Mount Barker, Western Australia

Mount Barker, Western Australia
Mount Barker
Western Australia
Mt Barker-entry-tower.jpg
Mount Barker Hill with TV tower in background.
Mount Barker is located in Western Australia
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Mount Barker
Population: 1,761 (2006 Census)[1]
Established: 1892
Postcode: 6324
Elevation: 300 m (984 ft)
Location:
  • 360 km (224 mi) from Perth
  • 50 km (31 mi) from Albany
LGA: Shire of Plantagenet
State District: Blackwood-Stirling
Federal Division: O'Connor
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
20.1 °C
68 °F
9.4 °C
49 °F
736.2 mm
29 in

Coordinates: 34°37′48″S 117°40′01″E / 34.630°S 117.667°E / -34.630; 117.667

Mount Barker is a town on the Albany Highway and is the administrative centre of the Shire of Plantagenet in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. At the 2006 census, Mount Barker had a population of 1,761.[1]

The town was named after the nearby hill, which it is believed was named by Dr T B Wilson RN, in honour of Captain Collet Barker.[2]

Contents


Location

Mount Barker is situated on Albany Highway 360 kilometres (224 mi) south of Perth and 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the city of Albany. The coastal town of Denmark is around 50 kilometres (31 mi) by road to the south-west via the Denmark Mount Barker Road (locally referred to as "Denbarker Road"). The timber town of Manjimup is 162 kilometres (101 mi) west of Mount Barker, via Muir's Highway. The Hay River, which flows into Wilson Inlet at Denmark, begins its journey just west of Mount Barker.

History

Prior to European settlement, small groups of Aboriginal people, called the Bibbulmun (a clan of the Noongar) People, inhabited the area. These were a nomadic people who followed seasonal food supplies. The Aboriginal name for Mount Barker Hill is 'Pwakkenbak'. Dr Wilson was assisted by Aboriginal guide, Mokare, a Minang man from Albany, who expressed some discomfort at the proximity of the site to the hostile Wilmen of the interior, in his exploration of the region in 1829.[3] European settlement of the Hay River area commenced around the 1830s and the opening of the Perth/Albany Railway in 1889 helped ensure the town's future with the first store opening in 1890. Population growth continued through the 1890s and the first school and the town hall were opened in 1893.

Industry

Apple orchards were once one of the major industries in the region and thrived until the mid 1960s. Today, viticulture, wheat, canola, plantation timber, sheep and cattle are some of the main agricultural activities still carried out around Mount Barker.

The Plantagenet Shire owns and operates the Great Southern Regional Cattle Saleyards that provides services to cattle producers from within and outside the shire.

Plantagenet Hotel. Lowood Road, Mount Barker, WA.

Mount Barker is also home to The Banksia Farm which boasts one of every known species of Banksia and most species of Dryandra. There is also a cafe, shop and tours of the Banksia and wildflower gardens.

The Stirling and Porongurup Range National Parks are located within the Plantagenet Shire and these, together with the local premium wine industry, have contributed to the growth of tourism in and around Mount Barker.

Available accommodation includes motels, caravan park and a number of bed & breakfasts and farm-stays in the surrounding area.

There has been a steady growth of hobby farming around the town and throughout the shire as people abandon city-life for a 'tree-change'. This has seen a corresponding increase in cottage industries offering a range of art and craft products.

A quarry to the east of the town is one of two major sources of spongolite, also called 'Mount Barker Stone'. While spongolite is commercially exploited for its absorbent qualities, it is also sometimes locally cut into bricks to use as a building material. A good example of this is the Plantagenet Players theatre in Marmion Street.

In 2011 a windfarm consisting of three wind turbines will be installed to provide power to the town of Mount Barker and surrounding areas.

Wine region

Mount Barker is one of the 5 nominated subregions of the Great Southern wine region in Western Australia, which is Australia's largest wine region with a rectangle 200 kilometres from east to west and over 100 kilometers from north to south. The area has been described as 'the birthplace of the Great Southern wine region' and has won numerous awards for a variety of wines.[4] Situated as it is in the middle of the Great Southern, the continental aspects of the climate make this quintessential country for Riesling and Shiraz. While, as with the rest of the region, rainfall is winter-spring dominant, late vintage rains can create problems. Mount Barker's continentality also means greater diurnal temperature fluctuations and the occasional spring frost. The Plantagenet Plateau, with Mount Barker its centre point, is marked by its marri soils, lateritic gravelly/sandy loams coming directly from granite rock protusions. Lat: 34 36’S; Alt: 180–250 m; Hdd: 1488; Gsr: 287 mm; Mjt: 19C; Harvest: Early March to mid-April; Chief Viticultural Hazard: Spring frosts; late vintage rain.[5] Plantagenet Wines established in 1965 was one of the first wineries in the region and is located within the town boundary.[6]

Features

View east from Mount Barker Hill

Mount Barker Hill, just 5 km from the town centre, reaches 404 metres above sea level.[7] A sealed road leads to the base of a 168 metre high TV tower - the tallest free-standing tower in the southern hemisphere[8] - on the summit of the hill. There is an aging information sign which states that the steel TV tower weighs 218 tonnes. There is also a lookout and a granite cairn with a bronze directional plate. Views extend north to the Stirling Range and east to the Porongurup Range. An elevated concrete lookout offers views South to Albany and south-west toward Denmark. On a clear day, the Albany Wind Farm is easily visible some 50 km away. In the summer months, many locals use the hill lookout to assess any risk posed by nearby fires.

St Werburghs Church, Mount Barker

Mount Barker is also home to numerous historic buildings, such as:

  • The old police station, opened in 1868, is now a museum.
  • St Werburghs Chapel was built in 1872 with walls made from chopped straw and clay and woodwork formed from local jarrah. A small cemetery doubles as a historical reference for the region. The chapel is now a tourist drawcard and still operates a regular service.
  • The Mount Barker Post Office and Telegraph Station, built in 1892, ceased operation in the 1960s. Today it is named 'Mitchell House' and houses the local art society and gallery.
  • Plantagenet Hotel was built between 1912 and 1914. The verandah includes apple motifs, in celebration of the flourishing apple industry. The hotel is still open for business.
  • The town railway building, built in 1923, was restored in 1997 and today houses the Mount Barker Visitor Centre that offers local tourism information and acts as a booking agency for bus travel from Mount Barker.
Unique 'Round House' in disrepair. February 2007.
  • Sometime from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Dutch immigrant and engineer Hubertus Johannes Van der Kolk built a circular house at the northern end of Mount Barker, beside Albany Highway. This unique structure, which could be rotated through 180 degrees to exploit seasonal changes, was labelled "The Round House". Though the home has fallen into disrepair, it was heritage listed in 2005 and Heritage Minister Francis Logan said "It was an energy-efficient concept ahead of its time."[9] The home was hidden from passers-by for many years by trees and shrubs but clearing for major roadworks which commenced in December 2006 resulted in it once again being exposed to public view. The Heritage Council has published a detailed history of this "rare" building in a Register of Heritage Places - Assessment Document.[10]
  • The farming areas surrounding the town are also rich with old farmhouses, sheds and machinery.

The Stirling Range lies approximately 40 km to the north-east of the town by road, via Kendenup. The Porongurup Range is a 15-minute drive to the east of the town. The two ranges have vastly different appearances and display different flora and geology. Both parks have gazetted walk trails that are especially popular during the spring wildflower season, from August to November.

Facilities

Campdrafting, Mount Barker, WA.

Mount Barker has a hospital and medical centre, police station, TAFE College, a Community college catering for K-12 schooling, childcare facilities plus Scouts and Girl Guides. The new shire offices were opened in the town centre in 2006.

In 2004 the state government announced preliminary funding for construction of the Mount Barker Community College. This 'One Community, One College' project will ultimately see all public schooling, from kindergarten to TAFE, located on the existing Mount Barker Senior High School site. Work commenced on the project in January 2007 and it is expected that it will cater for years 4 to 12 from 2008 with expansion to continue past that date. It is anticipated that this integrated facility, which pools resources, will act as a model for other regional communities.[11] In December 2007 funding for Stage Two, for Kindergarten to year 3, was confirmed. Construction of all stages is now complete as is the new Trade Training Centre.

Mount Barker has commercial, retail and industrial facilities associated with the regional centre for the Plantagenet Shire. Sporting facilities include a football ground, a modern, indoor recreation centre and gymnasium, a 50m outdoor swimming pool, speedway track and horse-racing track. Popular sports include Australian Rules Football, rugby union, cricket and equestrian pursuits.

Besides the public library, Mount Barker also has cultural facilities including a public art gallery that displays and offers works by local artists. There is also a popular amateur theatre company, "The Plantagenet Players", which has members from nine years old to seniors.

Emergency services in the town consist of Police and volunteers in the St John Ambulance, Fire & Rescue Service, Bush Fire Service and State Emergency Service. Training and equipment is provided by both the Shire and State Government. There are a number of charitable organisations including Rotary, Lions, Red Cross, and Anglicare.

The Great Southern Railway, which runs through town, commenced operation to Mount Barker in 1889, boosting expansion in the region. There are no longer passenger services on the line which is used primarily for grain haulage to Albany Port.

Pardelup Prison is located near Denbarker, just west of Mount Barker.

Residents of Mount Barker, Western Australia comment that the town is often confused with Mount Barker, South Australia, especially when dealing with national telephone centres based outside Western Australia. Mount Barker also has a new skate park

Climate

Sleeman Creek culvert in full flood. 1 April 2005.

Mount Barker has a temperate climate with warm to hot summers and mild to cold winters. While summer temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius, the average is around 26 degrees. Overnight temperatures can drop below zero degrees in winter but daytime winter temperatures average 10-13 degrees Celsius.[12]

Rainfall averages from around 24 millimetres (1 in) per month in January to over 100 millimetres (4 in) in July.

Significant weather events

  • While light snowfalls are not unusual on the peaks of the Porongurup and Stirling Range, it is very unusual for snow to fall to ground level anywhere in Western Australia. However, snow has been recorded in Mount Barker and the Great Southern region. On 28 August 1992, with a maximum temperature of 7.2 degrees Celsius, two falls of snow were recorded. That same year, on 19 November, a light snowfall was recorded just two weeks before summer, this was the latest in the year snow had been recorded in the state.[13]
  • In June 2000, the Town Hall in Mount Barker lost its roof as a result of strong wind gusts.[14]
  • On 28 December 2000, unusually hot weather and 44 km/h winds contributed to a bushfire that travelled south through the town, destroying two houses plus other buildings and equipment.[15]
  • On 1 April 2005, the Plantagenet Shire suffered substantial flooding after heavy and persistent rainfall in the previous two days.[16]
  • Golf ball-sized hail fell in Mount Barker and surrounding districts on 23 October 2006.[17]

See also

References

External links


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