After a warm and sunny welcome to New Norcia we were surprised on this day to awake to heavy rain. Nevertheless Ray ploughed out into the red mud to get to Mass at the Abbey Church. The service was simple, peaceful and very beautiful.
After our continental breakfast in the dining room we spent the morning at the Museum and Art Gallery. New Norcia has the largest collection of religious art in regional Australia. This was a good way for us to get a handle on the history of this community and its work amongst Aboriginal people and orphans. The complex was also for many years a major regional education facility and much of the history relates to this aspect of the work of the Benedictine monks and the Josephite nuns. The nuns were led during the early part of this time by Mary McKillop now known as St Mary of the Cross.
We joined a two hour tour of the town. Our intrepid tour guide, Ricki, was a 'no holds barred' interpreter of the life of this community and its personnel, she took us behind the scenes and showed us life for the monks, the nuns and the boys and girls who have been a part of this place.The farm is presently 20,000 acres but this is vastly reduced from he size it once was. Today there are 8 monks only living in the community and one in a northern Aboriginal settlement. They employ in excess of 70 people to run the operation of the'business' which includes the farm (crops and sheep), bakery, brewery, vineyard, olive grove, apiary, the hotel, the roadhouse, the museum and art gallery, gift shop. As well as this schools and other groups use the facilities for camps and conferences.
The National Trust now control a large number of the buildings that are obviously highly valued but require millions of dollars to restore and maintain. One of the biggest issues is traffic on the Great Northern Highway. This goes right through the middle of the town and enables road trains and many heavy vehicles access to northern WA. These vehicles are doing enormous damage to the historic buildings.The irony is that this road was originally built by and for the monks. There are some 45 buildings in New Norcia at one time there were over 80. Central to the community is the Abbey Church it is surrounded by a range of magnificent historical buildings.
We enjoyed a late lunch in the central parkland and did a sketch each before making our way to our very special B&B night at Guildford. Dinner at the Rose and Crown (WAs oldest pub) and pictured below the magnificent breakfast provided for us by our gracious hostess at the Hollies B&B.