Highfield House

I know I’ve said it before but Stanley really is one of our favourite places and having guests from interstate is always a great excuse to return. The drive up the hill to Highfield House and the views as we descend back to the beach are quite spectacular. A few years have passed since we took the time to visit Highfield House so we welcomed the opportunity on a recent expedition. The Van Diemen’s Land Company was formed in 1826  by a group of London based businessmen to establish a wool growing venture on the island. Edward Curr, the chief agent of the VDL Company, arrived at Circular Head in the remote northwest with his family in November 1827. They lived in a small cottage until his new homestead, with twenty four rooms, was completed in 1835.

1.Highfield House

The garden is immaculate

and the house impressive even on an inclement day.

4.Highfield House

Through the front door, down the main hallway

5.hall

we entered the gallery where guests would be welcomed. Portraits and stories of those who lived and worked in the house and around the estate adorn the walls.

6.gallery

Storyboards in each room relate a different part of life at Highfield House, the history of the VDL Company and the settlement of Circular Head. First impressions of the settlers to the wild, rugged northwest are shared in the adjacent drawing room,

7.drawing room

while the failure of the planned fine wool enterprise and hefty financial losses are described in the study.

Across the hall, the china closet displays remnants of crockery that were found during restoration of the house

and parts of the original ceiling and walls have been exposed.

Henry Hellyer travelled to Van Diemen’s Land in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the VDL company. His explorations and mapping of the remote northwest opened up the area to settlement. In 1831, he began designing Highfield House but, sadly, he committed suicide in September 1832 and never saw his plans come to fruition. His adventures are told in the room set up as a nursery.

Beneath the staircase, two cellars provide ample storage for the plethora of goods imported on the Company ships. Detailed inventories indicate the residents of the house wanted for nothing.

Places are set at the dining room table and snippets of conversation are written on the cloth. The clinking of glasses and cutlery accompany the gossip of the day.

22.dining room

25.dining room

Upstairs,

the master bedroom is set out beautifully, though it is shrouded in sadness with the sound of a woman sobbing. Presumably, Elizabeth Curr is mourning the death of her two year old daughter, Julia, in a tragic accident.

28.master bedroom

Conversely, there is a calm ambience with stunning garments laid out

and a surprisingly comfortable ensuite.

32.ensuite

Down the hall, the children’s bedroom seems a bit on the small side for fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters. Apparently, all were sent back to England for schooling around the age of four.

33.children's bedroom

The guest room has a spectacular view of the Nut, the ancient volcanic plug around which the town of Stanley has grown. Suitcases half packed (or unpacked) give the impression of visitors in residence.

Returning to the ground floor, through the Butler’s Pantry (which is now the Reception Office) there is another hall

36.hall

that leads past the larder and pantry ( with more exposed original ceiling)

to the kitchen.

40.kitchen

A collection of not-so-modern appliances make us aware of how arduous the simplest of tasks were at that time.

The kitchen leads to a rear courtyard

46.rear courtyard

and we set off to explore the various outbuildings on the estate. A small stone building houses a chapel on the ground floor

and schoolhouse above.

51.chapel:schoolhouse

There are stables

52.stables

and a large barn that was divided up for separate uses.

56.barns

Through the straw barn

57.straw barn

there is a separate section that houses some old implements including a rather striking woolpress.

At the other end, on a mezzanine level, the original threshing barn is now a popular venue for weddings and functions.

65.threshing barn

Following Curr’s dismissal in 1842, Highfield House has had several owners until 1982 when the State Government acquired the estate. If you are planning on a visit to Stanley, be sure to take the time to explore Highfield House.

66.Highfield House & The Nut

Christmas creativity

Whether we like it or not, there is a certain obligation to decorate our workplace for Christmas. Each year, the boxes of tinsel and baubles are dragged out of storage along with the increasingly dilapidated tree. To add a new dimension this year, we were each issued a challenge to decorate a door in the department. Everyone dug deep into their creative souls with astounding results. There are a few elves

3.elf

and a couple of Santas, one of which has decided to go for a swim.

6.Santa's gone to the beach

An enthusiastic llama

7.fa la la llama

is inspired by the mischievous and musical reindeer down the hall.

8.reindeer stable

There is a happy snowman, a couple of Olafs and a penguin that looks as though he has had one too many egg nogs.

I think this wins first prize for imagination.

15.Frosty's first photo

A chocolate advent calendar is a must for counting down the days.

16.advent calendar

Some excelled with colourful creations.

17.gingerbread house18.fireplace

Christmas trees and gifts featured

21.gift

along with baubles

and a quirky, original night sky (sorry about the quality, looks like I had one too many egg nogs!)

24.night sky

Of course, not everyone feels the joy of Christmas.

25.grumpy cat26.Grinch

Wishing you all a very happy and safe Christmas and everything you hope for in 2020.

The Great Divide

The Lyell Highway traverses Tasmania from Strahan on the west coast to the capital city, Hobart, in the south. Driving the 300km through the West Coast Range and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park along the tortuous route is both tiring and exhilarating. On an unusually straight stretch of road, about 75km past Queenstown, we noticed a couple of cyclists taking a break at a small roadside rest area and stopped to investigate. We learned from the information board that this was the point of The Great Divide. Tasmania is divided into two distinct regions when it comes to climate, geology and vegetation and this divide is known as Tyler’s Line (named after Peter Tyler, a Tasmanian limnologist). The west has higher rainfall, poor acidic soil and the strong westerly winds of the Roaring Forties. The vegetation comprises rainforest, moorland and wet sclerophyll along with rugged mountain ranges.

1.westward2.westward

Frenchmans Cap is the highest peak in the West Coast Range, named because of the similarity to the shape of the Liberty Cap worn during the French Revolution.

3.Frenchmans Cap

To the east of the divide, conditions are much drier and warmer with lower rainfall and more fertile soil. From our vantage point, the King William Range rose majestically on the horizon, similar in shape and geology to the more famous Cradle Mountain.

4.King William Range

Made up of three separate peaks, named Mount King William I, II and III,

5.Mt King William I6.Mount King William II7.Mount King William III

the King William Saddle is equidistant from Tasmania’s three major cities – Hobart (190km), Launceston (186km) and Devonport (193km), each one a three hour drive. Fortunately, we were only 10km from our destination of Pumphouse Point.

Mount Gnomon Farm

We had been wanting to visit Mount Gnomon Farm for years but the timing was always wrong. Finally, last Sunday we drove the short ten minutes from Penguin along winding roads, through beautiful countryside, to experience the recently re-opened restaurant. The rustic simplicity of the exterior

1.restaurant

continues once inside.

2.interior

From quirky door handles and unique light fittings

to walls adorned with animal hides and ‘family’ photos, the ambience is warm and inviting.

A colourful palette of wildflowers is framed by the dining room window.

8.view from dining room

The front verandah overlooks fields of grazing sheep,

9.view from front door

a charcoal spit and bespoke fire pits await the next big event.

10.spit

Resident pooches Cyril and Winston eagerly welcomed us, happy to accept attention without demanding it.

Agricultural scientist, Guy Robertson purchased this magnificent parcel of land ten years ago, principally to raise free range pigs and promote the end product of premium free range pork. Nestled against the forest reserve of the Dial Range, they certainly have no problem with neighbours.

19.Dial Range20.Wild garden & Dial Range

The estate has become much more than a pig farm but I’ll get to that after lunch. Unfortunately for Guy, but fortuitously for us, last minute cancellations meant the three of us were the only guests. Perusing the menu, it was difficult to make a choice, we wanted to try everything. With a little encouragement from Guy and his team, that’s exactly what we did. French chef, Madjid, specialises in charcuterie and so, at the top of the menu, we started with the impressive French Charcuterie shared plate. Ham hock terrine, wallaby terrine, pepperberry cured pork fillet, saucisson sec, saucisson a l’ail, smoked ham, apple puree, garden pickles and sourdough bread.

21.French Charcuterie shared plate

Mount Gnomon smoked chorizo with pumpkin puree & sage, Mount Gnomon smoked bratwurst with house sauerkraut & German mustard and a salad of borlotti beans, celery, fennel & orange followed.

24.salad

The roasted suckling pig leg with sausage stuffing, carrots, garlic crumb & jus convinced us of the superior quality and flavour of Mount Gnomon free range pork.

25.suckling pig

Next came free range chicken served with spinach, roasted pumpkin, burnt butter, lemon & toasted pine nuts.

26.free range chicken

Crispy Kennebec potato with smoked paprika mayo and local green vegetables with a herb dressing, Coal River Farm fetta, preserved lemon & mint completed the feast. (I missed a photo of the greens, trust me, they were incredible).

27.potatoes

I should point out, these dishes were shared between us, we hadn’t really succumbed to an attack of gluttony. The menu changes every week depending on the fresh farm produce available, what a great excuse to return and sample more. Local beers and ciders are also on offer, along with superb Ghost Rock wines. We were confident we could manage the one dessert on the menu with a pause for digestion and so, embarked on a Guy guided tour of the farm. A new lamb had joined the flock of Shropshire sheep that morning, I’m sure he grew more cute each time I looked at him (actually, not sure if he is a he).

The other lambs had a head start and for some, the grass was definitely greener the other side of the fence.

Across the paddock to the west, the traditional Dairy Shorthorn cattle enjoy far reaching views as well as luscious green pasture.

34.views to the west

To the north, the young apple trees of the cider orchard align with the pristine waters of Bass Strait.

37.view to the north

A wild edible garden

38.wild garden

occupies the space between the restaurant kitchen and the most spectacular raised vegetable garden I have ever seen.

39.vegetable patch

My hopes of cuddling a piglet were dashed when we learned the hundreds of Wessex Saddleback pigs that usually reside here had been relocated to enable regeneration of the pastures.

40.pig pastures

I’m sure they will be eager to return to their home beneath Mount Gnomon.

41.pig pastures

For the few that remain, the rich, red soil was irresistible for a spot of wallowing.

I imagine this would be a soothing respite

47.pig in mud48.pig in mud

from suckling twelve large offspring.

49.piggies

Back at the restaurant, I entered the inner sanctum to witness the cured meats awaiting their turn on the charcuterie board.

50.charcuterie

The exercise and fresh air had primed us for the delicious peanut butter chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis & crunchy topping.

51.mousse

If you can’t make it to Mount Gnomon Farm, you can find their products on menus around Australia as well as at farmers markets and festivals across Tasmania. If you can make it to the farm, next Sunday would be the perfect opportunity with a big day planned for the launch of Mount Gnomon Farms very own cider.

52.event

Providence Farm Stall

After a relaxing morning wandering around the rhododendron garden, we drove further through the rolling countryside in search of lunch. We had been meaning to visit Providence Farm Stall since it opened almost a year ago, this time we were wise enough to book well ahead. The rusted patina of Corten steel glowed in the sunlight on what looked like a fairly unassuming farm building.

1.exterior

Lavender and olive trees accompanied myriad potted plants around the grounds

along with a couple of rustic installations.

The hilltop setting afforded spectacular views across verdant farmland to the waters of Bass Strait.

6.vista7.vista8.vista

From a different angle, the ‘shed’ became something quite extraordinary.

9.exterior

Stepping through the door,

10.front entrance

the huge windows filled the walls with nature’s artwork.

11.interior

A magnificent slab of polished timber offers seating for a large group or share table

and complements the tasteful, minimalist décor.

There are plans to create a lounge bar on the mezzanine, a comfy space to enjoy a beverage while listening to local talent entertaining with live music.

18.mezzanine

The seasonal menu is limited but the food is fresh, colourful and beautifully presented. The interestingly named Poke Bowl comprises smoked ocean trout, sushi rice, edamame beans, avocado, red cabbage and carrots, drizzled with soy-sesame dressing.

19.Poke Bowl

A flavoursome Rainbow Salad is topped with cashews and a house made Thai dressing.

20.Rainbow Salad

Rich, creamy Butter Chicken is served with basmati rice and chapati bread.

21.Butter Chicken

Fortunately, we still had room for Sticky Date Cake served warm with butterscotch sauce, roasted almonds and cream

22.Sticky Date Cake

and a delicious Chocolate Bliss Mini Cake.

23.Chocolate Bliss Mini Cake

We are looking forward to a return visit to sample the Summer menu and enjoy the congenial atmosphere and friendly hospitality.