Beverley natural pool restored

Kate RastonCountryman
Lisa Blanch, Greg Atwell and NRM's Greg Warburton.
Camera IconLisa Blanch, Greg Atwell and NRM's Greg Warburton. Credit: Kate Raston/Countryman

One of Beverley's former iconic sites is slowly being restored to its former glory, but it's not the local bank or town hall.

A permanent water pool along the Dale River once served as the town's swimming pool and was even popular among trout fishermen.

Locals joke it was also the place where half the population was conceived.

The State Government declared the area a reserve during World War II in order to provide an alternative water source if Mundaring Weir was ever attacked.

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Decades of neglect has seen the pool and its surrounding bushland become overtaken with weeds and vermin.

The problem bothered a group of landholders so much they took it upon themselves to rehabilitate the area.

The Friends of the Dale was formed in 2011 and has since won $20,000 in grants.

Its members have spent countless hours planting trees, building fence lines and baiting for rabbits and foxes.

The project has also captured the heart of many in the Beverley community, with the local Men's Shed working closely with students from the school to build nesting boxes.

About 60 boxes have been installed to help attract native birds to the area, 20km south west of Beverley.

Greg Atwell's farm surrounds the 38 hectare reserve and he helped form the group in 2011.

"Our motivation was really to save Reserve Pool and its surrounding bushland," Mr Atwell said.

"Things got really bad as sediment continued to fill up the pool and it was becoming smaller and smaller.

"Thankfully the State Government stepped in and employed contractors to dredge out the pool about three years ago, and removed more than 7000 tonnes of river sand."

A mountain of sand still sits by the river, testament to how choked up the pool had become.

"Since the removal of the sediment, we can see invertebrates starting to return and it once again has become a popular swimming hole for the town," Mr Atwell said.

"Our next step is to organise proper access, so vehicles don't further damage the area."

In the past three years, Mr Atwell has sub-divided his farm and sold to hobby farmers who have now also taken up the cause.

"The community response has been amazing," Mr Atwell said.

"We have four families that have built sustainable homes powered by solar near the river, who actively help to manage the area."

Also helping co-ordinate work was Greg Warburton, from natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM.

Funding from both Wheatbelt NRM and Greening Australia, courtesy of the Australian Government's Caring For Our Country program, has helped in the planting of more than 18,000 native trees and shrubs.

"This year we are now keen to do a botanical survey of the area to see if baiting has made any difference," Mr Warburton said.

"One of the biggest problems was rabbits ring-barking the trees and not allowing the undergrowth to grow."

The swimming hole has become so popular during the summer that it wasn't uncommon to see up to eight or nine cars near the pool.

Lisa Blanch moved about 5km downstream from the pool six years ago and now has a nursery, which has supplied some of the trees planted on the reserve.

"When we first moved here we started swimming at the pool and very soon realised the value of the area, and became concerned about its fate," Ms Blanch said.

"The reserve is the only parcel of public land anywhere along the Dale River, all the rest is in private hands.

"If you look at the Avon, there are plenty of places for public access, but as the Dale was never part of the River Training Scheme that so badly affected the Avon, it makes Reserve Pool one of the few places you can see a relatively unaltered West Avon River pool."

The River Training Scheme ran from 1956 to 1972 and resulted in parts of the Avon River being dug out to prevent flooding of the river system.

As a consequence, many of the swamps and river pools along the Avon were lost, resulting in faster water flows that transport more sediment and higher nutrient loads, crippling the river.

Ms Blanch said a Department of Water river recovery plan carried out in 2006 identified the Dale as being the last relatively fresh river in the central agricultural area.

"Once sheep were removed from the reserve, we started to see the native peas regenerate, and the nesting boxes are already providing a habitat for the smaller native birds, away from the parrots," she said.

"It hasn't been all plain sailing though, with many trees that we planted in 2011 not surviving because it was such a dry year.

"But the trees we planted this year appear to have survived.

"Just having the reserve fenced off and the signage will help protect the area, try and stop people lighting illegal fires, stop the off-road vehicles and hopefully the littering."

Once sheep were removed from the reserve, we started to see the native peas regenerate, and the nesting boxes are already providing a habitat for the smaller native birds, away from the parrots. Lisa Blanch

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