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Koorda, WA

Wheatbelt town in district known as "Corn Dolly Country"

Koorda is a small wheatbelt town which promotes itself as 'corn dolly country'. This unusual English custom of plaiting straw was brought to the area by Frank Lodge from northern England who arrived in 1911 and continued plaiting until his death in 1962. In 1982 the local show held Australia's first Corn Dolly Festival. The appeal of the town lies in the town's two museums - the local museum in the old hospital and a private museum with motoring and military memorabilia - and a number of granite outcrops which are such an integral part of the Western Australian wheatbelt.

Location

Koorda is located 233 km north-east of Perth via Goomalling and Dowerin.

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Origin of Name

Koorda is one of many examples in Australia of Aboriginal names with no connection to the local area. In 1914 a proposed railway siding where the town now stands was named Koorda at the suggestion of J Hope, the Chief Draftsman in the Lands Department. Hope took the name from a list of words obtained from an Aborigine in the Margaret River area. The meaning was reputedly a "married person".

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Things to See and Do

Koorda Museum
Located in Ningham Street, the Koorda Museum occupies the town's old hospital. It has taken its theme from the building's previous usage and consequently has interesting displays of old hospital equipment in one of the former wards. It also has collections of locally sourced domestic and agricultural (early farming) equipment. For more information tel: (08) 9584 1297 or check http://aumuseums.com/wa/koorda-museum.

Koorda Motoring and Military Museum
Located at 28 Allenby Street, the Koorda Motoring and Military museum features a variety of original classic and muscle cars, memorabilia, "garaganalia" and models. It also has military displays from the Boer War to Afghanistan. For more information tel: (08) 9684 1787 or check out https://www.facebook.com/pg/KoordaMotorMuseumAndMilitaryCollection.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Granite Outcrops in the District
There are four interesting granite outcrops near the town - Mollerin Rock (to the north of the town), Newcarlbeon Tank (also to the north), Badgerin Rock (to the west) and Moningarin Gnamma Hole (to the north-west). Each is a special place with its special wildflower displays between July and October, its native birds and small animals. Moningarin has native gnamma holes. To reach each of the rocks download the excellent Shire of Koorda map at http://www.koorda.wa.gov.au/uploaded/files/client_added/Shire%20of%20Koorda.pdf

Corn Dollies and Corn Dolly Celebrations
The Corn Dolly is an ancient European craft which reflects a pagan belief that a spirit lived in the cornfields. To preserve the spirit at harvest time a corn dolly was woven so that the spirit could rest while the "corn" (wheat, barley) was being cut. The Koorda Shire adopted the Corn Dolly The Simple Countryman's Favour as the Shire Emblem in 1974. It was Frank Lodge who brought the art of corn dolly making to Koorda in 1911, from Durham in England. Since 1982 it has been promoted by the Koorda Corn Dolly Festival in September. There are corn dolly workshops for those who wish to plait a corn dolly. Contact Lesley McNee (08) 9682 1025 or Dorothy Crogan (08) 9684 1259.

Koorda Wildflower Reserve
Located 10 km from town the Koorda Wildflower Reserve is a 28 ha park which is privately owned. It is an ideal introduction to the wildflowers of the area as it has examples of the local wildflower species. It is particularly impressive during the wildflower season between July and October.

How to See WA Wildflowers - A Guide
When planning a trip there are a number of very simple rules.
(1) Start by downloading Your Holiday Guide to Western Australia’s Wildflowers at http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/things_to_do/forest_and_flowers/pages/wawildflowers.aspx#/. It is a comprehensive guide to the wildflowers. There are over 12,000 species and 60% of them are found nowhere else on the planet.
(2) There is a tendency to say "But I won't know what I'm looking at" but that is rubbish. There are a number of great books and the best, by far, is the answer to "Wildflowers for Dummies" titled "Colour Guide to Spring Wildflowers of Western Australia". It is privately published by Wajon Publishing Company, written by Eddie Wajon, and comes in three volumes – 1. Kalbarri and the Goldfields, 2. Perth and the Southwest and 3. Esperance and the Wheatbelt. They can all be purchased online from Kings Park & Botanic Garden in Perth. Check out https://www.aspectsofkingspark.com.au
The publication's design masterstroke is that the flowers are listed according to their colours and all the pages are colour coded. Thus Mr and Mrs Wildflower Illiterate, when gazing at a Spiny Synaphea, only need to open at the "yellow flowers" section and flick through until they find the colour photo which matches the reality. The company can be contacted directly on (08) 9310 2936. 
(3) No one should ever underestimate the power of local knowledge and assistance. The Western Australian wheatbelt, probably because of the declining prices for both wool and wheat and the increased levels of salinity, has decided that the spring wildflowers are a good for the local economy and worthy of patronage. When innocently asking where I might see a wreath flower (they are a flower which naturally forms itself in a circle like a wreath – particularly appealing to those with a morbid interest in death) at the local coffee shop in Morowa I was told that there were some in the area but the person who knew was at the information office. 
At the information office I was advised, and this is verbatim, to "drive down the main street until you see the road that crosses over the railway line, drive across the line and past the Police Station and Fire Station (or is it the SES), turn right at the next road, continue up past the sheds for a couple of hundred yards [metres haven't arrived here yet] and you'll see some beside the road". Absorbing the instructions I headed off and three minutes later, having noticed a sign reading "Wreath Flowers" on a fence, I found the plant. 
Morowa also publish a leaflet titled "Morowa Wildflower Drives" which, if you were thorough, could keep you in the area for a couple of days.
At the next town, Mingenew (which, for lovers of Australian Big Things now boasts the Big Wheat Stalk – known locally as "Big Ears") the information centre provides both a map and a list of locations with details like "20 km on the Pingelly road on the left hand side there are some excellent wreath flowers". And at Watheroo there's a wonderful local mud map with wryly enthusiastic comments like "Heaps of banksia, grevillea, snake bush etc along the road" and, getting quite technical "Rare and Endangered. E. Rhodantha (rose mallee) Only large patch in the world".
(4) There is a logical route which can be honed or expanded according to the amount of time you want to spend. 
The best starting place, if you want to get a good foretaste of what you are about to experience in the wild, is to visit Kings Park & Botanic Garden in the heart of Perth. Apart from offering sensational views over the Swan River and the Perth CBD the gardens boast a 17 hectare area which has more than 1700 native species of wildflowers. This is, not surprisingly, rather pristine and not very wild but it does allow you to develop a working knowledge of devils pins, kangaroo paws, desert peas, everlastings, starflowers, grevilleas, firebush, a range of orchids and hundreds of other natives. 
You really don't need to be a flora expert. All you need are your eyes and a sense of wonder because the Western Australian wildflowers in spring really are as remarkable and significant as a unique part of Australia as Uluru, the Great Ocean Road or Cradle Mountain. 

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was home to the Nyaki-Nyaki Aboriginal people.

* The area was first explored by Surveyor General J. S. Roe in October 1836 when, in his travels beyond the Avon Valley, he camped a few kilometres north of the present townsite.

* By the 1840s there were shepherds and sandalwood cutters in the area although there was no permanent settlement until the 1860s.

* By the 1860s there were a few isolated farm in the district.

* In the 1890s the premier, Sir John Forrest, instituted programs to bring settlers to the area - this gave settlers 1,000 acres (445.5 ha) and they had to build fences and improve the land.

* In 1907 Joseph Martin and John Henry Cooke set up camp and this was the beginning of a township.

* In 1911 a severe drought led to the sinking of wells in the district.

* Frank Lodge arrived in 1911 and introduced corn dolly making to the district. He continued plaiting until his death in 1962. 

* The railway from Wyalkatchem was gazetted in 1917. A siding named Koorda was built.

* By 1917 there was a general store, post office, blacksmith, butcher, baker and greengrocer in the town. A hall was built by the settlers that year.

* The Koorda Road Board was instituted in 1928.

* In 1935 a larger railway dam and town dam were sunk in 1935-1936.

* 1958 saw the opening to the town's Memorial Hall.

* The local bowling club was opened in 1962.

* The Shire Administration building was opened in 1976.

* In 1982 the local show instituted Australia's first Corn Dolly Festival. 

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Visitor Information

Koorda Tourist Information Centre, cnr Railway and Birdwood Streets, tel: (08) 9864 1219.

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Useful Websites

The official local website is located at http://www.koorda.wa.gov.au

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