Picture the scene — the sun has set to your right, the clouds ribbons of pink satin in the azure sky. The peaceful water laps along the rocky shore underneath the jetty. A huge bridge crosses the sky to your right, the opposite bank just a stone’s throw over the water.
You’re standing there with your line in the water, soaking up the quiet and breeze as much as fishing, when suddenly there’s a splash ahead of you in the water and a pair of dolphins breach the surface, arcing back below out of sight.
No, you aren’t at the edge of some idyllic river in New Caledonia or Tahiti. You’re in the humble Peel region. And the water isn’t a river despite appearances — it’s one of WA’s most successful engineering projects — the Dawesville Channel.
For more than 30 years, algal blooms had plagued the Harvey Estuary, the result of years of agricultural runoff. Council worker and Peel resident Michelle Cronin says, “Even here at council it was absolutely foul, the air smelt” she says, “the cut really cleaned the estuary out. Before it used to be all green and it was disgusting.”
What used to be the butt of many a Perth-dwellers joke is now a haven for getting away from the city to fish, swim or dive.
The Dawesville Channel (or ‘Cut’ as it’s mostly known) saved the delicate life of the estuary. Tides couldn’t reach it and provide oxygen and movement and the toxic algae Nodularia was deadly to marine life and humans if consumed.
Opened in 1994 and due for a landscaping facelift worth over $100,000, the Cut has restored the Estuary’s former glory as home to thousands of migrating wetland birds, abundant marine life and of course, the irrepressible dolphins.
More and more city slickers are seeing the benefits as they fish the cut or wade through the estuary with scoop, gauge and esky in hand for an evening of crabbing.
And in line with its ever-increasing reputation as being Perth’s playground, the Peel isn’t just internationally known for it’s fishing.
Dean Stillwell, general manager, Meadow Springs Country Club, explains why golf is so popular in the Peel. “There’s a concentration of top quality courses here,” he says, “that have green fees unheard of anywhere.”
He points out that green fees in the Peel are as little as a third as you’d pay in Perth or elsewhere, and that you’re spoilt for choice. “There’s such a lot to choose from in such a small area,” he says.
Meadow Springs in particular contains the landscapes typical of the region. “Our front nine holes are on rolling meadows, but our back nine are through an ancient tuart forest,” Dean says, “there’s a lot of wildlife. As we like to say, it’s golf as nature intended.”
Golf’s ongoing popularity, Dean says, is because everyone can enjoy it and enjoy it together, no matter how skilled.
“If we play tennis and you’re a pro and I’m just an amateur, we won’t enjoy it because it’ll be no challenge for you.” He says, “Golf is social, but even if you aren’t on an equal footing, you’ll still enjoy it.”
Dean is emphatic about golf’s universal appeal. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, people of different abilities can enjoy it, a husband and wife can play together or a family can play together.
“Golf is a game you can play all your life. In fact it takes a lifetime to learn to play. We have a lot of the elderly down here in Mandurah and you realise when you watch them play that golf is their total social existence.”
And the notion that golf is something your Dad or Uncle plays? “Since Tiger Woods came on the scene a lot more young people are taking it up,” Dean says, “It’s cool to play golf now.”