One of the things I love about being a blogger is that I get to go to some really interesting places and then write about them. Not only that, it’s often to do things which are a little on the wildside in out of the way places, where I can get close to wildlife, enjoy the Australian bush and experience things that ultimately are just good for the soul.
To tell you the truth I’m normally a tropical girl. I love bright garish colours and lush vegetation.
But the sights and sounds of the Australian bush, and the feeling of being miles from anywhere in ancient woodland are pretty special too. Nothing to do but sit with a cup of tea on the verandah of a wooden cottage and listen to the birdsong, or read a book, or drink a glass of wine.
And in the early mornings to walk and chat – no internet connection for miles – well that’s what it’s like just 2 hours south east of Perth in the Dryandra.
Heading to the woods
Anyway, last weekend we packed up bedding, food and wine supplies and headed two hours south of Perth to the Dryandra Woodland, which consists of 17 bushland islands in a sea of wheatlands and grazing pastures near the town of Narrogin. It’s actually the biggest tract of remnant vegetation in the western Wheatbelt and is habitat for several of Western Australia’s rare and endangered animals.
We stayed at Lions Dryandra Village which was established in the late 1920s as a Forests Deparment settlement for the harvesting of mallet bark for the tanning industry.The tanning industry collapsed in the 1960s and now the emphasis at the village is one of conservation, education and tourism.
There are two campsites and a variety of accommodation suited to individuals, schools and special interest groups. Our cottage could sleep four and was called Mallee Hen. It was an old restored woodcutter’s cottage with a bathroom, kitchen area, dining area, and verandah overlooking the woodland.
As the sun began to set we arrived at the bushcamp which is nestled in 22,000 hectares of woodland, among marri and powderbark trees where we hoped to have the opportunity to observe some of WAs threatened wildlife species.
First though it was time for a sundowner with our friends as we watched kangaroos bouncing about with joeys in their pouches. Out came the G & T’s and some nice chilli and lime olives before we cooked up a storm on the outside barbecue.
And so to explore the Australian Bush
The Dryandra Woodland supports a large number of animal species in comparison to the rest of the surrounding area known as the Wheatbelt, but almost half of those originally found here have disappeared. However, if you’re keen, there are more than 25 mammals, 100 birds and 50 reptiles to look out for.
Walking along trails through the ghostly Wandoo trees which stand like tortured sentinels with twisted trunks was fascinating as the woodland here is so different to the south west forests I know further south.
Driving around myriad tracks and gravel roads criss-crossing through the woodland in search of the elusive Numbat, WA’s state mammal emblem, a small striped marsupial which feeds exclusively on termites, made me feel like a pioneer.
Embarking on a nightwalk to spot endangered species by the light of infra-red spotlights was special, very special, and listening to the eerie screech of the bush stone curlew made my toes curl.
It was all a long way from my home office, my computer and my filtered coffee.
Walks and Trails
We went on trails through the woodland where we spotted important Aboriginal cultural sites and found out from interpretive boards about the ecology of the area and the region’s Aboriginal heritage – there’s archaeological evidence which indicates that Aborigines (the Nyoongars) have occupied the south west for at least the past 40,000 years.
We found out that European settlement in the Williams-Narrogin area first began in the 1860s when pastoral leases were made available to early settlers who began harvesting mallet for the high quality tannin found in the bark and by the 1900s a tannin industry had established.
And our eyes tuned in to the minute detail – such as spotting tiny ant lion traps on sandy walking trails – which are quite gory in their minutae really: Smooth inverted cones into which ants slip, never to appear again as they are captured by the large pincers of the resident and soulless ant lion.
The occasional flash of woodland flowers were a lot less gruesome, but we’d arrived too late for the beautiful flush of spring wildflowers.
Barna Mia Interpretation station
We arrived at Barna Mia just after sunset, 7.15pm to be precise, and were ushered into a building with walls made of straw, and designed to look like a burrow.
Outside there are two 4 hectare predator proof animal sanctuaries that house six species of endangered marsupials, native to the Dryandra, in a conservation area.
Firstly we watched a multimedia presentation in a small theatrette which gave an insight into the history and wildlife of the Dryandra then we were ushered out into the enclosure.
From the moment we stepped out into the starlit night we knew it was going to be a special experience. Walking with the aid of hand-held infra-red spotlights which don’t disturb the animals we came to the first feeding station where our guide scattered tiny pellets and chopped up fruit.
Soon we heard scuffles and a few grunts, then there was a profusion of hopping. Woylies zig-zagged into view, surprising some visitors, as they loomed out of the dark like huge hopping rats. Gregarious Boodies then shuffled out of the gloom towards the food, and super cute Bilbies sniffed the air then bounced, flitted and scampered into and out of view. We were also lucky to spot tiny Quenda, Mala and Marl.
We walked on and scanned the surrounding bush; the poison pea, the tea tree and bottlebrush heath for signs of more signs of these cute marsupials. There were four viewing stations where we sat and watched the antics of the marsupials in their natural habitat and it was amazing to get to know the individual personalities of the different species. Oh that’s a bilby below – check out his rabbit like ears.
I’ll never forget the spooky grey bark of the wandoo trees looming out at us along the gravel track as we drove back to Dryandra village at night, or the blinding dust trails kicked up by the lead car, billowing up like clouds from the dry sun-baked gravel during the day.
I’ll always remember sitting on the verandah of Mallee Hen in the early morning, sipping English Breakfast tea with Dave while listening to the birdsong, and looking across to a meadow full of kangaroos, just as a flock of black cockatoos flew overhead onto the branches of a nearby marri tree.
Why the Dryandra Australian bush is good for your soul
You’ll find beautiful quiet bush walks, and drives where you’re unlikely to see another car.
Peace, quiet and serenity. No white noise, no road noise, no pollution.
Time for introspection.
Time to connect with your partner.
Beautiful woodlands with native wildlife.
And just being able to mess around and act like a big kid again dammit!
The bush definitely calms my soul. How about you? Perhaps you’ve got a favourite ‘soul’ retreat you’d like to share with us?
Want to know more? Jill Harrison has also written about the Dryandra at Life Images by Jill