On Friday 29 Sept, we three intrepid lads (more of “The Last of the Summer Wine” variety) set off to find the Shangri-La of our youth. Well nearly. What we sought was Happy Valley, the most-favoured Fairbridge picnic spot up in the hills. Setting off beyond the Pump House was easy until we encountered the first of many new kangaroo-proof fences (the stiles and old fences are long gone), which we traversed puffing and panting with a variety of difficulty. Is Happy Valley this way or that? We followed some long-entrenched instinct and before too long we sighted our goal. Without the new obstacles the journey would not have been more than half an hour.

Happy Valley today looks much smaller than it did 40-odd years ago but then so does everything. The valley is pristine clean and green, many of the trees on the other side of the valley are gone as is the old tin shed. The levelled off ground where the old tin shed stood is still recognisable though. The really disappointing aspect is the disappearance of the creek at the bottom of the valley – well, there are still a few molecules of water left. And this is just at the end of winter too, when is should be flowing strongly. What little is left of the creek has been dammed a shade downstream to provide water for the cattle I suppose. Still a peaceful and picturesque place with typical Darling Scarp big grey rock formations a little further up the valley.

One of the lads decided to venture further up the escarpment seeking out Basin Pool and he succeeded in his venture but again no water! It’s quite a climb for older legs but Fairbridge Kids of yesteryear would hardly have raised a sweat. It still amazes me that cottage mothers made the trip laden with lunch for 12-or-so plus all the necessary paraphernalia with hardly a blink – as far as Happy Valley anyway.

On the way back we passed the old orchard and market gardens and there are still some old fruit trees there plus many wooden poles that could have supported vines or another fruit. Directional instinct we might still have but who at Fairbridge in the old days would have stood pondering how to get over/under a fence, right on top of an ants nest, long enough for his shoes, socks and legs to become totally covered in big black biting ants?

Still a great view from the top of the hills. Mandurah estuary is easily seen as is Alcoa, and the really visible Fairbridge homing beacon is the new Barbara Rowley Centre! Some photos to appear in the next day or so!