A Morning At Highfields Pioneer Village

Highfields is a satellite suburb of Toowoomba situated on the Great Dividing Range, approximately 135 kms from Brisbane City. First developed in the 1860s for timber felling once it was cleared it became prime dairy farming land. Since the 1960s it has become a thriving suburb with all the modern amenities and the benefit of an abundance of mature trees which add to its street appeal.

Highfields Pioneer Village is located on 20 acres on Wirraglen Road and consists of over 60 authentic and well preserved buildings, relocated from surrounding districts, and all stocked with artefacts from earlier days. My parents used to talk of Coolgardie Safes – fascinating to at last see one.

Each of the buildings is dedicated to an area of pioneer life including the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker……silversmith, blacksmith and beekeeper etc. Some of the buildings have been turned into museums – ambulance, radio, fire engine, 11th Lighthorse Brigade – and the number of old vehicles and farming equipment is fascinating even if I am totally clueless as to their use.

My favourite is The Grinke Cottage with its colourful Cottage Garden which has been entered in the Annual Carnival Of Flowers Garden Competition over the past several years in the Cottage Garden category. Just gorgeous.



So proud of myself: I refrained from taking cuttings.


The Anderson Bomb Shelter is also interesting. Over 2,250,000 were erected, many in Australia, and were made homely with bunks inside and flowers and vegetables planted in the protective bank of earth. One joker declared ” there was a greater danger of being hit by a vegetable marrow falling off the roof of an air raid shelter than of being struck by a bomb”.

There is also an old church which is to this day used for weddings.

Honestly, there is a lot to take in here and it can’t be done in a short time frame. I would like to make a return visit and may make the effort on one of the Pioneer Village’s special event days which you can read about here : http://www.highfieldspioneervillage.com.au/events

We finished the morning over hot tea and damper ( with Golden Syrup – wicked, I know) cooked by one of the wonderful volunteers.

The Highfields Pioneer Village is another attraction hit hard by Covid and an ageing volunteer base. So wish I lived closer………

Tip : Add to Must Do List.

Much Needed Therapy : A Day On Straddie

North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known as Straddie is an island that lies within Moreton Bay off the coast of Brisbane. It is a 45 minute vehicular ferry trip from my sandpit or half that on the people-only Straddie Flyer. At 68,000 acres it is the second largest sand island in the world. Known as Minjerribah to the First Australians the Quandamooka people are the traditional land owners and their presence is still keenly felt on the island.

Fun Fact: Originally there was only one Stradbroke Island but in 1895 it split into North Stradbroke Island and South Stradbroke Island after some bizarre events. Firstly, in 1894 the 1,600 tonne barque Cambus Wallace from Glasgow, carrying explosives, shipwrecked in a narrow passage. Five sailors we’re lost, the others managed to salvage barrels of rum and most of the explosives, although they were deemed unstable. Rum and explosives being a heady mix there was one hell of a BOOM, and further storms and strong currents led to the fragile strip of land dissolving and breaking completely away in 1898.

All ferries arrive in Dunwich. The township has a fascinating history having started as a military post, becoming a temporary lazaret, a quarantine command, and then the largest asylum in Queensland for the poor, disabled and disadvantaged. There also remains evidence of the financially rewarding Dugong harvesting industry.

Used For Boiling Down Dugongs

Myora Springs has been the meeting place of our First Nations people for eons with it’s fresh water feeding into the bay. 

Amity Point remains relatively untouched by progress and is a camper’s and fisho’s paradise.

Do you remember the Disney movie Finding Nemo? This movie featured The East Australian Current, a large scale flow of water that runs south along the east coast sweeping warm tropical waters from the Coral Sea southwards to interact with the cool temperate waters of the Tasman Sea. You know what that means? All manner of sea life including sharks – big, hungry buggers. We sat mesmerised and watched dolphins and whales at play. Look hard and you may just spot Nemo.

Point Lookout is nothing short of spectacular. The old beach shacks of days gone by are well and truly gone and the high end real estate is at such a stage that I could probably afford to purchase their letterbox and possibly a water feature or two. Despite the exorbitant prices, it is still acceptable to walk sand in through the house and barbeque on the verandah overlooking the view. It retains that holiday vibe. 


I just have to tell you that the Straddie Pub is a Must Do item on any visit to the island.

Wind burnt, sun burnt, and thrilled to have to stop driving in order to allow a koala to cross the road we returned to Dunwich for the ferry ride home.

From Dunwich back over to the mainland.

Feeling improved and in a much better head space, thank you for asking…………….

Another Must Do

With half of this country’s population in Lockdown and the rest of us either in masks or walking on egg shells it’s a little galling to admit that there have been some really good things that have come about due to COVID.

One of those is Theatre Redlands, formed last year during the worst of lockdown, by a group of experienced and passionate individuals who have formed an alliance with Redland Museum to share stories from our past.

Early in the year I attended the performance Women Of Their Word, a “celebration of Australian women poets who captured their times and experiences in verse – insights into what inspired them, the challenges they faced and the contribution they made to Australia’s emerging cultural identity”. Some of the women included Judith Wright, Dame Mary Gilmore, and my personal favourite, Maybanke Anderson. ( Never heard of her? Either had I! Fascinating – look her up.)

Last month Theatre Redlands had a new program on offer with a distinctive Queensland flavour to coincide with June 6th – being Queensland Day, when Queensland officially separated from New South Wales to become its own colony. ( I was taught at school that June 6th was D Day but I digress).

Down Came a Jumbuck is a whimsical theory about how Banjo Paterson might have come to write Australia’s unofficial national anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’. I particularly enjoyed this given my recent trip to outback Queensland where I visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton.

Following intermission The Droving Days took the audience to “Pub Redlands”, the area in which I live, to join a group of retired drovers and their mates, reminiscing about horses they’ve known and ridden and tall tales of unlikely characters, all woven through with Banjo Paterson’s timeless ballads.

The recitation of Paterson’s Man From Snowy River was breathtaking. You could have heard a pin drop – the audience was enthralled.

So two things :
1. I am so looking forward to the next production from Theatre Redlands


2. There is an annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival next April. Who knew??? Added to Must Do List.

Road Trip Around Southern Queensland Country – Silos, Murals and Hospitality

The Queensland State Government has been dishing out tourist dollars in an attempt to encourage residents of the South East corner to visit attractions right along the coast of the state that are doing it tough because of closed international borders. 

So of course we opted to travel inland following the Southern Queensland Country painted silo mural trail throughout an area that had endured years of devastating drought, followed by damaging floods. Our five day road trip took us to two painted silos, three painted water tanks, and nearly 100 murals. We experienced some great artwork, gained further insight into Australia’s history, and sampled a smorgasbord of country hospitality.

Let’s start in Toowoomba, only 2 hours west of Brisbane and Qld’s largest regional city.

The original First Coat Festival took place in Toowoomba in 2014 as a creative initiative to encourage public places to be transformed into street art spaces with the walls of buildings and laneways used as backdrops ( as well as reducing graffiti issues). Over the next few years over 55 murals had been completed, and although the Festival is now defunct, the artworks continue to grow in numbers. The most recent additions are within the Grand Central Shopping Centre.

And here’s my first confession:

Toowoomba with its four distinct seasons, despite being only 120 kms away, is so unlike Brisbane (that is either hot and humid or warm and dry) I tend to visit some of the 150 parklands dotted across the city simply to enjoy the gardens. Traffic lights and shopping centres are avoided like the plague. We did walk down Ruthven Street to take in the murals.

Second confession:

We hit the Fluffy Ducks. Big time. Think the last Fluffy Duck I consumed was in the late 70’s at the Hilton Supper Club listening to The Commodores. Long time ago….. Totally my fault. Couldn’t face the crowds.

The Visitor Information Centre has two brochures available: one to follow the mural trail, and the other to follow the mosaic trail. Both are very helpful.

To be continued………

Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

Banjo Paterson Has A Permanent Spot On The Bookshelf

I was recently reminded of a pair of books that I’ve been carting around for nearly twenty years though with over 1,500 pages between them they are not the type for genteel bedtime reading.

Fellow blogger Kevin Adams is a lover of all things music with a particular bent for traditional folk, with a tendency to write music of a historical nature. I particularly enjoyed his album A Crossword War – Bletchley Park Remembered In Song and his more recent  homage with Pegasus, A Song For D Day.

https://kevadams.co.uk/2020/06/05/pegasus/

But back to the books : Singer Of The Bush, the complete works of Andrew Barton Paterson from 1885 – 1900, and Song Of The Pen covering the period 1901 – 1941. First editions, they were a gift for my father when he retired and cost me $40 each – a hellava lot of money when I was earning only $116 per week!

Paterson, fondly known as Banjo,  (17 February 1864 – 5 February 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on rural and outback areas. His more notable poems include “Clancy of the Overflow” (1889), “The Man from Snowy River” (1890) and “Waltzing Matilda” (1895), regarded widely as Australia’s unofficial national anthem.

He was a war correspondent during the Boer War, an ambulance driver in the First World War and honorary vet for the Light Horse Brigade as well as a farmer, lawyer and massive sports fan.(His nickname came from a racehorse he’d won a few bob on).

Copies of Paterson’s published submissions to The Bulletin, considered the premier news magazine at the time, include illustrations by famous artists such as Norman Lindsay. There is also a wealth of history within these tomes including the poet’s friendships with fellow balladeers Henry Lawson and Breaker Morant.

I find it disappointing that copies of these volumes are regularly on throw out tables at charity book sales. If you find a set in reasonable condition they are well worth picking up to be reminded of an earlier Australia.

Add To Must Do List :

Yeoval NSW.      Banjo Paterson Cafe and Museum

Yass NSW.          Banjo Paterson Park

Orange NSW.      The  biennial Festival of Arts presents a Banjo Paterson Award for poetry and one-act plays.

To Censor or not to Censor – that is the question.

Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

The Little Community Library in the parkland near my home continues to gain momentum. I put a call out for more children’s books at the beginning of the school holidays and the neighbourhood came good with DVDs, small toys, and colouring in sets as well as a variety of reading material.

Over the past weeks there has also been the donation of numerous LGBT Romance novels. Often they are sneakily hidden between the pages of other books.

Personally, I’m not offended, but as this communal Library is frequented by children of all ages who utilise the reserve with its playground equipment I have been taking these books out of circulation. Effectively I’ve played Censor. It doesn’t sit well but I have genuine concerns that if a 7 year old goes home with one of these novels a parent could go into meltdown. This could possibly result in the loss of this resource.

A friend has questioned my stance, given that I’m not so zealous with the plethora of religious books that are donated.

None of these books are tossed into the garbage bin. They are donated to an organisation where they can be better appreciated. The plethora of religious books are given two weeks on the shelves before they are removed. I think that’s generous.

Am I becoming a Book Nazi?

The National Archives in Canberra has updated its cafe with a new display on banned books. You can read about the secret history of Australian censorship as you sip your coffee. You can also examine a censor’s report or flip through a copy of a book or magazine once prohibited in Australia. This Cafe is going on my Must Do List For when I next visit the ACT.

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.

Mount Tamborine and a Life Lesson

I’ve just spent three nights catching up with friends in a beautiful house on a mountainside looking across to the Gold Coast. Any holiday rental home with its own wine rack, three fully laden book cases, and that comes with eight kookaburras is okay with me.

Mount Tamborine is only an hour south of Brisbane and 40 minutes to the west of the coast but it’s a whole different world: rainforests, waterfalls, crisp mountain air and natural beauty. Sometimes I wonder why we hanker to travel overseas when we have so many glorious spots on our own doorstop worth investigating.

Like many locals I generally day trip to the mountain. A scenic drive, fresh produce from stalls in front gardens, a Devonshire Tea in front of a log fire in winter, and a wander down Gallery Walk with its seventy specialty shops. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid tour buses on the main drag.

With a base on the mountain for a few days there is so much more to see and do. Add these to your MUST DO List:

Bush walk any of the designated tracks through any of the National Parks. Go early in the morning to see Paddymelons ( little wallabies)and keep an eye out for the elusive Lyre Birds. Note: sturdy shoes are a must. There are creek crossings required where you have to choose between walking a fallen log or stepping on mossy rocks. You just know I get a wet bum either way…..

Botanical Gardens are not just for Old People! Spectacular when you come from a part of the world that only has two seasons -warm or hot and slimy.

Under The Greenwood Tree is an independent bookstore and art gallery with not enough space to swing a cat. Chock a block with the most eclectic collection of reading material I’ve ever seen, I made a start on my Christmas shopping.

There are also four wineries, two distilleries and a cheese factory. Wick-Ed!

Sky House at Eagle Heights was a great spot to share with friends. We took a couple of meals up and shared our day over the local Witches Falls Syrah, and one evening dined on local produce.

Good times. Great friends. Salute.

LIFE LESSON: Never forget to look for the beauty in your own backyard.

Of all of the Gin Joints she walked into mine…..

Every time I visit Canberra, our Australian Bush Capitol, I discover something different to tease my senses. I was not disappointed on my latest trip with an afternoon sitting in the sun at Tipsy Bull, a Gin Joint in trendy Lonsdale Street.

With over 230 different Gins available for tasting, as well as a selection of other drinks, this is a great spot for a catch up with friends.

What is it that makes the Tipsy Bull different to other bars?

As well as the friendly and knowledgable staff the De-Constructed Gin Journey is an experience in its own right.

Every Gin on the menu has its own story. I selected the Australian Green Ant Gin produced by the Something Wild Beverage Company. Green Ants are renowned Bush Tucker and our Indigenous hand harvest these ants for their medicinal qualities, protein and citrus flavour from the Northern Territory.

The floaters are Green Ants

Your selected Gin is then delivered on a paddle where you are advised to slowly savour the flavours before adding a selection of botanicals. Mine included lime, lemon, rosemary and juniper berries which you add to enhance the flavour according to taste before adding tonic water and ice.

It’s rather like making an Aromatherapy Perfume: it’s a slow process which is all about finding the right balance of taste and fragrance to meet your own requirements.

One of my companions selected a Coffee/Chocolate flavoured Gin with a Graveyard connection. (Yes, you read that right.) The other went for a flowery Spanish flavoured Gin with a hint of Ginger which was much enjoyed.

As Humphrey Bogart said in the movie, Casablanca , “Of all of the Gin Joints in all of the Towns in all of the World and she walks into mine.” Folks, I certainly intend to walk into the Tipsy Bull more often.

Does this make me an old soak? Not on your life! The process of getting your Gin to meet the requirements of your palate is a slow one. I sat on the one drink for two hours – with a nibble and lots of laughs in between of course.

Tipsy Bull is located at 2/5 Lonsdale Street, Braddon.

Add to MUST DO LIST when next in the ‘Berra.