Busselton Skate Park – not for the faint-hearted

A couple of years ago I saw my first ever proper ‘skate park’ at Bondi Beach. Paul and I stood and watched, mesmerised – and terrified.

These parks are not for the faint-hearted, and definitely are not for me. But to watch kids, the teenagers, and even kids as young as four or five tackling the biggest of the big dippers, – gobsmacking!

Just north of Busselton’s iconic jetty, and overlooking beautiful Geographe Bay, and the jetty, Busselton boasts it’s very own skate park. And just as awesome as Sydney’s Bondi Beach Skate Park I might add. Quite a claim to fame for this quiet little back water place with it’s well above average population percentage of retirees.

 

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One of the most photographed buildings in the area – the start of Busselton Jetty

With guests not far off arriving for the Christmas period, including two youngsters of around the early teen years, I thought a sneak preview of something other than beautiful beaches in the area may be in order. So, Emma and Luka – perhaps you may consider packing your skate boards, maybe even put one in for ya dad. I think ya granddad though will probably chose to just watch and be ready to pick up the pieces should there be any mishaps.

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For the beginners…

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And the intermediate levels..

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Two teenagers checking it out

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Whoosh!!!

In my wildest dreams I couldn’t imagine I ever, at any stage of my life time, could have tackled even the beginners area here. The one for the more experienced – well, me coming down that slope could only figure in the wildest of my nightmares. Even though of me whizzing down there almost brings me out in a cold sweat. But the kids do it with little fear. Surreal !!!

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Mr Tilly’s first big day out

Yippee, Tilly’s now fully vaccinated, and we can take him further afield without fear of him contacting the deadly Parvo Virus.

He started puppy training last week, and the comment was that we have a very intelligent dog on our hands. The comment came with a bit of an implied warning – beware, if you’re not firm he’ll run rings around you both! And don’t we just know it….. But so far we’re very happy with his progress, and his training.

We’re aware he needs lots of stimulation, so with spare time on a fine day last week it seemed the perfect opportunity to take him out and about. We started by attaching his lead, which usually means a walk to our beach – and didn’t he just let us know we weren’t living up to his expectations when instead of heading in the direction of the beach, we attached him to his tether on the back seat of the car. We ignored his complaints, and within a minute or two he had settled back to enjoy the ride.

First stop, Gracetown. Gracetown’s a gorgeous little surfing town near to Margaret River. The township’s small, with virtually no commercial facilities, but with some very expensive real estate. The surrounding location is gorgeous.

The 135 km Cape to Cape walking track has a section that follows the shore-line on the edge of the town. Most of the Cape to Cape walk meanders through National Parks, but the section on the edge of Gracetown is Dog Friendly.
We had only followed the track a short distance when we came across steps (lots of steps) leading down to an interesting rock beach. Tilly wasn’t sure at first how to tackle the steps, but one flight down and he had found his rhythm and would have made short work of the remainder had he not been on his lead. As it’s the first of the warm weather we have to be very snake aware as they start moving about, finding warm spots to sun bake in. So, even if he had fully learned ‘recall’ yet, he still wouldn’t be walking freely at this time of the year in bush areas.

Returning to the car, the next stop was directly above the surfers. The surf was good, but not fearsome by their standards. Believe me, it can get fearsome in that area. You’ll notice in some of the photos the surfers wear helmets for protection. The rides they get are good and long – but if dumped, the power of the water above, and the reef beneath can have dire consequences.

Note the crash helmet

The power of the waves as they crash into a rock

One more beach stop at Prevelly Point, Margaret River’s world famous competition surfing spot. There’s been a lot of work done on the foreshore since I was last there. What an awesome spot to sit and watch awesome waves, and the awesome folk who are brave enough to surf them.

Brave people

By this stage Mr Tilly was getting a bit tired, and we were getting a bit hungry. We headed inland to a place where Paul had been promising himself a sample of their ale – Cowaramup Brewing company. They have a lawned area where dogs are welcome, so Tilly and I settled down under the shade of umbrella while Paul headed inside to fetch some beers. A pint of IPA for Paul, and 1/2 pint for myself, and they provided us with a large bowl of water for Tilly. We ordered one serve of beer battered fish, chips and salad which we shared. It was easily enough for the two of us. The batter was crisp and delicious, but the fish was a bit tasteless and let it down a bit. The chips were perfect, and the salad small, but adequate. There were lots of choices on the menu, and we had trouble deciding on what would have. So, with the fish letting this meal down a bit, but everything else being absolutely perfect for a day out with our fur ball – we’ll definitely be making a return trip to sample one of their other menu delights.

Lunch over with we wandered around the grounds with Tilly’s leash extended so as he could romp around a bit. We don’t have any lawn, so the grassed area was something he hasn’t seen since he left his birth home.  He clearly loved it, jumping around happy as a pig as mud – or should I say, a pup in grass……

‘Are you looking at me’!

Grass – happy as a pig in mud

or ‘a pup in the grass’

He slept all the way home. He’s such a little treasure, a real pleasure!

Dog friendly – The Fire Station Bar, Busselton

Having the addition of a four legged family member changes our ‘out and about’ focus. Whilst we will still go out on our own from time to time, there will be many days where we’ll be wanting to include Mr Tilly in our outings.  Consequently, dog friendly venues are now on our radar.

You’ll notice I’ve included a new DOG FRIENDLY category. Posts such as this one will be listed under all the relevant categories – food experiences, tourism at home, WA the south west, and when appropriate will now also be listed under this new category – Dog Friendly.

On a particularly busy day last week we hadn’t had time to eat, and had passed our usual lunch time. We still had a number of things to do before we would be returning home, so we used the opportunity to try out a little boutique bar and eatery in the centre of Busselton’s Main Street – The Fire Station.

Located at 68 Queen street, Busselton, the fire station was constructed in 1936. Built in the inter-war, functionalist style of architecture, the building was used for its intended purpose until 1990. A number of years followed when it was  used by local art groups, or charity shops. In 2013 an application was made, and granted, for the building to be re-incarnated as a boutique bar, a welcome addition to the Busselton food and beverage establishments.

When we visited last week we didn’t have Mr Tilly with us, but when some patrons arrived accompanied by their fur baby we realised it was ‘dog friendly’. There’s an outdoor area to the side of the building, and also a pavement alfresco area where dogs are allowed. Not only did we not have Mr Tilly with us,  we hadn’t taken our camera either. So, apologies for the quality of the photos, all have been taken directly off the net.

From the food menu we chose to share a plate of steamed bao buns, along with a basket of chips with aioli. An IPA was chosen from the selection of rotating craft beers to wash down the buns. Both hit the spot beautifully.

After the light lunch had established the Fire Station is a venue worthy of a return visit, we enquired as to their happy hour offers. They offer ‘five at five’, between the hours  of 5pm  & 6pm week days. Five items are chosen each afternoon to list from between their food and drink menus. These are offered at the reduced price of $5. I’m sure we’ll find something to suit us when we return during their happy hour one afternoon, perhaps with Mr Tilly next time.

Now that we have our four legged family member, and are on the look out for places that allow dogs, we’re delighted to see an abundance of choices. Our last canine family member passed away almost 25 years ago. I remember finding the choice of places available to which she could accompany us were very few, and often far between. There’s so many venues, and places available now. Being able to include him in our outings is going to add to our outings, and to his lifestyle. It’ll re-enforce his acceptable social behaviour, and will help satisfy his need for mental stimulation. The positive changes in places that now accept and welcome dogs to their premises – what a pleasure!

 

 

Fields of Arum lilies

Driving through the south west of WA in the spring, the fields of Arum Lillies are breathtakingly beautiful. Growing with wild abandon absolutely everywhere, they create displays that must surely rival Wordsworth’s Daffodils. Beautiful, but not wanted in WA.

A perfect specimen of a flower – if only it was wanted


The Arum Lily, from South Africa,was introduced as a plant to glorify our gardens. The flowers are beautiful and indeed, glorious, albeit poisonous to both humans and animals. However, that’s not where the real problem lies. No-one could have anticipated how rampant it would become once it escaped the confines of the household garden. It’s now classified as an invasive pest, and you only have to drive through the Margaret River region in the Spring, knowing it’s not a native, to understand why

The 2011 bushfires that ravaged the area around Margaret River had an additional devastating consequence. The open soil left in the wake of the fires provided ideal conditions for the lilies to multiply, dare i say it, faster than wildfire!

In open areas, birds are spreading the seeds, and individual clumps are sprouting up, only to later multiply into visually stunning fields of toxic green and white. They’re taking over the land faster than our our own natives can regenerate, and are consequently making it difficult for the native bush to compete.

This years clumps become next years fields

Despite an eradication program, the banks of Arum lilies don’t seem to be diminishing. One day, hopefully they’ll be gone, but until that day, with reservations – I’ll still enjoy the stunning (albeit hopefully temporary) display they create in the spring.

Western Australia’s famous wildflowers

Life is settling down again after Mr Tilly’s arrival. His training is well on track, and we’re gaining a bit of freedom to come and go, sometimes with him (cautiously as he’s still not old enough to be fully vaccinated), and sometimes without him.

This week we took an overnight trip with him up to Perth to meet Alice’s older dogs. Of course, being a puppy, he loved them a lot more than eight year old dogs want to be loved. It’ll take a few interactions for them to be comfortable with a rat-bag puppy, especially in their territory.

While we were up in Perth, Paul treated himself to the long awaited camera upgrade. More on the new camera later. This post is about our first excursion to try it out.  What better subject to try it out on than the famous WA wildflowers.

Candle like Banksias

It’s spring, and the wild-flowers are blooming. We headed to Carbunup Reserve in the shire of Busselton, a wooded area just off Bussell Highway.  At first glance it doesn’t look like there’s an abundance of wildflowers, but as you walk along the track concentrating on the flowers rather than the trees, you start seeing them in abundance.

Full sized gum nuts on a baby tree

The reserve is full of gum trees and banksias.

Home for the critters

Big tall gum trees, small gum trees just sprouting, and old, dead gum trees. The dead trees still standing provide nesting spots for the birds that like the hollowed out dead branches to nest in. The older fallen trees provide shelter for all the little critters than rely on decaying tree wood for their shelter and homes.

And in between all the ordered chaos that forms the natural habitat of Carbunup Reserve sprouts an amazing profusion of wild flowers, and wild orchids.

Apologies up front, I know very few wildflowers by name, neither the botanical, nor the common names. It’s on my list to learn, but for now you’ll just have to make do with seeing the pictures.

 

My favourite amongst them is the Kangaroo Paws – Western Australia’s floral emblem.

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Vivid red and green everywhere.

We left the reserve and headed south past Margaret River to The Berry Farm, one of our favourites lunch spots. On the way we came across a mass of Everlasting Daisies at the entrance of Margaret River township. I think Everlastings are native to WA, but more so in the north eastern wheatbelt area. They’re so pretty though when planted on mass, and don’t seem to cause any invasion problems, so they’re often planted where a profusion of easy care, colour is wanted.

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A profusion of colours

A good start to trying out the new camera – and a new camera a great inspiration for getting into the great outdoors. A real pleasure to see Paul resurrecting a hobby from almost 40 years ago.

 

 

 

Cowaramup (Cowtown)

With less than a week to go now until we resume our ‘life of Riley on wheels’, we thought we’d take a final visit to our favourite little, local town – Cowaramup, or Cowtown as it’s known colloquially.

I’ve mentioned the town briefly before, but thought I’d provide a few more facts, and a few more photos.

The town was gazetted in 1925, and origianally supported the local timber and dairy industries.

Contrary to popular belief, the name of the town is derived from an Aboriginal word, Cowara, meaning purple-crowned lorikeet.

The town centre consists of a local store providing basic produce, a post office, a bakery, a sweet shop, a couple of cafes, a real estate office, and a few specialty stores selling everything from gourmet produce and candles, to all manner of arts and crafts. There’s no supermarkets, and definitely no MacDonalds anywhere in sight (or even out of sight on the back streets) – joy!!! Oh, but if you fancy a good pie – one of the local little cafe sells some beauties.

In 2012, to enhance the town’s growing ‘cow’ identity, 42 fibreglass sculptures of friesian cows and calves were commissioned. As the town is very small town, there’s  literally cows almost every few metres. They adorn the shopfronts, parks, footpaths, and are on almost every street corner.

One of my favourites is the Cowtown’s cheeky answer to Laurence Winery’s 23-carat gold plated, ‘free as a bird’, aka – ‘Chick on a stick’ (more on that later). Centred in the local park is Cowaramup’s, ‘Rump on a stump’ or, ‘Roast on a post’. Cowtown – or should it be quaint-town, whatever it’s called, if you’re planning a visit to WA’s southwest don’t drive though without stopping for at least a walk around.

‘Rump on a Stump’

And now a bit about the ‘Free as a Bird’ sculpture at Laurence Winery. Early in the 21st century concerns were raised when the sculpture took up residence in the dam fronting Caves Road. The Busselton council took umbrage (some say at the instigation of the neighbouring wineries), and sought to have the sculpture removed. They said the 17.5 metre high erection contravened local and state planning policies, and impacted negatively on the area’s natural and rural outlook.

The iconic ‘Chick on a Stick’, that caused a raucous in 2007.

I’m pleased to say that in October 2007 the State Administrative Tribunal ruled against the shire by granting retrospective planning approval. The ‘chick on a stick’ with all it’s controversy, and the Cowaramup’s humorous take-off, the ‘rump on a stump’ are both here to stay (for a long, long time I hope).

Amelia Park Lodge

For those of you who have traversed the Busselton/Dunsborough/Margaret River area, you will no doubt be familiar with the heritage listed, farm homestead that used to be one of the family homes of the Bussell family (circa 1851). Located close to the roundabout on Caves Road, almost halfway between Busselton and Dunsborough, the single storey, brick and limestone building with it’s gabled iron roof, encircling verandah and grassy surrounds, is a standout, iconic building in the area.

Heritage listed old Bussell farm homestead.

There’s cosy indoor dining areas, an alfresco area, and a recently added,purpose built outdoor glassed private room.

A cosy inside dining room.

In the 19th century the main building served as the Bussell family home, and the local post office.  Mrs Bussell being a midwife, also used it as a ‘lying in house’ for the local expectant mothers. From there, I found the history became sketchy until late in the 20th century when it became Newtown House Restaurant. Newtown House offered fine dining, and from past experience I can vouch that it was indeed ‘fine dining’.

The restaurant recently changed hands and has been closed for sometime as refurbishment took place. Anxiously, the locals have awaited it’s opening. Approximately a month ago the long awaited, upgraded restaurant opened it’s doors again under the new name of, Amelia Park Lodge.

It was with some trepidation that the girls (and one token guy) from my heart foundation walking group chose to try it out for our monthly lunch-date. I say with trepidation, as a local restaurant reviewer, Rob Broadfield, gave it very mixed reviews recently. Rob had a few good comments to make, but some comments were so scathing that we thought long and hard as to whether or not we were willing to give it a go.

There were quite a few of us so we were seated at two tables in the private, airy, outdoor addition.  Not being part of the original farm building, what it lacked in heritage quaintness it made up for with it’s large windows on all sides. It had an open air feel, but still had the warmth of glass surrounds, had it suddenly turned cool.

Some of the ladies (myself included)

more ladies seated in the light, airy dining room

and our one token gentleman.

Several people chose the lamb shanks, which came on a bed of potato mash with seasonal greens, and served with  glass of Newtown Shiraz ($29). All, without exception, pronounced the dish superb.($29.00)

Three people chose the beetroot risotto, charred greens, macadamia salsa, with aged parmesan. ($26.00). No complaints there either.

I had difficulty choosing, but finally settled on the baby kale caesar with poached chicken, serrano, white anchovies, aged parmesan and crisp brioche. ($20.00). I’ve only once before had the pleasure of eating white anchovies and that was in a little village in Saddleworth, UK. They swayed my choice, and were just as delectable this time as I remember them being. An added surprise with the dish were some soft boiled, quail egg halves. Delightful!

A few other dishes were chosen, including one person who braved the Barramundi, reviewed infamously in Rob’s recent review – the one that caused us so much trepidation about trialling the  restaurant – no complaints this time round.

In fact, not a murmer of complaint from anyone in relation to only of their chosen meals. Plenty of murmers of appreciation though. The desserts, wines, and coffee also superb. But I suppose I’d better be fair and report the negative along with the positive. One person said one of her petite fours was a bit bland, and one lady said her coffee could have been hotter……

They have a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, an afternoon menu (reduced lunch menu), a dinner menu, and they also serve High Tea on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. So, whatever time of day you chose to call by, there will something to tempt your tastebuds. And if you’re in the area, I do recommend you put Amelia Park Lodge on your dining list. We all agreed, it’s definitely on our ‘return to soon’ list. In fact, I think I heard some of the ladies making enquiries for the High Tea, and at only $18 per person, why not. I’m tempted myself.

I wonder did Rob get it wrong, or was it just a day with some problems. Certainly none of us could relate to any of the negatives in his review. But then again, sometimes I’ve chosen  restaurants because of some restauranteur’s brilliant review, only to be extremely disappointed. Perhaps they’re a tad more pedantic than the average person.

So, that’s my findings on Amelia Park Lodge and it’s new fine dining menu – very enjoyable.

If you can provide any updates on the building’s history, please feel free to enlighten myself and any future readers with your comments below. I’d love to know more of it’s history between the running of the farm, the selling of stamps, the birthing of babies, and the late 20th century restaurant of Newtown House.