From Darkan, we headed south on back roads through rolling sheep and cattle country to the small town of Boyup Brook where we stocked up the pantry (gotta love those IGA stores), then went on a little further to Bridgetown and up into the very pretty Whinston Hills to a farm stay at Maranup Ford on the Blackwood River.
This very scenic cattle and sheep property, established in 1898, was our base while we did the tourist loop of nearby towns. The grounds surrounding the 99 year old homestead and adjacent grassed camping area were laid out with beautiful gardens in full bloom, with an Australian garden of WA natives at the entrance, a cottage garden with roses and self-sown plants and a more formal garden close to the homestead. Parkland extended down to the river. Maranup Ford has been a regular Open Garden in the annual Spring Festival of Country Gardens and while the festival came to a close the day we arrived, we were still able to enjoy the garden and birdlife at our leisure.
The loop drive through the nearby quaint heritage towns of Greenbushes, Balingup, Nannup and Bridgetown wound through some of the prettiest country we’ve seen in quite a while, often travelling alongside the scenic Blackwood River. In Nannup, we discovered that the main street and several of the commercial buildings had been used as film sets in the making of the Australian surf movie “Drift”. That night, watching the film back at the van, it was interesting to see how the streetscape had been cleverly transformed to give the appearance of a 1970s town.
After three nights, we decided with much reluctance to head off to Bunbury on the coast. Schoolies was looming and we should get beyond the popular party destinations before then. But peaceful Maranup Ford, with its parklike gardens and birdlife, including a couple of new birds that Di added to her list, was one of those spots that we just did not want to leave. It was like camping in the middle of the Botanical Gardens. We just loved it.
A plateau is a high form of flattery.