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Manjimup, WA

Fascinating historic timber town

The Manjimup district is a showcase for Western Australia's great timber forests. It is surrounded by huge stands of jarrah and karri. The appeal of the town is that anyone interested in the timber industry in the South West can visit the Heritage Park and learn about the timber industry. And, if they are brave enough, they can climb to the top of the Tall Trees which were used as fire lookouts. Within a short distance of the town there is a tree tower; a superb row of karri trees known as the Four Aces; the One Tree Bridge which was built by felling a single, huge karri tree; numerous timber sawmills and an excellent timber museum. Today the district's principal industries include timber and timber products, fruit growing, vegetable growing, dairying, fat lambs, wool and grain.


Manjimup is located 294 km south of Perth on Highway 1. It is 280 m above sea level.


Origin of Name

The name Manjimup is probably a local Noongar Aboriginal word, "manjin" meaning "rushes near the waterhole" or, as some sources would have it, "edible root of bulrush at watering place".


Things to See and Do

Manjimup Heritage Park
Located on the corner of Rose and Edwards Streets, the Manjimup Heritage Park is an excellent museum and adventure playground which features fascinating displays of local timbers, a special Fire Lookout Tower (this is only 17 m above the ground and it includes a giant slide); an historic village (the Historic Hamlet) with a Blacksmith's shop, an old Police Station and lockup, a one teacher school and an early mill house; and an exhibition of old steam engines at the Steam Museum. There is a particularly impressive locomotive - Locomotive 109 which was built in Manchester, England in 1909 and hauled timber from 1958-1962 for Bunning Brothers, Northcliffe Mill. There is also a Willamette Steam Hauler which was built in Oregon, USA and brought to Western Australia in 1925. And, most impressively, there is a Karri log which weighed 62.26 tonnes and had 51 cubic metres of timber - enough timber to build four medium-sized timber houses. The Power Up Electricity Museum explores the development and impact of electricity in Western Australia with a collection that includes "some of Western Australia’s first generating sets, examples of early electric vehicles and a range of early electrical domestic appliances."
The grounds are ideal for picnics and there are extensive play areas for children. It is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily and from 9.00 am - 3.00 pm on Sundays. It is free. There are admission fees for the Power Up Electricity Museum and the State Timber Museum. For more information check out https://manjimupheritagepark.com.au/attractions.

Pioneer Axeman
Located in Rose Street at the Manjimup Heritage Park is a bronze statue of "The Pioneer Axeman" which, as the sign explains, is "A tribute to the pioneers of the timber industry in the Warren District". Monuments Australia explains that "The requirement for hardwood timber sleepers for the Trans-Australia Railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta led to the opening up of the karri and jarrah forests in the District. In 1911, the Wilgarup Karri and Jarrah Co mill was opened near Jardanup (now Jardee) and State Saw Mill No.1 established in Deanmill." Check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/technology/industry/display/98980-the-pioneer-axeman for more details.

The Apple Picker
The Shire of Manjimup is currently developing a series of Heritage Connections which depict the Heritage of the district. Started in 2008 they include Cattle Trails, Doc Ryan, Cream Truck, Butter Factory and, in the case of Manjimup, the Apple Picker. Located off the Great Western Highway near the Manjimup Farmers Market, this sculpture by Tony Windberg depicts a picker plucking apples. There is detailed signage which explains that the first small orchards appeared around Manjimup in the 1860s and by 1900 apples were being exported to London. Then "in 1956 local orchardists, showing great innovation, built a cool room using layers of jarrah boards and sawdust as insulation. This extended the storage life of their apples by about six months." By the 1980s the delicious Pink Lady apple had been developed in the district by researcher, John Cripps. For more information on this growing collection of Heritage silhouettes check out https://www.manjimup.wa.gov.au/our-places-and-spaces/heritage-connections/Pages/default.aspx.


Other Attractions in the Area

Tree Towers and Diamond Tree Lookout
There were a total of eight Tree Towers dotted throughout the jarrah and karri forests of South West Western Australia. This network of lookouts was established in the late 1930s by the Forests Department so that forest fires could be rapidly detected. 10 km to the south of Manjimup, on the South Western Highway, is the Diamond Tree Lookout.
An information board near the tree points out that "In contrast with the northern forest areas the gentle undulating country and very tall trees of the southern forest offered few vantage points for fire lookouts. To build towers high enough to see over the forest would have been too expensive. An alternative was a cabin built high enough in one of the taller trees. The first Karri fire lookout tower, called Big Tree, was constructed to the west of Manjimup in 1938. By 1952 eight tree towers had been constructed."
The Diamond Tree Fire Tower was built in 1941. The lookout, accessed by a ladder built around the tree, is 49 metres above the ground. For more information check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/diamond-tree. There is an excellent YouTube video of the climb. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkfRHevp8XI.

King Jarrah Track
To the east of the the town (2 km from the highway on Perup Road) is the King Jarrah Track, a 600 m (return) walk through the forest to a jarrah tree which is estimated to be 500 years old, is 47 metres high and has a diameter of 2.69 metres. It was saved from being cut down in 1910 when the government declared it "the property of the crown" literally hours before two axeman planned to turn it into railway sleepers.  Between September and November the wildflowers in the area make the walk exceptionally beautiful. Look carefully and expect to see orchids, coral peas and honey-scented white clemantis. For more information check out https://www.totaltrails.com.au/perup-road-reserve.

Queejup's Birth Tree
Located on the King Jarrah Track, Queejup's Birth Tree (now just a log) honours a local Aboriginal stockman named Queejup who had a significant impact on the pastoral industry around Manjimup. Queejup's Birth Tree originally grew on Balbaraup Road, but was removed during roadworks in 2005. This section of the tree was saved and transported to the track. The sign explains: "The legendary Queejup was a Noongar stockman of special note. He was born under this tree that originally grew on the Balbarrup Road and which once bore the engraving of his initial "Q". His exact birth is a mystery but he is believed to have lived in the later part of the 1800s." Queejup was known for his exceptional skill as a rough rider and horseman. He was said to be able to charm horse spirits.

The Four Aces
'The Four Aces', a row of four huge Karri trees, are located 22 km out of Manjimup on Graphite Road. The trees are nearly 75 m tall and over 400 years old. There is a sign near the trees which declares: "Welcome to the Karri forest. Walk the Karri Glade Path a 15 minute easy grade loop. Karri is one of the largest living things on our planet. One tree can weigh over 200 tonnes, grow to 90 m in height, use 170 litres of water a day, produce 1 kg of honey per season, take nine people holding hands to span its girth, and do it all in 400 years." The Four Aces, an accident of nature, are a truly awesome sight.

One Tree Bridge
At One Tree Bridge, which is 21 km west of Manjimup on Graphite Road, there are a series of displays recounting the history of the area and offering insights into the hardships which resulted when early settlers tried to clear the land and were confronted by giant hardwoods.
The story attached to the One Tree Bridge, as told on these boards, offers an insight into the development of the whole timbered area of the South West.
"For a short time the valley of the Donnelly River provided inspiration for one of Australia's great poets. Adam Lindsay Gordon came to the karri country with his partner Lambton Mount in 1866. Here they bought 20 hectares of land on the eastern bank of the Donnelly River opposite what is now One Tree Bridge. They built a thatched two room slab cottage and became the first settlers in the valley. Gordon then leased 20,000 hectares of the surrounding country known as Mt Lewen Station and drove almost 5,000 sheep to the property from the port of Bunbury. Heavy rain, dense scrub and poisonous forage took their toll over the next couple of years. Like many of those who followed him, Adam Lindsay Gordon left Mt Lewen discouraged and dispirited. Most of the poems that he wrote during his stay were destroyed when he left except for one incomplete manuscript written about a station in South Australia he had visited years before. He has been remembered in the Manjimup area in the names of roads and forest plants.
'Until 1904 the only way across the Donnelly River near here was a hazardous natural rocky ford about 500 m upstream of the present bridge. The opening of the graphite mining venture demanded a safer crossing. Hubert and Walter Giblett located an enormous Karri tree and using their skill as axemen felled it so it dropped across the 25 metre wide river to form the basis of a bridge. The superstructure was hewn from nearby jarrah trees - crosspieces or bolsters were cut and set into the karri log then slabs of jarrah were laid across each end of the bolsters. Finally hand hewn jarrah decking was laid naturally resting on the slabs to provide a non slip surface for horses and bullocks.
"In 1933 during a bushfire the top of a burning blackbutt tree fell onto the bridge setting alight the hewn jarrah decking. The decking was replaced with sawn jarrah planks placed lengthwise on the log as you can see them today. Curbs and rails were also added for safety. The bridge was finally declared dangerous in 1943 but no alternative crossing was provided for local farmers until a second bridge was opened downstream in 1948.
"On the particularly wet and stormy winter of 1964 the old log bridge broke and fell into the river. Lack of central support, the uneven unprepared foundation under its western end, and use by heavy equipment such as bulldozers all undoubtedly hastened the bridge's demise.
"The Forest Department's Glenoran work gang pulled the old bridge out onto the west bank in 1971 where they faithfully rebuilt the structure. The rebuilt section is only 17 metres long because a section broke off in the storms of 1960. After more than 80 years of use and weather the log is still sound - testimony to the great strength and hardness of karri.
"Graphite was first found near the Donnelly River by a shepherd minding Adam Lindsay Gordon's sheep. In 1904 H J Saunders opened the mine and the first 65 tons of ore was shipped to New York. All companies that tested it declared it too fine grained and the flakes too resistant to concentration to be commercially useful. This was the start of a great swindle. In 1916 a glowing prospectus was circulated amongst investors in London. For an investment of £8000 investors could expect an estimated profit of £1.5 million. The prospectus waxed lyrical about the quality of the ore. 70,000 tons in sight of finest quality graphite, 95% pure carbon (in fact the average carbon content was 29.3%), only three miles from the nearest railhead (in fact 30 miles through dense karri scrub to Bridgetown), the Western Australian government had been buying from this deposit for years (it had never bought any though it tested a sample once and found it useless). Consulting Engineers Lecherich, Gibson and Christie were sighted as authors of the exploration report (they denied having written it), the graphite lease has changed hands many times since then. No one has had much success with it."
All that is left now is a pleasant picnic spot and the remnants of the huge tree which served the area so well for so long. Adam Lindsay Gordon's cottage is long gone and the graphite, well, it was never really there in the first place.

History of the Groupies
Recognising that Western Australia was being forced to import most of its food the premier, Sir James Mitchell, implemented a Group Settlers scheme designed to give people pieces of land upon which they could grow fruit and vegetable and graze cows. Immigrants, mostly from Britain, were encouraged to sail to Western Australia and take up land. Some were even offered paid passages.
By 1924 a total of 3,399 men, women and children had arrived from Britain.
Groups of up to 20 men – all working under a foreman – were sent into the bush to clear the land and make simple houses for their families. 160 acres were provided for each family but the men had obligations clearing the land.
The whole program was dishonestly advertised in Britain. The immigrants – they had applied in their thousands – found that they were confronted with corrugated iron shacks which were freezing in winter and boiling in summer. By 1924, of the total of 3,399 who had arrived, 1,172 had given up and left. By the end of the 1920s the Western Australian government had poured £8 million into the scheme. By 1930 it was abandoned.
Sir James Mitchell became known as “Moo Cow” Mitchell because he insisted that the settlers, once they had cleared the land, focused on developing dairy herds. They were producing 20,000 gallons of milk and by 1927 only 8,000 gallons were needed for local consumption. By the time the scheme collapsed it was estimated that the state had lost £3 million – some put it as high as £6.5 million.
At One Tree Bridge, 20 km from Manjimup, there is a sign which describes the problems experienced by 'The Groupies'.
“In 1920 One Tree Bridge bore witness to one of Western Australia's more disastrous land settlement schemes. The Group Settlement Scheme was set up by the Western Australian Government after World War I to resettle returned soldiers and immigrants. Part of the idea was to give Western Australia's rural economy a boost by opening up more land for agriculture.
“Twenty families of Group 10 settled the land near One Tree Bridge. They lived in rough temporary huts provided by the Government until 25 acres of each family's ballot-allocated 100 acres was partially cleared. Then they could move to their respective blocks and get down to the serious business of farming.
“Clearing took 6 months, the bush was thick and the trees enormous. Most of the group settlers had no experience of farming and very little bushcraft. With only crosscut saws and axes they were faced with clearing some of the world's biggest trees from their land. Many group settlers left unable to handle the conditions and meet the repayments on their land and equipment and the loans they had to take out to buy stores. Those that stayed the longest scratched a living from dairy produce as they struggled to clear enough of their land to farm. The great depression of the 1930s heralded the end of most of the Groupies. The price of butterfat collapsed and their main source of income disappeared.”



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Noongar Aboriginal people.

* The Manjimup district was first settled in 1856 by the timber cutter Thomas Muir.

* Charles Rose and Frank Hall settled in the area in 1859.

* Thomas Muir was followed in 1862 by George and Sarah Giblett who built at Balbarrup to the east of Manjimup.

* A resident, J. Mottram, named his home Manjimup House in the 1860s.

* In 1863 a local creek was named Manjimup Brook.

* In 1866 Adam Lindsay Gordon, a famous poet, arrived and settled in the area.

* In 1898 a government report noted that there was good land in the area.

* By 1902 lots were being surveyed in Balbarrup.

* Manjimup was gazetted in 1903. 

* In 1904 the graphite mine at Donnelly River was opened. The first shipment was sent to New York.

* In 1909 a railway was built between Bridgetown and Wilgarup.

* A new town of Manjimup was declared in 1910.

* In 1911 the railway from Perth reached the town.

* The name of the town was changed from Manjimupp to Manjimup in 1915.

* The district saw its population increase dramatically when it became part of the less-than-successful Group Settlement Scheme in 1920.

* The Group Settlement Scheme had collapsed by 1930.

* A network of Tree Towers were established by the Forests Department during the 1930s. They operated as fire lookouts.

* The first Karri fire lookout tower, called Big Tree, was constructed to the west of Manjimup in 1938. 

* The Diamond Tree Fire Tower was built in 1941.

* By 1952 eight tree towers had been constructed in the area.

* The Pink Lady apple was created by John Cripps in Manjimup in 1973.


Visitor Information

Manjimup Visitor Centre, Giblett Street, tel: (08) 9771 1831.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.manjimupwa.com.

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  • Charles Rose and Frank Hall settled in the area in 1859. John and Anne Giblett then settled in Balbarrup in 1861 not George and Sarah Giblett. George Giblett was John and Anne’s son. Thomas Muir followed with brother from Mount Barker, initially settling near Lake Muir calling the property Deeside.

    T Orso