Elaine Forrestal

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.