Toodyay – New Norcia

The beginning of my drive today took me back through the Salmon Gums towards Perth for 46 kilometres then onto the highway for a time.  The GPS has chosen a route mainly on secondary roads through very different countryside – firstly the Salmon Gums, then farming country, then as I neared Toodyay the trees changed as did the soil. I think the trees are Black Wattle but WA trees are very different so not positive.  The roads are quite narrow but not a lot of traffic so relaxing.  There  are sheep grazing in the paddocks near Toodyay and the rocky outcrops are interspersed with green grasses.

Toodyay, established in 1836, was once called Newcastle but was renamed in 1910. The town is nestled in bushland in the Avon Valley and apparently the wildflowers are a very popular attraction (I’m a couple of months too early for that).  There is an historic Flour Mill (C 1870) which was owned by an ex-convict, Daniel Connor, and an Old Newcastle Gaol Museum and Police Stables. 19th Century historic buildings are dotted around town.  There is a café which has a Coca-Cola collection which has taken 60 years to gather.

The road to New Norcia takes me back onto the Great Northern Highway, through forests with a massive amount of black boys and ferns, and surprisingly a deer farm and Bindoon Army Training centre.  I stopped for lunch 35 kilometres from New Norcia – someone had dumped a large amount of clothing in the truck parking area – hard to fathom why.

I headed straight to the Visitor Centre when I got to New Norcia because the afternoon tour was about to start and I wanted to see if I could join it.  I am thrilled that I did – what an informative and interesting afternoon.  Richard was our guide and there are only three of us in the group – Lorraine and Terry from Tasmania and I. The tour incorporates many of the buildings in New Norcia – some which are only accessible to tour participants and others which are free to look around.

This is Australia’s only Monastic town and has been around for 160 odd years.  Many of the buildings were designed by one of the Monks – many are grandiose and it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of the West Australian bush. There were four separate schools – each  surrounded by high brick walls – two boy schools – one for the aboriginal boys and one for the white boys and two girls schools – one for the aboriginal girls and one for the white girls. Thankfully times have changed. The aboriginal boy’s school is now used as the Education Centre and there was a school from Geraldton here today.

There are information placards in the courtyard with the town’s history on one side in six sections and on the other side are Aboriginal Art Seasons paintings depicting their six seasons.

We toured the Boys Boarding School, St Ildephonsus’ – what an amazing building – the chapel is simply superb – the murals and attention to detail are brilliant. Next stop was St Gertrude’s Girls School – a totally different feel – much more feminine in design, but just as spectacular – if possible I think the chapel is even more gorgeous.  This has a domed roof (complete with murals) over a very ornate altar, and acoustics to die for.  The music room reminds me of school days at St Ursula’s and the dining room is complemented by the most spectacular jarrah tables with the school emblem on the ends.  The entry doors have stained glass which is unusual because none of the monks were stained glass artisans.

The tour ended here and I toured the Art Gallery and Museum before heading to the camp at the oval, introduce myself to some WA campers then head to drinks with Lorraine and Terry.  This has been a very tiring and wonderfully informative day.

New Norcia (Day 2)

Armed with the information from yesterday’s tour, I set out to explore and photograph New Norcia at my own pace.  The buildings are spectacular and I browse through the ones we touched on yesterday.  After I’d had my fill, I decided to do the River walk to explore the bush part of the place.  It winds through the Olive Farm, across the Moore River and into a sheep paddock where there is the Apiary building and the Bishop’s well.  The monk’s build very wide wells and lined them with stone. Bishop Salvado was a man with vision for this community. I climb over the stile and continue back to the river and the Ford and Weir – there was once a floodbridge which connected the Monastery and orchards and gardens on the eastern side of the river, but a newer structure is my ford today.  The walk is about two kilometres long, but gives an insight into the farming side of the Benedictines in making the settlement self-sufficient.

After the walk, I head back to the bus for a rest and then back to the Hotel for lunch and a try of Abbey Ale – the beer brewed for New Norcia.  It’s not a bad drop and the glass it’s served in is like a mini brandy balloon – I have to get myself one of those!!  This afternoon was spent on the diary and photos and blog.  Tonight Maureen (my neighbour) and I are going to Vespers at the Monastery. We went to the Monastery Chapel at 6:20 only to find they’d changed it to 6 p.m. at the Abbey Church – better late than never.  This is a 1500 year old tradition and I don’t want to miss it. The monk’s voices are quite hauntingly beautiful and most of the service is sung in Latin.

Toodyay Church

Toodyay Church

Toodyay Streetscape

Toodyay Streetscape

Aboriginal Seasons

Aboriginal Seasons

St Ildephonsus Boy's School

St Ildephonsus Boy’s School

St Ildephonsus Chapel

St Ildephonsus Chapel

St Gertrudes Girl's School

St Gertrudes Girl’s School

St Gertrude's Chapel

St Gertrude’s Chapel

Aboriginal Boy's School (now Education Centre)

Aboriginal Boy’s School (now Education Centre)

The Old Convent

The Old Convent

Abbey Church

Abbey Church

Abbey Church Interior

Abbey Church Interior

Abbey Church Stations of the Cross - Aussie Style

Abbey Church Stations of the Cross – Aussie Style

Benedictine Monastery

Benedictine Monastery

Mission Cottages Information

Mission Cottages Information

Mission Cottage

Mission Cottage

New Norcia Hotel

New Norcia Hotel

Bishop Salvado's Tomb Inscriptions

Bishop Salvado’s Tomb Inscriptions

The Apiary Plaque

The Apiary Plaque

The Apiary

The Apiary

Old Well

Old Well

Hand Ball Courts

Hand Ball Courts

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