The Lions Dryandra Woodland Village has celebrated a golden milestone of 50 years with members, volunteers and environmentalists sharing special memories and achievements from over the decades. Two hours southeast of Perth, on the Wandering Narrogin Road nestled in 28,000ha of woodland lies the village, declared opened in front of 1000 people on October 29 in 1972 and to this day is considered a valuable and diverse conservation area attracting thousands of visitors to the region. About 70 Lions members and other key people who have been involved in the project celebrated and reminisced over lunch last month with photos and archives bought out for the occasion. Village director Bob Whitney has been involved since 2006 and said it was great to reach five decades. “It’s been extraordinary, a lot of money, a lot of effort and lots of changes have been put in place,” he said. Lions secured a lease from the then Forests Department in 1972 after it was approached by the Narrogin and Scarborough clubs. The story of Dryandra began in the early 1920s when a mill was set up within the woodland to produce the highly sought-after wandoo and mallet timber. Vast areas of the native forest were cleared to make way for brown mallet trees, wanted for its tough, resilient wood ideal for tool handles and fence posts and its bark known for high tannin content which could be used to cure leather. To support the mill a small settlement was established in 1926 to house the workers and their families. However, the market for the timber began to decline, because the trees were taking too long to grow, impacts from World War II and the introduction of vinyl plastics, the mill was forced to close in the 1960s and was left deserted for years. The village started with nine cottages which have been refurbished over time with Lions adding three Nissan Huts, converted into dormitory accommodation, and a commercial kitchen with dining room for groups and schools. Congelin and Gnaala Mia Campground also have campsites suitable for tents, camper trailers and caravans. Cuballing resident Yvonne McDougall was in her 20s when she attended the official opening 50 years ago and the area has held a special place in her heart. The now 76-year-old said she had a wealth of memories from taking village bookings before there were caretakers to watching her children explore the bush. “It’s just the memory of fellowship of all the different Lions clubs and all the people involved over the years,” she said. “Our children are in their 50s now and have grown up knowing Dryandra and pedalled every bush track out there, during their childhood they spent a lot of time out there.” McDougall Hall was named after her husband Gordon and the couple felt “absolutely wonderful” about reaching the milestone. “It’s a really big achievement for the clubs, one improvement is not having to go outdoors for the toilet because now all the cottages have indoor toilets,” she said. “It’s just a peaceful, wonderful time (out there).” Mr Whitney said patronage consisted of people returning time after time. “Once having visited, even if only for a few days, the draw of the village and the surrounding woodland is too hard to resist. Lions have kept all cottages in good condition albeit of a basic nature,” he said. Highlights of staying at the village include access to several walk trails and visiting Barna Mia, a sanctuary for endangered native marsupials where people can interact with bilbies, boodies and other species in a natural setting. Mr Whitney said some holiday-makers preferred to sit on a cottage front veranda overlooking a large paddock home to mobs of kangaroos. “Birding groups from all over the world visit due to the abundance of bird life in the area. At night, visits by possums are regular and the night sky, free from ambient light is just spectacular,” he said. In 2010, the village won a heritage award for outstanding contribution to heritage by a non-profit community-based organisation. The village is run by a board representing WA Lions clubs and looked after by caretakers Les and Julie.