Perhaps we’re just speaking for ourselves, but Araluen seems to be one of those places that every Perthie has been to, but hasn’t been for a very long time.
Grannies and grandies loved it back in the day, and a Sunday drive out to the Hills in the new Holden sedan was pretty much a rite of passage.
A picnic, snags irrevocably aflame on the barbie, ice creams, big brown bottles of Swan Lager, wild flowers, bush walks, soldier ants nipping nippers between the toes, were all a part of the ritual.
Show me a Sandgroper of a certain age who hasn’t rummaged around the back shed, attic or spare room and come across an antique, washed-out Polaroid snap of family or friends sporting terrible fashions and hairdos at the Botanic Park in some distant decade? Then hidden it.
Feeling a tad sentimental, we Starfishies resolved to make a return visit last weekend, motored out to Roleystone and explored those sylvan glades once more.
It was great fun, as always, and the memories flooded back.
International tourists and new citizens, many of them clearly from places of far less floral and arboreal splendor, a la Taipei, mostly peopled the Park. Araluen is a kind of Arcadian Nirvana for city slickers.
The weather was a trifle dicey: cool, brisk westerly, racing clouds and the odd sun shower sweeping east in a nebulous plume across the metro area and over the Darling Range. But it didn’t stop us.
We weren’t aware that Araluen’s 140,000 tulips were just starting to bloom, so entered the park through the old Poolside Pergola to a blazing vista of late winter colours.
Lunch was a heavily hyped, yet middling, beaker of minestrone and a bread roll, before we wandered through the gardens between cloudbursts and sunbeams. Though still in the last throes of winter, the petals were opening and buds a-burstin’ all around us.
The Botanic Park has been with us since the 1930s. Businessman Jack Simons bought the 150-acre property in 1929 on behalf of the Young Australia League (YAL) to use as a Holiday Camp.
After decades of use, the YAL put Araluen up for sale in 1985 (but retained Camp Simons). A private investor was going to redevelop the land, however the local communities rallied to stop it, petitioning the State Government to purchase the Park instead.
The government did so in 1990 and the Araluen Botanic Park Foundation, Inc. became incorporated the same year, with the aim of working with the WA Planning Commission to restore the grounds.
Since 1995, the Foundation has managed the Park under lease from the Commission. It is doing fine work on the improvements with the on going planting of both exotic and native species, as well as weed eradication programs.
“As you walk through the park we hope to charm you with not only our famous tulips but many vibrant spring blooms,” says the Park guide.
“The magnolias have now grown to a size that allows their goblet shaped flowers to appear to float among the bare branches.
“Japanese Maples with their golden, scarlet or rich purple new leaves nestle amongst the native species. The Rhododendrons provide a canopy of colour over the hill while the Azaleas underneath catch your eye as you walk past.”
Araluen also features areas of internationally recognised Camellia groves, adding great beauty to the Park, which is an interesting combination of Australian bush and classic European formal design.
If you’re not feeling like a stroll, or the pins won’t power you up the inclines, then hop on the little park train with the kids for a guided tour.
Several food concession stands, barbecue facilities, and children’s activities are situated throughout the park.
Spring is the best time to visit Araluen and the tulips will be spectacular over the next few weeks.
So why not pack a picnic, load up the family jalopy, and head to Araluen for Father’s Day? Pop among the poppies.
Maybe even snap a few digital selfies on the iPhone 7 to compare with those cringe-worthy old Araluen Polaroids stashed behind the bookshelf.
For more information visit: www.araluenbotanicpark.com.au
Araluen Botanic Park
362 Croyden Road, Roleystone
Ph: (08) 9234 2200
Photographs: Peter Rigby