Woodanilling covers an area of 1,126sq km and is located 252km south of Perth on the Great Southern Highway (State Route 120) 199km north east of Albany. The township has a population of approximately 423 and was named after a natural spring in the Boyerine Creek, about 1km south of the town. This spring once flowed into Round Pool, a gathering place for the area’s early pioneers.
The first known exploration of the Woodanilling district was in 1830/31 when Captain Thomas Bannister led an overland expedition from Perth to King George Sound. In 1843 Henry Landor and Henry Maxwell Lefroy explored the area while in search of Lake Dumbleyung.
The construction of the Perth to Albany Road (present day Albany Highway) in the early 1850s brought the region’s fine grazing land to the attention of many potential pastoralists. Sheep farmer Elijah Quartermaine was one of the first Europeans to graze sheep and settle in the area in around 1851. By 1860 he had built a homestead at Yowangerup and with wife Elizabeth, raised 10 children. The family had the largest area of land under lease in the region by the 1870s.
The opening of the Great Southern Railway in 1889 attracted further settlers to the area allowing the Woodanilling townsite to be gazetted in 1892. The railway was instrumental in creating access to markets and although heavily dependent on the sheep industry, the district profited from increased grain farming as well as sandalwood and mallet bark cutting.
During the prosperous times between 1905 and 1920, the Shire of Woodanilling’s population averaged around 800. The town also boasted a number of thriving businesses including a blacksmith, wheelwright, a post office, a barber and five general stores. Woodanilling also had its own hospital, trotting track and railway station. However, the demise of the sandalwood industry, the mechanisation of farm equipment, plagues of rabbits and the Great Depression of the 1930s took its toll and people began to leave the region. By 1984 the community had diminished to 470.
Woodanilling remains a successful grain and sheep farming area and the community spirit, which has long underpinned the town, is very much alive and kicking.
The Woodanilling Pioneer Heritage Trail traces the district’s history and its establishment as a major sheep farming area in the Great Southern. It runs for approximately 200km and offers a pleasant day out with plenty of opportunities for picnicking and wildflower viewing in August and September. The trail begins at Round Pool and ends in the town of Woodanilling. Key sites on the trail include Cartmeticup Baptist Church, Queerearrup Lake, King Rock, Wingedyne Nature Reserve and Martup Pool.
Also of interest are the gnamma holes - natural rock crevices used by Aboriginals for thousands of years as a source of drinking water. When not being used they were carefully covered with flat rocks to protect the water. Guided tours to the gnamma holes can be arranged by contacting the Shire of Woodanilling.
For further information phone the Shire of Woodanilling on (08) 9823 1506 - www.woodanilling.wa.gov.au