Lakes of tranquillity
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
How easy to forget that such solitude can be so easy to find in a certain kind of cultivated nature so close to home.
I was reminded of this on an early Sunday morning when I visited one of Perth’s many picturesque reserves and found nobody for company except kookaburras, magpies, willy wagtails and some of the more than 20 species of waterbirds. Alas, none of the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos native to the area was to be seen.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Perry Lakes Stadium and its associated facilities and amenities were demolished. Residential housing now occupies the Floreat site, which played host to the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games for which the sporting complex was originally built.
But Perry Lakes Reserve, which took something close to its present form at the same time, remains.
7km west of the Perth CBD, the 57ha reserve hemmed in by Underwood Avenue, Perry Lakes Drive, Oceanic Drive, Alderbury Street and Meagher Drive boasts two lakes, a conservation wetland, plenty of lawn, trees and paths, exercise stations and playgrounds, public toilets and picnic areas.
Nearby is Alderbury Street Reserve and the spectacular, wilder bushland conservation area of Bold Park, of which Perry Lakes Reserve once formed a part.
Of course, the reserve’s history stretches far back in time, beyond the building of Perry Lakes Stadium, beyond the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, beyond the arrival at that time of builder Henry Trigg, a future Superintendent of Public Works, and others, including Joseph Perry, who would come to own the land.
For after the Waugal created its lakes, as it did many of the rivers and waterways in the South West of Western Australia, the Wadjuk Noongar, taking advantage of the abundant wildlife, camped and hunted here.
Other histories are remembered in Perry Lakes Reserve. A 1982 sculpture celebrates 75 years of Scouting, as well as acknowledging the 12,000 scouts who camped here in 1979 as part of the global jamboree. (The Cambridge Scout and Guide Hall on Alderbury Reserve was built in 2005.)
So much of Perry Lakes Reserve’s history is therefore shared, communal, and today it’s a popular place for family activities. For many years, the Perth Garden Festival used to be held here, before it moved to Langley Park.
But at this early hour, with the still-weak sunlight streaming through the trees before glancing off the water and the birdsong streaming through the still-crisp air, it’s very much about solitude.
For a detailed history of Perry Lakes Reserve and its surrounding area, see inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au
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