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The ride into Wooleen was some of the most brutal country we have seen yet, even to our untrained eyes. Denuded of grasses and undergrowth, the low Mulga scrub battles to find water and hold onto red topsoil which blows in Willy willies across the road. This is Western Australia’s pastoral country, which is why the land looks so robbed. 75 years of mismanagement has contributed to a landscape that is clutching for air. This is the back-story of Wooleen. 100 this year, the buildings once came from a healthy place. The people (custodians) and the architecture we would come to find is brave, bold, a bit stupid and completely inspiring.
A place is only as healthy as the ground it is a part of, does a healthy place lead to healthy architecture?
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Wooleen, what a place and what people. A quick hard lesson in how place effects buildings. The better the place, the better the buildings. CLICK THE IMAGE for the full zine
• Traditional Owners = Wajarri Yamatji People
• Murchison Biogeographic Region
• Month avg temps; jan max - 39.3 | jul min - 6.4
• Mean annual rainfall: 236.9mm
• Population: 2
• Elevation: 295m
• The station covers 380,000 acres, with the homestead hitting 1/4 acre itself
• All stations in WA are ‘pastoral leases’, leased from the Commonwealth Government with imposed restrictions on what can be carried out on the property
• The barrel vaulted corrugated iron sheds on Wooleen are only found in the Murchison area. Nowhere else in the world. we have been told the curved section at the bottom is to redirect wind during cyclones.
Wooleen is part of an on-going project to rejuvenate the landscape so that it can have cattle running on it for the next 1000 years. These seeds are a small way visitors can be part of this process.
Wooleen doesn’t have a garbage truck coming to get it’s waste. So it has it’s own tip. It is amazing how quickly you have to come to terms with your own waste when you have to pile it up. This is a memento from the tip…or as it’s otherwise known, open air storage.
We had spent some pretty hot days (47 deg C) on the rode getting to Wooleen. Sometimes it felt like you were going a little crazy so when we got to the homestead and Francis (the owner) offered us a sit down and a beer we couldn’t be happier.
Francis met us as we rode in and instantly put us at ease in the homestead kitchen. She is one of the pair who are repairing 380,000 acres of rangelands. The afternoon we arrived she took us on a quick tour of the property to give us the lay of the land and introduce us to the magnificent Wooleen.
Obviously no station is complete without some extra sets of ears.
Inside the homestead was an amazing vaulted space. This style of free spanning corrugated iron vaults are particular to the Murchison area. Alf Couch was the local builder responsible for their construction (and as far as we can find, their design). The height of these amazing spaces creates a 20 degree temperature difference between the ceiling and the floor.
The homestead is over 100 years old and in pretty good condition. Concrete blocks were made on site for it’s construction, it shades this thermal mas with verandah’s all the way around. It can get oppressively hot out here with only mild winters. Heat is the big design factor. It is even orientated to capture the ocean breezes from a couple of hundred kilometers away.
We were lucky enough to see this beauty. The shearers kitchen. An outstanding structure whose rustic elegance sits effortlessly in the ruins of the it’s surroundings. The flammable part (the stove) is made of stone.
Note the curve at the bottom of the roof. This, we are told is to kick wind up and over, allowing this building to survive cyclones.
Oh my. A cathedral of corrugated iron. Fuck me.
A nationally significant wetland, this ephemeral lake attracts many migratory birds when it fills up. Before Dave and Francis took over Wooleen this lake was dirt. They have nurture the native grasses to grow back covering the lake and allowing the river to flow clear once again.
Dave and Francis have started a “seed nursery” to try and re-grow some of the once abundant grasses which are not only good for the landscape but good for cattle. Here you can see Dave holding the first ribbon grass shoot that has successfully sprouted.
Note the concrete channel for blood to drain away to the tree behind Owen
The workshop at Wooleen has three vaulted roofs. This is what the junction looks like from underneath
Note the timber used to tie the corrugated iron into the stucture below.
At this moment Bobbie, whilst laughing and taking a photo had a burr in her shoe, which was now deep in Owen’s shoulder.
The height of ceilings makes a big difference to the temperature of a space. We found this out by measuring temperatures across the continent. Bobbie here is using the stick and arm technique.
This was our home for the week we stayed at Wooleen. Thanks massively to the generosity of Francis and David.
Wooleen has strong ties to the aboriginal mob who live in the area and many used to live on the property. Here is a bough shade verandah lean-to on one of the shacks. We were told that this was the preferred shade.
The building behind Owen was the original house on the station. Made from local rocks, it again uses high thermal mass to try and stay cool.
The timber used at Wooleen, much locally sourced is holding up incredibly well to the dry heat. Whilst plywood delaminates and other timbers crumble away, the hard slow growing timbers have lasted up to 100 years. Perhaps the best timber to use is just outside.
If you have never mapped the sun, we recommend it. Place a stick in the ground then put a rock at the end of the sticks shadow every hour. It’s amazing what you learn.
Budara, an ancient, sacred and life saving place. Indigenous Mobs guided early whitefellas here, leading them to water and saving their lives.
A special place to watch the sun disappear over the horizon.
These two are doing incredible work. Mammoth in scale, staggering in vision and humble in the day to day. Go and visit this incredible initiative. Thanks you two!
As we were riding out, Dave wanted to test out his new drone so they followed us the the main drag and took some amazing shots that put the country and yourself into perspective. If we saw this before riding I am not sure we would have left. See if you can spot two cyclists.
We had to finish a few bits of work off so commandeered the disabled toilet one night to enjoy the nice yellow light and use their power point.
We are getting close to the coast. SHARKS!
This was out favorite tree for shade most of the way across the country. However as the country god more worn out the shade from the same tree got worse.
Every afternoon. Juicy, sweet, the kick you need to do the last 20 kms.
For the first time in 10 months we see the ocean! there might have been a couple of tears….
This part of the country the desert meets the sea. Our understanding of the coast was from the east side and we were taken aback by this barren coastline.
Take what you can get.