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.

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.

Following The Festivals

When it comes to throwing a party, general celebration and epic public events, Aussies do it as well as anyone. Throughout the year in every corner of the country, you’ll find a huge range of events and festivals showcasing everything from art, music, sport, writing and Aboriginal culture to film, comedy, dance, food and beer. Lots of food and beer.

With retirement I seemed to have slipped into the practise of chasing local festivals. Not having to worry about getting home late on a school night is so liberating after thirty odd years of pre-dawn getups.

This week I enjoyed a function for the Bris Funny Fest (which differs from the Brisbane Comedy Festival in that it showcases emerging performers putting on a show for the first time.) Next week is Seniors Week and I have tickets to a series of old time radio shows at the local museum. “Dad and Dave” – who remembers them?

I’m particularly enjoying the Festivals held in country towns. With Australia suffering such debilitating drought – with a dam at less than 25% capacity the Granite Belt is unlikely, for the first time ever, to produce any wine next year – so many farmers are going under and our country cousins are doing it tough. The three day Camel and Culture Weekend at Tara in Queensland’s Western Downs last week brought a much needed economic boost to the township as well as purpose.

It’s the Peter Allen Festival in country Tenterfield next month, followed by a Baroque Festival in Victoria, and daughter of mine, Cait’s Classics, if you are reading this I thought Floriade, the huge flower festival in the nations capital would be fun. (Can we go to that gin joint again? Pleeeeeease)

Now that I’m getting into the swing of being gainfully unemployed I will be better organised next year. I’ll even print a calendar of events to stick on the fridge. The Darwin Cup next August is already booked as is an Eastern Arnhem Land adventure to learn more First Australian culture. Oh, and the passport is getting a run for its money too…..

Retirements tough.