|A karri tree with its fire lookout near Northcliffe
Timber town in the heart of the Karri forests.
Located 362 km south of Perth, Northcliffe is a timber town set in the Karri forests. Although the area around Northcliffe had been explored by Europeans as early as the 1830s and there were farmers in the area by the 1860s it wasn't until the 1920s that the town actually came into existence.
Northcliffe's specific origins lie in the Group Settlement Scheme, a plan to resettle British servicemen who had fought in World War I. The theory was to reward them for their service to the country by offering them land which they could develop and thus establish themselves as farmers. The scheme, which was enthusiastically backed by the English newspaper magnate, Lord Northcliffe (he gave his name to the town), was an abject failure. The problem was that by the 1920s all the decent land in the state had already been settled. All that was left was land which earlier explorers and settlers had deemed too difficult to develop. This meant that the South West timber country (which was inhospitable) saw a large number of Group Settlement projects started in the 1920s. They all had failed by the mid 1930s. This description of the Group Settlement Scheme near Manjimup is a reminder of what these poor settlers had to go through.
'The Group Settlement Scheme was set up by the Western Australian Government after World War I to resettle returned soldiers and immigrants. Part of the idea was to give Western Australia's rural economy a boost by opening up more land for agriculture. Twenty families of Group 10 settled the land near One Tree Bridge. They lived in rough temporary huts provided by the Government until 25 acres of each family's ballot-allocated 100 acres was partially cleared. Then they could move to their respective blocks and get down to the serious business of farming. Clearing took 6 months, the bush was thick and the trees enormous. Most of the group settlers had no experience of farming and very little bushcraft. With only crosscut saws and axes they were faced with clearing some of the world's biggest trees from their land. Many group settlers left unable to handle the conditions and meet the repayments on their land and equipment and the loans they had to take out to buy stores. Those that stayed the longest scratched a living from dairy produce as they struggled to clear enough of their land to farm. The great depression of the 1930s heralded the end of most of the Groupies. The price of butterfat collapsed and their main source of income disappeared.'
It is reasonable to assume that the experiences of the Groupies at Northcliffe from 1924 until the Depression was the same as this sad tale of disasters from One Tree Bridge.
Things to see:
The best way to understand the hardships of 'The Groupies' is to visit the Pioneer Museum opposite the Tourist Centre. Located in the old Group Settlement School, which was built in 1925 and used until 1946, the displays recall the life of people who came to the area as part of the Group Settlement program.
All the other attractions around Northcliffe are either timber or scenic. There is the old Boorara Tree, a 50 m high lookout (see Manjimup and Pemberton for the history of the lookout trees) which was abandoned in 1977. It can't be climbed but the area around the base is ideal for picnics. Lane Poole Falls are located near the Boorara Tree and are reached by a pleasant 5 km return walk through thick forest.
In recent times there has been considerable argument about the destruction of the old growth forest in the area. Check out http://www.wn.com.au/bgff/Boorara/boorara2.htm for more information on the cutting down of this beautiful forest.
Northcliffe Forest Park
The town's major attraction is the Northcliffe Forest Park which is just one kilometre from the town centre. The karri trees in the park are marked and there are a number which are over 75 m tall. As well there are a number of interesting walks through the forest which allow visitors an opportunity to see the purple-crowned lorikeet and scarlet robin as well as unusual and beautiful wildflowers.
Northcliffe Sawmill is open for inspection. Visitors are welcome but should report to the Mill office upon arrival.
27 km south of the town is the tiny settlement of Windy Harbour, the only point on the south coast between Walpole and Augusta which can be reached by conventional vehicles. Windy Harbour offers all the usual seaside recreational activities - fishing, swimming, snorkelling - as well as some dramatic 160 m limestone cliffs at Point D'Entrecasteaux to the west of the town. Visitors with 4WD should continue on to Salmon Beach where the Roaring Forties have created white sand dunes up to 60 m high. Access is not possible by conventional vehicle.
Southern Forests Map
The Department of Land Administration has produced an excellent map titled Southern Forests which identifies all the major attractions in the area as well as providing town maps of Manjimup, Pemberton, Bridgetown and Nannup.