern free showers and toilets were exceptionally clean.
Alicia, Marco, Peter and Naomi are all locals who run the business. The cafe has a selection of nourishing foods and drinks to choose from. They are aimed to nourish and provide fuel for the active and adventurous. They are very conscious of protecting the environment. Only glass and aluminium containers are sold here, no plastics. The cakes, slices and busicuits are made in house. They make their own juices and gluten free and vegan options are readily available. Milkshakes and coffee syrups are not sold here. The coffee is fair trade organic coffee with fully degradable bags.
They offer self guided canoe, rafting, mountain bikes and walking tours. There is a wide range of hire equipment including canoes, rafts, mountain bikes and camping equipment. It can be hired for as short as an hour or over many days.
For the outdoor enthusiast you can purchase from a range of hiking, biking and other trails equipment here. Basic bike repairs can be performed on site. There is a self repair facility that many locals also use. Tubes, gloves and helmet are the most in demand products sold. If people are on the bibbulmun track there is enough of a range of hiking needs to keep them on their way.
In late 2021 they will also operate a popup cafe from a sea container at Lane Pool Reserve, as well as hiring canoes, bikes and rafts direct from that site.
Hotham Valley Railway steam train
Run on weekends and public holidays, this journey through the forest is a step back in time. The train squeaks and rattles as it moves through the forest. The sound of the engine is a steady constant hum. The rhythmic click clack of the wheels slows lulls you. As we pass through the forest I look upwards at the tall trees that shade the lower thriving grass trees. There is greenery everywhere here. People of all ages are enjoying the train ride, from infants to the elderly. The steam engine blasts its horn and children shield their ears as parents smile at each other, anticipating this reaction. The open sided carriages gently rock as we meander our way along. This is a lovely relaxing way to be amongst the forest without harming the undergrowth.
As we reach the end of the track (our half way point) at Etmilyn there is seating available nearby, a long drop toilet and a walking trail. The train conductor sells drinks, chips and confectionary. We were able to explore here for around half an hour before we climb back aboard for our return journey.
This is a great way for people to see the forest up close without causing damage. It is ideal for people with mobility issues and for children to be up close in nature. The train coasts along at around 15kph. We pass by the Holyoake town and mill site that operated from 1910 until the bush fires in 1961. A 300 year old Jarrah tree that survived the fires is also passed by on our journey. The 2 hour return trip was a delightful way to be in the forests around Dwellingup.
At the Gallery I met with 2 of the artists-in residence, Judy Roger and Mikaela Castledine. They spend one month here and conduct workshops with locals as well as displaying their artworks in the gallery. The gallery is a lovely wide open space with tall ceilings and lots of natural light. It also has a coffee van just outside the door with outdoor seating in its lovely garden.
with love by bec
This quaint gift shop was being manned by Bec's mum June on the day I visited. The store has a whimsical feel with many treasures to discover.
Just as interesting as the items in the shop is the building itself. It was never an alchemist but it was a chemist museum. Originally from Narrogin, it was moved here after the 1961 bushfires, with the tin coming from Kalgoorlie. Check out the pressed tin ceiling in the photo below. The chemist collection was sold to the Coolgardie museum and is on display there currently. As a homage to the previous use, the entire back wall is a reproduction photograph of the museum.
A brief history of Dwellingup
Started in 1896 the town was the centre of saw milling. A railway was opened in 1910 from Pinjarra to Marrinup which solved the transportation difficulties through the forests. By 1914 the population was around 1300 and the centre of the community for rail, medical and shopping services.
In 1923 a 2 ward hospital was built, which included an operating theatre and maternity facilities.
In 1942 there was a shortage of labour due to the war as well as 250,000 prisoners of war that needed to be accommodated. A Prisoner of War Camp was established just outside Dwellingup at Marrinup. There were no escapes as the prisoners were better cared for at the camp than they would have been outside. The footprint of the camp can be visited today.
In 1961 there were 19 lightning strikes that started a major bushfire in the area. Residents reported a 6m (20ft) wall of fire descending on their town. Sadly, the fire burnt the majority of the town to the ground. Fortunately there was no loss of life. As many families lost everything they owned, they left the area. The town has been rebuilt, but with a much smaller population and is now a popular tourist destination.
Thanks go to the Dwellingup History and Visitor Information Centre for some of the above information.
(Due to camera issues, I lost most of the photos I took of Dwellingup. I am hoping that my descriptions entice visitors to venture to this amazing small town with so much to see and do.)
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