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……

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

Good News In A Week That The Media Are Determined Will Break us : Part 2

Yes, I know. Such a bizarre world we are living in right now, and yet I have more good news. Except that I read today that Dan Murphys has a shortage of rum across Brisbane. Just as well I only like rum on bananas en flambe, or poured over ice cream.

The Lockyer Valley is an area of rich farmland that sits between Toowoomba and Queensland’s capital city Brisbane. Farmers in the valley produce around 95% of winter vegetables that are supplied across Australia.

I was recently invited to travel across the Lockyer Valley in a tour hosted by celebrity chef Alastair McLeod, Ambassador for this area for some years. McLeod, some of you may know, is of Irish/ Torres Straight Island descent and has a passion for fresh produce. One evening he cooked for the group utilising the produce from local butchers and farmers where we had stopped along the way. One thing I took away from meeting McLeod, other than his sincerity in pushing fresh Australian produce, is that good meat doesn’t have to melt in your mouth. “It’s ok to masticate”, he said. And that he likes a red with his beef.

My travels across the Lockyer indicated lots of new growth with undulating hills covered in various shades of green and parklands fresh and full of new life. But looks can be deceiving. The Lockyer Valley is in “Green Drought” mode which essentially means that although the area has most certainly benefited from recent rainfall the moisture hasn’t soaked deep into the earth. Our farmers are still battling. When our farmers hurt, their communities hurt. And they need help.

Blogs covering my experiences in the Lockyer Valley will be published elsewhere in coming months 🙂

As a fellow blogger recently stated, thank you Karen J Schoff for the inspiration, “Sometimes we can be so keen to explore the rest of the world we can overlook the places and history that is just around the corner”.

Quintessential Heritage Listed Qld Pub in Forest Hill.

Ever so grateful for such a wonderful opportunity in retirement, on so many levels. Sending a rude gesture to the schmuck who berated anyone over 45 for wasting space. Don’t come anywhere near me if I’m holding a golf club ya dipstick.

Road Trip To Brunswick Heads, NSW.

“ROAD TRIPS ARE THE EQUIVALENT OF HUMAN WINGS. ASK ME TO GO ON ONE, ANYWHERE. WE’LL STOP IN EVERY SMALL TOWN AND LEARN THE HISTORY AND STORIES, FEEL THE GROUND, AND CAPTURE THE SPIRIT. THEN WE’LL TURN IT INTO OUR OWN STORY THAT WILL LIVE INSIDE OUR HISTORY TO CARRY WITH US, ALWAYS. BECAUSE STORIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.” – VICTORIA ERICKSON

Brunswick Heads is less than two hours south of Brisbane and only thirty minutes shy of the Queensland border. If you travel south a further twenty minutes south you come to Hemsworth-ville (or Byron Bay), famous for its beaches, relaxed lifestyle and million dollar properties – and Chris and Liam and their Hollywood squad.

Bruns has the beaches and the river, and property prices are certainly only afforded by those selling up in Sydney or Melbourne (or drug runners), yet it retains a nostalgic beach holiday feel reminiscent of fifty years ago. To holiday in Bruns means entertaining yourself, not being entertained, and the waterways and parklands certainly allow for that: swimming, surfing, fishing, hiking, boating or just being a vegetable. Even in the rain it is beautiful.

Bruns has two big claims to fame:

The last series of the Australian program, Seachange, shown on TV only last year, was filmed here. I don’t know why they bothered with the earlier series having been filmed twenty years previous in Victoria, though it did showcase the coast and there is a map of all the sites from the series available from the Tourist Information Centre if that’s your thing.

The Brunswick Hotel. What a fine pub with its 1940’s architecture and live music from Thursday through to Sunday and regularly voted the Best Beer Garden in Australia. I’ve sat and enjoyed semi classical music, pop and rock here on numerous occasions. Since 1981 it has been owned by John Cornell, who was comedian Paul Hogan’s mate Strop. They’ve been spruiking their locally brewed beer since January ‘20 with funds donated to the Rural Fire Service.

There are heaps of Cafes and restaurants from which to choose, unless you catch your own fish. Just remember, in NSW you require a fishing licence, even if just throwing a line off a jetty. ( Raspberry to the  NSW Govt.)

Tip: Pick up a copy of the 101 Things To Do In Brunswick Heads – The Simple Pleasures from the Information Centre. It does not include visit the nicknack shop for a colourful and inexpensive tablecloth.

And just for Cupcake who has an interest in Australian reptiles:

My Weekend In Brisbane : Fort Lytton.

I’ve lived in Brisbane for nearly thirty years and never visited despite it being less than thirty minutes from home.

Built in 1880-1882 in response to a fear that a foreign colonial power such as Russia or France might launch a naval attack on Brisbane or its port, Fort Lytton is located at the mouth of the Brisbane River.

It was designed to deny enemy vessels access to the river and achieved this by a remote-controlled minefield across the mouth of the river, and four muzzle-loading heavy guns, later changed to breech feeding. The minefield was closed in 1908, but the guns continued in operation until 1938.

I’m told the fort is a typical nineteenth century garrison – a pentagonal fortress concealed behind grassy embankments – surrounded for greater protection by a water-filled moat.

Fort Lytton was a major training base for soldiers across the Boer War, WW1 and WW2.

My introduction to this fascinating slice of Brisbane’s military history was a recent evening performance at the Fort, “ A Lost Story From The Great War”.

This follows the true story of Brisbane born Raymond Stanley, a decorated war hero, who spent time at Fort Lytton before being shipped to Gallipoli, and later, to the Western Front.

Armed with lanterns for light and sound the audience participates in a guided tour throughout the historic fortifications, littered with theatrical re-enactments. Light and sound effects, with photos projected onto the walls of the fort, take you back to the Great War.

Courtesy Event Flyer

Interestingly Stanley dabbled in photography and many of his photographs are used during the theatre promenade experience adding to its authenticity.

I’m looking forward to returning in daylight and walking through the rest of the site and the Museum. I’m told kids love the Open Days when the cannons are fired.

One minor issue. Brissie is subtropical and after weeks which have been a mix of heat, humidity and rain the mosquitoes are rampant. So is my garden.

Up Next : My Saturday Night At Dutton Park Cemetery, Brisbane’s Oldest Boneyard. Yep, it’s been a bizarre weekend……..

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.