avian interlopers

Our garden has no shortage of birdlife. The wrens bob around happily keeping the insect population down and the honeyeaters commingle with the bumble bees around the flowering plants. Sometimes, all is not so peaceful. In summer the swallows appear, desperately seeking out their ideal position for the new seasons arrivals. This year, they built a cosy nest under the eaves at the southwestern end of house, not anticipating the unseasonal gale force winds that ensued. Plan B was in the more sheltered northeastern corner but they must have found a Plan C because there was no evidence of them using the nest. I’m sure they will be back next summer.

3.swallow

Kookaburras are one of my favourites, they are so handsome and their distinctive calls that sound like anything from a chainsaw starting to a raucous belly laugh always make me smile.

4.kookaburra

Our relationship was tested when our goldfish started disappearing and one day, Michael observed the kookie culprit. We really didn’t want to put a net over the pond and, knowing kookaburras are territorial, installed a metal facsimile to guard the pond.

5.metalbird

It seemed to work for a while but, long story short, there is now a net over the pond and our new fish are safe.

6.pond

We often have visits from the yellow-tailed black cockatoos, usually for water from the stock troughs. I like their mournful, wailing call and they work together as a team with one keeping lookout while the others have a drink. They, too, have recently tested our hospitality. We have a beautiful banksia that has finally reached the perfect dimensions to disguise a rainwater tank – the very reason it was planted.

7.banksia

One afternoon, the cockatoos decided to bring the family and feast on the seed pods.

8.yellow tailed black cockatoo

About a dozen birds created havoc, breaking branchlets and flinging debris in all directions. They have returned numerous times, hopefully the tree will survive the onslaught.

11.yellow tailed black cockatoo

The lounge window has always attracted birdlife, the double-glazing provides a flawless reflection. Most of them just look at themselves, some will tap and flutter against the glass while others will stand there and call incessantly. Tasmania is the only place you will find the Yellow Wattlebird, Australia’s largest honeyeater. It has a range of distinctive calls, all of which are very loud and not of the soothing variety, more like a soprano cough. One recently became completely enamoured with his own reflection, I took a closer look.

12.yellow wattlebird

He retreated to the safety of the nearby birdbath and scanned the area

before returning to his mirror. In the meantime, I had adjusted my perch for a bird’s eye view.

17.yellow wattlebird

Back to the bath for a quick dip

and he seemed satisfied with the result.

20.yellow wattlebird

It is lovely to have so many birds around. Despite my grumbling, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

RAAF Museum

Just when we thought we had seen everything Werribee has to offer, we discovered the RAAF Museum just 10km down the road. Point Cook is the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) which was renamed to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1921. It was the Air Force’s only base from 1912 to 1925, when RAAF Laverton was built 20km away. The two became amalgamated in 1989 under the one name, RAAF Williams, named after Sir Richard Williams. The first military pilot to graduate from Point Cook in November 1914, he is considered the ‘father of the RAAF’. We felt a sense of privilege as we were handed our permits to enter the facility at the security gate.

Having only seen these aircraft in movies, I was awed by the magnitude of the de Havilland Canada Caribou on display between the hangars.

3.de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou A4-152

The RAAF Museum was established in 1952 to preserve aircraft, documents and memorabilia associated with the Air Force and opened to the public in 1972.

There is so much to see, even before reaching the aircraft hangars. This little woollen airman doll was carried as a good luck mascot by Squadron Leader A.S. McCracken in his Halifax bomber during World War II. A.S. was thrown through the cockpit canopy following a crash landing in 1944 and survived unscathed. The medals belonged to Air Vice Marshal Sir George Jones who shot down seven German aircraft during World War I. He became Chief of the Air Staff during the World War II and led the RAAF until 1952 when he retired.

6.mascot & medals

The information accompanying various displays of uniforms, rations and kit made for very interesting reading, far too involved for me to summarise.

The exhibits continued throughout the hangars with the added dimension of magnificent aircraft. We started in the Training Hangar to see how RAAF training has advanced over the years. To me, some of the earlier aircraft were real works of art with the use of beautiful polished timbers and complex mazes of wires. The Maurice Farman Shorthorn was the first armed aircraft to engage in aerial combat in World War I. Known as ‘Rumpety’ to the students because of the noise it made while travelling over the ground, it was used to train pilots until 1919.

Used by the RAAF throughout the 1920s, the Avro 504K was the first training aircraft that could be flown aerobatically. It is also linked to the first death in training of a RAAF airman at Point Cook following an accident in 1921.

The Tiger Moth on display was built at the de Havilland factory in Bankstown in 1942 and entered service in November 1943. It has been restored to original military configuration including the training colours of its wartime service.

The aircraft silhouette changed dramatically after World War II with the single-seat fighter, Vampire, initially in RAAF service in 1949. The two-seat trainer version was introduced in 1951 and the first ejection performed in Australia was from a Vampire in September 1952.

20.de havilland Vampire T Mk 35

The Winjeel, designed to replace the Tiger Moth as a basic trainer, first flew in 1951.

The Winjeel was replaced in 1972 with the CT4 Airtrainer. It was nicknamed the ‘Plastic Parrot’ because of its lightweight construction and green and yellow colours.

24.CT4A Airtrainer

The Italian designed Aermacchi MB 326H on display, known as the Macchi in Australian service, was the first received by the RAAF in October 1967.

Simulators are an important part of training, the RAAF now have a simulator for each aircraft type in service. The older models might have required a certain amount of imagination.

Manufactured shortly after World War II, the ‘Pie Cart’ was used to teach students how to hand-start an aircraft engine. It was nicknamed the “Terror Machine” for its ability to inflict serious injury. The yellow and black safety stripes are a recent addition.

We ventured next into the Technology Hangar to experience the evolution of military aviation, stepping back in time once again to 1913 and the magnificent wood, wire and fabric construction of the B.E.2a.

The SE 5 is an exact replica of an aircraft that entered service in 1922. The original was damaged in 1928 when it taxied into a DH9 and again, a month later, in a forced landing. The run of bad luck ended when it was eventually destroyed by fire in June 1929.

36.SE 5a

I can only describe the Supermarine Walrus as extraordinary. It looks like the most cumbersome and least likely to stay aloft aircraft ever conceived. On the contrary, it was designed to be catapulted from warships and was used for reconnaissance and air-sea rescue until 1946.

37.Supermarine Seagull V:Walrus

Suspended from the rafters, the Iroquois helicopter is one of two involved in the mission to re-supply ammunition to ground troops at Long Tan in 1966. After retirement in 1984, the aircraft was used as a training aid at the RAAF School of Radio before being transferred to the RAAF museum in 1993 and restored to its Vietnam War configuration.

38.Bell UH-1B Iroquois

The Vampire F-30 began service in the RAAF in 1950 and five years later, was converted to a target-towing aircraft with the addition of a hook and release mechanism below the cockpit. The striking paint scheme was designed to prevent the towing aircraft being mistaken for the target.

The Boston Bomber on display arrived in Melbourne in 1942 and carried out missions from Goodenough Island until it crashed on the airstrip due to battle damage a year later. It was recovered from there in 1987, restored and transported to the RAAF Museum in 1998, the only survivor of 69 Bostons operated by the RAAF.

41.Douglas A-20C Boston Bomber

An assortment of missiles are on display, including the Bloodhound surface-to-air missile of the 1950s and the more recent ASRAAM heat seeking air-to-air variety.

We finished off with a quick peek in the Restoration Hangar, a boggling collection of aircraft in various states of repair (or disrepair, depending on your viewpoint).

44.de Havilland DH-60M Gypsy Moth45.de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito

If you want to read more about the de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito restoration, take a look at Aces Flying High, Deano is a mine of information.

eleven years

Last month marked eleven years since we moved to our little piece of paradise. This led to some reflection, over a glass of wine or two, of renovations completed and projects accomplished. The property we have now is quite different from the one we purchased in 2009. The first thing to go was the lino on the floor, I don’t understand why anyone would lay that over polished timber.

The pink walls and light fittings soon followed along with the curtains.

With so many outdoor areas, we decided the large deck at the eastern end of the house was better put to use as an office. We included a second bathroom in the extension to serve as an ensuite to the third bedroom for guests.

The main bathroom was next for a makeover, I don’t have a ‘before’ photo of the bathroom, it was so terrible, but you’ll get the general idea. Demolishing the tiny bath and shower cubicle was very satisfying, the transformation is amazing.

The laundry was done at the same time.

The red brick walls in the lounge were rendered and painted, the carpet and tiles replaced with polished timber, new curtains and lounge suite completed the package.

The bedrooms didn’t need too much work, floor coverings were removed, timbers polished and new curtains.

The kitchen was a major project, I had forgotten how ugly it was until I dug out these photos.

At the same time things were changing inside, we were working on some big projects outside. Apart from some delicious strawberries and a few spuds, there wasn’t much growing in the veggie patch. A few months of hard toil changed that.

We then set about building a potting shed from reclaimed materials and somewhere to wash the produce.

The chook shed had seen a number of incarnations before we gave up and bought one that only required assembling.

36.chook house

The driveway needed some attention before it descended into the paddock, we sourced old car tyres to create a substantial retaining wall and then replaced the fence along the entire length.

It was doubtful how long the timbers on the bridge down in the forest would hold the weight of the tractor so we replaced them with new hardwood and brought the old ones up for future use.

The biggest reno to date was the back verandah, motivated when a pair of swallows insisted on building their nest in the eaves. Many months later, we could sit back and enjoy our efforts (the timbers used for the dining and coffee table are some of the old ones from the bridge).

At the end of the back room, we left an area for a BBQ kitchen. The decking was an exhausting enterprise, the fine tuning of the ‘kitchen’ is yet to evolve.

Our most ambitious (and final?) renovation is a work in progress. Hopefully, I will be able share that with you in the not too distant future. There is one thing that will stay the same.

46.cannonhill 569

Werribee Park Mansion

After staying the night at the fabulous Mansion Hotel, we spent some time the next morning exploring Werribee Park Mansion.

1.Werribee Park Mansion

The family history has more drama and intrigue than a Pulitzer Prize winning period romance novel. I’ll give you an abridged version while we wander, starting off at the stunning entrance hall.

4.hall

Scotsman Thomas Chirnside emigrated to Australia in 1838 seeking a new life and, seeing the opportunities in the agricultural industry, invested in stock and land. His brother, Andrew, joined him in 1841 and their pastoral empire flourished. On one side of the hall at the front of the house is the library, a cosy gentleman’s space.

Across the hall, the elegant drawing room where guests would be received and the ladies withdrew after dinner, has a definite feminine touch.

7.drawing room

Four years later, Thomas returned to Scotland for a visit, fell in love with his first cousin Mary and proposed marriage. Her parents didn’t approve and he returned alone. The formal dining room, with its exquisite ceiling rose, is next to the library

10.dining room

and the more informal breakfast room adjoins.

It was then Andrew’s turn for a trip home and Thomas asked him to bring Mary back to Australia any way he could. Andrew accomplished the task and he returned in 1852 with Mary as his wife. There is one bedroom on the ground floor with the modern convenience of an ensuite bathroom.

15.bedroom

Obviously a gentleman’s domain, the billiard room is adorned with hunting trophies and presumably, the family’s pet spaniel.

18.billiard room

25.billiard room

The peaceful conservatory has a distinctly tropical ambience.

26.conservatory27.conservatory

Thomas wanted Mary to live in a stately home and so, he and Andrew built the elaborate sandstone Italianate mansion at their Werribee Park property. The 60-room house took three years to build and was completed in 1877. The presentation in the kitchen leaves little doubt as to the lavish lifestyle enjoyed at Werribee Park.

Andrew and Mary, along with three of their children, lived at the mansion. Thomas, who never married, lived at his property in nearby Point Cook until his later years when he joined them at Werribee. At the top of the main staircase,

33.main staircase

the ornate saloon was an area used as a gallery and ballroom.

A doorway leads out to a magnificent tiled balcony at the base of the tower.

36.balcony

The brothers made many generous contributions to the community, including churches and schools, and hosted events such as polo matches and picnics in the expansive grounds. Looking out over the lawns, I could just picture the dashing men and the ladies in their finery out in the sunshine.

39.gardens40.parterre garden

After years of suffering from depression, Thomas took his own life in 1887. Found dead in the laundry with a shotgun beside him, it is believed his ghost now haunts the mansion. The laundry is housed in a separate bluestone building at the rear of the mansion.

41.laundry

Andrew died of heart failure three years later and his two youngest sons inherited the property on the proviso that Mary lived there for the rest of her days. The bedrooms on the first floor are beautifully decorated and each has its own dressing room.

42.chintz bedroom

45.blue bedroom46.blue bedroom

The children’s room is more than a bedroom, with an array of playthings to keep them amused.

47.childrens room

Tragically, Mary died from her injuries after her hair caught fire from a bedside candle in 1908. The back staircase leads to the servants rooms

and there are marvellous exhibitions of curios from life in the late 19th century. I can’t imagine an occasion where the bird hat would be appropriate, the corset looks positively painful and the ashtray is distinctly bad taste.

The brothers sold Werribee Park in 1922 to a wealthy grazier from Warrnambool. A year later, it was sold again to the Roman Catholic Church, was developed as a seminary and operated for fifty years. In 1973, the Victorian Government acquired the property and restored the mansion and grounds to its former glory.

57.main staircase

leaving lockdown

Our two weeks of isolation after returning from New Zealand in March turned into seven weeks, with lockdown imposed following an outbreak of a certain virus here in northwest Tasmania. There is a lot to be said for staying at home, we certainly didn’t sit around wondering what to do next. The eastern wall of the house, potting shed and chook house have had a fresh coat of stain

and Michael created a unique cover for the gas bottles.

5.gas bottle cover

The garden has had quite an overhaul with much trimming, new timber edging to the beds and a fresh layer of mulch.

6.garden7.garden8.garden

It is an ongoing project.

9.garden10.garden11.garden12.garden

With the lifting of lockdown last Monday, while it seems much of the population headed to the shops, we took Cooper for a much needed run around the local country roads with the top down. The sun was shining and the scenery was breathtaking. Snow atop Black Bluff is a gentle reminder that winter is just around the corner

13.Black Bluff

but there was no sign of it this day.

14.Dial Range

The autumn hues of liquidambar added a stunning contrast to the blues and greens.

15.liquidambar

Hopefully, we will have some more days like this before hunkering down until spring arrives.

16.Dial Range17.Natone18.Natone