Silo trail full of wonders

CHEERFUL: Albany's ruby sea dragon. Unlike illustrated silos in other states, those on the trail are still working. Photo: Bewley Shaylor
CHEERFUL: Albany's ruby sea dragon. Unlike illustrated silos in other states, those on the trail are still working. Photo: Bewley Shaylor

The 1000km PUBLIC Silo Trail spanning Western Australia's agricultural heartland celebrates the distinctiveness of each region it portrays. Travelling the trail, SUE PRESTON bids farewell to the beautiful little town of Dumbleyung and its famous lake and heads south towards Denmark.

THE beauty of the PUBLIC Silo Trail - apart from the silent and majestic art forms - is that it is not a one-attraction wonder.

Far from taking a long flat road to nowhere, you can use the six towering silo murals as your wayposts to unexpected places such as national parks, wineries, enchanting small towns and unique Indigenous experiences.

We stop at Porongurup National Park where the 4.4km Granite Skywalk Trail at Castle Rock climbs steeply through a forest of yate, jarrah, marri and karri trees, passing the miraculous Balancing Rock and ending at the Karri Lookout.

From this haven for more than 100 species of birds and 750 varieties of plants and wildflowers in season you can look up to see the Granite Skywalk suspended off the vertical rock face of the Castle Rock summit.

Riggers abseiled into position to drill the anchor points into the granite and the skywalk spans were delivered by helicopter and lowered by pulleys for the riggers to assemble.

Reaching the skywalk means scrambling over and under boulders and then climbing a six-metre ladder so it is only recommended for the fit and sure-footed.

The beautiful town of Denmark is where the tall timber southern forests meet the sea. Tucked away in the Scotsdale Valley you'll find Singlefile Wines named after the property's geese that waddle, you guessed it, in single file.

Singlefile was established by a retired couple who then handed the reins on to the next generation, daughter Pam and son-in-law Patrick Corbett.

What was once a hobby farm is now "a winery with family flavours" where people are encouraged to bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surrounds.

If time allows, buy a one-hour small group tour for a behind-the-scenes insight into what wine tastes like before it hits the bottle and what it takes these days to make a really great wine.

I won't spoil the surprise that takes place while you're wandering through the grapevines; suffice to say, there is more bubbling up from under the earth than you'd expect.

Later that day at Koodja Place, a purpose-built rammed earth building in Kojonup that serves as a visitor information centre, we meet Noongar elder Jack Cox, who takes us on a tour of the story of the people of the Kojonup area.

Jack was one of the Aboriginal boxers who toured the country with the George Stewart Boxing Troupe... "black, white, blue or purple, we'd challenge anyone".

Now in his 80s, Jack has a gentler role as a guide at the centre.

We follow the painted imprint of tracks of possum, kangaroo and emu as we admire the centre's artefacts, interactive displays and photos, some of which depict the miserable conditions once endured by Aborigines in established native reserves.

There's an old school bus we couldn't resist climbing aboard and a classic Holden ute "which carried a man's beer, his swag, his dog and, sometimes, his sheila".

Back in Denmark we meet Joey Williams at Poornati Gallery. Joey has six-day, five-night camps throughout the year offering back-to-nature wilderness immersive experiences - "looking into the bush, not at it".

There's an old school bus we couldn't resist climbing aboard and a classic Holden ute "which carried a man's beer, his swag, his dog and, sometimes, his sheila".

A skilled artist, he is the nephew of Aboriginal artist Bella Kelly (1915-94), whose works are held in public and private collections across the country.

Joey said that while working as a domestic in a white household Bella was given paint and paper and began painting landscapes of her country.

After her children were taken from her and put in a mission and she camped across the river from it in the hope they would escape. Painting was a source of solace for her.

STORIES TO TELL: Noongar elder Jack Cox in front of the traditional mia, or camp, at Koodja Place. A former tent boxer, nowadays he has a gentler role as a guide at the centre.

STORIES TO TELL: Noongar elder Jack Cox in front of the traditional mia, or camp, at Koodja Place. A former tent boxer, nowadays he has a gentler role as a guide at the centre.

In nearby Albany, we come to the end of our silo trail journey. It's here down by the port that you'll find the 30-metre-high ruby sea dragon created by Brooklyn artists The Yok & Sheryo.

Last year, the duo referenced Albany's environment and sealife with this very happy-looking marine creature.

More murals by local and international artists can be found throughout Albany's city centre and you can soak up the town's Anzac history by visiting the National Anzac Centre and Albany Heritage Park.

IF YOU GO....

The PUBLIC Silo Trail, a partnership between non-profit cultural organisation FORM and the state's largest grain handler, CBH Group, has become WA's largest outdoor art gallery and is fast becoming a popular drive trail. The silos are in Northam, Merredin, Katanning, Pingrup, Newdegate, Ravensthorpe and Albany. It took seven artists a total of 92 days over three years to paint six silos using more than 1700 litres of paint. The result is the transformation of WA's rural heartland into an open "truly public" art gallery. With the painting complete, attention has now turned to promoting the trail through the website, interpretive signage, and brochures at visitor centres and community resource centres. publicsilotrail.com

PARRY Beach Breaks offers relaxed accommodation in luxurious villas within William Bay National Park, 30 minutes out of Denmark and just a short walk to the beach. Sink back into comfortable lounges by the fire and cook up a feast in the well-equipped kitchens or do as we did and get a chef to pop in and prepare something for you. A two-night minimum stay applies. parrybeachbreaks.com.au

  • Sue Preston travelled the PUBLIC Silo Trail as a guest of FORM.