When Caves Road was the fresh fish highway to Perth

From 1914 to 1915 Caves Road was the fresh fish highway taking produce from Flinders Bay to Busselton where it was loaded onto a train bound for Perth.

Built in 1882, Flinders Bay had a 335 metres long 25 metres wide all weather wharf and a customs officer with the settlement at Talamalup, now known as Colour Patch. Former Busselton resident Sid Breeden said this had a little known connection to Caves Road and Busselton. "Frozen Western Australian wild caught fish is a normal expectation today, but 107 years ago everyone depended upon fresh fish," he said. "Caves Road was the route for supplying Flinders Bay fish to the Perth Markets caught by professional net fishermen brothers Ben and Phil Mouchemore and their tight-knit small band of employees."

One employee was Mr Breeden's dad Arthur who was a well known yesteryear doyen, he drove the catch from Augusta to Busselton along the 80 miles Caves Road unsealed coastal track via Yallingup. Mr Breeden said Arthur first drove a 1913 Model T Ford van with solid tyres, then a 1914 Overland car with a sleeve valved engine and high pressured pneumatic tyres. "On arrival in Busselton, Arthur would obtain ice from Fouracre and Wass butchers in Prince Street then after icing he would load the fish onto the overnight train to Perth," he said.

"Becoming bogged or punctured was a part of Caves Road travel and could delay arrival in Busselton. "If Arthur was late the train would wait knowing the importance of South West fresh fish reaching Perth Markets for next morning."

Mr Breeden said later his dad Arthur, Ben Mouchemore and fishing mates Jim Smart and Tom Patterson, enlisted for WWI and their names are now inscribed on the Augusta War Memorial.

"Some may wonder why the inland road then known as Millars Track (now the Bussell Highway) was not used," he said. "This track was not suitable for motor vehicles. "In 1915 Phil Mouchemore took over the horse mail contract between Busselton and Cape Leeuwin via Millars Track and that is another interesting piece of local history."

This story by Emma Kirk was first published in the Busselton Mail on the 20th of May 2020