Just a few shots from today’s motorcycle festival here in York, Western Australia.
Just a few shots from today’s motorcycle festival here in York, Western Australia.
Sorry for the absence of a post last weekend – my trusty laptop had pass away and gone to Silicon Heaven. It may come as a shock to many people that there is an afterlife for electric and electronic appliances.
So I had to get myself another computer, this time I bought myself a desktop. All very swish looking with lots of brushed aluminium and shiny glass. The OS interface is all very futuristic looking in that sleek modern shiny way. Of course it wasn’t just a straight forward turn the thing on and then install my apps – no my last machine was a little on the ancient side and things had moved on and I had to search for updates, patches and firmware revisions. It’s amazing what a time sink a computer can be, I first started working with them in the mid 1980’s and we were promised a lot of things like they’d make us more efficient and we’d have a paperless office. Well thirty years on the paperless office still hasn’t arrived and anything involving a computer still takes longer than it did without one. In 1985 2013 sounded so futuristic and full of possibilities, yet now we’re here it is all a bit of an anticlimax. Whatever happened to the 3 day working week we were promised? I distinctly remember watching a TV program aired on the BBC called Tomorrow’s World which said that we’d all have flying cars. I suppose somethings did change – if you’d have told me thirty years ago I’d be taking photos with a phone I’d have thought that:
Well here I am and although it is possible to take photos with a phone I’m not actually doing it because a smart phone would be pretty pointless as there’s no 3G coverage where I live. I suppose I could get one just to take photos with, then it would become a camera with an optional phone built in.
Talking about all things “timey-whimey”, as Doctor Who might say (you can see from this post that I spend too much time watching sci-fi from the BBC) the town of York in Western Australia suffered a huge temporal disturbance and was transported back to the middle ages, and more to the point it wasn’t Medieval Australia but Medieval Europe. I walked down to the park besides the River and there were all manner of people walking about in suits of armour, there were jesters hey nony no-ing and all manner of other Olde Worlde frippery. I quickly came to my senses and realised that it wasn’t a temporal disturbance after all but the 2013 York Medieval Fayre. There was a Medieval market where you could get the latest in Long Bows, armour, heraldic devices and even toys. I avoided the stall selling Medieval German sausages as they were probably past their sell by date – I know I know that was the wurst joke ever!!! 🙂 There were the good people of the Grey Company who put on displays of historical re-enactment focusing on the Dark Ages and Medieval times. Then there was the The Free Company who’re a group of biffologists who dress up in armour and give each other a serious belting as the YouTube clip below shows.
I fear that at this point in time I must make a confession – I strayed from the micro four thirds path and returned to full frame goodness. I broke out the 5d and the 70-200 f2.8 IS L because I knew that it would be difficult to isolate subjects from crap distracting backgrounds with the smaller format but easy to do with the larger format and fast glass. Does this mean that I will stop using m4/3? No, I’m just using the appropriate tools for the job. If anyone would like to see the stills outside of the video clip they can be seen here.
The Avon valley was officially discovered by Ensign Dale in 1830 when Governor Stirling saw that the newly established Swan River Colony was going to starve unless it found some decent arable land. Of course the Nyoongar people knew about its existence all along and the upper reaches of the Avon were very important to their dream time stories. As we drive out of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway it’s difficult to imagine how hard it was for Dale all those years ago. What takes us an hour today in a car took him nine days of sheer heart breaking slog. The going was so bad that his horses became bogged in mud and it took all day just to travel one mile or 1.6 Km and he named one spot the Vale of Misery. Ensign Dale opened up a parcel of land the size of Tasmania, although in many cases it was not until the 1860’s that the townsites were established. In the tradition of Nineteenth Century explores he named many of the places after his friends, family and places back in England where he grew up.
Ensign Robert Dale of the 63rd Regiment of Foot is perhaps one of the great unsung heroes of early colonial exploration. Everyone remembers Burke and Wills, and Leichhardt because they lost their lives and that heroic failure mythologized them. Ensign Dale’s exploration and surveying of the Avon Valley, the Canning River and Mount Barker region was of vital importance to the survival of the early settlers in Western Australia. His survey of King George’s Sound in Albany was considered an important work then and is seen as an important artistic and historical document today. While undertaking this achievement he never got lost, he did not loose any men and he maintained excellent relations with the local aboriginal population. In total he mounted seven official expeditions and the journals from them were published in 1833. He was appointed to the post of temporary assistant government surveyor and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He acquired a lot of property with two town allotments in Albany, a thousand hectares in York and a further 750 hectares in the Swan Valley. But as quickly as his star had risen it fell. He was placed under virtual house arrest by his commanding officer in mid 1832. Soon after he became embroiled in the ugly saga of Yagan’s murder where he was ordered to take Yagan’s pickled head back to England and explain the situation to the Colonial Office and they stripped him of his rank of Lieutenant. Disenchanted Dale resigned from the military and went into business with his brother Thomas importing mahogany. In 1853, at the age of forty-four, he died of tuberculosis in the English town of Bath on the banks of the River Avon.
Today tourists drive out to the Avon Valley to see historic heritage towns, atmospheric homesteads, rocky outcrops and to picnic along the banks of the River Avon. A pleasant spring time trip would be to drive out to Toodyay and then follow the Avon down through Northam, York and Beverley returning to Perth via Westdale and the Brookton Highway. If time permitted you could arrange to stay overnight in Northam or York to get the most out of the trip.
85 km northeast of Perth Toodyay was settled in 1836 and named after the Nyoongar name for the area “Duidgee” which means place of plenty. The original townsite was prone to flooding so it was abandoned in the 1850’s and relocated 5 km and renamed Newcastle. In 1911 the name was changed back to Toodyay because people confused Newcastle in WA with Newcastle in NSW. The Heritage Council of WA list over one hundred places of historical significance in or around Toodyay. Some of these are:
Toodyay plays host to several events throughout the year, the major ones are:
Toodyay’s Moondyne Festival is the story of Western Australia’s favourite Bushranger, Joseph Bolitho Johns, aka Moondyne Joe is a classic case of where truth is stranger than fiction. Transported to WA as a convict, given a ticket of leave and released, some would say that Johns was a victim of society while others would see him as a recidivist, but what ever your viewpoint it is a fascinating story of a man who is hard done by, has a disdain for authority, who makes repeated escapes from custody and ends up spending his last days in Fremantle Asylum suffering from dementia.
The Toodyay Moondyne Festival has Joe and his gang running riot in the streets of Toodyay. He holds people up, consorts with floozies, avoids the incompetent police and the annoying temperance ladies, is arrested, put on trial and escapes. With local people dressing up in period costume the end result is a gigantic al fresco pantomime with heaps of audience participation (chants of “Free Joe” and “Behind you” ). Alongside the theatrical mayhem there are bush poets, market stalls, displays from the 1860 Regiment, vintage cars and mustache and cleavage competitions. A brilliant day out for all the family.
Northam is 98 Km from Perth on the Great Eastern Highway and it is the largest town in the Avon Valley. With its central location in the valley it makes the perfect base from which to explore. Up until 1891 it was the poor relation to York, but this changed with the coming of the railway linking Perth with the Goldfields and the town became an important staging post. During the 1940’s and 50’s Northam became an important centre for housing displaced European refugees and migrants, in fact the Northam Accommodation Centre was the third largest such facility in Australia. By the time it closed some 23,000 people had passed through its gates. There is a photographic exhibition telling the story at the Northam Visitor Centre. There is a historic town walk that enables visitors to experience the town’s history, some of the significant places on the trail are Morby Cottage – home of the founder of Northam and built in 1836 – and the Old Railway Museum which was built in 1886. More details for both venues can be had by contacting the Visitor Centre. The town hall on Fitzgerald Street is a wonderful example of concrete carbuncle architecture from the 1970’s.
Northam is also the eastern terminus of the Kep Track a 75 km long mountain bike and walking trail that starts in Mundaring and follows the water pipeline the engineering genius CY O’Connor built to take water out to the Goldfields of Western Australia. The name Kep comes from the local Nyoongar word for water. The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail follows the pipeline in its entirety all the way from Mundaring Weir to Kalgoorlie 650 km to the east, and it also passes through Northam.
Northam is the staring line for The Avon Descent, which was first held in 1973, and there were only forty nine competitors. The event has grown so much now that this year there were over 800 competitors and 2000 plus support crew. In more ways than one it deserves the title the “world’s greatest white water event”. The 134 km two day event starts at Northam and finishes at the Riverside Garden in Bayswater with an over night stop at the Boral Campsite just outside Toodyay. For the majority of entrants the aim is just to complete the course, but for the elite athletes it is a chance of competing in a unique endurance race. The race happens on the first weekend of August every year. It kicks off on the Friday night in Northam with a float parade and firework display. On Saturday morning the event kicks off proper.
I wasn’t very happy with the first slide show I did of photos from this years FotoFreo. It was unfortunately a rush job and the work wasn’t really up to par and it has been bugging me for a while. Today I sat down and re-edited and I’m much happier with the result.
Over the last week I have been covering FotoFreo for a photographic magazine. It has been a blast, lots and lots of fantastic work and people. I’d like to thank the festival director Bob Hewitt for all his help in making it possible.