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Home > Travelogues > 2010-2017 Travelogues Index > Into the Northern Wheatbelt

Big Rock tour of November 2012

Rusty the dog greets visitors to the town at the western entrance.  Rusty the tin dog was born in 2004 when the children from Dowerin District High School developed a project initiative to encourage people to stop in Dowerin. The students helped with Rusty’s initial design, sourced funding for his materials and employed an artist to build him.
 
The students were inspired by the legend of his home, Tin Dog Creek which originally got its name during settlement in the area and the commencement of mining in the Yilgarn Goldfields.  Those travelling though left empty cans from the canned beef they carried alongside the creek as they camped, giving the name Tin Dog Creek.  
 
From Goomalling we continued to Dowerin, the home of the successful Dowerin Machinery Field Days  Commenced on a small scale in 1964, the two day event has grown into the biggest rural field day of its type in Western Australia.  Held in August each year the Field Days cover all aspects of agriculture, not just machinery. 
 
One source suggests Dowerin is the Aboriginal word for the twenty eight parrot (Dow-arn), and another suggests it means "place of the throwing stick"(dower).
The winding road into Toodyay and further towards Goomalling is scenic, but one to watch due to the nature of the terrain, traffic volume and accident rate.  In 1836 Toodyay was referred to as "Duidgee", and some references refer to it as possibly named after the Aboriginal Toodyeep who was the wife of the Coondebung who accompanied Moore & Dale in exploring the area in 1831.  Goomalling is an Aboriginal word which means "the place of the silver-grey possum".

We travelled via Narrogin and the Great Southern Highway to York, then west towards Perth and north to Wundowie where there is a large smelter which is now closed down.  Wundowie derives its name from Woondowing Spring, an Aboriginal name for a nearby spring.

 

Building of the Iron and Steel works commenced in 1943 and was officially opened 15 April 1948.  The location was chosen in part because of access to forests and a timber mill from which waste timber could be used to produce charcoal be used with the locally mined iron ore to produce pig iron and pyroligneous acid which was refined to give acetic acid, methanol and other products.  Local ore proved to be poor, so high quality ore was brought by rail from Koolyanobbing to produce a very high quality pig iron, due to the use of the locally produced charcoal. 

 

Although the smelter ceased operating in 1981, it remains as a reminder of the beginnings of the iron ore industry in Western Australia. 

 

Read more on the history of the Wundowie Smelter

 

 

 

Western Australia has some massive granite rocks and a number of these are now set in nature reserves, often with picnic facilities some allowing camping.  Some have wave faces and small caverns with colours and textures from centuries of weathering.  Many of these rocks can be seen in the wheatbelt and our small group of caravanners set out to visit some of these. 

 

Our tour was based on the Golden Outback Granite Loop Trail, although we were too late in the season for most of the wildflowers which this self drive tour features in spring. 

We spent a night at the small free Minnivale Campground at Minnivale Siding twenty one kilometres from Dowerin.  The former town site is now virtually surrounded by a nature reserve and only a few inhabited houses remain.  The grain collection bin is no longer used.   
 
This campground beside the disused tennis courts provides one unisex flushing toilet, a dump point and hose, and a cold shower.  The shower which has been placed in what was the second toilet cubicle has no door, curtain or hooks, but a good thick rubber mat on the floor under the shower.
 
The colourful painted building to the right is the shower, and the dump point and hose is in front of it. 
 
Passing through Nungarin, next was a visit to Mount Moore (Talgomine Rock) in the Talgomine Nature Reserve. This hill a symmetrical granite outcrop which was used as a landmark for the turnaround point for World War II training flights.   The Aboriginal name for the town was first recorded by surveyors as Noongorin in 1864.
 

Water oozed out of ledges in the rocks, and this was more evident in the early morning than at the end of the day when evaporation had taken effect. 

 

Stopping at Trayning for lunch, we found it a neat small town with a pleasant and well provisioned park for travellers together with a war memorial.  Reading the names of those who lost their lives in the Wars all the sadder when from this very small community so many with the same surname were most likely all from the same family. 
 
The townsite is named after Trayning Well, believed to be derived from Duranning, meaning snake crawling in the grass near camp site.
From Minnivale we returned south to the Goomalling Wyalkatchem Road and continued to Wyalkatchem, which like so many of these wheatbelt towns go out of their way to welcome visitors.
 
At Wyalkatchem we stopped to photograph these flowers complete with insects near the caravan park. 
 
Wyalkatchem is an Aboriginal name first recorded for a waterhole spelt Walkatching
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On this page we feature Dowerin, Talgomine Rock near Nungarin and Yanneymooning Rock in the Yanneymooning Nature Reserve.
 
On subsequent pages see our tour continue to large granite rocks, including Elachbutting Rock, Beringbooding Rock, Yorkrakine Rock, and Kokerbin Rock
 
We head further south in the wheatbelt as see a unique pink and blue lake near Quairading and continue further south to visit Cuballing.
The field days grew out of a Dowerin Progress Association meeting held in 1964 with the aim of trying to find ways of preventing Dowerin becoming a ghost town, (a not uncommon fate of Wheatbelt communities across Australia).  One of those attending had just returned from visiting a field day in Orange (New South Wales) and suggested Dowerin hold a similar event. The inaugural field day was held on Friday 3rd September 1965 and it has grown annually since that inception.
A walk around the townsite shows the extent it used to cover. 
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At the base of the rock red flowering Granite Kunzea shrubs were vivid.  These shrubs were scattered on the rock itself, right to the top.

Talgomine Rock is a very easy rock to climb, being just a gentle incline.   With the surrounding land being relatively flat, climbers have views across the surrounding farms and to Lake Campion to the north. 

 

This remote and unserviced reserve was an ideal place for our small group to stay for the night and walk on the rock in the morning. 

Taking rural roads north towards Mukinbudin we passed another large rock at Knungajin pumping station. 

 

Mukinbudin is a neat town where we stopped to get a few supplies.  The name is Aboriginal, and was first recorded for Muckenbooding Rock in 1889.

 

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Yanneymooning Nature Reserve covers an area of almost 540 hectares.  It is approximately 30 kilometres north east of Mukinbudin. The majority of this reserve consists of three distinctly peaked but interlinked rocks. 

This was a rare opportunity to photograph livestock on a farm.  Many of the wheatbelt farms no longer run sheep.  Sheep numbers in Western Australia at fourteen million are down to around a third of the numbers run in 1990 due to cost of production against wool prices, and seasonal conditions.  This reduction is much in line with national figures. 

We saw two Alpacas with some sheep.  Anyone got shearing gear handy? 

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