Walking Tour of Novel Settings

If you are looking for something different to do, go on a walking tour of the locations where some of Elaine Forrestal’s novels are set.

Have a picnic on the grass beside Herdsman Lake. Search for shells (and other things) on the Peasholm Street Dog Beach. Do some detective work and find Lallie’s house.

This article first appeared, as part of a series, in:
CBCA WA Branch (Inc) Newsletter 4/2003 August 2003  p12

Have you discovered?

After visiting The Tea Party (by Shaun Tan) at Subiaco Library, board the train again and travel north towards Glendalough station.

On your left, as you cross the bridge over the Grantham/Vincent Street junction, you will see the vast expanse of Lake Monger and, adjoining it to the west, the sheltered waters of Herdsman Lake.

When your train arrives at Glendalough take a short walk across Harbourne Street and turn left.

Following Jon Sander’s Drive there is an excellent walking path which takes you around Herdsman Lake where Elaine Forrestal’s The Watching Lake (Penguin 1991, Fremantle Arts Centre Press 2002) is set.

While taking in the bird, plant and animal life of the largest wetland in close proximity to a city in Australia, you will pass the Equestrian Centre and the last remaining market garden on the lake.

When The Watching Lake was being written in 1989/90 there was still a market garden, a stone cottage, stables, horse yards and an open paddock where the Floreat Lakes housing estate now stands. But bricks and tiles, which were already rubbing shoulders with those remnants of the lake’s rural past, have now taken them over completely.

Continuing around the lake you will see, on your right, the Churchlands Primary School. Elaine Forrestal taught there for many years and, in her fiction, has drawn heavily on her experiences.

Within the school you will find the Phil Hatton Music Room, named for the music specialist who was involved in the trumpet incident from Someone Like Me (Penguin 1997). Thomas Alexander St John Kennedy and the ‘real’ Tas were both students at the school.

Nearby Churchlands Senior High School, which runs a Special Music Programme and had enrolled a blind student for the first time in 1996, is the place where Tas goes for his Scholarship audition.

Of course Tas and his fictional family live on a farm in the wheatbelt and he goes to school on the bus. There are many small, country towns in WA that could fit the description in Someone Like Me. However, Elaine Forrestal and her brothers went to school for several years in Beverley and Deep Pool, in the Avon River, was where they spent many hot summer afternoons swimming and swinging out over the water on a rope that hung from the branch of a tree, just as Tas and Enya do in the book.

The layout of Churchlands Primary School, especially the oval, the basketball court and the gardener’s shed, is used again in Winning (Penguin 2002) which combines several actual incidents and some of the characters who were taught there by Elaine Forrestal over the years.

After walking west through the magnificent grounds of Churchlands Primary School, Edith Cowan University and Churchlands Senior High School (all on one campus) you will emerge on Hale Road.

If you turn left and continue for a kilometre or two down this road you will find yourself at the beach between North Floreat and Peasholm Street. Leaving no Footprints (Penguin 2001) is set on the Peasholm Street Dog Beach. With its row of sandhills and natural vegetation forming a buffer between the sea and West Coast Highway, this beach can provide amazing opportunities for adventure. You only need to walk along one of its designated pathways for a few minutes and all trace of the city will disappear from sight, allowing your imagination to take over.

When you reach the water’s edge you will, of course, look across to Rottnest Island. You will not be able to see Straggler’s Reef (except on a map) but it is there, mostly hiding just below the surface of the waves, keeping the secrets of its lost treasure from the men and women who have been searching for it, off and on, since 1839.

Elaine Forrestal based her novel Straggler’s Reef (Fremantle Arts Centre Press 1999) on the wreck of a real ship, the Lancier, and the loss of a real treasure.

A painting and details of the wreck can be found in the Rottnest Island Museum. Newspaper articles spanning one hundred and fifty years, reports from the pilot for the Port of Fremantle to the Harbour Master, and other documents relating to the loss of this ship and the rescue of everyone on board after she struck the reef in a terrible storm, are all held in the Battye Library in Francis Street, Northbridge.

Lallie and her dog still live quite close to the Dog Beach in the same house described in Graffiti on the Fence by Elaine Forrestal (Penguin 1999) but you will have to do your own detective work (after reading the dedication – and the book) to find it.