|The main street of Bridgetown
Attractive timber town on the banks of the Blackwood River
Located 95 km south of Bunbury, 268 km south of Perth and 155 m above sea level, Bridgetown is a glorious town nestled amongst the hills and located on the banks of the Blackwood River. Basically a timber town it has, as the south west has opened up to tourism, become a fashionable place to stay.
The first explorer into the area was Thomas Turner, an Augusta settler, who traced the Blackwood River upstream to the Arthur River in 1834. He was followed a decade later by Surveyor A. C. Gregory who first explored the area in 1845 and returned to carry out a survey in 1852.
There is some argument over who was the first settler in the area with both E. G. Hester and John Blechynden (whose house is one of the town's major historical attractions) both arriving at around the same time in 1857.
Hester settled at Blackwood Park while Blechynden took up 4 000 ha on the southern side of the river and a small holding, on which his house Bridgedale now stands, on the northern side of the river. The government acquired some of Blechynden's land in 1868 and it is on this land that the town of Bridgedale now stands.
The town was officially proclaimed on 4 June 1868 and named Bridgetown on a series of recommendations: 'Herewith I have the honour to forward a plan of the townsite laid out at Geegelup. Some of the settlers wish me to suggest the name of Bridgetown - as it is at a bridge and the Bridgetown was the first ship to put in at Bunbury for the wool from these districts. The name of the brook 'Geegelup' is also a very good name and one by which the place is well known - besides keeping up the native name'. Today, as if to confirm the correctness of those who named the town, Bridgetown boasts the longest jarrah bridge in Western Australia. There is also a model of the original Bridgetown barque in the Memorial Park over the road from the Tourist Bureau.
In 1862 John Allnutt was growing apples in the district. He was soon followed by other settlers who found the soils and the climate ideal for a range of fruits. This has proved to be one of the area's enduring industries with over 8 000 tons being shipped out of the area before World War II and 100 000 cases being packed in the 1960s.
Today Bridgetown is the centre of a thriving and attractive district where, apart from tourism, the major industries are timber, fruit growing and tin mining.
Local events are the the Blues at Bridgetown Music Festival (held every year on the second weekend of November), the Easter Lawn Tennis Tournament, the Blackwood Marathon and the Festival of Country Gardens.
Things to see:
Bridgetown-Greenbushes Tourist Bureau
The Bridgetown-Greenbushes Tourist Bureau, located on Hampton Street at the northern end of town, has all the information a visitor to the area could possibly require. It also has an interesting, and very unusual display of jigsaw puzzles which have been mounted and hung on the walls. A recent catalogue of the display listed over 80 jigsaws including a huge 5000 piece of Rembrandt's The Night Watch donated from Holland. There is also a small folk museum in the building with some interesting memorabilia from the local area.
Scenic Drives in the Area
The major attractions in the area are the scenic drives (which travel through gently undulating countryside), a number of overt tourist attractions such as potteries and a jigsaw gallery, and an interesting range of historical buildings.
The Tourist Bureau has a sheet listing the eight scenic drives in the district which range from a short 3 km drive to a 113 km drive through hardwood forests, farms and bushland.
Without doubt the town's major historical attraction is 'Bridgedale' which dates from 1862 and was one of the first two houses built in the district. The house was constructed from bricks made from the clay of the riverbank. The building was purchased by public subscription in 1969 and handed over to the National Trust who now administer it. Of particular interest are the beautiful gardens and a tiny building behind the house where the original owner, John Blechynden, lived while 'Bridgedale' was being built. There is a pleasant 1.5 km walk along the river which starts at the house.
St Pauls Anglican Church
Up the main street from Bridgedale, on the corner of Philips Street, is St Pauls Anglican Church (1911). While the church is hardly impressive it does contain a range of ecclesiastical pieces in brass, copper, and silver made by Herbert Augustus Gordon Holdsworth (1886-1965) an artist who lived in the Bridgetown area for most of his life.
15 km south of the town is Donnelly's Well, one of a chain of wells sunk to provide water for the mail run through the area.
Located at 101 Hampton Street and open from 10.00 a.m.-5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10.00 a.m.- 4.00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays Bohemian Woodcraft offers visitors an opportunity to see a local woodworker using such traditional woodworking tools as a pole lathe and shaving horse. This is one of the few pole lathes working in Australia. Here is a rare opportunity to see how woodworking was done in the day s before electricity. Everything is made on site and the prices, because they don't involve third party markups, are very competitive.
Fat Arts & Studio Inkling
Well worth a visit is Fat Arts which is primarily a working studio/gallery producing fine art, photography, caricatures and recycled jarrah and wrought iron furniture.
Bridgetown Jarrah Park
20 km west of Bridgetown on the Brockman Highway is the Bridgetown Jarrah Park, a combined effort by CALM and the Bridgetown community which has two trails commemorating the early timber history of the area. The Tree Fallers trail is 2.6 km long and takes about an hour while the Shield Tree Trail is 700 m and takes about 20 minutes. There is a picnic ground at the entrance to the park.
Blackwood Valley Cidery
Situated at the corner of Boyupbrook Rd and Forrest St, the cidery can be contacted on (08) 9761 2204.
Suttons Lookout, off Philips St, offers panoramic views across Bridgetown and the Mattaatup River.
The Blackwood River
Visitors can enjoy the state's longest wooden bridge, spanning the longest permanent river in Western Australia.
The Barn at Ford House
This hand-adzed, century-old barn features an eight-metre wall of home-made preserves. It is available for dining and themed dinners.
Situated at Lot 16 Doust Str, this small boutique vineyard is open by arrangement, tel: (08) 9761 4525.
Greenbushes Mine Lookout
Greenbushes is a small town which occupies one of the highest points on the Darling Ranges. Fine views over the Son of Gwalia tin and tantalum mine, operating continuously for over a century, can be had from Telluride St.
There are two excellent Heritage Trails which relate to the Bridgetown area. The Geegelup Heritage Trail: Little Schools Trail is a 212 km drive through the district looking at no fewer than 25 district schools which are dotted throughout the countryside.
The Geegelup Heritage Trail: Exploration and Settlement of the Bridgetown-Greenbushes District is a well organised and comprehensive journey around the major historical sites in both Bridgetown and Greenbushes.