Take the reins and follow in the hoof prints of the drovers who made the annual journey to the coast seeking additional pastures for their cattle.
“I’d heard stories about it from dad, about the coast run and I remember I arrived there on horseback with a rucksack in front of me and saddlebags down beside the horse. And all the sand hills [we] had to climb up and over, and all the kangaroos hopping around in the scrub and the plains. It was entirely different from home and I found it very interesting.’
Droving cattle to the coast for summer grazing sounds like a great adventure, but for many farming families, it was their way of life.
Form the beginning of European settlement, colonists raised their farm animals on brush pastures. Lightly grazed, the natural grasses and creepers were able to sustain livestock. The use of bushland areas was regulated by the granting of grazing leases by the state Government.
Many dairy farming families from the south-west took up freehold and leasehold properties on the coast and made the annual journey southwards with up to 300 cattle.
‘Because having the coast, we were able to rest our paddocks in the summer time. We didn’t have the worm problems…. We could probably carry thirty percent more stock because we relieved our pasture in the summer time, and it was just a great situation’.
When the first rains of winter arrived to replenish the farms, the cattle would be brought home- just in time for calving.
The practice of droving cattle to the coast started around 1860 and continued until the latter half of the twentieth century. As forested areas were developed, and traffic increased, droving on the highways became more difficult. Some farmers trucked their cattle to and from their coastal runs while others creased droving altogether.
A change in government policy signaled the end of the droving era. Restrictions on how farmers could manage their coastal land and large areas of land being protected in national parks reduced access to the coast. In the 1980’s, many of the remaining pastoral leases were cancelled. They had to change the way the managed their farms and many diversified into other areas including beef cattle or fruit growing.
Although farmers no longer take their cattle to the coast, you can follow the trail of those that did along the warren Blackwood Stock Route. From here at Bridgetown, you can ride west via Nannup or south via Manjimup and Quinninup to Broke Inlet.