ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Spitfires, Curry Puffs, Sculptures & Logs Over Creeks … Welcome to Bull Creek

On ABC Hidden Treasures we’ve recently been doing some special issues, like WAFL footy and Aboriginal Tourism. It’s time to get back to the idea of hidden treasures in our suburbs.

Some adventures require a lot of planning, other adventures are looked forward to with anticipation and excitement. 

Other adventures are opportunistic moments to explore new ground and dare I say it, as just a reason to spend some time with the kids and get out of the house.

Not quite a road trip but more than a trip to your local café around the corner.

Welcome to Bull Creek. 

Let’s start with a coffee and something to eat at the Little Parry Café.

When little Tom stands in front of a café that is named for his stature and his surname it is a remarkable photo opportunity to have him stand in front of it and an even better opportunity to try and work out why a dish simply called Waffle could appeal to an eleven year old boy. 

No wordy review needed from Tom, just a thumbs up as the other hand wipes maple syrup from his chin.

This a little café that also doubles as a little art gallery and there some great local paintings and drawings in this little space.

Little Parry at Little Parry

You won’t wear off the waffles in the short walk from the café to one of Bull Creek’s most treasured shops, Bull Creek Oriental Supplies.  This is a store that has been run by the  gorgeously cheeky Li Ling for more than 20 years and as well as all those spices and flavours of Asia that you can stock up on you can also fossick for utensils and bits and pieces you won’t find anywhere else plus all the chips and chocolates you might be used to buying when you’re in Bali and other parts of Asia.  Plus, I can assure you that their curry puffs are the best in Perth.  Light and fluffy with a generous vegetable filling and my only regret was not buying the lot. Great to eat as you leave the shop and you do these quick exhales of breath because they’re nice and hot.

Pork Floss! Lemon Water! So Much More and Don’t Leave Without A Bag of Curry Puffs

A few years ago I wrote about the Aviation Heritage Museum in a story about all of the things alongside the freeway that you should have a look at.  I rate this museum, firmly and proudly in Bull Creek and run by volunteers as an absolute treasure in this state and you don’t need to be an aviation buff to get a buzz from hearing a very real and very loud Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire being started or crouch your way through the fuselage of an Avro Lancaster bomber or look at Catalina Flying Boat and imagine what it was like seeing these take off and land on the Swan River during their famous double sunrise flights during World War II.

The Awesome PBY Catalina Flying Boat

What I love most about this museum is that you’re not guided in a particular direction.  My kids ran one way and I ran the other.  We’d call out, “You’ve got to see this!” Admittedly there can also be a bit of “Where are you?” and “Tom, get off that aeroplane wing!” but the staff, who are volunteers and filled with stories to compliment the more than 30 aircraft on display, mostly just smile so long as you’re not trying to spin the propellors or sitting in cockpits pretending you’re Biggles.

There’s a dam down south and a few wheat silos with murals but the Stockland Shopping Centre in Bull Creek mural has to be one of the biggest in Perth and displays the Noongar seasons and local birds. It’s on the south side of the shopping centre.

An absolute highlight of Bull Creek is a sculpture in Centennial Park called the Pilgrim, by Western Australian artist Russell Sheridan  and was part of Sculptures By The Sea about four or five years ago. 

I spoke to the artist about this piece and it’s inspired by his love of Michael Leunig cartoons and the resemblance of the man featured in the sculpture to the main character in Leunig cartoons is very evident.  Russell Sheridan explained to me that the dog is the passive observer to the burdens of life that we all carry, whether it be regret or being bullied or being discriminated against.  It sounds a bit grim and heavy but just like a Leunig cartoon there is that element of inspirational whimsy that will lift you up and keep you in the fight!

The Pilgrim

While not the Nile, I was inspired by the Pilgrim to find the source of Bull Creek.  In a glorious remnant piece of Bull Creek Park, next to Brockman Park and the playground, is the source of Bull Creek.  There’s a small and steady flow of water that meanders through some of the most extraordinary bushland you’ll find on Perth. 

In Mid-Summer Nights Dream, Shakespeare describes a character as “though she be but small she is fierce”.  This is like Bull Creek Park.  As Bull Creek flows towards the Canning River, it is surrounded by a small piece of bushland.  There’s a log over the creek to walk across and a great path that requires you to push ferns out of the way and there’s bird life and enough green canopy to block out the noise of the busy city roads nearby. Interestingly, it’s very well protected by the City of Melville and you’re required to scrub and wash your boots before you enter to prevent dieback entering this small but fierce bit of bush.

Where Bull Creek Begins

Bull Creek flows into the Bull Creek Inlet which Noongar people called Gabbilju.  The inlet has some good interpretive signage about the creek catchment area and an excellent walking trail that will take you from Gabbilju right around the river to the Riverton Bridge.  But that’s a suburb and a story for another day.

Where Bull Creek Ends

Bull Creek is a Hidden Treasure because it will surprise you.  A little walk on the wild side by a little creek, Spitfires, curry puffs, local art and inspirational sculptures make this your afternoon out when you’re too tired for a road trip but never too tired to have some fun with your kids.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Aboriginal Tourism around Perth and a bit further.

Beyond stories, Aboriginal tourism is about tangible opportunities to feel ochre on your face, touch kangaroo skins, dance and have some fun.

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I thought that we should do something to be a part of NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the culture and contribution of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. Below is a link to our discussion about Aboriginal tourism experiences in Perth and down the road.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/naidoc-hidden-treasures/13449400

I thought we’d look at just a few of the immersive experiences that are available to learn and understand more about Aboriginal culture and just to enjoy and have fun.

As a local, it’s a great time to be exploring tourism opportunities.  Without the international tourists crowding the scene our world is our oyster and our world has the oldest and most remarkable living culture in the world. 

Whether you’re after education or entertainment the opportunities to immerse yourself in an Aboriginal Tour and Experience aren’t just limited to the great red dirt northern expanses of the state, they’re right here in your backyard and in your neighbour’s backyard.

They’re even increasingly around where you’ve always walked and cycled or gone to the footy.  Keep a look out for signage, statues and sculptures at your favourite spots, particularly for interpretive signs giving new life and understanding about where we live and who has lived here before us.

Here are a few of my favourite Aboriginal Tours and Experiences that are here in Perth and just a couple that are a little bit down the road.

All of them are accredited tour operators and are members of the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council who have the coolest corporate values you’ll find; 1) Connection to Country 2) Welcome to Country 3) Have Corroborees … to share and learn!

No buzz words.  They’re real words.

Let’s start in Mandurah and welcome you to Mandjoogoordap Dreaming. Anyone who has taken the Freeway and Forrest Highway down south has seen the longest name sign Main Roads has ever had to install.  The ‘Mandjoo’ means ‘meeting place’ and the ‘goordap’ means ‘of the heart’.  George at Mandjoogoordap Dreaming will teach you how to make bush twine and forage for bush tucker and learn the bushcraft of the region during walks along the Mandurah foreshore and estuary and a little bit on a bus for little legs and older legs.

Let’s keep going a bit further down the road but only as far Bunker Bay just to the west of Dunsborough.  Pullman Bunker Bay have partnered with local Elders to give guests the opportunity to do a Six Seasons Tour by exploring the gardens at the resort.  When I did the tour with my kids, Elder Nina Webb showed them the plants that could be eaten, used for medicine, and showed me what ones just look good as a bouquet for.  We found frogs behind leaves and lizards on rocks. 

This is one tour that showcases not just the flora and fauna but also the culture and language of the local Wardandi people and are showing how to work alongside a modern hospitality experience to include some authentic culture in your resort getaway.

Wardandi Elder Nina Webb takes resort guests at Pullman Bunker Bay on a tour of what is right before their eyes … and opens them!

We’ll stay south for another experience but head east to Kojonup to the Kodja Place.  It’s with great sadness that my friend and local legend Jack Cox passed away in March and I wish to thank his family for letting me mention his name today.  Jack used to greet visitors with a bush tea that was actually bought at the Kojonup IGA and he used to tell international visitors that he needed their help to find lost sheep in the gardens surrounding Kodja Place. The Kodja Place will continue to tell stories about his remarkable life and his family who lived in the area.  If you are putting together a bucket list of Western Australian cultural travel experiences, make sure the Kodja Place in Kojonup is on it because it’s a complete tapestry of stories from Noongar life to settler life in the area.

On our way back up to Perth let’s stop near Narrogin and go into Dryandra to meet my friends Ross Storey and Marcelle Riley.  As part of the Narrogin Noongar Ranger Tours and Experiences these guys tell beautiful stories through the use of dollmaking and in bush walks. I grew up with Ross and if you’ve ever wondered if anyone can talk more than me then just listen Ross talk about his country.

Ross Storey, based in Narrogin and telling stories about the Wheatbelt
Ross makes sure that all ages can participate, learn and have a lot of fun

Back in Perth let’s look at some tours that will be so immersive you’ll no longer see the land around you as a city landscape, you’ll see and feel the land the way it was.  Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences will walk you around the city, the river, and even on Wadjemup and get you singing songs, touching kangaroo skins, using tapping sticks and smelling ochre and crushed leaves in your fingers.  This is storytelling with knowledge, passion and fun and have you smiling all the way home.

Deadly Diva Experiences for Women is an experience I wish they’d let me participate in.  Tahn tells campfire stories and does wildflower walkabouts and it’s all for the ladies. It’s inspiring and intriguing and let’s use my favourite word of the day … immersive.  She is now looking at a once a year tour for the curious fellas so watch this space very carefully.

Get up to Kings Park as a family and participate in the Kings Park special events program that focuses on local Aboriginal culture and takes kids into the world of Kings Park before roads and playgrounds.

Finally, get to the Yagan Square Nyumbi where at 5:30pm every Friday you watch and participate in a smoking ceremony and dance.  The performers change each week.  Some Fridays it’s an Elders group and other times it’s the kids getting up and sharing stories with an audience that includes tourists, office workers and passers-by who never walk by when they see what’s going on. They also love a photo at the end of the performance and some of those kids will give you some cheeky feedback on your own dancing skills.

These are experiences for our community to be proud of and enjoy. Aboriginal tours and experiences are hidden treasures because they’re immersive and substantial on so many levels but most importantly, you can discover, learn, and have fun while you’re doing it.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: The World of the WAFL is full of History, Heritage and Hotdogs.

I asked Ro to dress like a Champion but she wore her Swan Districts gear

From Mandurah to Joondalup, Freo to Basso and a fair bit in between, there are footy grounds with enough heritage and heart to bring out your tribal colours, wave a scarf, admire some silverware and photos of yesterday’s champions and watch close up, todays champions of men and womens footy, and listen to their coaches support and spray them at quarter and three quarter time.

Wherever you live in the metropolitan area, there’s a WAFL ground near you.  Click on the link below to listen to our ABC Perth Hidden Treasures story on WAFL grounds around Perth:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/wafl-hidden-treasures/13430668

All of the WAFL grounds offer spectators the opportunity to get over the boundary fence at quarter time breaks and have a kick to kick or listen to the coaches and players as they huddle around the magnet board at quarter and three quarter time. 

Listen to a winning coach speech to his winning team

It’s these moments that make WAFL truly special.  Getting on to the ground.  Kicking a footy.  Getting close to the teams. Seeing up close the mouth guards being rinsed, the smell of liniment getting rubbed into legs that are fit and strong … but not quite as big as Ron Bouchers.  And high level coaches instructing high level players. And big wins.

Celebrate the wins

Mandurah has a redeveloped arena that is next door to the main shopping centre in Mandurah and highlights one of the characteristics of WAFL grounds, they’re accessible and central to the community they represent.

Clint Wheeldon fondly remembers when Rushton Park used to truly have that country footy feel with cars parked the oval.  When he was on air for the ABC covering a game he’d give a shout out to the cars and they’d honk their horns and flash their lights.  The lights thing didn’t work well for radio but he said it was lots of fun.

Up the road in Freo are two grounds that embody the rivalry between WAFL clubs.  While East Fremantle fans love their Shark Park with its acres of grassy banks and its low stands with plank seating that is more splinter than plank, Fremantle Oval is completely different. 

South Fremantle is a great club and Fremantle Oval is a great ground

The mightiest football team in the world, the South Fremantle Bulldogs, has allowed the Italian influence in Fremantle to literally pave the spectator terraces in concrete to follow many an Italian homeowners gardening creed that there are no weeds in concrete.

Concrete terraces and seagulls? It could only be footy in Freo!

Despite the concrete terraces, there is the beauty of some of Perth’s grandest old fig trees, the wall of Fremantle Jail just behind the scoreboard and a contender for the best stand in Perth the Victoria Pavilion, built in 1897.

Up Stirling Highway you’ll find the transformed Claremont Oval which in the Covid environment is the easiest way to get a resort experience in Perth.  The fully redeveloped ground is only lacking a swim up bar to complete the picture.  Much of the seating is sumptuous and there are even sofas and proper coffee tables with proper coasters!

Nusa Dua in Claremont

Just up the road is the dual tenanted Leederville Oval, home to Subiaco and East Perth.  As a venue for the 1962 Empire Games it’s grandstand reflects this era and if you like the look down spectator experience like major stadiums, this won’t cost you anymore to sit in than the gate entry price of $15 – with complimentary Footy Budget.

Joondalup is one of the pioneer grounds in Perth to make the transition from footy oval to multi sports complex, incorporating a swimming complex, gym and other sports while still retaining that great hallmark of WAFL grounds, the grass embankment.

Lathlain is another ground that has retained and redeveloped.  There’s still a van with a loud generator making hot chips and big hotdogs but there’s also the sophistication and dominant architecture of the West Coast Eagles complex that is alongside the oval. It’s got the big stand from the same era as Leederville Ovals and has a great view of the game and you can sit close to the commentators and hear how they’re seeing the game unfold.  

Love a Lathlain Oval hotdog

 I guess now we’ve got to make the long trek out to Bassendean and have a look at Bassendean Oval.  While it’s true that Swan Districts got a hat-trick of flags in the 80’s I don’t know if there’s much else to say about them.   

They do have a spectacular grass embankment and two stands that put the grand in grandstand.  The ground is a great hub for local kids with a skate park adjacent to the oval and on the my last visit there were two kids playing with a footy near the goals and taking turns pretending to be their favourite player as they kicked for goal. 

Putting the ‘Grand’ in ‘Grandstand is the Bill Walker Stand at Bassendean Oval

Best ground that resembles a resort: Claremont – sofas, seating and service like a Nusa Dua resort

Best Gates: Bassendean Oval

Best Grass: Bassendean Oval

Best Stand: Victoria Pavilion, Fremantle Oval

Best Trees: Fremantle Oval

Best Ground Announcer: Leederville Oval “Describing children as ‘kiddies and young un’s’ and saying ‘please’ when advising spectators to get off the ground and to ‘please remember to help your kiddies gently over the fence’. 

Honk your horns for WAFL grounds! WAFL grounds are hidden treasures that are well and truly in the open throughout suburban Perth.  They’re accessible, good value and are a great way to connect with your community and watch good footy. Thank you to all the WAFL clubs who let me be a part of their game day experience.  They’ve got heritage and heart and even if you’re not a member of your local club, you’re always welcome.

The rough, tough Bulldogs! Southerners forever more!

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures has landed safely in the Avon Valley

The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme.  Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.

The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia to Beverley, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.

Toodyay is a great place to begin an Avon Valley daytrip.

Two great museums are in Toodyay. The Connors Mill has working displays, steam engines, and the Ballardong Noongar connection is well exhibited and the Newcastle Gaol tells the tragic story of Dorrizzi brothers and also has some interesting history on Moondyne Joe who is described as not quite a bushranger but more than a horse thief.

The Bilya Walk Trail 6-kilometre Aboriginal Interpretive Art Walk tracks alongside the Avon River, showcasing how local Noongar people lived in the location.

The Toodyay bakery is the perfect spot to enjoy a pastie and vanilla slice (with white icing) on a balcony that overlooks the main street.

The Toodyay Bakery has a balcony to watch the world go by in the main street below

Enjoy stocking up on Christmas decorations at the biggest Christmas Shop in the whole world that is open all year.

Enjoy a walk through Pelham Reserve which has 6km’s of walking tracks with a lookout of the town and valley. Kangaroos and emus will be constantly crossing your path and the surrounding bush is one of the states best locations for Everlasting displays.

The fabulous Tea House Tables has regular events in a bush setting, where you will sit around mosaic tables and quietly sip tea in one hand and noisily scoff homemade cakes in the other. I wonder if they make mock chicken sandwiches?

Driving down to York there is the famous Motor Museum which is like a Peters Drumstick – a classic that’s hard to stray from. Let the smell of old oil fill your nostrils and reminisce about driving in the days of caressing your vehicles choke every morning to get it started!

Make sure you have a wander of the streets and find the Wara Art Trail. These Japanese inspired sculptures of braided wheat straw on wooden frames, including a bilby, numbat and western swamp tortoise are a great example of inspirational regional art projects.

York Wara art trail Bilby

In Northam, get there early enough in the morning and you can become a member of the balloonatic club with Damien the hot air balloon pilot who’s like an old sea captain, squinting at the night sky, checking the stars and the wind to find the safest place to take off and land.

The iconic Avon Descent starts in Northam and is part of the River Festival every August to celebrate this 124-kilometre epic and iconic race.

The Northam Wheat Silo was the first silo in Australia to have a giant mural painted on it and the flour mill mural pays tribute to the only wild white swans in Australia.

Before you leave Northam, make sure you take a walk on the suspension bridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Australia.

Motoring down to little Beverley there’s the very impressive East End Gallery. With over ninety artists there is local clothing, jewellery, paintings, sculptures and most of it is for sale! The kids will love the owl and the pussy cat in a very real pea green boat.

There’s also lots of rusty stuff at the back of the East End Gallery. It is the workshop for a sculptural artist called Michael Sofoulis and he has collected all the rusty metal for a million miles around!  Old bicycles, horseshoes of all sizes no matter what size your horse’s feet are, bits of gates, bits of cars, bits of sheds and fences.

Rusty stuff from miles around at the East End Gallery in Beverley

Beverley also has a Heritage and Mural Trail of chickens, kangaroos, sheep and more on Vincent Street, the main street of little Beverley.

Before you leave Beverley make sure you take a look at the very real vampire!

The Avon Valley is a hidden treasure because it’s a day on the road that won’t exhaust you.

The Avon Valley is a bit like the Margaret River Region.  There is the main road and there are the back roads. 

And there are pies and pasties for everyone in every town. And vanilla slices!

Sitting in the main street of regional towns is a great pastime

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures goes up, up and away in the Avon Valley

Giant Man and Tiny Balloon

For ABC Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures, Ro and I went somewhere we haven’t been before … beyond Perth! Up and over the escarpment and east to the Avon Valley.

There’s a reason that songs are written about being in the air. 

‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘99 Red Balloon’s, ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Danger Zone’ are just a few of the classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.

Let’s have an adventure that is discovered in the darkness but is soon revealed by the dawn of a new day. 

Let’s go hot air ballooning!

The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme.  Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Arriving at the Northam Airport I’m the first to arrive and there is nobody at the airport except for the resident cat.  It’s so cold that the cat jumps into my car. 

As other people start to arrive and huddle around the coffee making facilities, I’m taken by news articles on the wall that describe the history of hot air ballooning in the world. This sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s true, in 1783 a sheep, a duck and a rooster went riding in a hot air balloon in France. 

I had thought that the airport would be our take off point but Damien, our chief pilot, has been letting go of weather balloons and squinting at the night sky like an old sea captain. For this morning’s flight with Windward Balloon Adventures we must head west of Northam.

These guys have all the permissions required from the shire and farmers to access properties, so long as we remember to close the gates.

Still in complete darkness, our pilots inflate the balloons as they lie on the ground and the roar and brightness of the gas burners is a bit like those aerobatic displays of jet planes whooshing over your head. 

After a final briefing we climb into our basket and just like that, we’re away. No seatbelts. No worries.

Dark Shadows Welcome a New Day

I’ve done some wonderful air related activities in my life from the fastest and longest zipline in the world with my daughter Matilda down the side of a mountain in South Africa, to twice jumping out of aeroplanes, flying a beautiful Tiger Moth over Perth and the seaplane to Rottnest, and even trekking up mountains and being above clouds.

When I jumped out of an aeroplane I thought about the words of John Magee, a World War II Spitfire pilot who wrote a poem called High Flight with the first line, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” and the last line, “Put out my hand and touched the face of God”.

Astronaut Michael Collins died recently, and he once remarked that he wondered what John Magee would have been inspired to write if he could have been in orbit above the Earth. 

As we ascend from the paddock that becomes a mist shrouded valley beneath, I looked to the east and had author Douglas Adams’ words in my head, “There is a moment in every dawn when light floats and there is the possibility of magic.  Creation holds its breath.”

Creation Holds Its Breath

I can tell you I held my breath and it was amazing.  In so many of life’s travels and adventures it’s been the sites and sights that are the most awesome but what was so immersively different about a hot air balloon experience is that sound becomes part of the canvas before you.

It’s mostly silent apart from the whoosh of the gas burners every so often to get some altitude. Looking down and around you’re suddenly struck by the sounds of parrots having an early morning squabble in the trees over who’s sitting on the best branch, sheep all going baa as they move across a paddock far below and even a dog barking from somewhere. 

There are other balloons to help with the perspective of what we’re all a part of this morning.  They drift along as we drift along and we rise and fall and our hearts sing with the joy of witnessing to a new day in a beautiful part of the world.

A Collective Noun for Hot Air Balloons is a … Drift

As we continue to drift, we travel over bushland with granite outcrops beginning to be warmed by the early rays of the sun and kangaroos jumping through the trees and in the distance on hills to the west we can see the shadow of our balloon and directly below us the reflection of the balloon is crystal clear in the river below.

We land in a harvester scarred paddock with a gentle bump and everyone helps roll up the balloon into a bag that is much easier to manage than any sleeping bag.

The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia in the north to Beverley in the south, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.

Northam has the Avon River running through it and the champagne breakfast after the ballooning is held in a café overlooking the river, complete with white swans and suspension bridge.  During a champagne toast we are all welcomed to the club of Balloonatics.

Hot air ballooning seems to be on the bucket lists of many people but keeps getting pushed down the list not from the fear of hanging from a basket but from getting up so early.  Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away. 

Windward Balloon Adventures in the Avon Valley

Special Tip:  The National Ballooning Championships will be held in the Avon Valley between 30 August and 4 September, with lots of opportunities to be a spectator and a participant. 

Giant Man in Tiny ABC Studio

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures discovers Bicton, a very green riverside suburb.

Bicton is south of the river and it runs right alongside it.

It’s east of Fremantle and nearly a third of the suburb is dedicated to a green belt of bushland, parkland and outdoor activities that is just as important to families today as it was to Aboriginal women and children before the Swan River Colony, when the men hunted and hung out on the Mosman Park side, while the women and kids got to hang out at Jennalup, what we now call Blackwall Reach.

The hidden treasure of Bicton is its access to the river and how it has retained its pristine riverside bushland while providing open spaces for picnics, concerts and beaches for sandcastles and swimming. And it has jetties.

It’s a tradition with Hidden Treasures that we start by meeting Ro’s requirement for “What’s there for sport?”

When we spoke about Midland a few weeks ago I encouraged people to get out there and watch baseball as something a bit different to the footy, basketball and cricket.

Bicton is home in WA to a sport that is worth watching and has tamed down a bit since the infamous 1956 Melbourne Olympics clash between Hungary and Russia.  Have you guessed it?

Water Polo!  At the Bicton Pool you can watch the home games in the Australian Water Polo League for the Fremantle Mens Mariners and the Fremantle Womens Marlins and they’re the most successful teams in the competition, kind of natural for Western Australian sport.  It’s a great spectator sport and I wish other sports could start off as exciting as the ‘swim off’ where both teams swim furiously to get the ball first. And those little caps are kind of cool as well.

Next to the Bicton Pool you’ll find Freestyle (pic above), a very popular meeting point sculpture that is part of the City of Melville We Love Art Project. 

Also next to the Bicton Pool and the Freestyle sculpture you’ll find the Bicton Baths which is almost unique in Perth now for being fully enclosed by a jetty that is perfect for jumping off or fishing for big bream and even bigger flathead.

Incredibly, this little area has more!  It’s also the location, in the adjacent Quarantine Park, for the annual Broome to Bicton Concert featuring the greatest band in the world, the Pigram Brothers. It’s a popular park all year long with families and for this reason Mr Whippy makes regular visits.

Continuing north along the river foreshore you get to the slightly controversial Blackwall Reach limestone cliffs.  Whether it’s just for the adventure, a rite of passage or reckless tomfoolery, it’s a long standing activity to jump off the 10 metre high limestone cliffs into water that can reach 25 metres deep and where scuba divers can discover an old barge at 14 metres and is the most intact wreck site in the Swan River, and populated by all sorts of fish, including sea horses. 

This area is actually an underwater tidal gorge and probably the most diverse and highly populated area of the river for underwater life which makes it popular with humans and dolphins for fishing and is one of the best spots on the Swan River to watch dolphins.

On land at Blackwall Reach is the Jenna Biddi Yorga (Womens Feet Walking) walking trail, described by Trails WA as Grade 1. It’s 2km in length and is one of the most scenic, peaceful and bird filled walks in Perth. 

Continuing our way north we find ourselves at one of Perth’s best family spots, Point Walter, with its rite of passage walk on the sandbar, great BBQ facilities, little beaches, public art, including the famous Habibi sculpture, and another jetty!

The joy of Point Walter is how perfect it is for everyone to learn their water activity.  It’s perfect for learning to swim or use a stand-up paddleboard, fish off the jetty, or do bombies onto big brown jellyfish.

Each year (though currently paused for Covid) there is one of the best outdoor family concerts held in Perth, the Point Walter Concert. It’s currently scheduled by the City of Melville for January 2022.

If you decide not to take a picnic, there is a very good café, although I much prefer to call it a kiosk! Order up some milkshakes and some hot chips and a day at Point Walter with the sun setting behind the western suburbs can’t get any better. 

If you head into the streets of Bicton check out the iconic Leopold Hotel which revels in its link to AC/DC (although these days you’re more likely to find families playing Jenga in the big sofas than screaming lead singers doing stage dives). Also seek out Little Stove, a little café that is a big meeting point for those in the community who need coffee to survive. It has local produce, including honey, giftcards and eggs from their own chickens.

Bicton is a hidden treasure next to known treasure.  Next door to Bicton are the flashy lights and attractions of the Fremantle district with its heritage and café culture to lure us in. 

If you cast your net a bit wider though you’ll find that Bicton is a treasure trove of riverside activities to explore or just relax in.  Bicton rivals Kings Park for its ability to provide bushland activities in the metropolitan area that appeal to all ages and abilities.  In some ways it’s better than Kings Park because Bicton has jetties!

ABC Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures: Midland … the end of line and loving it.

The Amazing Ro Edwards on ABC Saturday Breakfast, getting Perth up and about every weekend

Ro Edwards on ABC Saturday Breakfast is getting Perth up and about every weekend and being a part of her show is exciting and a lot of fun. Our program Hidden Treasures is making a habit of discovering places that have always been there but maybe you just haven’t stopped there before.

Midland was originally proclaimed and named as Midland Junction in 1891 because it is the junction of major roads leading to Perth from the north and east.

Midland is the suburb where many adventures begin as travellers head east on Great Eastern Highway, or north on the Great Northern Highway, and it’s where travellers to Perth give a big sigh and say, “We’ve made it.”

Midland is the end of the line.  Literally.  The eastern metropolitan train line starts from Perth and finishes in Midland. Although I reckon that most Midland locals are adamant that the train line actually starts in Midland and finishes in Perth, making Perth the end of the line.

It’s the railway that is as connected to the community and history of Midland as a carriage on the tracks. 

I once had a conversation with the Sultan of Johor about his favourite town in Johor, called Muar.  He wanted Muar to be like Melacca, just up the road to the north.

I said ‘I’ve been to Melacca. I’ve been to Muar. They are both great.  Why do you want Muar to be like another town just up the road?  Why would you go to the trouble of becoming like something else that you then have to compete with anyway? Be yourself.  Be known for your history and build on that.’

I thought it was pretty good advice and so did he.

Midland is a bit like Muar. It’s not the best house in the street but it’s got really good residents who are really proud of showing off what they’ve got. Up the road there’s the historical glitz and glamour of Guildford, off to the north there’s the Swan Valley vineyards to sozzle your senses and over the back fence to the east are the hills of the escarpment, overlooking Midland.

Like so many of our Hidden Treasures, it’s not that you have to dig deep to find the treasure, you just have to know where to look.

Let’s stick with the history bit first, move through what you can do now, eat out of an old lunchbox and finish with a sport that’s huge in Midland and America.

For history, anyone who has driven out that way would know about the Midland Town Hall. 

Midland Town Hall

It’s impressive and always feels like you’re going to drive into it as you head along Great Eastern Highway which takes a gentle curve to the right as you drive past this great building is Midlands most recognisable building. Just like the road in front of it, it’s got a gorgeous curve to it that makes it not just impressive as Federation architecture but it’s charming and elegant.  With the addition of the clock atop its dome serving as a memorial to local men who lost their lives in war, it’s also a reminder of the sacrifice made by those men and their loss to the community.

After a Mayoral Ball to mark completion of renovations, it’s now a popular cabaret venue and hall for hire (which isn’t as dodgy as it sounds).

The Midland Railway Workshops were the burning, molten metal heart of Midland.  You could hear the work being done for nearly a hundred years by a workforce that came from all over Perth but mostly came from the surrounding streets of Midland.  These days, a walk through and around the sheds is remarkable. 

Midland Railway Sheds

They are towering buildings with big industrial doors and windows and while they’re industrial buildings they are beautiful, magnificent and inspiring.  In the years ahead they may become spaces for sport, for the arts, for movie studios, for many things but for now just get out there and enjoy exploring these big buildings that built trains and rolling stock are also a photographers dream in any light.

Midland Railway Sheds

Trillion Trees partners with the ABC tv series Fight for Planet A and the nursery grows more than 200,000 seedlings each year and is a great oasis to wander around and purchase some native plants from volunteers from a range of diverse backgrounds and employment training programs. They’re also working with local schools, including Woodbridge Primary School and Moorditj Noongar College, teaching the kids about cultural ecology.

The Midland Junction Arts Centre is the cultural heart of Midland provides workshops for all ages, has three galleries, workspaces for artists and want-to-be artists and works really hard to engage the community in creative ways.  A huge range of workshops are available including after school ceramics for the kids, life drawing for the adults and tactile tours for participants with disability to experience the arts through discussion and touch.

Blue Beautiful Exhibition at the Midland Junction Arts Centre (Yes you can have a slushy! Beat that Banksy!)

The Robot Bun Factory is an example of the quirky cafes springing up all over Midland, some selling records and bric-a-brac, others selling local art but when a café gets you coming back you know it’s not just about the robots and free board games, it’s about bao buns served in 1950’s style tin lunch boxes and a local crew doing their best to put a funky pin in the map of Midland.

There’s always action at the Robot Bun Factory Cafe

The Midland Farmers Markets are one of the oldest markets with the freshest fruit and vege produce alongside live music and pickles, cakes and jams. The next one is tomorrow and its out the front of the City of Swan offices on Market Square.

While Guildford has the antique shops, Midland has second hand shops and charity shops that are a rummagers delight and my teenage daughter Matilda’s obsession as she searches high and low for clothes or diligently and silently flicks her way through boxes of old records.

Watch some baseball or teeball at Charlie Hodder Baseball Field.  Baseball has a rich history going back to the 1940s and a rich competition that is great fun to watch in the stands with a hot dog.

Photo courtesy of the Swan District Baseball Club

Midland is a hidden treasure because it’s not trying to be like something else.  Surrounded by glamourous neighbours, it has dug its heels in and supported by a rich rail history, they are building a community and attracting visitors for the art and culture, fresh produce, funky cafes, collections of charity shops and sport you might have only seen before in the movies and on tv.

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Tom makes his radio debut discussing Fringe World

I think I’ve just been warming the seat for Tom.

My ten year old son Tom is an official judge for Fringe World and throughout the summer we’ve attended events, interviewed performers and in the evening he’s logged onto the Fringe World site and submitted his rankings.  He’s not a hard judge.  If you make him laugh or gasp, you’ll get five stars.  You might lose a star for not starting on time (he gets that from me).

With the amazing Hilary Smale on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Tom discussed how he judges each performance, why he likes Fringe World and why more families and kids should attend.

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ABOVE: TOM AND HILARY

He was so calm and descriptive and I sat on the other side of the glass so proud of how my boy could so confidently talk to a statewide audience.

As he said, “I loved talking to Hilary and knowing there were lots of people listening that I couldn’t see.”

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ABOVE: TOM AND MOLLY

ABC Saturday Breakfast: From the Porongurups to Rotto, Tassy gin to South Australian cuttlefish and the wonders of Malacca.

A recent conversation with the ever bubbly Andrea Gibbs on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast explored some destinations that took us around Western Australia, over the border to some of my favourite states and finally overseas to a destination that’s just so cool to say and even better to experience.

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Firstly, with ABC Producer Molly Schmidt firmly twisting my arm, we explored her hometown and holiday hangout, the Porongurups and Albany.  Then we ventured across the coastline with some descriptions of Elephant Rocks, Greens Pool, a bit of beach driving at Peaceful Bay and the discovery of giants in the forests around Walpole.

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ABOVE: WALPOLE TREETOP WALK

Then we had a chat about new ways to see new destinations and Rottnest is a great example of this.  This familiar destination is a rite of passage for Western Australians and a bucket list item for most tourists to the state.  With the new seaplane service taking off from the Swan River in front of the city you’re on Rotto in 20 minutes and can explore this incredible island, both on land and beneath the waves, before making your way back on one of the many ferry services available.

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ABOVE: SWAN RIVER SEAPLANES TAKE OFF ON WATER AND LAND ON … LAND.

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ABOVE: THE BASIN AT ROTTNEST ISLAND, MORE THAN A FAVOURITE, IT’S A RITE OF PASSAGE.

Next we took a trip to Tasmania and Andrea got very excited by my descriptions of the more than 20 gin distilleries to be found on the island and various DIY gin courses that are available.  We then came back to the mainland and to our great neighbour, South Australia.  There’s so much to see and there’s more to see than amazing wineries.  There’s some cage diving with Great White Sharks and a slightly more sedate wildlife encounter at Whyalla in the Spencer Gulf you’ll find the opportunity to snorkel with giant cuttlefish.

To finish our travel tour we hopped on a plane to Malaysia and visited Malacca.  I love just saying it. Malacca.  The Straits of Malacca have been an important sea trading route for centuries and led to an influence in this gorgeous town of food, culture and architecture in the styles of the Portugese, Dutch and British.  Interestingly, as well as having world heritage significance, funky hidden bars, evening river cruises and smiling faces everywhere, it is also one of the first large towns anywhere in the world to ban smoking in public.  Malacca.  Say it with me.  Malacca.

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ABOVE: AN EVENING CRUISE IN MALACCA

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ABOVE: MALACCA, OR MELAKA.

Travel discussions can lead you down a rabbit hole of inspiration.  This year try and think a little bit about trying to benefit the destination you’re going to.  Consider, for example, amazing destinations like South Australia who need our help as tourists to recover from the bushfires, particularly on Kangaroo Island.  In Western Australia, try a road trip to a country town you haven’t visited before or find a new way to visit a familiar destination, like a seaplane ride to Rotto.

Enjoy your travels, don’t be put off travelling, just try and contribute with your travelling.

With Russ and Nadia on ABC Breakfast Radio: What have you taken from a hotel room? Be honest now.

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Wonderful discussion on the ABC Breakfast Show with some very funny talkback callers confessing to all sorts of things that have just ended up in their bags.

Do we leave our values and compliance with rules at home when we check in to a hotel?  As the hotel card is pushed down to activate the lights do you scan for what you can put in your bags?  Pens? Notepads? Body Lotion? Do Not Disturb Sign? Lamps? Batteries from the tv remote?

I’m a pen guy.  Love them.

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Above: My favourite hotel pen from The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa.  If you’re reading this Sun City it was my daughter Matilda who put the pen in my bag.

My son Tom is still worried the Narrogin Police are chasing after him for taking the complimentary biscuits in the room at the Narrogin Albert Facey Motel.

The Top 10 items taken from hotel rooms:

  1. Pens and notepads
  2. Do Not Disturb signs
  3. Shower Gel, body lotion, shampoo
  4. Box of tissues
  5. Coathangers
  6. Globes
  7. Batteries
  8. Towels
  9. Slippers
  10. Robes

Things you will likely be charged for include:

  1. Robes and linen
  2. Emergency torch
  3. Kettle
  4. Hair dryers
  5. Art work
  6. Wheels on the bottom of the bed

Pocket a pen, squirrel away the toiletries and maybe take a few tissues if you need them but try and leave everything else for the next guest.

You’ve paid for the room, you haven’t paid for its contents.