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Our Trails

Local Discovery

Our Trails

Northam sits at the confluence of two lazy rivers that wind their way across the flat plains from hundreds of kilometres away. On the edge of the 30,000 square kilometre Ballardong Budjar

(country), this town was a meeting place for tens of thousands of years before the Wadjela (white fellas) got here. How the Ballardong Nyoongars, part of the oldest living culture on the planet, have shown their resilience in the face of colonisation is just one of the stories of this place.

It seems that every stage in the development of Western Australian has a story that runs through Northam.

The Day The Earth Shook

Distance: 228km Approx. Travel Time: 2.5 hours

If you want to understand the first town on our route today, Meckering, you need to understand one of the most significant seismic events in Australia's history. The Meckering Earthquake left a two-metre-high, crescent­-shaped, surface rupture in the earth's crust. The disruption zone ran 30 kilometres either side of Great Eastern Highway from its epicentre, four kilometres west of the town.

Fifty years since the quake, the disruption zone has been eroded and filled-in to the point that it cannot be seen anymore - apart from one place; this is why we start the trail with a short diversion.

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Dom Rosendo's Salvation

Distance: 214 km Approx. Travel Time: 2.5 hours

Northam's first settler, John Morrell, had been a builder in London. His skill as a craftsman is evident in the durability, of the oldest building in Northam and one of Western Australia's oldest surviving residences - Morby Cottage.

After leaving the Farmers' Home we turn right from Minson Avenue onto Peel Terrace, then left again into Fitzgerald Street East. Not long after crossing the Mortlock River, we turn left into Katrine Road. It's now 800 metres to the cottage and we are following the same track that Morrell would have cut to reach his land grant in 1836. The house was built with local stone and mud but had doors and window frames that were transported from England.

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The Rocks and The Water

Distance: 342 km Approx. Travel Time: 3.5 hours

This adventure starts on the rolling hills south-east of Northam towards York. The first part of the journey crosses some of the very earliest colonised country in Western Australia.

Barely more than a year after Captain Charles Fremantle had declared the Swan River Colony for Britain in May 1829. Ensign Robert Dale led a party of explorers over the Darling Range into the Avon Valley. They encountered lightly wooded, open grassland that looked to be good sheep country. This was the western edge of the 114,000 square kilometres Ballardong Boodja - the country of the Ballardong Nyoongar people - and the valley of a river they called Gogulgar.

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The Hunt For Moondyne Joe

Distance: 207 km Approx. Travel Time: 5.5 hours

Travelling circuit judge Sir William Erle heard several cases for burglary and petty theft in Chepstow, Wales, on March 23 1849. The sentences he gave varied from three weeks to three months. On the count of burglary and the stealing of three loaves of bread, one piece of bacon, several cheeses and other goods, Joseph Bolitho Johns and his friend John Williams were sentenced to ten years.

Newspaper reports say the pair gave an 'unexpectedly spirited defence' in court. It seems that, even back then, Moondyne Joe might have had a bit of a chip on his shoulder towards authority.

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The Golden Pipeline

Distance: 327 km Approx. Travel Time: 4 hours

"It is certainly the worst place I or anyone else ever saw. No place to send a ship of this size... Any man who would come or send a ship a second time is a damned ass."

Captain D.B. Shaw of the American barque Saranac.

The battering that their vessels received trying to offload stores on Long Jetty caused many shipping companies to refuse to berth in the Swan River Colony. The jetty that once extended a kilometre into the sea from Bathers Beach in Fremantle was exposed to the south - west winds.

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Where Flowers Grow Wild

Distance: 420 km Approx. Travel Time: 5 hours

This trail begins with a half-hour drive to Goomalling. The Ballardong Noongars knew this area as a place of possums, particularly the silver-grey Goomal. In 1846, Alfred Hilman, an assistant government surveyor and the brothers Gerard and Anthony LeFroy found water on their way to exploring the country deep in the interior to the north east.

The party noted it was "rich grassy country" but none took up land in the area. It was George Slater who first established a property around Goomalling Spring in the early 1850s. We pass by George Slater's original homestead on the Goomalling Wyalkatchem Road. The owners have preserved the building, and it can be viewed by appointment; contact the Goomalling visitors centre for more details.

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A Day in Northam

Distance: 5.5 km Approx. Travel Time: 3.5 Hours

If you linger for a while in Northam, you can begin to see its marry layers. How the Ballardong Njoongars, part of the oldest living culture on the planet , have shown their resilience despite the trauma of colonisation. Where the early settlers, looking for a better life after leaving the chaos of post-Napoleonic Europe, learned the hard way that this country isn't England.

Then how each of the next ages of Western Australian development: from the gold rush, the coming of the rail, to the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, the Wheatbelt expansion, to modern agri-business and tourism - they have all been channelled through this town.

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Wheat & Wells

Distance: 250 km Approx. Travel Time: 3 hours

This trail takes us to places in the interior of WA that not many people travel. We start the day on a well-­travelled path though Start by driving east on Great Eastern Highway; the artery that connects Western Australia to the rest of the nation.

At the turn of the century, this was one of many tracks that led miners out to Kalgoorlie, 500 kilometres away, to chase their fortune. Built with convict labour around 1867, the highway's original road base was made of jarrah tree trunks cut into disc shapes. The wooden discs were the idea of the governor, John Hampton and they came to be known as 'Hampton's Cheeses'.

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A Fortunate Life

Distance: 310 km Approx. Travel Time: 3.5 hours

This trail connects two towns. It begins as a story of two men who were shaped by remarkably similar circumstances.

George Throssell and Frederick Piesse were both sons of policemen and they were both eldest siblings that entered the workforce early to help support their families. Both are considered founding fathers for their towns and progressed from commercial success to long careers in public affairs.

Throssell became Northam's most successful businessman after starting a general store on Fitzgerald Street in 1862. Throssell held the seat of Northam in the Legislative Assembly for fourteen years. He influenced the decision to route the Eastern Goldfields Railway through Northam, guaranteeing the town would grow into the principal centre for the region. Frederick Piesse, with his brother Charles, after following the construction of the Great Southern Railway with a portable store, set up permanently just south of where the northern and southern construction crews met. The town that grew there became Katanning.

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