Walpole and Districts
Walpole township lies within the boundaries of the Shire of Manjimup, which is centred around Manjimup town 120 km to the northwest of Walpole. Walpole's sister settlement Nornalup lies within the boundaries of the Shire of Denmark, which is centred around Denmark town 66 km to the east of Walpole.
This relative isolation has fostered a spirit of self-reliance and self-determination among the residents of the area. Thus the Community Opportunity Workshop in 2000 defined Walpole and Districts as being the Nornalup/Kent Ward of the Shire of Denmark and the Walpole Ward of the Shire of Manjimup.
In regional terms Walpole and Districts encompasses southern parts of the "South West" and western parts of the "Great Southern", from the Shannon River to Kent River.
Consider these facts (and claims):
- The populations of the Walpole and Nornalup/Kent Wards are less than 500 residents, yet more than 250,000 tourists visit the area each year
- The wettest and greenest town in Western Australia, Walpole enjoys a mild climate with average minimum-maximum temperatures of 5°-15° Celsius in winter and 10°-25° Celsius in summer.
- Walpole and Districts is said to have the cleanest air in the world
- The Deep River is said to be the most pristine river in Australia
- Walpole and Districts is home or adjacent to some 10 national parks, including the rich Walpole-Nornalup Inlets Marine Park, the legendary Valley of the Giants and the iconic Tree Top Walk.
No wonder then that the WA State Government (with broad local support) is considering nominating the "Walpole Wilderness" for listing on the National and World Heritage registers.
Established in 2004, the Walpole Wilderness area is an international biodiversity hotspot, protecting the threatened habitats of endemic flora and fauna. The ancient area is also recognised for it’s rich Aboriginal heritage.
Walpole Wilderness incorporates Walpole-Nornalup, Mount Frankland, Shannon, Mount Frankland (South and North), Mount Roe, and Mount Lindesay national parks, the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park, as well as a range of conservation areas and nature reserves. Nearby are the William Bay and D’ Entrecasteaux national parks.
Walpole Wilderness features a vast, natural landscape incorporating the very essence of Western Australia’s southern forests and coastline: majestic jarrah, tingle and karri forests; imposing granite peaks; tranquil rivers, wetlands and inlets; sheer coastal cliffs; picturesque beaches; and the rich Southern Ocean.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW), the Walpole Nornalup & Districts Community Development Group (CDG), the Walpole CRC and the wider Walpole and Districts community are broadly in support of National and World Heritage listing and are conscientiously laying the foundations for this process to advance.
History of Walpole and Districts
Nyoongar people have long referred to the Walpole and Districts area as Nor-Nor-Nup, the place of the norne, or black snake, which explains how the Nornalup settlement and Nornalup Inlet got their names.
Sealers and whalers were the first Europeans to arrive on Walpole’s coast by sea in the early 1800s. In 1831 Captain Thomas Bannister stumbled upon the Walpole River when he was exploring an overland route from the Swan River colony to Albany. Governor James Stirling named the river in honour of Captain W Walpole with whom he served on the HMS Warspite in 1808.
The early explorers' glowing reports of sheltered inlets, huge trees, and deep rivers brought William Preston and his party to officially explore the Walpole area in 1837. Five years later William Nairne Clark and his party rowed into Nornalup and described the areas around the Deep River and the Frankland River:
“The sail up was truly delightful. The river actually appeared to be embosomed amongst lofty wooded hills with tall eucalypt trees close to the water’s edge and crowning the summits of these high hills thus casting a deep gloom over the water and making the scenery the most romantic I ever witnessed in the other quarters of the globe."
In 1910 the Western Australian Government set aside land in the Walpole area as a national park, which was the spark for a small but thriving tourism industry that continues to this day. (Other industries have come and gone, including whaling and sealing!)
Permanent settlement also commenced in 1910 when Frenchman Pierre Bellanger and his family took up land beside the Frankland River. The next year an English family, the Thompsons, settled at Deep River.
Initiated by then WA Premier Sir James Mitchell, Walpole and districts was opened up for agriculture through land settlement schemes in 1924, 1927 and 1930; to foster an agricultural community that would contribute to the rural economy of WA and create livelihoods for unemployed men and their families affected by the Great Depression.
In 1930, a year after the railway line reached Nornalup on the Frankland River, the Nornalup Reserves Board proposed the development of an area for holiday cottages 13 km downstream of the railway terminus, on the Nornalup and Walpole Inlets.
The decision to build a tourist town coincided with the 1930 farm settlement scheme during which applicants lived in a makeshift tent, tin and bush-pole shanty on what is now Walpole's Pioneer Park. Under the scheme blocks of 120 acres (47.6 hectares) of forested land were allocated to each applicant by a ballot. Then began the hard work of clearing, fencing, building a home, and carving an existence from the land.
Meanwhile, in 1932, a site nearby the pioneers' campsite on the northern shores of Walpole Inlet was selected for the holiday houses, lots for which were surveyed in 1933.
When the townsite was gazetted in 1933 the preferred name "Walpole" was rejected in favour of "Nornalup" as it was believed "Walpole" had already been used in Tasmania. Confusion was nevertheless inevitable as Nornalup was already associated with the railway terminus on the Frankland River 13 km to the east. A number of alternative names were considered before the Post Office confirmed in 1934 that there was no Walpole in Tasmania and thus the township was renamed.
Infertile land, indomitable forests, lack of farming skills, and the hardship of the 1930s depression beset the farm settlement schemes. Of the 100 farm blocks balloted, only 85 were settled, and less than a third of the original families stayed on.
Fortunately the stunning natural beauty and mild climate of Walpole and Districts continues to draw holiday makers, tourists, and travellers from WA and beyond, especially in the height of summer when the population of the town swells two-, three-, four- or more-fold.