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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia

I find it hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would think of running sheep on this desolate landscape with no water, scorching summer temperatures, no shade for stock and hardly anything to eat. But they did and I think it says a lot about the toughness and determination of our pioneering farmers. When wool prices fell in the 1970's Peron Pastoral Station was only marginally profitable and since then, it has slowly deteriorated to its current state.

In 1990 the Western Australian Government bought it and created Francois Peron National Park, named after the French naturalist and explorer, 52,500 hectares of arid shrubland, red sand plains and clear turquoise water.

Project Eden was introduced and it has three main aims:

. To remove all feral animals from the park

. To reintroduce native wildlife once extinct in the area

. To educate the public about the project

Cattle, sheep and goats introduced by the early farmers almost destroyed the Peninsula but since the removal of more than 30,000 stock, much of the vegetation has come back. Annuals, creepers and grasses that the stock loved to eat are now slowly starting to reappear.

In an effort to keep down the number of feral animals - goats, rabbits, foxes and cats, a fence was erected across the narrowest part of the park, about 3 kilometres wide.

A four wheel drive is necessary if you want to venture beyond the homestead, the sandy, narrow track gets pretty deep in places and it's about 40kms to Cape Peron. And make sure you take plenty of water, there's none in the park.

The Homestead

Feral Fence

This artesian bore was one of 5 sunk of Peron Pastoral lease. It has a constant temperature of 44C and flows into this holding tank. You are welcome to hop in. More than 200 kilometres of pipes were laid throughout the property to thirty points to water the stock. This water was also used for all domestic purposes except drinking - it was slightly salty but quite safe for all stock.

Shearing was carried out in the two hottest months of the year, January and February. Six shearers using hand pieces would shear at least 130 sheep a day, the gun shearer about 200. A small diesel engine drove belts that worked the blades and a grinder that kept the blades sharp.

The cookhouse and mess was built in the 1950's. The cook was one of the hardest workers, starting his day long before the shearers woke up and not finishing until the evening meal was over and cleared away. He had to bring his own provisions and baked bread every day. The cook and the wool classer shared the same quarters, separate from the shearers.