I have made multiple jaunts to the Avon Valley over many years probably starting in the sixties with canoeing expeditions along the Avon River and bicycle rides Northam – Toodyay. Generally camping out or staying in youth hostels.
There have been 4 visits in the last few years: principally to be with my nephew Stewart, Tracey, Harrison and Gnarls in Helena Valley and family at Christmas 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020. Lavendale Farmstay and Cottages was a comfortable and convenient base and hub for those recent journeys through the Avon Valley. For example, north to New Norcia; south to County Peak and Yenyening Lakes; east to Kokerbin Hill; or, west to Mt Helena or Chittering:
Lavendale Farm is a beautiful environment just 15 km south of York and 22 km north-west of Beverley alongside the Avon River near one of its vital permanent billabongs (Gwambygine Pool).
Lavendale farmer-hosts (Katherine and Merv) are very proficient and friendly providing excellent, convivial and comfortable facilities. Lavendale Farm is also pet friendly: in 2015 and 2016, I was with Ronyen (RIP: 2006-2017) and in 2018 and 2020 with Asher. Asher (born 5/01/2018) was barely 12 months old on his first visit and loved every day (as he generally does). Lavendale's considerate, caring farmer-hosts provided a tub and towels to help Asher (and Ronyen before him) keep cool on hot days.
Lavendale embraces best practice landcare and sustainability with substantial use of solar and battery stored energy, recycling and revegetation plantings.
The Avon River is easily accessible from Lavendale Farm and a significant permanent billabong (Gwambygine Pool) is about 1 kilometre downstream from the farm.
In the last few decades there has been considerable energy and concern to restore the health of the Avon River with a focus on the Gwambygine billabong: a significant remaining Avon River permanent pool. Some endeavours are described in a 1995 (September: Royal Show Special) newsletter of the Swan River Trust.
A reserve just down the road from Lavendale Farm (Gwambygine Pool Conservation Reserve) was established in 2005: [ Government media statement ] and vested to the care of the River Conservation Society Inc established in York in 1990. The Society has been active in the management of the Gwambygine billabong since 1992 with fencing, silt removal, rehabilitation, tree planting and other landcare projects.
The Gwambygine townsite was gazetted in 1902 and a railway siding (originally called Hicks Siding after a local farmer of 1860) established alongside the town. It had a hall with bustling social activities and a school (1908-1947).
Gwambygine (Wittenoom) Homestead is south-east of Gwambygine Road East where it crosses the Avon River adjacent to the Gwambygine billabong. It is on the eastern bank of the Avon River opposite to Lavendale Farm. The earliest part of the homestead was built in 1836 and it is reportedly the oldest surviving farm homestead in the State. It was restored in 2011 and is apparently open on the second Saturday in the month from April to October but I have not been there at that time and have not made special arrangements to visit.
Gwambygine Park is a bit further downstream and is an “Avon Ascent” site. The “Avon Ascent” 1995 strategy was managed by the Avon River Management Authority (dissolved in 2001) and sponsored by Alcoa. It was established for environmental education and to attract people to the Avon Valley. Gwambygine Park is an interesting place to visit but seems to have been neglected a bit: the boardwalk and viewing tower have been closed since September 2017.
Latest : 17 January 2021
Harold W S Luxton