Toodyay - Goomalling - Dowerin - Wyalkatchem - Koorda
We were awoken from a good night's sleep by many Cockatoos!
Toodyay is approx. 85 kms east of Perth in the picturesque Avon Valley. The whole town is classified by the National Trust as it has fine examples of 19th century architecture and a 100 or more heritage listed buildings reflecting the convict era.
The Avon River flows through Toodyay and the Avon Valley National Park and numerous Reserves are close by.
The original village of Toodyay was one of the earliest inland towns in Western Australia.
The Ballardong Noongar aboriginals lived for thousands of years in the Avon River valley before the first Europeans arrived in 1830 and in 1836 set about building the village of Toodyay. They didn't choose a good spot as floods often saw the village under water, so it was abandoned in the 1850s and a new town-site was established on higher ground upstream.
In 1860, the new town was proclaimed and named "Newcastle" and the original settlement was referred to as "Old Toodyay". As there is a Newcastle in New South Wales, the name was changed to Toodyay and has stayed that name ever since!
In the mid 1800's, Toodyay became well known because of notorious convict bushranger named Moondyne Joe. Many times he was put in gaol, only to escape and head for freedom in the wooded countryside around Toodyay. He was known for his clothes, a kangaroo-skin cape and possum-skin slippers and for his ability to escape.
Main road (Stirling Street - Toodyay)
Back on the main road, (Stirling street,) is where heritage listed buildings stand and look just like they did in the 1800's. Wonderful old buildings with interesting architecture, many with old fashioned sign- writing and the date of when they were built.
Painted and looking good, nearly all were in use today, even though it may be a different business to when they were first built.
My husband dropped me off one end of Toodyay's main street, then I would meet at the other end. I already had acquired the "Toodyay Living History Walking Trail" map from the Tourist Information centre situated beside Connor's Cottage, named after Daniel Conner the original owner/operator of Connor's Flour Mill.
Even if I didn't have this map, I found each location had a good information board about the building I was viewing - Very handy!
The original grind mill on the lawn outside.
Situated on the corner of Piesse street and Stirling street is Connor's Mill.
Wheat grown in the area was milled by the farmers using horse power.
Daniel Connor realized a steam-powered Mill was needed, one that ground the wheat finer, so he had the triple storey brick Mill built in 1870. A slide from the first floor doorway was built to wagon height so bags of flour would slide onto the wagons waiting below.
The flour produced was of very high quality, even winning an award in 1870 at an exhibition in Melbourne.
In 1917, the Mill was sold and turned into a power station for the town.
The Mill can be visited and the working historic machinery seen, also interpretive displays on the life of the Mill.
At Toodyay is the Coca Cola Café & Memorabillia Museum. This very popular Café attracts lots of people who like the atmosphere of dining in a 1950's retro style café, complete with checked tablecloths in red & white and waitresses dressed like Betty Boop.
I came to see the wonderful 40 year old Coca Cola collection that brought back many memories for me, some just disappear never to be seen again.
Coca Cola Café & Memorabillia Museum
On display are too many objects for me to remember and mention, but some I saw were Coca-Cola signs, the many different Coke bottles, bottle openers, can collections, toys, clocks, Christmas decorations, Juke box and much more!
I was allowed to wander around and take as many photos as I wanted.
I saw many historic buildings on my walk, old historic signs still on the buildings and some unusual names.
One of them was Monger's Cottage a heritage listed Victorian Georgian house built in 1860 by John Monger. He lived in the house and operated a store opposite the cottage that later was converted to become the Western Australian Bank, the first Bank in Toodyay. New owners who aquired the residence, were a Mr. & Mrs. Butterly (née Monger), hence the name was changed to Butterfly House!
My next stop was at the rather plain looking heritage listed St Stephen's Anglican Church. £25 was given to the Reverend Charles Harper who employed a former convict turned local builder to build the Victorian Gothic style church.
I think my favorite building in Toodyay was the heritage listed Freemason's Hotel that was constructed in 1861, making it the oldest public house in Toodyay. It is a beautiful two storey building with full length verandahs and arches over the doors and windows.
Victoria Hotel & Billiard Saloon.
There wasn't any shortage of Hotels here and most of them were enormous. Another with some history attached was the Victoria Hotel.
In the 1890s, the Hotel had a purpose built billiard saloon, one of the few remaining in Western Australia.
A few points of interest I read about the hotel were:
The Hotel manufactured its own cordials and aerated waters on the premises.
January 1894 - ice cream was introduced at the hotel.
1903 - The only Hotel with ice!
The Inter-war Classical-Art Deco style Toodyay Garage built in 1926 was one of the newer buildings in town. It must have been long awaited, as in 1927, a crowd "of a hundred or so residents" were at the opening of the Garage. When the business floundered, it was sold to Ken Somers, a man ahead of his time, as he offered a daily Taxi service to and from Perth, a distance of 87kms on roads not like today, cars could be hired with or without drivers. Somers really made a go of the garage until in 1939, when he suffered serious burns from a fire at the garage and died aged 44 years.
As usual when walking the main street of a country town, I found quite a few interesting stores. One was Christmas 360, a Christmas shop like I had seen in Europe but not in Australia! I never expected to see a large one like this in a country town in Australia!
This shop sells everything to do with Christmas, lots is different to what major department stores stock.
Evidently the owners had travelled overseas and seen the Christmas shops over there. Back they came full of ideas and now have created their own Christmas shop.
I loved the window display of animated Mr & Mrs. Santa Claus and their Elves busy making Christmas gifts in the shop window.
Children of all ages enjoy this store!
Some other buildings of interest along Stirling Street were:
Ellery's Arcade, a row of shops constructed between 1882 to 1891 by Jane Donegan. First, three were built, then another three were added.
Jager's Store was built in 1939 in Victorian Classical style with Federation Filigree additions, and blends in well with the rest of the buildings.
The Wendouree Tearooms were built in 1860, The building is a little different as its prominent parapet is slightly Egyptian in style with an art deco influence. The shop has always operated as tearooms since around 1870.
The Toodyay Fire Station is no longer! They have a new fire station, so this Inter-war Classical-Art Deco building from 1939, is now an Art Gallery located 105-107 Stirling street.
Just off Stirling Street is where I found Courtyard Antiques.
The building was historic and very small, absolutely over filled with collectables, arts and crafts, antiques and more. The owner is Roz, a lovely lady I spent some time talking to. She filled me in on the history of her shop and about Toodyay, then I slowly browsed her collectables. I loved her shop! There was stuff everywhere, thank-goodness she had taken quite a few goods outside otherwise I wouldn't have been able to move!
Courtyard Antiques and Roz's Cat
Finally, it was back in the car to visit the Old Gaol Museum Complex.
I especially like reading and learning about Australian Bushranger, Joseph Bolitho Johns, Western Australia’s best known bushranger but one I hadn't heard of!
He was well known in this area. He stole horses and was put in this gaol, then managed to escape from his cell by breaking the lock and scaling the wall which was topped with broken glass bottles to deter escapees. I had to smile when I read this - He stole the Resident Magistrate’s horse, saddle and bridle for his getaway!,
The old Gaol Museum Complex
This sturdy built Newcastle Gaol (old town name) was not the first gaol. This one was built using materials from the original lockup and used convict labour. When completed in 1865, there were warder’s quarters, a courtroom, exercise yard, kitchen and storeroom, and nine cells. The largest of these cells was used for the Aboriginal prisoners, and was fitted with an iron bar along the bottom of the wall.
The Gaol closed in 1904 and then was rented as a dwelling. The Dorizzi family family lived here. I don't know how many children they had, but they did have three boys who used the cells as their bedrooms. The three of them joined the Australian army to fight in WW II, sadly this war claimed the three brothers lives. It must have been a terribly hard time for the parents, too hard for me to imagine coping with such a dreadful loss.
One cell is now dedicated to them and to all local servicemen and women who did not return home.
The Old Gaol Museum complex
Across the road were the stables from 1891 which remained in use until 1955. They are part of the Old Gaol Museum complex which has permanent and temporary displays
In the same area was the old Toodyay Court House built in Federation Free Classical style.
This Court House, was built over the ruins of a former convict depot.
Interestingly, extensive archaeological remains of this former convict depot, were found buried underneath by Western Australian University students.
WHAT IS A CONVICT DEPOT?
As thousands of convicts came to this area from 1850 to 1868, Convict depots were set up as administrative centres for hiring ticket-of-leave men to local landowners and providing accommodation when the men were between jobs. Hundreds of ticket-of-leave men, and later probationary convicts, passed through the Toodyay Convict Depot.
This is what University of Western Australia students found..........
"They excavated six trenches in 2010, revealing intact foundations of the barracks, hospital, kitchen, warders’ quarters, commissariat store and privy as well as objects used by the convicts and guards. Future excavations may reveal more information about how the convicts lived and were treated, as well as the lives of their overseers.”
Before moving onto our next town we had lunch at the famous Toodyay Bakery which has won many awards
Best Gourmet pie - Best Pastie - Best Sausage Roll and a silver medal for Australia's GREATEST PASTIE. These awards were made by the Baking Association of Australia.
That sold us! Inside, the shelves were covered with a huge array of cakes, fresh Rolls, Bread and Buns.
Hot pies, pasties, sausage rolls and soup and a range of hot drinks are available. We settled for coffee and cake (was hard to make up my mind) but I settled for Carrot Cake - Yummy!
Prices were cheap, service was good, so was the food and coffee. We sat at an outside table, but there is seating upstairs on the balcony.
I'd have to say Toodyay was a favourite town of mine, as it is with many Perth residents.
Back on the road again, we are following the 'North Eastern Wheatbelt Drive Trail' known as the 'Wheatbelt Way.'
This was a well laid out route to follow, a big plus was the free booklet along with CD describing the history of the area and information on each town as we went along.
What was totally unexpected was the way these small towns had thought of ways to make the tourist stop at their town, either to stay the night, have a meal or look around at what they had created. It seemed to be working well!
Now join me as we travel the 'Wheatbelt Way,' a trip of 800 kilometres with 24 interpretive sites and many interesting towns along the way.
Our next town was Goomalling (1903), known as the 'Gateway to the Central Wheatbelt.'
Looking around here, I found Possums featured in the public art displays, this is because Goomalling is an Aboriginal Nyoongar word meaning 'place of possums,' but don't expect to see any these days!
We were on the look-out for the iconic grain storage domes known as the ‘Dolly Twins,’ not hard to find as they stand out from miles away.
On reading the interpretive sign, I found they were established in 1994 at a cost of approx. 6 million $'s and are the first of their type in the southern hemisphere.
The Dolly Twins
Goomalling has many old buildings still standing, but as with all these small country towns, the Bank is one of the most sturdy and best looking building in town.
There was a range of public art on display around town, including sculptures, mosaics and murals, some made from old pieces of farm implements into people and animals. It always amazes me how somebody can create a unique piece out of rubbish!
The Wheatbelt Wander Wall which depicts the local history of the town and area was in Railway Terrace. It was created in 2004 by students from Goomalling schools and surrounds, and is made from machinery parts, mosaics, a pipeline and ceramic tiles.
Wheatbelt Wander Wall
Another point of interest I found very interesting, was the Goomalling rare Flora garden. As a keen gardener, this garden helped me name some of the wildflowers I had seen on my journey.
Back in the car, we are heading to another small wheatbelt town named 'Dowerin,' home of Rusty the Tin Dog.'
Rusty the Tin Dog - Rusty, a very big tin dog stands guarding the entrance to Dowerin.
In 2004 , the children from the Dowerin District High School decided on the idea of Rusty to get tourists to come to Dowerin and to stop there.
It seems to be working! We, along with many others, parked in the carpark next to the Information Gazebo which was surrounded by a number of Chinese warrior statues, old farming equipment and shrubs.
On the same side was the Tin Dog Reserve where I went for a walk along the Tin Dog Creek Walking Trail where many species of orchids including Donkey, Bunny, Blue and Pink Fairies, Clown, Leek and Spider orchids are found during winter and spring.
It was in this Reserve where the smooth grey barked Mallee with beautiful red flowering blooms is found. Its common name is Dowerin Rose or Pear-fruited Mallee.
Signs along the track tell interesting Aboriginal stories.
We leave Dowerin behind and now travel the 30kms to our next town which is Wyalkatchem, but along the way we have to make a stop as I have noticed some pretty Grevilleas in flower on the roadside and have to take a photo.
Not long after, we arrive at the town of Wyalkatchem which has a historic grain elevator at its entrance
Around Wyalkatchem are murals depicting historical events
And beautiful flowering Gum trees.
First School at Koorda
Around 50kms away is the town of Koorda where we have decided to spend the night at a free camp in a Reserve. Koorda had some old buildings and another huge country Hotel, plus a few nice wildflowers.
The emblem of the shire is the 'Corn Dolly,' an old craft of making an ornament/decoration from a piece of corn, barley or wheat. Koorda likes to be known as the 'Corn Dolly' capital of the world.
Out of town we found our road to the reserve and the free camp which looked to be in an old quarry, quite good as it gave us protection from the wind. I went looking for wildflowers then settled in for the night. We were all alone with the brilliant stars shining above and just and odd light showing in a farm house. Peace and quiet, only Kangaroos and other animals and birds came during the night to check us out.
This was another interesting day of our Western Australia road trip.
Tomorrow we will follow more of the Wheatbelt Way