Serendipity

……………according to Dr Google is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

This noun has become a regular part of my vocabulary since undertaking short day trips to outlying townships in line with Health Directives. The Queensland Premier is encouraging residents to support local tourism and to boost small business by visiting rural communities. Only too happy to oblige, Anna…..

With the Lockyer Valley less than 90 minutes drive west of Brisbane I’ve enjoyed exploring some of the smaller townships that don’t receive much publicity – the places Marketing gurus apparently don’t deem worth much exposure. Of course, it’s the little places that have remained relatively unchanged for years that I find so appealing. So turn off the GPS and don’t be afraid to deviate from the main drag. You might even come across some local produce stalls, like I did!

Helidon is one of those “blink-and-you’ll- miss -it” spots famous for what’s underground, rather than above : the internationally renowned sandstone and mineral springs.

There is a walk through town of only two or three streets with markers to highlight significant buildings, including the first bank which now operates as a Bed and Breakfast.

(And there’s also a great little dress shop that’s been operating for 18years though only God knows why. One supermarket, one pub, a community hall, and a frock shop. Bizarre, though I did drop a few bob).

Driving through Grantham with its paddocks full of cabbages you are reminded that the Lockyer Valley is Queensland’s food bowl. Many of the parks in Grantham have been beautified since the 2011 floods which were devastating. Who will forget the images of people being recovered by chopper from the roof of the Grantham Hotel?

Last stop for the day was Pohlmans Nursery at Adare, just outside of Gatton.

Seen one Nursery you’ve seen them all?

Pohlmans are the largest wholesale nursery on the Eastern seaboard, supplying a range of innovatively marketed quality plants to almost 1000 nurseries, garden centres and selected stores across Australia. Seedlings that don’t make the grade for the wholesale side of the business are sold through their onsite Factory Outlet. This obviously changes on a daily basis but look what I picked up for $1!


More little towns to visit next fortnight……

Ulladulla, Books and Empty Esky

My connection with the south coast of New South Wales goes way back. The beautiful coast is an area that was featured on the media over Christmas and New Year because of the apocalyptic bushfires. It was peak tourist season which made it both an environmental and economic disaster.

In normal years Easter would have been the perfect tonic for a semblance of financial recovery as families from Sydney and Canberra flock to the area for school holidays – and Ulladulla’s annual Blessing Of The Fleet celebrations. This is a ceremony which started back in the mid 1950’s when Ulladulla, which means “safe harbour”, was the port for the largest fishing fleet on the south coast and run by Italian immigrants who brought the centuries old tradition over from Sicily.

I have many fond memories of the Blessing Of The Fleet festivities including the year my sister and I were forced to get out of our cossies and to frock up in our Sunday best to meet the Special Navy Guest for the occasion, Admiral Crabbe, whom my  ten year old sister greeted with a “Welcome Admiral Crap”.

2020 has been anything but normal. We spent Easter in lockdown.

Back in the 70’s my Dad won enough money on a galloper named Rajah Sahib to buy a block of land on the hill overlooking Ulladulla harbour. In later years he would wait for the trawlers to return and watch the unloading of their catches from the comfort of his lounge room. Both his and my sister’s ashes were scattered in the ocean just outside the harbour and close to a favoured fishing spot.

Ulladulla, approximately 230 kms south of Sydney, is doing it tough just like so many other townships all along the coast.

Empty Esky is an initiative on social media firstly to promote business devastated by the fires and to encourage visits from tourists when allowed. They’ve highlighted breweries, bakeries, gift shops, jewellers and all manner of local produce to a broad audience.

My money is going to small business this year. I‘m a 1000 kilometres from the south coast so am unable to do much, but I can do a bit……….

………. starting with the Harbour Bookshop in Ulladulla, an independent book store on the highway that runs through the middle of town, which has an easy to manoeuvre website and posts all book orders over $60 at no additional cost. 

Thank you to my two Book Fairies for organising some new books for their old Mo and introducing me to this retail outlet on the coast.

Next month I’ll look into a boutique Gin Distillery I’ve discovered on Empty Esky just a little further down the coast.


S E Qld : Forest Hill

Travel restrictions were eased last weekend allowing Brisbanites to enjoy day trips of up to 150 kms away.

Forest Hill is a township in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, which is renowned as South  East Queensland’s food bowl.

Forest Hill was once home to five hotels, a hospital, a bakery and butcher, and was the largest rail freight hub for agricultural produce in Queensland and a more productive outlet than both the older townships of Gatton and Laidley. It also sits on the Cobb &Co Tourist Drive as a staging post for coach transportation in South East Queensland.

Most of that has gone now though the remnants remain in the form of early Australian architecture and Heritage listed buildings, such as the Lockyer Hotel.

The Forest Hill War Memorial, also Heritage listed, was erected to commemorate those in the district who had died or served in World War 1. It was unveiled by five mothers of deceased soldiers on 26 March 1921.

The old buildings now house Cafes and Gift Shops which make it easy to lose a few hours exploring.

My favourite retail outlet is Queenies, a local co-operative where those with a crafty bent are able to sell their lines. Some wonderful early Christmas shopping was achieved here. Earrings anybody?

Cafe 4342 is located in the original Post Office building and utilises fresh farm produce wherever possible.

During the 2011 Queensland Floods much of the population of Forest Hill was required to be evacuated by helicopter to nearby Gatton to avoid rapidly rising floodwaters. The entire region has also been hit hard by fire and drought so it is well worth the effort to clear your own cobwebs by taking a drive whilst spending a few bob in a country town.

TIP: Take an Esky. There are heaps of food stalls along the way.

Awassi Cheesery, Grantham, in the Lockyer Valley, QLD.

Recently I alluded to a trip I had been invited to join by Queensland Tourism to discover the hidden treasures of the Lockyer Valley.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting antsy. I’ve had three trips cancelled so far this year – Margaret River WA, Longreach in Outback QLD and P.N.G – with a fourth highly questionable. Although we can’t travel yet, we can always start to plan our next, can’t we?

Every story is a ride to some place and time other than here and now. Buried in an armchair, reclined on a couch, prostrate on your bed, or glued to your desk, you can go places and travel through time. – Author: A.A. Patawaran

The Lockyer Valley is just over 90 minutes drive from Brisbane and both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and sits in the shadow of the range up to Toowoomba. It is one of the most fertile and productive regions in Australia though floods, fire and drought have sorely tested the region over recent years.

Awassi Cheesery is a relative newcomer to the area and is a boutique sheep farm and dairy nestled in the Grantham Hills.

Never heard of an Awassi Sheep? Dating back to biblical times the breed originated in the deserts of Syria and Arabia and are a popular throughout the middle east. Not only are they hardy, they are a good wool-producing sheep (for carpets). Their milk is naturally homogenised, high in fat and proteins, low in lactose and makes a very high quality of cheese.

Awassi Cheesery is a ‘Farmstead Cheesery’ where all cheeses are produced from the milk collected on the same farm where the cheese is produced. Nothing is imported.They are handcrafted in the full sense of the word, from the paddock to the milking parlour to the cheesery. Every aspect of making the finest cheese is under the watchful eye of the cheese maker.

So, things to do at the Awassi Cheesery, other than be impressed by the rolling hills :

Cheese classes and tastings
Dairy and cheesery tours
Hands on cheese making experience
Farm gate outlet sales
Awassi all natural cosmetic and skin care range
Farmstays – milking, cheesemaking and animal welfare.

There are also special events such as enjoying an Awassi Luncheon in the Avocado Grove which you can read more about at http://www.awassiqueensland.com.au.

Slow Cooked Awassi

In typical farmer mode the Pigott’s are resilient and creative recently turning to producing a Fig Leaf Tea from produce in their Fig Orchard.

Did you know that an Awassi’s tail can be over 2 kilos in weight and the fat content is used to create an all natural line of cosmetics?

If you like your cheese put this on your Must Do List. Well worth the effort!

The Avocado Grove

Swansea, Tasmania.

Swansea is located on the east coast of Tasmania roughly an hour and a half easy drive from the capital, Hobart.

In summer Swansea’s beautiful waterways make it a tourist hub for beach lovers and fishos. However, it should be noted that beaches and beach lovers in Tasmania differ vastly from those on the mainland where we tend to go bronze in the sun despite thirty years of lectures about slip, slop, slapping. In the winter it closes up shop – literally. Many of the restaurants close throughout these months because of the reduced through traffic though personally winter in Tassie is when I love her best. Its the sitting in front of a log fire with a pot of tea or plonk which I really enjoy or being able to walk for three hours without your makeup sliding off your face and dripping like a used dish rag ( * as you do in Queensland in summer).

Swansea sits on Oyster Bay. The land was developed for seasonal crops and grazing stock and a tannery and flour mill were established by the Meredith River. Whaling stations were also set up on nearby islands to enable the export of whale oil. There’s a fishing fleet only thirty minutes away where the popular produce is Scallops. Nothing beats a feed of fresh scallops I tell you…..

Swansea is home to Mutton Birds and Fairy Penguins. (Note to PC Police : They have always been Fairy Penguins and will always be Fairy Penguins, and NOT Little Penguins. Bite Me.) There are also Wombats, Wallabies, Tasmanian Devils and Echidnas. Friends tell me that seals are known to wash up on farmland.

Devil

The population these days is less than 1000 and that number includes working dogs.

When visiting Swansea I tend to enjoy the coastal walks after which I reward myself with a coffee at the Bark Mill Bakery ( where black wattle bark was once processed), or Devonshire Tea at the local Cafe/ Art Gallery which also exhibits works by local artisans. Only minutes away is an acclaimed Strawberry Farm and a cool weather Winery.

If you are looking to go nightclubbing give Swansea a miss. She’s an old fashioned township with an old fashioned vibe. Even the General Store, Morris’, has been run by the Morris family for over 100 years. But don’t just drive through Swansea either. Stop for a few days and be prepared to respond to the local’s “Good’ay, how ya going.” Tourists stick out like sore thumbs: they’re the ones without beards.

* It was snowing on Mount Wellington, the back drop of Hobart only two days ago. I have not turned the ceiling fans off in a week.

For more tourist information go here :https://www.discovertasmania.com.au/about/regions-of-tasmania/east-coast/swansea

Poetry And Another Festival.

Because when I read, I don’t really read… I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” Bohumil Hrabal

Just because I haven’t shared many books recently doesn’t mean I’m not reading. As always my life is surrounded by books, many in boxes ready for the continuation of their journey to a charity shop, to the Little Community Library, or to the next Literacy fundraiser. I put my hand up to volunteer one morning a week at the local aged advocacy organisation and without knowing anything about me they’ve asked if I’de take on their library. Bizarre…..

Books continue to pile up by my bedside. With the pointy end of the year closing in the size is not decreasing. There have been too many distractions to read anything of any substance.

Such as a Poetry Workshop. Yep, poetry, as foreign to me as an ironing board or knitting needles.

Although it was an interesting afternoon and the facilitator was fascinating poetry is just not my thing.

I blame the education curriculum of the 1970’s. Why would you waste three months talking about the love sonnets of John Donne to 14 year olds? At that age it was all about Farrah Fawcett hairdos and fur mini skirts.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that as kiddies in Primary School we can all draw, all sing and all enjoy The Owl and the Pussy Cat, but once we reach High School we are labelled either good or bad at something.

One positive did come from the Poetry Workshop:

Now looking forward to attending The Oracles of The Bush Festival, an annual event which celebrates Australian Bush poetry, music and literature. Diarised for 2-5 April, 2020 in Tenterfield, northern New South Wales. This is another opportunity to learn something about my own country, and maybe spend a few coins giving our country folk doing it tough a bit of a hand.

This property was where the wedding reception for Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson and Tenterfield lass, Alice Walker, was held.

For more information go to:

http://www.tenterfieldtourism.com.au/events-details.php?eid=14

Oh, and if anyone is interested in completing my poetry homework that would be very helpful, thank you.

Dreamtime Journey Coach At Drayton, S E Qld.

I’m a little concerned that my last post about the Miles Franklin Award winning book, Too Much Lip, may have provided too many negative connotations about our First Australians.

So I thought I’de even the score by sharing a positive Indigenous experience from my recent road trip.

DownsSteam Tourist Railway & Museum is located at Drayton, an outer southwestern suburb of Toowoomba, South East Queensland, which makes it a perfect day trip to escape from the Big Smoke.

Toowoomba is on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, around 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. This makes it substantially cooler, or less humid, than Brisbane with defined seasonal changes. Thus, the annual Carnival of Flowers to which those on the coastal fringe have been flocking each September to view the beautiful gardens for the past 70 years.

Operated by the Darling Downs Historical Railway Society and staffed wholly by volunteers, DownsStream Tourist Railway and Museum is dedicated to the establishment and preservation of a tourist railway for the Darling Downs region.

And the big bonus? You don’t have to be a train buff to enjoy this environment – it’s got this really pleasant vibe…..

The gardens are beautiful, you can enjoy a coffee on the station, and view the restoration of Toowooomba’s very own steam locomotive the “Pride of Toowoomba” which was built locally in 1915. After a little more than a century and well over a million miles steaming her way around Queensland, this once proud steam engine is now the only one of her class not to be scrapped. She is being restored to fully operational condition by volunteer craftsmen for mainline tours across the Darling Downs. (Keep an eye open for updates : there’s plans for train travel to the Granite Belt for wine tasting).

You can even enjoy a light lunch in one of the rail carriages!

The highlight of my visit was a tour of the Dreamtime Journey Coach which is a fascinating insight into Indigenous culture.

To acknowledge the contribution made by the indigenous workers to the construction of the railway up the range, an indigenous inmate from the Westbrook Correctional Centre volunteered to paint one of our carriages as part of his prison rehabilitation program.

Inmate “Domi” commenced painting the carriage in 2012, taking 19 weeks to complete his awe-inspiring, unique Indigenous Art Gallery on wheels (static exhibit).

The coach depicts the Aboriginal theme based on ‘Baiami’ who created the earth and all the wonderful landscape, mountains, lakes, rivers, billabongs, oceans and islands.

Experiencing our ‘Dreamtime Journey Coach’ is to take a spiritual journey from dawn to dusk. Domi’s paintings represent the traverse of a day, starting from the entrance with the orange and yellow colours of the dawn, then in the middle of the carriage the bright colours of the day and the other end of the carriage with the pink and purple colours of the dusk.

                – from website http://www.downstream.com

The twenty minute tour of this carriage, which included an explanation of characters, symbolism and meaning, tells a truly interesting and colourful story. Add to MUST DO LIST.

Located at 16 Cambooya Street, Drayton

Note : No, I do not collect tea towels. Not even good at using them.

Maracas, Bushfires and The Breaker – Part 2

This time last year I spent several days in Tenterfield, New South Wales, for the inaugural Peter Allen Festival. Less than twenty kilometres across the border from Queensland and with a population of less than 5,000 you wouldn’t think there would be much more to learn about a rural township.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This trip was a whole different kettle of fish and included a tour of the town with a local historian. So much information to take in when a girl has a head full of music, local Sav Blanc, and sore muscles earned on the dance floor.

I was already aware that Solicitor, Major James Francis Thomas, who defended Harry Harbord Morant at his court-martial for war crimes during the Boer War, was a Tenterfield lad. Thomas was portrayed by Jack Thompson in the 1980 film Breaker Morant.

Thomas died in the 1940’s a rather broken man though well regarded. Only within the last ten years a sugar bag full of Thomas’ military memorabilia was found at the local Tenterfield Tip having been stored at an old rural property just out of town.

What was in the sugar bag?

A penny on a leather string inscribed H H Morant which was worn by The Breaker around his neck when he was executed by a British firing squad in 1902 and bears the mark of a bullet hole.

An Australian red ensign bearing the names of Morant and his co-accused, Peter Handcock. Their birth and execution dates are inked into the Southern Cross stars on the design. It reads: “Utter scapegoats of the Empire”. There is a grainy 1902 photograph of Thomas standing by the flag-draped grave in Pretoria of the dead Anglo-Australian horseman, bush poet and military officer, and this is believed to be that same flag.

A first edition, signed copy of George Whitton’s book, Scapegoats of the Empire, the Lieutenant’s account of court proceedings. ( He was sentenced to Life Imprisonment).

All artefacts are available for viewing at the School of Arts in Tenterfield.

LIFE LESSON: Always expect the unexpected.

Note : Tenterfield is just one of many rural towns suffering severe drought with dam levels down to 30 per cent. Much of the district was engulfed in flames during our visit, with no power and two major highways cut.

Thank you to the wonderful people of Tenterfield for their hospitality over the Peter Allen Festival weekend. Thank you all so much for your grace under fire – literally. Thank you for sharing your stories, your hearts, and your history.

A huge thank you to the organising team. You are all “the sons and daughters” and we’ll be back again next year. May the coming months be kinder to you all.

Fromage blanc, Camels and Conniptions -Part 1

A road trip just days into Spring and we’re already hitting temperatures reminiscent of Summer. This apparently means that bushfires are our new normal and there have been multiple blazes raging across Queensland and New South Wales for the past few days. Not fun on the wide open roads nor those that are winding, single lane through the country but more on that later.

First port of call was only 45 minutes from Brisbane, just outside the small town of Harrisville, off the Cunningham Highway. 

Summer Land Camels is absolutely fascinating and well worth a visit. Yes, camels. Those ugly big things that spit. Really interesting – who knew? 

And camels don’t spit. That’s Alpacas, their cousins. Bulls get frothy mouths when they’re “romantically inclined”.

This Camel farm is the biggest in Australia and third biggest in the world. They milk them on site to produce cheese, yoghurt and gelato – Camel gelato for goodness sake ! – as well as skincare products and leather goods.

The tour around the milking facilities is well worth taking and I was fortunate to learn all the goss from one of the partners of the enterprise who has a background in Biochemistry, Physiology diagnostics with a particular expertise in the innate immune system, gut and organ health, Nuclear Medicine, Physiotherapy and Masters in Sports Science. Seriously, it was love at first adjective.

I was totally ignorant of the fact that Australia had a Camel Corp in World War 1 that participated in the Charge for Beersheba. This means that they’re  going to have to remake the movie The Lighthorsemen and I have to drop by the Library ASAP.

So yeah, there’s all these other touristy activities that you can participate in, like feeding the beasts or going on a camel ride. See here for more information : http://www.summerlandcamels.com.au

I enjoyed a Devonshire Tea with homemade jam and Fromage blanc courtesy of the camels.

So this was a truly enjoyable start to my road trip with my excitement only heightened when I learned that the property used to be the residence of Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel. There may have been a hint of conniptions when told that Errol Flynn was an overnight guest before his Hollywood days.

Next trip I will take an esky and ice and purchase some Camel meat. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a Camel recipe but I’de give it a go. My daughters haven’t yet forgiven me for serving up Roasted Skippy with baked veges. A Mother’s payback.

Summer Land Camels is located at 8 Charles Chauvel Drive, Harrisville, Qld.

Next time : maracas, bushfires, and The Breaker.

Maryborough and The Story Trail – Part 2

A trail of murals along eight city blocks in Maryborough tell the quirky and serious stories of the city’s colourful past.

The Maryborough Story Trail has brought to life the stories of historic people and places through a series of bronze sculptures ( including Ms Mary Poppins), laneway murals, mosaic tiles and interactive screens showcasing short films.

Being flat makes this an easy and interesting walk for all ages with cafes, museums, and specialty shops to break up the two kilometre journey of over thirty murals and installations.

Local boy, Sam Hecker, was the first to fly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

My favourite installation is the recently completed Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Trail on the edge of beautiful Queens Park.

This includes a sculpture of Lt Duncan Chapman, born in Maryborough, who was the first ANZAC ashore at Gallipoli. He is standing on pavement made from the rock from the cliffs of Gallipoli and the wooden flower beds represent the boats. 

The Trail includes all the battles till Armistice Day with audio of the soldiers marching. It’s both eerie and fascinating.

Maryborough, I never knew you would be so welcoming. Back to see more soon…..

*Maps of The Story Trail are available from the Tourist Information Centre

Depiction of The Battle of Long Tan with Harry Smith, another local lad.