Submitted by Paul Mutton
The Roleystone Hills area contains many great bush reserves, but a real gem among them is the Roley Pool Reserve. This reserve follows the Canning River along the steep sided Canning Valley for two kilometres between Heritage Drive and the Soldiers Road Bridge.
The reserve contains a thriving colony of Quendas (Western Brown Bandicoots), as well as Brushtail possums, Western Grey Kangaroos, and if you are lucky you may even see a native Water Rat which can usually be distinguished by a white tip to its tail.
The water is home to at least four native species of fish: Western Minnow, Pygmy Perch, Nightfish, and Freshwater Cobbler, as well as the introduced Mosquito fish and Carp. These feed on the native glass shrimp that can be seen in the shallows, as well as gilgies and juvenile marron.
The picturesque valley reserve, with attractive stony outcrops and permanent flowing water also has some of the oldest history of European settlement in Western Australia. The area was settled by Captain Charles Churchman in 1831. The original Albany coach road, surveyed in 1836, followed a well worn Aboriginal path up the valley from Kelmscott and along the reserve. In those days, when journeying to towns in the south west coaches were required to cross the Canning River at a ford where the Thompson Road Bridge presently lies and then traverse the hills to join up with what is now the South West Highway. The old ford was also the site of the first staging post for horse drawn carts on their journey from Perth to Albany. It later became the homestead site for the Buckingham family after they bought all 5559 acres of Roleystone from the late Churchman estate in 1856. The Buckinghams at times helped Joseph Bolitho Johns, otherwise known as Moondyne Joe, (Western Australia's own bushranger) who at times used the rocky outcrops along the reserve as shelter and protection.
The core of the reserve is the Roley Pool itself, which is a pretty natural pool that is accessed by steps from Collins Road. This is the original Roleystone swimming hole, and was a popular swimming place for Roleystone residents from the early 1900's.
In its heyday in the 1920's, Bert Collins would spent every Saturday afternoon teaching young people swimming and lifesaving at the pool which in those days was provisioned with change rooms and a fine diving board. For many many years it was the summer social scene not only for Roleystone residents but for the wider community. At the beginning of summer each year there would be community members taking out the rocks that had been rolled into the pools during the winter flow plus other debris therefore making it safe for all to swim in during the summer season.
Now the river and its banks have changed a lot from the days of Bert Collins swimming classes. The construction of the Canning Dam in 1940 moderated the natural winter floodwaters and the damming of adjacent tributaries and springs which naturally kept the water flowing all summer. Although it still retains a magic charm, the deep Roley Pool has now filled with sediments to waist height. The last time the river flooded during winter was in 1974, the last year that the Canning Dam overflowed. Since the damming of the last major tributary springs in the late 1980's the only water source the river has to maintain its summer flow is a staged release by the Water Corporation of treated Perth drinking water which is released through a pipe in the Araluen Botanic Park.
The Department of the Environment currently has a project which is to ascertain the ecological water requirements of the Canning River. This will involve controlled additional water releases during winter.
The natural vegetation along the banks became very badly degraded over the years due to infestations of weeds such as bamboo, blackberry, and Watsonia. In the 1990's, the beauty of the area and its degradation prompted the Armadale Gosnells Landcare Group (AGLG) to take up the restoration of the reserve in partnership with the City of Armadale and the Swan River Trust and it became their key project area. This work continues to this day, as the group works its way along the banks removing infestations of introduced weeds and replanting the area with a diverse mix of native plants.
The reserve needs more help from volunteers to restore and encourage the native vegetation and fauna, maintain walking trails, and generally care for the reserve. If you are interested in helping maintain and improve this reserve by participation during activity days during the year, have some good ideas for the reserve, or even know of some more old history (including Aboriginal history) please contact Paul Mutton on 0400521184.