PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Exploration and Settlement

View of Perth from Kings Park
View of Perth from Kings Park

Perth on the Western coast of Australia.  With no idea what to expect and time being limited, we had booked ourselves onto a coach tour of the city and surrounding area.  A furious ringing from the bedside table disturbed our sound sleep.  7.15 a.m. local time:  reception saying a coach driver and coach load of people were waiting.

‘No, no,’ I said in dreamlike state, ‘that’s tomorrow, Wednesday,’ replacing the phone.  Our brief return to the land of nod again was disturbed by shrill ringing.

‘The driver assures you it’s today, today is Wednesday.’  Oh, no!  ‘We aren’t ready.  Please send our apologies and ask the driver to continue without us.’

Forty-five minutes later we were climbing into a taxi outside the hotel.  The driver was as good as his word, delivering us to the cafeteria in Kings Park within twenty minutes.  Here we breakfasted on coffee and pastries, strolling to admire the views of Perth below, before uniting with the early-bird coach driver and his passengers.  An interesting history, including ancient trees and shrubs found only in the southern hemisphere, made us resolve to return another day and explore at our own more leisurely walking pace.

Perth from Kings Park
Perth from Kings Park

Between the Carey world-wide chauffeur service – whose welcoming driver had met us at the airport – the taxi and coach drivers, we learnt Perth’s history.  The coach stopped at St Martins Centre.  Located on the site of the first businessmen’s club of WA it was the inspiration for an unusual sculpture group.

FOOTSTEPS IN TIME  commemorates the 175th anniversary of Western Australia and recognises the involvement of businessmen in significant historical moments during Perth’s development.

1697 (back) and 1829 (front)
1697 – Dutch exploration, discovery, mapping, naming of the Swan River. 1829 – Anglo Celtic settlement of Swan River
Central figure - 1885-95 - The discovery of gold
Central figure – 1885-95 – The discovery of gold
1945-55 Post World War 2 European Immigration. 2004 The millennium man
1945-55 – Post World War 2 European Immigration. 2004 – The millennium man


The coach arrived in Fremantle with time to appreciate some of its large collection of heritage listed buildings, before boarding a boat for our ride up the Swan River.


The indigenous hunters and gatherers of South West Australia were aborigines of the Noongar tribe, who called the Swan River area, Boorloo.  A few years after the arrival of the first settlers in 1829, hostilities – including executions and massacres of the Noongar people – caused them to retreat from the area, moving to the swamps and lakes north of the river.

As we cruised up-river, I imagined the first Dutch explorers travelling along the river estuary in 1697 and their disappointment at finding the soil infertile limestone and sand, interspersed with large flat swamp-lands.  Black swans gave rise to the name ‘Swan River.’  Later explorations by the French and British in 1801 and 1822, found little change:  the land was infertile and unsuitable for settlement.


In 1827 Captain James Stirling was searching for a settlement in Western Australia, to aid relatives in the British East India Company who were seeking to establish Indian Ocean trade.  In a positive frame of mind, Captain Stirling did not travel far enough upriver to see the mainly sandy soil around the estuary, reporting that the area would provide good quality agricultural land.  Lobbying for a free settlement, unlike the other penal settlements, the British Government was persuaded that such a colony would incur negligible cost, and permission was granted in 1828.

Paddle boat on the Swan River
Paddle boat on the Swan River

Today’s fertile green riverbanks and smart residences along the river estuary are vastly different to the raw emptiness that greeted the first fleet of settlers.  Having disembarked with their possessions in June 1829, they found that no land had been allocated or buildings constructed.  Captain Stirling’s Surveyor-General, Septimus Roe, demarcated the fertile locations close to the Swan and Canning Rivers and upstream, where the district of Guildford had the best quality soil and was settled in the first year of the colony.

The town sites of Perth, Fremantle and Guildford were laid out by Septimus Roe. Perth’s site with access to fresh water, river transport and building materials, was to be the administrative and military hub. Fremantle was the port city, with Guildford the loading point for agricultural produce.

Poor soil around Perth inhibited agricultural development, its slow expansion contributing to Perth becoming a penal colony in 1849.  Over the next sixteen years the large convict workforce – comprising over 9,000 convicts – brought expansion in the form of infrastructure and colonial inspired buildings.  Despite being proclaimed a City by Queen Victoria in 1856, Perth remained a garden city with scattered residences.

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In the last quarter of the 19th century, a telegraph line from Adelaide to Perth improved intercontinental communication and was followed eight years later by the first weekly newspaper, the Western Mail.  Impressive government offices were built and the railway line from Fremantle to Guildford was completed.

Fremantle Railway Station
Fremantle Railway Station

The location of the central Perth railway station, with railway lines acting as boundaries, created a vibrant central walking area.   Today this pedestrianized area is being enlarged and improved by the construction of underground tunnels to run trains beneath the city.  Residents and tourists will be able to reach all parts of the city on foot, without the hindrance of finding designated crossings or bridges to traverse the railway lines.   It was a fifteen minute detour from the Four Points Sheraton hotel, to reach a part of town containing excellent restaurants and promising New Year celebrations, so we thoroughly appreciate the improvement these changes will bring once completed.

Perth 2014-a5
Perth 2014-15
New Years Eve Perth 2014/15
New Years Eve Perth 2014/15

Before joining in the musical celebrations to sing in the New Year, we found an outside table where we ‘whispered sweet nothings’ over an excellent dinner for two.  Thinking of the cold wind, and often rain, that heralds in our English New Year, we appreciated the deep warmth we were enjoying here in Perth.


We can luxuriate in a lie-in tomorrow, I’m sure nothing is booked (!) so we won’t have reception ringing our bell with a loud wake up call.

Our plan is to return to Kings Park for a leisurely day, before catching a boat to the unique Rottnest Island, the day after.  I hope you’ll join me for Part 2 of tales about Perth.

Pinnocks Coffee House, Ripley, Surrey


Sunday morning – a lie-in is allowed – Andrew Marr Show catches my interest.  Telephone call prompt urges quick leap to shower – meeting my walking friend, Nicola, in Ripley at 10.30 this morning.

Confusion over meeting place sorted. Nicola amicably agrees to start with coffee as I haven’t had breakfast.  Pinnocks Coffee House in the centre of the high street draws the eye.

IMG_2038 - Copy


I’m treated to a fresh, nutty, and tasty almond croissant that accompanies our delicious coffees from the huge choice available.  Finding a comfortable space among the settees and armchairs in the beamed upstairs area we settle into our catch-up:  the locals are lucky to have this cosy meeting place on their doorsteps.


Re-invigorated, we walk beside the cricket green, past the children’s play area, across fields, over a wooden bridge, through a copse of trees, returning by a more direct path towards Ripley High Street.  We are struck by the friendliness of dog-walking locals, and walkers without dogs.  Ripley Village is full of historical buildings and well worth a visit.   A pleasant place to while away a few hours.

Dubai Holiday – Parts 1, 2 and 3 – continuing with Part 4

New Zealand (308)

Hello Everyone

This is to let you know that I am continuing with the story of our special holiday that started on Christmas Day in 2014 and ended in February 2015 after visits to Australia – Perth, Sydney, Cairns – and New Zealand – Auckland, Waiheke, Rotorua and Lake Taupo.  So lots of writing for me!

A little time has passed since I started dianesdaysout with details about our first stop-over.  As a reminder, I have up-dated and am re-publishing the three posts about the Dubai desert trip.  Currently I’m working on Part 4, the Dubai Creek area.

Leaving Dubai, we continue to Perth where we were amazed by the ancient trees and plants in Kings Park botanical garden and the funny creatures living on Rottnest Island – not the humans!

Thank you for following dianesdaysout   Comments or suggestions are welcome and noted, and adjustments made where relevant.

I hope you all enjoy the next few weeks.

Best wishes



View of Studland Bay from Fort Henry WW2
The Pig on the Beach

Our friends in Swanage gasped in disbelief when they heard a restaurant called ‘The Pig’ was opening in the area.  ‘We wondered who would possibly want to eat there,’ they told us.  ‘But we were wrong, it’s so popular we haven’t been able to get a table since it opened last year.’  Luckily they had reserved a table well in advance for our lunch together.


We met with time to look around the kitchen gardens in the sunshine, noting the well-tended vegetable, fruit and herb beds from which – we later learned – the chef uses as many ingredients as possible.  Anything not locally grown or reared is sourced within a 25 mile radius, giving rise to the name:  The 25 Mile Menu.  Dotted about the grounds quaint buildings offer boutique accommodation and, nearby, free range chickens were having fun scratching around a cliff-top field.    IMG_0856


Wooden tables and benches, and more comfortable seats, faced out to sea.  We paused a while, looking across to our right at the Old Harry Rocks located at the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast.  A few thousand years ago the chalk of the Old Harry Rocks was part of a seam connected to the Needles on the Isle of Wight, to our left.  The seam gradually eroded.  Today the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rock and the Needles are divided by the  sea.

IMG_0840Feeling hungry, we made our way towards the main building where our table was laid ready in the Greenhouse restaurant:  the mis-matched white handled knives suited the shabby chic country style.  Dishes change daily and available ingredients offered plenty of choice.  The scallops were especially tasty, available as a starter or main:  our New Zealand Marlborough 2013  Sauvignon Blanc a superb accompaniment.

Marlborough NZ Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Yealands Estate, Single Vineyard – Awatere Valley Marlborough – Sauvignon Blanc NZ 2013

After lunch we walked through some of the ground floor rooms of the historical building that was built as a gothic fantasy in 1825 for the local Tory MP George Banks and his family of fourteen children.  Today the Grade II listed building is leased from the National Trust who oversaw the year-long restorative work.  We had to look carefully at the outside of the building to find the new wing before taking the path towards the beach.   IMG_0841


The view over Studland Bay probably encouraged Churchill, Eisenhower and King George VI to come here in June 1944 to watch the troops practice the D-Day landings.  Real ammunition was used and mined booby traps, that had been laid against invasion, had to be cleared.  Being thirty metres in length and having concrete one metre thick all round, ‘Fort Henry’ is the largest and strongest observation post built during the war.      IMG_0848IMG_0846IMG_0847

Dubai, Desert, Sunset and Dinner – Part One

Sandy tracks and headscarves


Our much-anticipated holiday started on Christmas Day.  We flew Business Class via Emirates to Dubai, the first stop on our six week break.  Paul and I were looking forward to our first local tour – a trip into the desert to watch the sun set over the sand and dine Arabic style in a deserted fort.


A driver, whom we later learned was called Mohammed, collected us from the Hilton Hotel in Dubai Creek, expertly steering the People Carrier along busy dual carriageways, modern roundabouts and road junctions.  ‘I wonder whether we’re the only ones going,’ I whispered to Paul.  ‘It’s overkill using this size vehicle if that’s the case!’  Paul joked.  The upper part of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, was visible in the distance.  It reminded us of our disappointment at being unable to secure a reservation to visit this iconic building.

We were making good speed along a smart dual carriageway edged with grass.  A road sign showed we were driving along the Sheikh Zayed Road, that forms part of the E11 highway running parallel to the Dubai coast, from Oman in the East to Abu Dhabi in the West.  I felt glad that Sheikh Zayed, who had recently come to power when I lived in Abu Dhabi in 1968, had been honoured in this way.

Photo of Sheikh Zayed Road
By Imre Solt [GFDL (
Continuing along the busy highway, I noticed that dry yellow sand was replacing the green shrubs and orange marigolds and other brightly coloured flowering plants and grass running along the right-hand verge.  But gardeners tipping out potted plants and areas of freshly laid grass indicated a work in progress.   Our curiosity as to whether any companions would join our evening out increased as the driver pulled off the dual carriageway into a parking area in front of a shopping mall where a group of foreign-speaking men and women piled into the car.  As we continued our journey out of Dubai into the desert, we discovered they were a family group from Brazil.

Entrance to Dubai Desert Conservation ReserveEntrance to Dubai Desert Safari

After about thirty minutes we arrived at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.   This large fenced area in the desert is owned by one of the Ruler’s cousins.  Scarce breeds of Oryx and other antelope, and indigenous plants and trees, are being re-introduced into the Dubai desert.  Leaving our People Carrier parked outside, we entered the Reserve where open Land Rovers waited.   Scarves were tied Arabic fashion around our heads.  Each lady had black and each man a red and white chequered scarf.  After a brief chat with his driver colleagues Mohammed indicated that we should climb into one of the yellow Land Rovers, joining the Brazilians we had arrived with:  six cousins in their thirties and forties holidaying together.

‘We look like a bunch of bandidos,’ the tall male leader said in heavily accented English, twirling his arms above his head.  The others spoke only Portuguese but we laughed with them, their cheerfulness creating a fun atmosphere in the back of the vehicle. Open Land Rovers at the readySandy tracks and headscarves As we were driven along tracks in the sand we soon appreciated the protection afforded by our scarves as the wind whipped loose ends around our faces and sand clouds rose from the vehicles in front causing gritty pieces to work their way into the eyes, ears and nose of anyone trying to remove their scarf to speak.