Rediscovering the familiar
Rediscovering the familiar

We like finding “new places” for you — accessible, interesting, surprising and with safe hands to welcome you.

But there’s great joy in rediscovering places we know well and are fond of.

And there’s even more pleasure in seeing them reimagined.

And that finds me on Great Northern Highway, heading north through New Norcia, Dalwallinu and Wubin to Ninghan Station, about 350km from Perth — allow 461/2 to five hours for the drive, giving time for stops and fossicking around.

PHOTO GALLERY: Ninghan Station

Ninghan has camping ($10 per person per night), caravan parking, and accommodation in donga rooms and station cottages.

The 207,000ha station has granite outcrops, wildflowers, mulga country and the 2650ha of Lake Moore — all flesh tones, salt crust and mirages.

I first came to Ninghan Station in September 1995. I stood on Bell’s Lookout with Don Bell himself, and he looked out over a landscape covered by wildflowers and said: “She’s a beautiful country.”

Don and wife Leah Bell, their son Ashley and grandson Drew are the living, working face of Ninghan, the lease of which was purchased by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission for the Pindiddy Aboriginal Corporation in 1993.

In 1993, there were 18,000 sheep on the property but when I visited in 1995, stock on the 207,000ha station had been reduced to 14,500, then within a decade to 2300, and eventually gone, though there was a big goat population.

Through the hard work of fencing and trapping, the goats are now gone. A landscape once degraded is becoming verdant again.

Here I am, 19 years later, looking at a renewing landscape and remembering, during visits in interim years, Ashley out fencing in this tough country, putting his back into the real work of conservation.

At the junction of four bioregions, Ninghan sits on the line where southern eucalyptus woodlands and northern mulga plains meet, the homestead set against the distinctive Ninghan Ridge.

Mt Singleton rises 678m from the surrounding country and bears the traditional name nyingarn — echidna.

Ninghan was also a traditional meeting place for the Badimaya, Nyoongar, Yamatji and Wongai indigenous peoples, with records of locals trading balga gum for spearheads and ochre from outlying country.

Ninghan Indigenous Protected Area was declared in October 2006, covering some 48,000ha of the station, including the epic granite dome of Warrdagga Rock, a cultural site.

Back in 1995, Don had said to me, up there on Bell’s Lookout, overlooking Lake Moore: “This is where I would like to be buried. But I think it’d be a bit hard.” So, he said, he’d settle for cremation and having his ashes scattered up here.

And as I recalled all this, last Sunday, a warm wind came up around the end of the big, reddening granite rock formation and whipped into a small, windy willy willy, and caught up some of the dry and spent paper flowers, spiralling their petals up in the air. Scattering them.

Phone the Bell family at Ninghan Station on (08) 9963 6517.

The West Australian

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