Day 117 – Sunday, 18 September 2022

We took in the sights around town this morning. It was a fairly short trip.

Our neighbours left this morning taking their very noisy screamer with them. She is about three and has a Mummy complex, and screams when she doesn’t get her own way. Mum apparently has to lie with her as she falls asleep and she is very vocal while she calms down, and as their tent is just outside our window, it is an annoying occurrence.

Their camping spot was replaced by a couple in a pop out camper van, and they are blessedly quiet.

We went up to Mingenew Hill once we had toured the township. Russ tried to find a Geo Cache at the very top of the hill but was unsuccessful. I did not go all the way to the top as there was rock climbing to be done and the steps were too big for me, as well as having nothing to hold on to while you traversed the steep slope.

While he was away with the birds, literally, as he found a couple up there for photos, I wandered along the pathways around the hill and

looked at the wildflowers. There were none that we had not already seen, but the scenery was lovely.

After that we headed out to the Depot Hill Nature Reserve. The Depot Hill Firing Range was built by hand, by soldiers of the Australian Armed Forces from the Eastern states, who trained here before being sent overseas. Only the target trench of the gunnery range remains with its stonework, which can be seen when walking the paths through the Reserve. The walking track was relatively flat and easy walking with a slight incline.

During WW2 the Depot Hill area was a base for a substantial armoured presence, and extensive training exercises took place in many locations around the town and Shire between late 1942 and 1944.

Long-time residents who’ve walked the trail regularly tell of seeing tank tracks embedded in parts of the Reserve.

Ammunition shells from firing tanks are still being unearthed on farms over the hill. Mingenew was a large army area after Darwin and Broome were bombed, but only the untrained soldiers early in WW2 used this range

The area surrounding Depot Hill was first set aside as a reserve in 1893 as a ‘watering place, stock route and common for travellers and stock’.

This reflected its early history as a stopping place on the stock route that came down from the Northwest via Mullewa to connect with the Perth-Champion Bay (Geraldton) route.

With four kilometres of the Irwin River providing welcome water for animals on the move there is no doubt the Reserve fulfilled that purpose very well, right through to the 21st century.

The natural values of the 633 hectares were first formally acknowledged in the 1983 report for the then Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, which recommended that it be re-vested under the WA Wildlife Authority.

It finally became a Nature Reserve in 2011, recognising its ‘high conservation and recreational values’, and it contains the least disturbed habitat of one species of declared rare flora, the Long-flowered Nancy (Wurmbea tubolosa) and the mature river gums along the river provide

valuable nesting sites for a number of cockatoos and parrots. The variety of vegetation and landforms further underpin this new and important conservation status for what is now a very old reserve.

The Wilukardi (Wattandee Tribe) and Amangu People roamed the Upper Irwin before white man came. They used the caves at the top of the hill as birthing chambers according to one of the local Indigenous men we spoke to in the parking area. He said both his grandmother and great-grandmother were born in the caves, and he roamed freely about the hillside when he was a young boy.

In 1847 300 weight of coal, being transported from Coalseam by cart along the riverbed to Perth capsized at Depot Hill and was “much injured”. It required four days to effect repairs with York gums and jam trees, and the work party being “tormented by the flies”. The party finally arrived at the bay (Dongara) in December 1847 and sailed from there to Fremantle.

In 1850 Ewan Mackintosh, and his brother-in-law James Drummond Jnr, applied for leases – Victoria Plains 65 and 66. These were 20,000 and 16,000 acres on the Irwin River from Dongara eastwards. No 66 included the river flats of the Lockier River and land around Depot Hill.

Along the walk we stopped and chatted to several people also out enjoying a stroll. We saw a lot of wildflowers, but not many that we sis not already have. However, Russ did get some photos of birds while he sat on the seat and waited for me to visit the Firing Trench.

Tonight, I used the new camping stove for the first time. I am the person who admits that I am very vary of gas appliances, although I do think they are easier to cook with. The new stove made a few noises I was not happy with, so Russ interrupted his phone call with mum to calm me down while I cooked. I will admit it is much faster that the gas top in the caravan, and I am sure it won’t take me long to get used to it. We will ring Mum back tomorrow night.

We have a fledgling galah in a nest just out from the caravan. I was wondering what caused the strange flapping noise I could hear, and Russ realised that he was climbing to the top of the branch and practicing. I couldn’t see him from where we are but definitely hear him, I can