Spooky Spaces & Places on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast

Perth isn’t that old is it?  And our regional communities aren’t any older? While our Aboriginal culture is tens of thousands of years old, our oldest buildings are less than two hundred years old.

But that doesn’t stop many of them from sending a shiver up or down our spine and feeling that spirits from another time and another place are with us.

The ABC Facebook page was inundated with paranormal experiences across Western Australia. Callers to the show also spoke about regional haunted places.

Many of us swear to have seen ghosts or felt their presence in places and spaces so my sidekick Tom and I went to investigate some tales of the unexplained from right here in Perth.

The great thing about Scooby Doo is that it was always an old, grizzled fellow from an abandoned amusement park who was scaring people while wearing some ghoulish costume – and he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t from those meddlin’ kids!

But the real thing is somewhat different.  As I discovered, there’s tours telling ghost stories and buildings with ghosts in them, right here in our suburbs.

  • Gosnells Ghost Tours – Get in line with your ticket for their summer season at the end of this year.  These tours encounter the spirits of timber workers from the 1860’s community of Orange Grove. 

Over a five kilometre bush track walk from the Victoria Dam to Bickley Reservoir you’ll meet friendly ghosts who will share history of the area and colourful tales from convicts under the railway bridge.  It’s dark, it’s spooky and it’s very entertaining!

Friendly and full of fact ghosts on the Gosnells Ghost Tour
  • Leederville Hotel – I climbed the stairs up to the dome on top of the hotel with my son Tom and staff member Isobel, although I quickly noticed Isabel was more than just a few steps behind! Isobel has, in her words ‘been completely creeped out’ and many of her staff refuse to go up there alone. 

Apparently, a fellow named Kanga lived in the tower bedroom and died on the premises and although there’s no violent or tragic story to his life or demise, many people have come in contact with Kanga, particularly in the corridors of the old, original upstairs part of the hotel. 

Is that Kanga the ghost of Tom my sidekick?

Isabel tells me that his strongest presence is felt on the on the stairs.  She tells me this from the ground floor as Tom and I are making our way up the stairs.  Tom you go first.

Creeeeek!

The Leederville alarm story must be told!  Leaving a note to calm Kanga and the next morning the note was gone and the alarm that had been going off in the middle of the night for months never happened again.

  • The Alkimos – Stranded just north of Mindarie in 1963 it was while it sailed around the world that crew members reported a ghost on board, possibly a US soldier or German prisoner of war. There’s also been many reports for divers and snorkellers who claim to have seen Harry, a ghost in oil skins who loiters around the wreck and even on the shore.
  • Kenwick Cemetery – Alongside the Albany Highway, most people who drive past would never know this little final resting place for early settlers was there.  Built by convicts, most of the graves have no headstones and speaking of heads, many people have reported seeing in the area a man riding a horse, holding his own head. 
  • Woodman Point Quarantine Station – If ever there was a ‘creep you out’ destination, this is it.  It’s a reminder that before Covid, there were other pandemics. 

This station was used to isolate bubonic plague patients, smallpox, Spanish flu and leprosy. Over 300 people died there, and most would have been isolated from loved ones and in great pain.

There are walking tours you can take through the buildings, including the crematorium where it is believed by many that orbs of light floating through the crematorium is the spirit of the final smallpox victim who was cremated there.

Others include the Fremantle Arts Centre (Fremantle Lunatic Asylum), Midland Town Hall (the ghost of Daria Mulawa, brutally murdered on its steps in 1955), Rose & Crown Guildford (oldest hotel in WA and more paranormal encounters than an episode of Scooby Doo. 

Regional haunts include the story of the Coolgardie Cat, the Israelite Bay telegraph station, Gwalia and Kookynie in the Goldfields are well known for the restless spirits of prospectors and railway workers.

Spooky spaces and places are hidden treasures because they provide a sense of adventure and also provide a link to the past, creating a way to learn about a buildings history and often a communities history. 

Just send your sidekick up the stairs first.  That’s what sidekicks are for.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Discovers Our Rites of Passage

As we grow up and find our way in our street, in our town and our state, there are experiences we have that aren’t connected to bucket lists or wish lists.  They might be things that our parents have done and now think we’re old enough for, or places they took you to that you now take your kids to.

Let’s start with the jousting knights in the clock at London Court.  This was the thrill in my day of coming to the city.  The following day at school, my hand would shoot up to tell my news to the class and I’d describe how the knights would pass each other as the clock bells rang out and then one of the jousting poles would knock a knight backwards on his horse.

This for me is a rite of passage.  It’s something that might not have Lara Bingle in front of it asking where you are, but it means something to you.  I want to be clear that this isn’t the rite of passage experience like going overseas and visiting Gallipoli or sitting on Cable Beach at sunset or riding a bike on Rottnest for the first time.

Our rites of passage might be defined as unknown to anyone outside your family, or maybe even outside your town.  One of my rites of passage was the ride in the trailer from the Narrogin tip back to the main road.  It might not be appropriate these days but when we were old enough to hang on, it was a great adventure. ABC legend Brad McCahon was just as inappropriate as me, sharing his Boulder and Kalgoorlie rite of passage that involved a pub crawl up the length of Hannan Street.

Inspiration for rites of passage can be seen in our discussion a few weeks ago about exercise spots.  I was surprised that Ro and Ebonnie had never climbed the DNA Tower because I think it qualifies as a rite of passage as exercise or even a date destination.

Rites of passage that are hidden treasures you can be inspired by to make your own include:

  • Climbing the DNA Tower
  • Safely walking the sandbar to Penguin Island
  • Swimming to the Cottesloe Pylon and maybe even diving off it
  • Riding a train
When did you first catch a train?
  • Picnic at Kings Park and Fish & Chips on the beach
  • Roadtrips to anywhere
  • Swan River Ferry from Elizabeth Quay to Mends Street Jetty
  • Crabbing with a scoop net in your oldest sneakers
Were you scared when you caught your first big blue manna crab?
  • Catching gilgies from a creek or, with permission, a farmers dam.
Have you ever caught a gilgy?
  • Do a bombie off Palm Beach Jetty, Coogee Jetty or jumping off Blackwall Reach (be careful, be safe).

I love rites of passage as a hidden treasure because they sit alongside bucket lists as an inspiration or motivation for a travel experience but may not be as flashy.  A bucket list item might be wading in the Dead Sea but a rite of passage might be wading in the Mandurah Estuary with a scoop net. One is worthy of a slide night, the other is worthy of family stories for years to come about nipped toes, stingray terror and dropped torches.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Gets Fit

It’s normally around now that we remember the New Years Resolution’s that we made nearly a month ago.  It’s normally around now that reality kicks in as you realise that work outfits seem just a bit tighter than the singlets and bathers you might have been getting around in all summer.

It’s time to combine that spirit of adventure with the reality of getting a bit fitter.

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, to help you find some fitness, I was sent to find some locations around Perth and WA that will inspire you and maybe just take you back a notch on your belt.

I think the collective noun for cargo shorts is a ‘lazy’.  It’s what I’ve been living in this summer but I can’t get away with it for much longer.  It’s time to start wearing some real pants and I need to get some exercise that is also outdoors and inspiring.

  • DNA Tower: This is like Classic Coke.  You can mess around with new lookouts and treetop walks but this is the true classic. Just over 100 spiralling steps with a plaque on the top showing distances to different locations.  Interestingly it’s 3km from Pelican Point and 26km to Rottnest.
  • Kokoda Track Memorial Walk: Located at the Kennedy Fountain on Mounts Bay Road, this is a great place to practise your pre-trek routine and break in new boots.  I used to piggyback Matilda up these steps when I was training to do the Sandakan Death March. The 150 steps are uneven and odd distances apart so it’s hard to get into a stepping routine. There are park benches and plaques along the way, naming different Kokoda battles that allow you to reflect on the Kokoda campaign and the soldiers known as, ‘The men who saved Australia.”
Kokoka steps at Kings Park
  • Jacobs Ladder: This is probably our most popular exercise spot in Perth.  Located at Cliff Street in West Perth with just over 240 steps up a 40 metre ascent, this is one for those who have good active wear and it can get a bit serious at times, particularly if groups are running up and down it. 
  • Around the Bridges:  The loop from the Narrows to the Causeway is more my style, and the style for all ages who can walk, ride a bike, ride a scooter, ride anything, just remember to keep to the left and ding your bell if you’re passing anyone.  A good 10km walk with plenty of opportunities to just sit and marvel at what a beautiful part of the world we live in. 
  • Whitfords Nodes Health and Wellbeing Hub: This is just up from Hillarys. As well as lots of nature play and climbing equipment there is the new 145 stairway up a coastal dune with the reward of great views of the metropolitan coastline.
  • Joyce Park Steps in Scarborough:  Probably our least known exercise spot, it has a strong local following of step climbers who then head off to the beach for a swim. 
  • Munda Biddi Trail: Stretching 1000km’s from Mundaring to Albany this is an off-road cycling track that is the longest off-road cycle trail in the world.  You don’t need to ride the full length.  Have a day out and try a level of difficulty that’s suitable to your ability. White or green circles are nice and easy whereas if you find yourself on a double black diamond it suggests you’ll probably fall off your bike any second.
  • Collie Trails: The area around Collie has some of the newest off-road cycling tracks in the state and have been designed by some of the worlds best riders.  As part of a trails strategy, Collie is becoming the trail hub of the world with amazing cycling trails, horse trails and walking trails that are well designed for all sorts of abilities.
  • Cape to Cape:  For those who don’t mind logistics and are looking for a longer challenge, the 123km Cape to Cape walk (from Cape Naturalist to Cape Leeuwin) can be done on your own or with an organised tour group over varying distances but you need to work out how you’ll return to your vehicle, what supplies you need to carry but it’s all worth it when you’re walking along cliffs, through forest and on remote shores.
  • The Hike Collective: We’ve touched on these guys before and for good reason. They offer a range of walks that can end with champagne and a sunset and providing for mental health is just as important as physical health.  They have a new program.  It’s often said that yoga is mentally grounding.  This new yoga is undergrounding, in a cave.  In the Cabaret Cave in Yanchep, enjoy yoga and meditation and maybe some fresh cold-pressed juice afterwards.
Yoga in a Cave by The Hike Collective
  • Ask your local council what they have for free outdoor exercise opportunities, like the ‘Get Active Outdoors Guide’ by the City of Armadale, City of Gosnells and Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale.  They have a well coordinated program of sessions in parks including walks, runs, yoga, bike riding and even have maps for where you can find a new place to walk your dog.

Exercise can be a Hidden Treasure because we live in the best place on Earth for getting outdoors and doing stuff.  Exercise doesn’t have to be a resolution, let it be a discovery.

Climb a hill, ride a bike through challenging switchbacks, walk around a couple of bridges or lakes.  Hidden Treasures is about discovering what is close by and doing it in new ways.  Don’t just drive past, get out and walk around for a bit. 

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Visiting the sites of your favourite tv shows and movies

Have you ever sat in the cinema, watching the latest blockbuster with your favourite stars and with glee realised that the action is happening somewhere you have been?

Have you travelled the backroads of Bali like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love?  Have you done your best James Bond pose in Thailand at James Bond Island?

Did you know that throughout Western Australia, particularly in Perth, there have been hundreds of movies and tv series filmed in Perth, using locations from apartment blocks to jetties, from corner stores to iconic beaches.

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we had great fun hearing from listeners who gave us their experiences of being in tv show and movies filmed around Western Australia.

Listen to the audio below or just read on …

As a child, my love of travel and describing travel was inspired by seeing places on the screen I wanted to go to.  In 1980, sitting in the Narrogin Town Hall watching The Gods Must Be Crazy inspired me to get to Africa and Alby Mangels World Safari series inspired me to explore my own backyard – but in slightly longer shorts.

It’s more than just the thrill of seeing on the screen somewhere you’ve been to. It’s the glory of the gloat!

Just recently I sat in the cinema with my family and watched the latest James Bond movie and turned to tell them that he was racing through the streets of Matera in his Aston Martin and that I had spent time in Matera a couple of years ago. 

In Perth we have our own tv and movie sites and we have an army of people who have been in these productions. 

I get to tell the true story that I was in a movie with Russell Crowe.  I wasn’t a gladiator, I was a horny teenage boy in Love in Limbo.

Let’s work our way through some productions that you might have seen from the comfort of your sofa or with a choc-top at the movies or maybe have been in!

  • Ship to Shore (1993-1996):  Lots of recognisable locations around Point Peron that look back to Garden Island to give the show the feel that it was set on an island.  Walk the Point Peron trails and you’ll feel like you’re going to stumble into the bumbling Hermes.
  • Clowning Around (1992): Public Transport Station was used for some scenes in this quirky movie about a kid who dreams of becoming a clown.
Perth Transport Centre. Bit weird then. Still weird now. Clowning Around filmed scenes here in 1992.
  • Love in Limbo (1993): You might be distracted by me on the screen but look past the sparkling eyes and you’ll find Mount Lawley Senior High School, the carparks of Cottesloe Beach, including Van Eileens.
  • Wind (1992): Nobody puts baby in a corner but she will stand outside the gates of the Fremantle Sailing Club. Jennifer Grey starred in this America’s Cup movie.
  • The Shark Net (2003): Lots of Kings Park scenes and locations around Cottesloe tell the story of Robert Drewe and the time and place that was the setting for Eric Edgar Cooke’s murderous mayhem.
  • Bran Nue Dae (2009): The old west end of Fremantle was used for quite a few location shots as well as Clontarf Aboriginal College in Waterford but Broome gets most of the action with Sunset Pictures, Chinatown, Matso’s Brewery and the famous condom tree out at Roebuck Plains Station.
This Cliff Street facade in Fremantle featured in Bran Nue Dae
  • Cloud Street (2011): Lots of river locations in Cloud Street and I’d be interested to hear what jetty listeners think Fish Lamb jumped off.
  • Paper Planes (2014): Make some paper planes and fly them around the Aviation Heritage Museum, just pick them up afterwards!
  • H is For Happiness (2019): If you’re travelling to Albany to escape the summer heat, give the City of Albany a call and they can provide you with a list of locations where this great movie was filmed, from shops and cafes in the main street, little boat yards, quirky houses and the local high school.
  • The Heights (2019): This is my favourite Perth show to find the sites for.  It’s a great walking tour through locations in Northbridge and East Perth.
Ton Sian Groceries is the neighbourhood store in ABC tv show, The Heights

TV show and movie location sites are a great hidden treasure to discover in Perth because they get you out on a pop culture treasure hunt. 

Everyone can look at the site and say, “Oh! I always thought it would be bigger!” and stand on the spot and pretend to be Fish Lamb from Cloud Street, Uncle Max or Pav from The Heights, fly a paper plane at the Aviation Heritage Museum like Dylan, sing like Jessica Mauboy in Bran Nue Day or buy nude drawings like Chris Parry in Love in Limbo.

Dogs. ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast finds Hidden Treasure for man’s best friend.

Hidden Treasure has found a lot for us to do over the past year and a bit.  There have been quirky museums, good places to eat, main streets to shop in and lots of urban art.

Our next Hidden Treasure is for someone in the family who loves us unconditionally even when we sometimes can’t take them out and about on family adventures.

Dogs.  It must be tough for a dog sticking its head out of the window and seeing signs with red lines crossed through images of dogs.  Sometimes the sign is of a dog walking, sometimes it’s that most vulnerable of positions, the hunch that requires you to carry a little bag, or in the case of my Molly, a large bag.

I live a minutes walk from Charles Veryard Reserve in North Perth, a huge swathe of grass that is an off-lead area for dogs as long as organised sport isn’t being played.   

Molly strains at the lead on the walk there and it’s awful to see her shoulders slump when she sees a cricket match is on. Because it’s close and convenient I haven’t really thought much about taking her somewhere else.

On my Hidden Treasure travels I’ve realised I come across a lot of parks and beaches where dogs are allowed that I didn’t know existed.  Some beaches even have free stick libraries for the dogs and there’s even an adventure in Perth to get your pooch onto the water.

Some great beaches in our Metropolitan area for dog include:

  • Shoalwater Bay at the end of Boundary Road.  Parking is right on the steps down to the beach and it’s a family friendly beach.  It’s a great digging beach for some reason.  I always see dogs digging great holes and spraying sand from between their back legs.
  • South Fremantle – great beach with a big grassed area and a very comprehensive stick library for the most discerning of dogs.
South Fremantle Beach Stick Library
  • South Cottesloe – Allows you to visit an iconic beach location in WA with your dog and it’s probably the best dog beach to swim at for humans.
  • North Beach – like Mettam’s Pool is between Scarborough and Trigg and is Perth’s smallest dog beach, just 500m long and at the bottom of some steep steps.  One for the young dogs, not the old dogs, including me.
  • Mrs Herbert’s Park in Claremont is a lovely Swan River Beach for your pooch.  Find the Claremont Freshwater Bay Museum and you’ll be in the right place. 
  • For an adventure on the river, if you haven’t got a boat of your own but love a picnic and love your dog, hire a Nautipicnics electric boat and head from Maylands up to Guildford.  Molly was amazed at the cormorants with extended wings on protruding branches, she barked at kayakers and barked at kids fishing on jetties.
Molly-Plum loved her boating adventure almost as much as I did

For a non-aquatic dog adventure try the following walks and parks:

Noble Falls Walk Trail up at Gidgegannup :  Dogs are allowed off leash on this trail of just over three and a half kilometres and of course there’s the Noble Falls Tavern that does a great steak sandwich to share with your four-legged mate.

Regionally, The City of Geraldton has recently opened some fully fenced dog parks at the Leonard T Green Memorial Park that are grassed and particularly good for little dogs who can sometimes get a bit intimidated at the beaches.  There’s also dog training classes available at these locations but don’t tell your dog you’re taking them to school. 

Karlkurla Park is a wonderful on leash bushland area to walk with your pet in Kalgoorlie and halfway back to Perth near Corrigin on the Brookton Highway is the beautiful Dog Cemetery with heartfelt messages on plaques to many much loved companions.

Back in Perth, possibly the biggest dog park is Whiteman Park which as well as the human attractions, has 2 ½ hectare dog park with special agility training equipment, lots of water bowls and grassed areas and bush to explore.

Why are dog parks and beaches a hidden treasure?

Dog parks, dog beaches and experiences with dogs are hidden treasures because whether it’s a short walk or even a day trip, time with your dog is always well spent for their physical and mental health and your own. 

The simple pleasure of throwing a stick or a ball means so much to them and unlike my kids, they don’t mind getting up early and heading out with me to see what’s out there.  As long as they can stick their head out of the window.

Dogs need places to play as much as little and big humans do

ABC Saturday Breakfast: The Best Of Hidden Treasure

Hidden Treasures has been a journey of local discoveries that has led us to urban art trails, suburban museums, jetties, lakes, parks and so much more.

In this penultimate edition of Hidden Treasures for 2021, we’re doing a year in review, we’re naming names, we’re handing out gongs and we’re doing it quicker than the Brownlow. Listen to the audio file below or keep reading, or do both!

What I’ve loved about Hidden Treasures is more than making the discovery, it’s been about sharing the discovery.  Just like returning from those overseas destinations, I have found joy in describing for you Bull Creek and Mirrabooka, Two Rocks and Kwinana and many more of our suburbs.  My Top Ten Hidden Treasures for 2021:

Best Suburban Museum:

2nd Bassendean Railway Museum: Tells a great story of the railways in WA.

1st Bull Creek Aviation Heritage Museum: Spitfires, Lancasters, rockets and roaring engines.

Spitfires, Lancasters, Catalina’s and more, at the Bull Creek Aviation Heritage Museum

Best Sport:

2nd WAFL: Great standard of suburban tribalism in sport and community.  

1st Padel:  Never heard of it before we did Hidden Sports Treasures.

Come for a Padel, stay for a tapas

Best Food:

A tie for 2nd – Cray Dog at the Lane Café on Wadjemup and Curry Puff at Bull Creek Oriental Supplies.

1st – Fish Burger at Preston Beach General Store.

Best fish burger in the world

Best Aboriginal Experience:

2nd Deadly Divas – Wildflower Walkabout and Campfire Stories run by ladies for the ladies.

1st Yagan Square Nyumbi – Friday evenings, hopefully back for 2022.

Best View:

2nd Kwinana Chalk Hill – a worthy winner of hidden treasure views.

1st HALO at Perth Stadium – Don’t just be a spectator, have an adventure.

Best Main Street:

2nd North Fremantle – a great street to walk and mooch

1st Bassendean – a main street that in the best traditions of main streets, reminds me of all the country towns I’ve lived in and driven through.

Best Walk:

2nd Hike Collective – making a good walk as much about mental health as physical health.

1st West Perth – a middle of the city walk that gives you a great park (Harold Boas), the seat of government, a seat on sliding grass and jaffles.

Best Urban Art:

2nd Joondalup Urban Art Trail – Including a sculpture that’s a love shack for moths and the worlds biggest periodic table

1st Mirrabooka Mural – Shaping the Future is about loving the diversity in the place you live by showing local faces from many backgrounds.

Urban art is one of Perth’s great hidden treasures

Best Free Tour:

2nd Coogee Common Garden Tour – feel like Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregors garden (without the terror).

1st Sunset Coast Explorer – Feel like a tourist as you sit back in a double decker bus up the coast from Scarborough.

Best Surprise:

2nd Community Gardens – Discover where communities come together to grow vegetables, make compost, look after chickens, teach sustainability and just relax while you potter about.

1st  Staycations – You really can relax just 15 minutes from home.

The pandemic might have been the inspiration for Hidden Treasures but don’t let travel restrictions be the reason to turn your gaze towards exploration at home, make exploration at home a part of your travel life, a regular outing or roadtrip or staycation somewhere in your city that you haven’t been to. 

It’s there and it always will be if we support it.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Mr McGregor in our suburbs … it’s actually not scary at all.

Outside Broadcast, live from City Farm

Community gardens are thriving in our urban areas.  Some are inspired by a commercial opportunity to support a business, some are designed to teach kids how to get dirt under their fingernails and others are designed to be opportunities to make connections with people in your community who just want to grow some food or make better use of unused spaces.

The ABC is currently running a wonderful campaign to provide new books for kids who may never have held a new book.  I’m very lucky that growing up I was given many new books and one of my favourites was Peter Rabbit. 

As a kid in a country town I was a lot like Peter, sneaking into backyards with fig, loquat, and mulberry trees, brushing away the fruit flies for a sneaky snack.

There were some people though who didn’t like kids pinching their fruit and were after me to put me in a pie just like nasty Mr McGregor wanted to do with Peter. Those illustrations in Peter Rabbit that show him being chased through the neat rows of vegetables and little tool sheds remind me very much of my childhood.

Throughout Perth there are some amazing and inspiring examples of commercial gardens, local government coordinated gardens and community gardens organised by and for the community.

Forget Broome Time, come and enjoy some City Farm time.  Within a half hectare of space are rows of little plants, little sheds, wandering chickens and free range kids and opportunities to get noisy and dirty or just quietly wander around with your hands behind your back, leaning in occasionally to study the leaves of a plant and think about what you could do at home with a packet of seeds.

Overlooked by the urban world, community gardens are still thriving

I love the constant change of City Farm. Every time you come in here it’s different.  Things have grown or been pulled out to grow new things.  The markets can have odd shaped vegetables and flour bag pants and the following weekend have bee workshops and odd shaped fruit. 

It’s not hippy but it is hip. I feel like I can let Tom wander off on his own and he’s not going to come back dressed like John Butler but he may have a story to tell about a chicken he chased, or how he wants to grow some oddly shaped vegetables at home.

Further south you’ll find a garden you’re allowed to wander and explore called the Coogee Common.  It’s run by Scott and his gardens supply the restaurant that’s part of the premises, the old Coogee Hotel. Not only will you see the staff wandering around the garden snipping and picking bits and pieces for your brunch or lunch but you can get a tour with Scott once he’s finished making your meal.

Kale stalks at Coogee Common (according to Jo Trilling we blanch them)

He helped Tom overcome his fear of bees by showing him their hives, nestled in amongst a row of olive trees and rosemary bushes.  He showed us barrels of olives, stalks of kale, the fruit of the prickly pear and so many rows of vegetables and piles of little terracotta pots that once again I started having visions of Peter Rabbit running for his life.

Let’s get up to North Perth for a trio of community garden experiences.  Let’s start with the Kyilla Community Farmers Market.  Every Saturday morning this little market sets up camp at the Kyilla Primary School with farm direct and locally made produce, and the stalls are constantly changing to reflect what’s being grown.  Last weekend it was oyster mushrooms.  As a country boy familiar with walking the paddocks with a bucket and a knife and filling it up with field mushrooms the size of dinner plates, I scoff at these more elegant fungi but nevertheless they are delicious on a piece of heavily buttered toast in the morning.

Just around the corner in North Perth, on the rather aptly named Farmer Street, is the North Perth Community Garden that is growing community support as diverse as its produce, including the Warrigal Greens, an Australian and New Zealand native plant that’s a bit like spinach. It’s a quieter space than City Farm.  Nobody is going to ssssh you if you talk loudly but it does feel more contemplative and slower, as you plant or prune or toss some compost over the fence to stir up the neighbours who happen to be a Mens Shed who are helping make this area a precinct of peaceful activity for locals.

How cool is the North Perth area for community gardens and there’s more!  The City of Vincent has been featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia for its Edible Verges program which allows locals to make use of their verge spaces by allowing vegetable and herb gardens to be cultivated by residents.  If you find yourself driving through the suburbs of Vincent, take a moment to duck into some of the residential streets and check out just how many verges have replaced paving with crops.

Finally, let’s head over the Causeway to Victoria Park.  The Victoria Park Community Garden has been going for more than ten years and is a space that allows for the leasing of small allotments as well as communal spaces for an orchard and a frog pond that is popular with kids and reminded me of another Beatrix Potter classic, Jeremy Fisher, riding the river on his lily pad leaf and the illustration of the trout coming up from below.

The Victoria Park Community Garden uses a quote from Audrey Hepburn to inspire those who participate and visit, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” and with the high participation of young people at this garden there’s a lot to be hopeful for.

Community Gardens are Hidden Treasures because they remind us what being in a community is all about and the importance of good old fashioned busy bees to keep people involved and the great thing about a busy bee is the drink at the end of the day in the company of grimy, dirty people just like you. Community Gardens have stacks of pots, lots of rakes and shovels and rows of odd shaped plants and I’m still reminded of Mr McGregor’s garden but I’m not afraid anymore.

Live on air in the fresh air

A Wheatbelt Weekender

There’s some bias to be declared. I’m a Narrogin boy.  I haven’t lived there since 1988 but it’s still where I call home and my kids love getting back there every year to see where I went to school, got into fights, played sport (sometimes well, sometimes not) and the houses I lived in.

For this trip we’re doing some different bush walks and we’re also going out onto a farm to drive across paddocks and throw nets into a dam and catch some yabbies which can be called coonacs, gilgies and I’m still not sure what the difference is.

Having checked in to the local motel we grab our coats and trekking poles and head off to Foxes Lair, a local woodland full of trails of varying lengths.

We take the Granite Walk which is only just over a kilometre but has what we’re looking for; lots of granite boulders to scramble up and over and the Old Rifle Range where we successfully fossick for bullets embedded in the old mound behind where the targets would have been placed.

Having secured in the Parry annals our somewhat surprisingly successful archaeological experience, it’s time to make our way out of town to try our luck at catching some yabbies.

Driving across the paddocks to get to the dam attracts the attention of the sheep who all thought we’re there to feed them and they watch every move we make.

We pulled in hundreds of yabbies using nets and we also tried the old way of meat on a string being slowing pulled in.  Slowly, Tom.  Slowly.

We were on a strict catch and release experience but if we were catching what we caught it would have been a feast for the ages.

Speaking of dinner, the sun was getting low in the sky and the glow of a slow burning tree stump reminded us it was getting late and it was time to think about dinner.

A chicken parmy at the pub for dinner, the venerable Duke of York, was the one request of the kids and I half succeeded.  In the world of Covid19 we couldn’t eat at the pub but they happily cooked up a parmy storm and delivered it to our motel room on the top of the hill.

The following day is spent slowing winding our way north through small towns and slightly bigger than small towns; Cuballing, Popanyinning, Pingelly, Brookton, Beverley and York.  Beverley in particular was thriving with art galleries and cafes open to all and lots of murals on the walls of shops in the main street.

We take some time on the way back west to Perth to explore the Wambyn Nature Reserve, a gentle woodland with easy tracks that is a nice diversion from the heavy traffic heading back into Perth.

That’s it.  A weekender with plenty of time exploring the outdoors and plenty of time in the car exploring each our Spotify playlists.  Something for everyone, the perfect roadtrip.

IMG_0962

Above: Foxes Lair, Granite Walk

IMG_1006

Above:  Whether you call them yabbies, coonacs, gilgies or marron…they’re great fun to catch and eat.

IMG_1051

Above: A few of the local lads.

IMG_0906

Above: The gorgeous Narrogin Town Hall

IMG_1142

Above: Down a little laneway in York

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

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HhYe64zC_Q_JH8k4Kl8eo6PdBLqfiOnC/view?ts=5df04623

 

 

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.

IMG_6556

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.

 

ABC Perth Breakfast Show: Dark tourism popularity continues to rise

On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.

It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.

The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well.  We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.

It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.

The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.

In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism.  Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.

In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.

Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross.  Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.

It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.