West River farmers Chris and Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers.

West River farmers Jenny and Chris Biddulph swap sheep for wildflowers during annual show

Main Image: West River farmers Chris and Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Shannon Verhagen

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When Jenny and Chris Biddulph bought their part-cleared farm in West River on the edge of the Fitzgerald River National Park in 1979, they knew they had stumbled upon something special.

The couple — both from Wagin farming families — now not only have a passion for sheep and cropping but also for the unique flora and fauna in their backyard.

The national park is part of the internationally renowned Fitzgerald Biosphere which has more than 2000 plant species, about 75 per cent of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Each year it is celebrated during the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival, which the pair are both heavily involved in.

They are not only two of 35 registered pickers — who have collected specimens of almost 700 different species displayed in the town hall — but Mrs Biddulph is the festival’s president and Mr Biddulph sorts the specimens.

“I love plants and as a child around Wagin we were always running around looking at flowers in springtime,” Mrs Biddulph said.

“And when we came to this farm and we cleared it, all of these orchids came up — it was just a magic time.”

Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival president Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers.
Camera IconRavensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival president Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers. Credit: Pictures: Shannon Verhagen

The pair cleared about 50 per cent of their original property, leaving numerous shelter belts, with about 250ha of their now-2500ha farm still virgin bushland and home to an array of species. They have also planted another 200,000 plants — mostly eucalypts — for wind and salinity control.

Despite being “more of a bird guy,” Mr Biddulph — who is heavily involved in Carnaby’s cockatoo surveys — got into plants when Mrs Biddulph first began volunteering at the show.

And with this year’s festivities in full swing, they are taking a “holiday” off the farm to help out at many events over the two-week festival, which ends on Saturday.

Earlier this month, they explored the Jerdacuttup Lakes on a tour with Hopetoun’s John Tucker, along with about 30 keen orchid hunters, where they spotted 15 different species of orchids and myriad wildflowers at a granite outcrop in the reserve.

Hopetoun orchid enthusiast John Tucker and Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival president Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers.
Camera IconHopetoun orchid enthusiast John Tucker and Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival president Jenny Biddulph among the wildflowers. Credit: Picture: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

The show — now in its 39th year — was back in full force this year after a reduced program last year because of COVID.

Visitors from around the globe and across the country travel to the south coast each year to attend the festival and see the region come alive with blooms, booking out accommodation, restaurants and events.

Picker and herbarium committee member Donna Higgins and herbarium manager Rosemary Jasper.
Camera IconPicker and herbarium committee member Donna Higgins and herbarium manager Rosemary Jasper.

But despite the pandemic closing borders to them, it has been just as busy, with several events — including historical, geological and bushwalking tours — booked out weeks in advance.

“It’s great because it means WA people are getting out and having a look at their own country,” Mr Biddulph said.

“Normally we have a majority of interstate or overseas visitors, so it’s quite exciting to have all of WA in our patch,” Mrs Biddulph said.

“It’s great to be a part of it and to show off what we’ve got,” Mr Biddulph added.