Walter John Batten (best known as John) was born on the 15th September 1912 in the village of ‘Churston Ferrers’ in South Devon, England. He was the eldest of six children and migrated to Western Australia in 1931 arriving in Fremantle on the 2nd March at the age of 18. When he left England he was working for under 4 shillings per week and he came to WA to help his Uncle Bert Ackland who was farming Devon Farm at Wandana. The economy at that time was extremely depressed and he worked for very little wages.
In 1934, he purchased his first 1,000 acres of land from Laurie Farrell and during the next few years, he worked with his Chev truck on the Bulk Handling Bins at Mullewa and Yuna in the offseason. In the early thirties, he operated a boring plant for WA Boring Company, working in the Northampton, Miling and Wongan Hills area. John purchased his own boring plant from Ned Higgins during the ’40s and went boring in the Yuna and Binnu area. It was during this time he lost half a finger.
On the 2nd November 1940, John married Florence Evelyn Smith, (always known as Evelyn) in the Methodist Church in Geraldton. Her brother George gave her away and the bridesmaid and best man were Eva and Harry Mounier. John and Ev had six children Shirley, Maureen, Joan, Coraline, Wendy and Peter.
In 1955, John and Evelyn took their young family to England to meet the English relatives. The family spent six months in the ‘old country’. The children have treasured memories of the long boat trip, their schooling at Harrowbarrow Cornwall and feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
John and Evelyn semi-retired from Woodlands Farm in 1974 and moved to 221 Durlacher Street in Geraldton. For a number of years, they still continued to travel to the farm and help out at seeding and harvest time. It was in 1934 that John purchased his first 1,000 acres and 40 years later he and Evelyn had increased the acreage to 8,500. In 1945, they purchased 2,000 acres of partly developed land from George Barker and in 1947, a further two blocks from the ‘Two Franks’ (Cocivera & Pagana).
John and Evelyn were true pioneers of the district. John cleared much of the land with an axe and increasing the arable area was hard work. A team of Italian clearers came to the district and the clearing of land increased more markedly. Some years later Ned Higgins was contracted to chain land and later Ron Smith completed the chaining on Woodlands Farm. Evelyn worked hard beside her husband as they battled the elements of poor rainfall, emus and kangaroos.
From the very humble beginning of a bough shed as their home, John and Ev were justifiably proud when they saw the completion of a new homestead on Woodlands Farm in 1975. By the end of 1978, they had 15 grandchildren of which they were equally proud.
John gave service to the community in many areas. The Upper Chapman Road Board where he instigated the purchase of land on the coast to become Drummond Cove. He became President of Chapman Valley Shire in 1972 and in 1977 was presented with a certificate from the WA Government for 19 years service to Local Government.
Peter John Batten completed Grade 6 at Yuna Primary School and in 1962, started his senior schooling at Guildford Grammar School in Perth. Woodlands Farm seemed a long, long way away! Peter came home to work on the farm in 1965. It was an extremely wet harvest and the tractor and header were bogged many times.
In 1970, Peter married Pamela Joan Carrott and they have four children, Fiona, Tammy, Jason and Kim. In August 1984, Peter, Pam and their four children travelled to England to meet some of the English relatives for the first time. Once again Batten children enjoyed feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. In 1988 the Batten Family purchased the adjoining property from Dereck and Pat Farrell. This increased the Woodlands Farm holding to over 13,000 acres making the farming enterprise more viable. In 1994, after finishing his Guildford Grammar schooling, Jason came home to the family farm. In 1996, Kim also decided farming was worth a go and Peter enjoyed the challenge of working with his two sons and passing on his knowledge.
Jason married in 1999, Kim in 2001, Fiona in 2003 and Tammy in 2009. Peter and Pam feel blessed to now have eight grandchildren to enjoy. In 1998, the Batten family decided to diversify and introduce the South African Dorper sheep to Woodlands Farm. The Douwana Dorper Stud was registered the following year and so began the exciting challenge of embryo transplants, selling semen, artificial insemination and setting up a feed lot for the quick turnover of lambs. The diversification, along with its challenges has been rewarding for the Batten family.