Birthday celebrations in the forest

Our friends, Kaye, Brian, and Ken, as well as Paul and I, have all recently had, or are shortly going to have our birthdays. Additionally, Beth is going to be celebrating a milestone birthday in September whilst we’ll be away.  What better way to celebrate birthdays that fall in autumn (and spring) than to share a picnic amidst the tall trees of our favourite Boranup Forest.We found a lovely private spot in the campground with a fire pit still warm from the previous occupants. It didn’t take Brian long to find some twigs and get the fire burning again. There’s a fabulous wood heap provided only a short walk away, so once the twigs were flaming away, a few logs were added. Although it wasn’t cold, the day was overcast so the fire added the perfect touch.

We all shared the catering bringing a share of the picnic fare – Hot beef rolls with coleslaw, a glass or two of wine, and coffee or tea with cupcakes for after.

After lunch the walk track beckoned. A quick stop at a local tavern for a drink on the way home topped off a perfect day. Good friends, Boranup Forest, a shared meal, a couple of drinks and birthdays to celebrate – what a pleasure!

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Pioneering spirit

I’m sure anyone who enjoys a bit of camping must have a bit of pioneer spirit in them. I think I have. Renovations that would turn many into princesses seeking short term, alternative accommodation will see me embracing the challenge of getting back to basics, and managing as best I can.

Many years ago we had slate laid through all the living areas in our house. At the same time we were having new carpets laid in the bedrooms, and new skirting boards throughout. We couldn’t access the house through any of the external doors for over a week. We moved all the beds out under the pergola, and prayed it wouldn’t rain. We moved the fridge outdoors under cover, and cooked nightly on the barbecue. Our camp sink came in handy for washing the dishes,  and we climbed through a window to access the toilet and shower.

Kelvin was in his early teens, and Alice around ten. We lived like that for close on two weeks. It was a great bonding experience, and we all loved it.

Our current kitchen and ensuite are undergoing a bit of an overhaul. The kitchen’s completely out of action, our ensuite only has the vanity unit undergoing changes.

The gutted kitchen

New kitchen equipment is stored in lounge

For this renovation we’ve set the garage up with a couple of spare tables to double as storage shelves and preparation benches.

I bet our pioneering ancestors would have loved a microwave

Our laundry trough is our washing up sink. Most things from the kitchen are packed into boxes, and we only have enough things out to get by with. I imagine what we’re managing with though is most likely still considerably more than our poor forefathers would have had. Our microwave is certainly getting good use.

The laundry trough makes a great kitchen sink

By Monday of next week the kitchen should be ready for the sink and dishwasher to be plumbed in. Tuesday should see the kitchen operational, but not complete. The splashback can’t be ordered until this afternoon when a few things are in place to allow for measurements. It should all be complete by 9th May.

But there’s more…..We’ll have time to get things packed back into their rightful place in the kitchen, and then preparation for the new living area floors will begin. That’s going to mean moving all the living room and dining room room furniture as well as the fridge into the garage. We’ll have a few nights when we won’t be able to sit in the lounge with the heating on, nor will we be able to watch TV. Just like our great, great grandparents, we’ll have the choice of lighting a fire pit in our back yard and watching the flames dance as darkness sets in, or we can have early nights with a good book. Fire bans have finished now, so I rather fancy getting the fire pit out! It’ll be just like camping – only in our own back yard, and with our bed to snuggle into when the day is done.

Boranup Camp Ground

As you drive down towards Augusta on Caves Road in the South West of Western Australia you’ll find yourself driving through the some majestic and very stately Karri Trees. This is Boranup Forest.

Caves Road winding through the Karri trees

The Karri Tree is the third tallest species of tree in the world, growing up to 90 metres high.  They grow strong and straight up, with their trunks separating into branches only after their trunks are high up.  In Autumn their pale grey bark sheds, revelling new orange/salmon pink trunks underneath. They’re native to the South West, wetter regions of WA.

Boranup scenic drive takes you on a circuit through the forest

A semi circular drive will take you through the forest, with look outs on the way. There’s picnic spots dotted around if you’re only there for a day trip. The drive is gorgeous, but it’s only by stopping for a while that you get to hear the birds, and breath the ambience of the forest. What a pleasure!

Well maintained dirt track winds through the forest – suitable for 2 wheel drive

Towards the southern end of the scenic drive, the road branches off towards a campground. There’s only seven small sites suitable, each only recommended for tents or camper trailers, although I’m sure you could probably get a small off road caravan into a couple of the sites. Each site is well shaded by a mix of native trees and shrubbery.

The campground visible through the trees

Fire pits with barbecue plate

Each site has it’s own picnic table and a fire pit with a barbecue plate. Fires are banned through the summer months though, so if you’re planning a visit through the summer make sure you take your own gas cooking facilities.

Drop toilets

There’s drop toilets – not flush of course, but sure beats digging a hole.

A couple of campsites closer together

Three campsites are in close proximity – great for friends to camp together, but still far enough apart that you’re not on each others knees.

Most of the 7 sites are separated by distance and shrubbery

The other four sites are surrounded by shrubbery – secluded and peaceful. The sites can’t be booked, but they rarely get completely full except during the absolute peak seasons (Easter).

The Cape to Cape walk track passes nearby.

A great place to camp if you’re walking the Cape to Cape track, or if you want to drive in with your tent or camper trailer. Be aware though, it’s in a national park, so your four legged friend can’t come with you. You won’t lack for furry companions though. There’s lots of ring tailed possums to keep you entertained as the daylight fades to night – more about these fascinating and endangered creatures later.

 

Jewel Cave

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is literally riddled with caves, and perhaps the jewel in the crown from amongst them is the aptly named, Jewel Cave. Located just off of Cave’s Road at the Augusta end, Jewel Cave is the biggest of the show caves in Western Australia, comprising of three massive chambers on display.

Fully guided one hour tours are available.

Entering the cave was an almost surreal experience as we were met with an underground wonderland of some of nature’s finest and most dazzling displays.

Stalactites coming down from the cave ceiling

Home to one of the longest straw stalactites in Australia

 

Enchanting

magical

Like flowing honey.

Organ pipes

The pure white

 

And the pinks, and creams….

It was stunning.

The tour guide explained how the stalactites and stalagmites form, and provided quite a bit of relevant information. I, though, remained awe-struck throughout, and quite honestly to have absorbed the technical information would have taken away from the fairy-tale experience.

In the words of Lex Bastion (walkabout 1958) – Like all great works of art, nature had done her job slowly. Jewel Cave, created naturally and slowly over many thousands of years, is indeed a work of art. Nature at it’s finest, it is glorious!

 

Cape to Cape walk

 

The first section of the track


The cape to cape walk follows the Leeuwin/Naturaliste Ridge for approximately 135kms. It starts near to Dunsborough and finishes at Augusta in WA’s South West. To walk the full length end to end will take between 5 – 8 days depending on fitness level, and how long you plan to walk each day. Some of the walk is definitely easy, and in parts, even suitable for wheelchairs and prams. Some of it is more difficult with a grading of level 4 and therefore only recommended for experienced bushwalkers. If you like walking, and love spectacular coastal and forest scenery, then this walk is worth putting on your list.

The Naturaliste lighthouse

On Easter Monday we decided we’d make a start on the walk, and what better place to start than at the very beginning, at the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. It was warmer than we’d thought, and the beginning of the track was quite exposed with no trees. We hadn’t taken water, as we only planned on a short walk, but we had planned to walk a little further than we actually did. A good reminder to observe the first rule of being in the WA bush – carry water. We’ve since ordered water bottles that can be carried in a convenient waist belt. We’ll prepare for a longer walk next time.

If we had taken water the first 3.8 kilometres (plus the same in return) from the lighthouse to sugarloaf rock would have been a breeze. This first section is definitely all wheelchair and pram friendly, and includes boardwalks in sections that would otherwise be a bit tougher.

Boardwalks in the first section of the walk allowing wheelchair access

A cormorant drying it’s wings to watch on the way

One of our friends completed the full Cape to Cape last year. He whittled away at it, section by section whenever a spare day gave him the time, posting some incredible photos on face book after each section. He definitely wet my appetite to give it a go, and I’d love to complete the whole walk in the same way – day walks. Section by section whenever time and weather allows, and coming home to my own bed after each days walking. I’m keen to get started beyond the wheelchair friendly beginning, but whether or not I’m capable of doing the soft sand sections remains to be seen.

I love beach walking on firm sand, but soft beach sand is hard work. From past experience, some of the grade 4 sections of this walk include several kilometres along the beach in soft, deep sand. I think I’ll manage most of the forest sections of the track okay, and once those parts are out of the way, perhaps I’ll just have to do the harder bits – just to be able to tick the whole track off my list.

For those of you who want to do the track end to end camping along the way, there are places to stay. There’s four campsites with pit toilets and rain water tanks spaced along the track, which are only accessible by hikers. There’s also drive in camp spots at Conto’s, Point Road, and Boranyup Forest, as well as privately owned caravan parks along the way. You can either pitch your hiking tent, or perhaps hire one of their self contained cabins in the caravan parks for a sleep in a real bed.

With our summer now over and the cooler autumn weather on the way, it’s perfect for bushwalking. Watch this space for some more photos and information on the track as we tackle some of the sections in the coming weeks.

Woody Nook ploughman’s lunch failed to please

I love a good Ploughman’s lunch. I don’t mind a good tasting platter either. What I don’t like is ordering a Ploughmans lunch, and getting served a League of Nations tasting platter.

A basic Ploughman’s lunch

The ploughmans lunch doesn’t date back century’s as you may imagine.The origin of the Ploughmans is much more recent, dating back only to the 1960s. It was conjured up as a British pub meal to promote the English cheese industry.

Traditionally a Ploughmans consists of good English style cheese – usually a cheddar, preferably cloth wrapped, but if cloth wrapped isn’t available, then at least a strong flavoured waxed cheddar will do. Then add a good chunk of English Stilton. Add some thick slices, or a small loaf of quality bread (think sour dough, or rye). Next, you’ll need some pickles – pickled onions, gherkins, piccalilli, or a good relish or chutney (add at least two). And don’t forget some salad ingredients, perhaps some crisp celery and cucumber, and some nice red slices of tomatoes. Crisp apple slices are good too.

Simple, fresh ingredients

Added optional extras can be a slice of cold pork pie made with a shortcrust pastry, (definitely not puff pastry), thin slices of cold meat, a scotch egg, or even hard boiled egg halves. Tradionally the whole meal is served cold, with either beer or cider.

Many moons ago I was a cook at a small boutique hotel in Perth.  One of our lunch time signature meals at the time was a Ploughman’s lunch. It was a simple meal of rye bread, cheddar, Stilton, pickled onions, piccalilli and salad. It was very popular.

It’s a meal Paul and I love, and one we often ordered for lunch during a recent lengthy stay in England. The meals we received there didn’t stray far from their origins, and never failed to please. The best we ever had was at the Wensleydale Creamery in the Yorkshire Dales. My tastebuds are doing a song and dance just thinking about that Ploughman’s –  the cheese, the bread, the pickles, the salad – it was sooooo good!

The best Ploughman’s ever – at the Wensleydale Creamery in The Yorkshire Dales

Today we tried a Ploughmans at Woody Nook Winery.  The meal we received had cheddar, and a chunk of bread on the board – and that’s where the similarity to a Ploughman’s ended. Although to be fair, the cold cuts of cured meat would have been acceptable too. There were olives – but no pickled onions, or chutneys or relish. There was a small bowl of lettuce topped with feta cheese. There was another piece of cheese (I think it was some sort of Italian cheese).There was a small piece of watermelon. And there was a small hot pot pie with a puff pastry lid (not shortcrust), and a fried chicken wing. There were also some sweet style home made biscuits, I think they may have been Anzacs. It was a League of Nations tasting platter, but from what I’ve come to expect a Ploughman’s lunch to be – it didn’t come close. I was disappointed.

The Ploughman’s is an English meal. If it’s listed on a menu in Australia, I wish chefs would at least try to stick reasonably close to what the meal is supposed to be. In its true form, and with quality fresh ingredients, it’s good honest food, and full of flavour. If chefs want to put their signature on the dish, make some good piccalilli to go on the side, ensure good sized wedges of cheese are served, and add some quality bread. What could be better!

Sues Bridge – Dog friendly campground, and day use area

I love this place. Located in the Margaret River area, the easiest way to get to it if you’re heading south from Perth, is to look for Sues Road off the Bussell Highway as you’re nearing Busselton. The Blackwood river is the largest river in Australia’s south west and runs nearby. Walk tracks will lead you from the campground to  the river. It’s a great place for launching a canoe I believe, or as we found out on our last camp trip there, a great place to watch the mist rising over the water on an early chilly, June morning.

A misty morning on our last camping trip here

Sue’s bridge visible as the mist lifts

It’s many years since we last camped there, and with our new caravan soon to be here, we thought we’d check it out again to see if it is worth putting on our list as a possible place for Mr Tilly’s first caravan/camping experience. I’m pleased to say it’s as good as I remember it for sure, and is definitely a strong contender.

There’s 25 individual camp sites with nine of them being of a suitable size for small to mid sized caravans or camper trailers, and the other 14 being more suited to tents. There is no power, no showers, and only drop toilets. Centrally located in the camp ground is a small camper’s kitchen with sinks serviced by rainwater tanks, gas barbecues, and picnic tables. Whenever we’ve been there, it’s always been clean and well maintained.

Our camping accommodation in pre-caravan days

Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring. However, currently there is a total fire ban, in place, which runs from 30 November until 15 April. Campers can still cook on their own gas fuelled barbecues or camp stoves when the fire ban is in place. If you’re visiting when fires are allowed, please bring your own wood as it’s illegal to gather wood from the forest. I think the cost for camping is $11 per person per night, with an honour box system for payment (plus the ranger visits regularly). The usual concession cards are applicable to reduce your costs even further.

Gorgeous, individual camping areas

Great for cold weather camping

Our friend Wendy making use of one the strategically placed logs

Bookings cannot be made, so on long week-ends or during school holiday times it pays to get in early. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Please note: 1080 poison is used in the vicinity so it’s important to keep your four legged friend close at all times. Whilst the baits aren’t dropped in the camping area, there is always the small chance that a bird could pick one up and drop it. Keep your eyes peeled, they usually resemble a small sausage – don’t let your pets eat anything here that you haven’t provided. 1080 is fatal, and has no antidote.

On our visit this week it was almost deserted. We enjoyed our picnic lunch with Mr Tilly, soaking up the unequalled peace and ambience of the forest. I have to say, I’m getting impatient now for the arrival of the caravan. I can’t wait to take Tills here, and sit with him under the stars on a cool night in front of his first campfire. It’s going to be such a pleasure to see him expanded his horizons to include camping delights.

We had the place to ourselves for our picnic