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.

Wombats


Wombats are short legged, muscular marsupials that look like little bears. Marsupials native to Australia they live in burrows. They spend daylight hours underground in their burrows and emerge in the night to forage for grasses, herbs, seeds, roots and bark. They have a very slow metabolism and it takes about 14 days to complete digestion. This aids wombats’ survival in arid landscapes. Interestingly – well, to me – wombat droppings are square in shape. How that works is beyond me but fascinating……( Keep that one in mind for your next trivia night!)

Wombats have been well represented over the years in Australian Children’s Literature, with the most popular including:

The Muddleheaded Wombat   –  Ruth Park

Wombat Stew  –  Marcia K Vaughan

One Woolly Wombat   –  Kerrie Argent

Diary Of A Wombat  –  Jackie French

Sebastian Lives In A Hat  – Thelma Catterwell

Wombat Goes Walkabout  – Michael Morpurgo

Did you know that we even have an annual Wombat Day ? The official day in set in Australia for October 22, but since the first celebration of the day in 2005, the rest of the world has seen fit to jump on board. As such, October 23 is World Wombat Day.  Add that to your diary now!

In Australia to be called a wombat is almost a term of endearment. A wombat often refers to an overweight, lazy, or slow idiot. He’s probably your best friend and eating Doritos on the couch right now. Or more bluntly, a Waste Of Money, Brains And Time.

Why are we even talking about Wombats today? Because I’m adding a Wombat experience to my Bucket List.

The Wombat Awareness Organisation in South Australia is the only free range, cage free wombat sanctuary in the World. It is also the only place where you can see two out of the three species of wombats living harmoniously together.

I’ve just scrubbed Disney’s Magic Kingdom off the list. I want to sit on a sofa with a wombat instead. See http://www.wombatawareness.com.

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……..

A Brisbane City Treasure : The Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance is a major Brisbane landmark of cultural and historic importance. Each year it hosts ceremonies for ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ( formally known as Armistice Day).

A service marking The Fall of Singapore is another annual event in remembrance of the losses of the 8th Division during World War 2, and is held on the closest Sunday to February 15th.

When my eldest daughter was in her last year of Primary School she won a Brisbane wide debating competition and was asked to speak at the Shrine at a memorial service honouring the Rats of Tobruk. She must have been only 11 or 12 at the time but had all the confidence in the world, and the old widows, old soldiers, and families of the fallen took my daughter under their wings, named her an honorary Rat for the day, and then bundled her off to a luncheon at a swish golf club for a couple of hours.

The Shrine of Remembrance is located in ANZAC Square, between Ann and Adelaide Streets. 

Funds were raised by public subscription for a memorial to the fallen after WW1 and in 1928 a competition was held for its design. Designed in the Greek Classic Revival style, the columns of the Shrine of Remembrance are built of sandstone and the Eternal Flame is kept in a brass urn within the Shrine. The 18 columns of the Shrine symbolise the year 1918, when hostilities ceased. Written around the top coping are the names of the battles in which Australian units figured prominently – ANZAC, Cocos Islands, Romani, Jerusalem, Damascus, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Ypres, Amiens, Villers-Bretonneaux, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line.

The Shrine forms the focus of the radially pattern pathways, pools, and lawns of the lower park area which is planted with palms, pines, and mature bottle trees. The bottle trees were donated by Colonel Cameron in memory of the Light Horse Regiments with which he served in the Boer War. There are several statues littered along the parklands as well as benches which I always found allowed for a little respite when I was working nearby.

It wasn’t until a recent weekend that I visited the crypt situated under the Shrine of Remembrance. It contains memorial plaques to numerous Australian regiments, specifically Qld in origin, who fought during these campaigns. It’s only a small exhibition but packs a punch. It includes an interactive area popular with schoolchildren who learn personal stories and gain insights into the times. 

Admission to the Memorial Galleries is FREE and open Sunday to Friday 10am to 4pm. Anzac Square Parklands open 24 hours daily. Make the effort to visit – it’s worth it! 

The Brisbane Literary Trail

Who even knew there was such a thing as the Brisbane Literary Trail? Have you heard of this? Twenty five years living in Queensland and it’s new to me. Another pat on the back for Tourism Qld.

I stumbled across this by accident on the weekend when I was participating in an organised Scavenger Hunt. An epic fail. What should have taken two hours to complete took five and a half hours, and that was leaving out the last two challenges. A typical Gemini thing. As Bob Dylan, another Gemini, once said, “I change during the course of a day. I wake and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep I know for certain I’m somebody else.

Rather than focussing on the task at hand – trivia, challenges, deciphering maps and codes, puzzles and the hunt – I was waylaid at the casino, at a Suitcase Rummage ( where I picked up a brand new  Wizard of Oz jigsaw for $2), coffee in the Botanical Gardens, and an art and craft market. And lets be totally honest : a chocolate croissant – the eighth deadly sin.

So I’m sure you can appreciate my apprehension about next months adventure when I’m to be locked in an Escape Room.

Back to the Literary Trail that includes 32 plaques that were embedded in the pavement back in 1996 and start in Albert Street in the CBD. They are a little worse for wear but worth investigating. All include a quote by a Queensland writer with most Brisbane born and bred.

Brisbane is so sleepy, so slatternly, so sprawlingly unlovely! I have taken to wandering about after school looking for one simple object in it that might be romantic, or appalling even, but there is nothing. It is simply the most ordinary place in the world.

David Malouf, Johnno, St Lucia, UQP, 1975

The glow in the sky. Orange streetlights. Outlying suburbs. It was beautiful. The highway turned onto the six-lane arterial. We came in through Oxley and Annerley, flowing with the traffic. Then the city high rises were in view, alight, multicoloured. Brisbane. It was impossibly beautiful.

Andrew McGahan, 1988

At around two o’clock I walk up to Wee Willie Winkie’s on Waterworks Road […] and I buy a packet of Tim Tams. I stand outside the store eating them and watching the occasional cars speed past, heading out of town and down the hill into Ashgrove’

Nick Earls, Zig Zag Street.

There is development of a new public transport station underway in Albert Street so if you are interested I’de be following the Literary trail sooner rather than later. Public funding is going towards another Olympic bid, after all.

Around The World Reading Challenge

I don’t need to count the number of books I read each year. I read because it gives me pleasure. Pure and simple.

This year I will add to the mix by deliberately focussing on reading books by authors from other countries, starting with Nigeria. Off to the Library next week to pick up Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This week I’m staying home. It doesn’t sit right gallivanting at the moment. Doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun. I’m up to series 4 of West Wing, continue to puppy sit and walk the grand fur-baby, and have read a couple of (appalling) books.

Australian comedian Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules For Life was a massive disappointment. I’ve seen Kitty live several times and love her to bits. Why so many of our celebrities are turning their hand to books I don’t know.

A couple of short stories by Robert G Barrett were even more woeful. Barrett, an Australian crime writer, was a butcher by trade. Say no more. They reminded me of my Uncle Bill, a commercial traveller, who used to keep a box of girlie magazines and cheap pot boilers in a box in the backyard dunny which was covered in choko vines.

I read his first book back in the early 80s. It was Sydney-centric and I could relate. Who else would understand “ how could you live in the Eastern suburbs and follow St George?”. No more Les Norton for me.

My next big trip is to Papua New Guinea. All booked and paid. I guess it would be appropriate to source some PNG authors too. Any suggestions please?