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Support the bush and enjoy the trip

Silos in Pingrup. Artworks on the huge silos are varied along the trail through the southwest.


Support the bush and enjoy the trip

Western Australia has come up with one of the largest outdoor art galleries in the world, as drought-hit residents seek new ways to earn a dollar. MICHAEL OSBORNE explores the innovative Public Silo Trail.

Australians are amazing when it comes to creativity, in particular when times are tough in the bush. Now enduring one of the worst droughts for many a year, the people are looking at tourism dollars to tide them over until the next wet.

So along comes FORM, an independent, non-profit cultural organisation that develops and advocates for excellence in creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia. They come up with a concept – The Public Silo Trail – in partnership with the Co-operative Bulk Handling Group (CBH Group).

One can imagine the conversation: “Look, we have all these giant white grain silos, so why don’t we get together with the local communities and check-out some artists and get a few murals painted on them. Might look pretty good!”

The result is a 1000km self-drive art trail that you can start in Perth, and then travel through Northam, Merredin, Ravensthorpe, Newdegate, Pingrup, Katanning, and south to Albany.

At Northam, the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Centre is a brilliant audio/visual presentation on indigenous people. I had to keep walking back and rechecking the exhibits as there was so much to absorb.

There are other attractions along the way, including a yabby farm at Kukerin where local yabbies are readied for transport to the finest restaurants in Australian and around the world.

At Newdegate, the Hainsworth Museum, a corner store and tearoom built in 1933, has been  restored by the locals to a time-warp history exhibit.

Near Lake Grace, we enjoyed a wine tasting at Walkers Hill Vineyard: a very dry chardonnay crisp with fruit tones, a big and peppery shiraz, and the pick for me, Drought Rose with plenty of fruit and a little tingle on the tongue.

There’s even some roadside art.

On to Denmark where Singlefile Wines, apparently named for the resident geese that parade around the lake in single file, gather fruit from across The Great Southern and create many award-winning wines.

Heading west along the coast we arrive at Walpole, an area highly-rated as a tourist destination. We opted for a dinner cruise around the lake. Living legend Gary Muir, who has so much passion for his area, had our group rolling around the deck with his comments and antics.

A short drive has us at the Valley of the Giants at Tingledale. See giant, ancient trees, learn about nature and take the aerial adventure – a tree top walk. Wheelchair accessible, it slopes into the canopy of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and Walpole Wilderness, offering spectacular views over densely-forested hills. Descend to the boardwalks to explore the Ancient Empire Walk, where you’ll enter a grove of towering tingle trees.

All of the towns along the trail have their own character and the locals welcome visitors, many of whom arrive in caravans and campervans. Most towns have a free parking area with facilities for visitors to overnight. Caravan parks, motels and hotels are good to high-end.

We tried a variety of accommodation styles, including a farmstay at Mary Farm Cottages,  modern, fully-equipped cottages in a beautiful setting.

At Katanning, we were spoilt at the Premier Mill Hotel, a former flour mill that was destined to be demolished but instead has been restored to perfection.

Heading to Walpole, we glamped at Coalmine Caravan Park. Modern, fully self-contained tents which although compact, have everything needed for an overnight or a week or two.  A downpour overnight was a sleeping potion with the rain on canvas.

Silos are just one attraction in Albany.

Last on our adventure was Albany, where the grain is sent to sea. It is also the home of the National Anzac Centre. More than 41,000 soldiers departed from Albany harbour. For many, it was their last view of home.

In many places I saw the sign “Best Coffee in Town” and I must admit, all those we tried were excellent.

For dining, many locals have formed a type of co-op to source fresh produce and create delicious menus in quaint country restaurants.

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