Australians, especially the blokes, tend to judge a town by its bakery. Forget the scenery, attractions and quaint markets they say; it’s all about the pies and pasties.
It was why a member of the Lycra breed, who had been part of a Tour Down Under challenge event a few years ago, rode his bike from Strathalbyn to Adelaide via the Yankalilla Bakery especially to buy a veggie pasty. Why not?
Point proven some may suggest, but while this beautiful hamlet nestled in a valley genuinely is known for its sensational pies and pasties, it’s the people inside the bakery that make Yankalilla amazing.
The bakery is where many of the 1018 local residents tend to connect to create a remarkable bond of kindness, adding to the opposing argument the real measure of a town is its people. The spectacular entrance to Yankalilla from the Main South Road may hide this characteristic, but it’s there on the regular little hand-written signs on the bakery window providing locals with an update on the latest fundraising mission.
Malcolm Putland, 58, who bought the bakery eight years ago, says the notes of support are not a deliberate campaign; it’s just that in recent years one tragedy, or the need for support, has risen after another, and each time he has been touched by the spirit within this town.
“Over the last four or five years we have had lots of tragedies for people who have lived in the area, especially the loss of a number of family members,” Malcolm (pictured) said. “More recently we had three young people living here whose mother was murdered in Victor Harbor. Without fuss, the community provided funds for the kids to take their mother’s body back to France to be buried.
“Some months back we had an incident at the bowling club when a player stepped on a bowl and fell backwards and broke his leg. He went into shock, and the urgency to be able to provide care he needed wasn’t there. We had this idea to raise money to get a defibrillator, and within days Lions got on board; so too did Rotary and the community.
“All of a sudden we had raised enough to buy eight defibrillators for the region, not just one. I felt good because the fundraising started in the bakery, but it was all these members of the community who never ask for acknowledgement that ran with the project and made it all happen.
“We’ve often have these special people in the town running around cooking and delivering meals for those who need support; all little things, but they are practical and mean so much. People see the need and react.
“It’s just the way this community draws together. It just takes someone to get something organised and everyone falls in behind and does their bit.
“The compassion in this town is not something that visitors would realise nor is it something that we generally talk about, but for those of us who live here it is a constant silent reminder of why we love this town.”
What the tourists do see as they approach the town is this magnificent valley; a connection between a town and a beautiful rural environment. Malcolm refers to it as freedom from the jungle we call the city. Many tourists see Yankalilla as part of their destination. They stop at the bakery in the main street, and move on as far as Cape Jervis to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. They feel the splendor the region has to offer; the amazingly clean beaches that provide a backdrop to the stunning Deep Creek Conservation Park, while others are on their way to play a round of golf on the superb Links Lady Bay course.
For some, the town is special because of the Shrine of Our Lady of Yankalilla. It was said 20 years ago this month that an image became visible on a plaster wall inside the Anglican parish church and was interpreted as the Virgin Mary. There is also a link to Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, through the old schoolhouse, which is claimed as the first place where her Sisters of St Joseph order taught. She opened the school in 1867 with an enrolment of 40 pupils.
The challenge, according to Malcolm, is making Yankalilla the destination, not a thoroughfare.
“Apart from the things we have in our own area like our beaches and so on, as a destination within an hour’s drive from here you have Kangaroo Island, Deep Creek Conservation Park, the south coast with Victor Harbor and Goolwa, the history of Strathalbyn, the wine regions of McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, and within an hour and 10 minutes you are in the centre of the city,” Malcolm said.
“We have a blend of everything, and the challenge for Yankalilla is to maintain that.”
Again, the passion through people who care rises with a group including the local butcher, petrol station man, café owner and of course the baker looking to form a ‘Destination Yankalilla’ project involving a buy-local card with the aim to promote the idea there is an identity to belong to in Yankalilla and use the campaign make people really feel it is a great place to live.
Malcolm likes the old saying about you never knowing what’s around the corner, because around here it’s like that.
“Drive around the region and there are old gold mines, stone cottages that have their charm and history, and the thing I love most is the fact just about anywhere you look from the town you see magnificent gum trees and no two are alike.”
The local tour includes an old rose cottage near Hay Flat Road and Putland’s Hill, named after his ancestors who were among the first families to settle here in the 1850s. Malcolm finds it remarkable they came from England to settle here because they saw the beauty in the stunning views of the beaches and the hills that remains today.
“I was five when my parents moved to Mount Compass, and after living in Mount Gambier for a number of years I came back to the Fleurieu Peninsula in 1984 to run 500 Friesian cows at Parawa,” Malcolm said.
When rheumatoid arthritis curtailed the farming life, and was well again, Malcolm, 58, and his wife, Karen, who is a schoolteacher in Yankalilla Area School, bought the bakery in 2006. “I had an incredible amount of experience in bakeries – the other side of the counter,” Malcolm said. “Besides, I always wanted to come back here to live.”
Malcolm said the community spirit of the people of Yankalilla, Normanville and surrounds extended to supporting local events developed from wonderful people who worked hard to make them happen. He spoke of Nigel and Robyn Burnett, who created and were the backbone of the New Year’s Eve Pageant which has left lasting memories for so many, Billy Peel who started the Yank Cruise where this year thousands of motoring enthusiasts showed off their custom cars, motorbikes and whatever, and the countless people who have been behind the annual Yankalilla Show and the Leafy Sea Dragon Festival, which has now been changed to Festival Fleurieu and will be held in 2015.
“The work all these people and many others do behind the scenes for the community and for those who come to Yankalilla to be part of the events is truly amazing,” Malcolm said. “They never ask for anything, certainly not recognition, but everyone in Yankalilla knows who they are and appreciate them.
“They are all great events because of the work they put in. The events introduce people to the area, and in time they discover what we are like as a town. It’s just getting the people here in the first place.
“Every town has its different characters, and I guess that’s what makes them special. There is a single bloke, almost 80, known as (Brian) ‘Shakin’ Stevens’, who comes into the bakery every morning for his breakfast and then heads off to the showgrounds and looks after the place as if it were his own backyard.
“That’s Shakins’ contribution back to the town, and there are lots like him who do not necessarily do huge things, but they are doing wonderful things.
“There are so many volunteers, local sponsors and supporters behind all the sporting clubs we have.
“Every town prides itself on its footy club, and our lads haven’t been going so well this year. But do you know what? Over a long period of time the years we haven’t done well we have as a club; I mean the club spirit off the field. That’s what matters.
“It’s hard for the club because we don’t have the big businesses to throw in a lot of money to buy players like some other towns, but our local lads give their all.”
By ‘not doing well’ Malcolm meant they had not won a game this season. We saw the lads against Willunga, whom they had not beaten for 15 years, and their big moment was arriving – 23 points up and five minutes to go. They lost by a point.
The dramatic ending for the Tigers was naturally incredibly heartbreaking for them and their loyal fans who stood as one on the sidelines, but they turned up again for the next home game. You should also go to their home games… they play behind the Yankalilla Bakery that sells the world’s best pies and pasties. CL