forest walk

With Michael recently sidelined sporting a badly sprained ankle, I stepped in for Poppy-walking duty. Saturday is always the long walk down the steep hill into our forest. It had been quite a while since my last venture this way and I was amazed how much had changed. The tree ferns are enormous and every shade of green.

If Michael hadn’t pre-warned me about the crayfish burrows on the path, I probably would have stepped on them. Freshwater burrowing crayfish live in tunnel systems in muddy banks, only venturing out at night or in damp, overcast conditions. The Tasmanian genera has claws that open vertically to the body rather than horizontally to allow for larger claws in narrow tunnels. Characteristic ‘chimneys’, some as high as 40cm, announce the entrance to the burrow.

Remnants of an overnight rain shower sparkled on foliage

while contorted trees danced amongst their lofty companions.

I dutifully followed Poppy along the boundary of adjoining farmland

where we attracted the interest of neighbouring cattle who didn’t hesitate to take a closer look.

Our circuit returned us to the forest, the winter season has delivered more firewood from nature,

the manferns are thriving

and the stream is bubbling its way to the Blythe River.

I wisely chose bright red socks for my pilgrimage, all the better to see the leeches that abound in the damp conditions.

miscellaneous moments

A few years ago, I posted ‘random rambling’, a selection of photos that didn’t really fit any one subject. I have since accumulated a few more that I thought I would share with you. The male blue wrens have been in their eclipse phase through winter and are now bobbing around the garden in their bright blue plumage in pursuit of the ladies.

In the forest, flowers of wild white clematis transform in autumn to feathery seed floss.

Here is a bit of silliness. Spreading a few tons of mulch, Michael captured this from his perch on the tractor. He calls it, “burying the wife”.

After dark, our garden becomes a marsupial playground and sometimes the critters are slow to leave come morning. This pademelon didn’t seem in any particular hurry to return to the forest.

The elegant art installation by a local orb spinner decorated the verandah. Backlit by the morning sun, it was fortunately too high to trap the unsuspecting human.

Sitting at the dining table one afternoon, I saw a flash of white in my peripheral vision. I assumed it was a sulphur-crested cockatoo but on closer inspection, a beautiful Grey Goshawk had landed in a tree just outside the window. The threatened species has a population currently estimated at less than 110 breeding pairs in Tasmania, we are hopeful our forest is home to at least one of those pairs.

I spotted this humongous fungus in the crevice of a tree trunk in the garden,

ten days later, it had started to shrivel and change shape.

Our magnificent Golden Ash tree provides shelter through summer before the leaves turn gold in autumn and fall to the ground.

On this particular day, I looked up from my usual gardening position on my knees and was awed by the comfort of the canopy. I felt as though the tree was embracing me

or maybe it was my handsome North Wind man?

Looking out of the window one day, I could see black objects on the horizon (my eyesight isn’t what it used to be). I took a photo for identification purposes and confirmed nothing more exciting than the neighbouring cattle searching for tasty remnants in a barren field.

I discovered this delicate, white fungus while picking the last of our daffodils, it reminds me of coral. Apparently, it is called Shizophyllum commune and is very common on dead wood.

Our holly tree, once starved of light under a huge gum tree we have since removed, has flourished. I think this is proof that Christmas should be in winter.

Both the red and yellow waratahs are presenting a stunning display this year

and the port wine magnolia is again in bloom.

Hellyers Road Distillery

With our favourite restaurant, Bayviews, closed for annual holiday, we chose an alternative venue for a mid-week lunch with a very special friend. Hellyers Road Distillery is located in the hinterland behind Burnie with fabulous views across the Emu Valley to the Dial Range beyond.

Behind the walls of the architecturally designed visitor’s centre, interactive tours inform visitors about the origins of the brand and provide guests with the opportunity to pour and wax seal their own bottle of whisky. We have yet to experience the Whisky Walk, something to pencil in for the not too distant future.

We were met in the lobby by a wonderful paper sculpture of namesake, Henry Hellyer and his dog. Hellyer came to Tasmania in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company. He is credited with opening up much of the northwest to settlement and the road we find the distillery on was, at one time, named in his honour.

There is opportunity to relax for a casual whisky tasting treat

and a retail area for those tempted to continue the indulgence at home.

Expansive windows make the most of the rural panorama

and landscaped gardens surrounding the restaurant.

Our meal choice took a while, with so many enticing options on offer but our wine selection was easy, Josef Chromy is always a winner. I finally decided on Five Spice Roasted Pork Belly; Scottsdale pork belly rubbed with five spice, soy, and garlic, roasted and served on buckwheat soba noodles and shredded Asian greens. Finished with tempura mushrooms and an aromatic ginger and chilli broth.

Michael wisely chose something else in fear of random coriander (he was right but I love coriander) and went for The House Special; potted pie of north-west coast beef, braised in Hellyers Road Original Whisky, caramelised onion, and aromatic vegetables, topped with flaky pastry and served with thick cut rosemary scented potato wedges, crusty sourdough and butter. Our lovely friend was happy with Braised Duck Leg with Chorizo Fettuccine; duck leg slow cooked in tomato, onion and herbs, roasted and served with house made fettuccine tossed in tomato sugo with olives, capers, chorizo, chilli and preserved lemon. Finished with parmesan and fresh herbs.

A magnificent rainbow brightened the landscape outside

as our desserts had a similar effect inside. I couldn’t resist the Lemon Delicious Pudding with blueberry compote, served with a rolled up brandy snap filled with lemon mascarpone cream.

My accomplices indulged in a Mini Apple & Raspberry Cake; sautéed Tasmanian apples topped with raspberries, baked in a light fluffy sweet pastry and served with pouring cream and raspberry coulis and a Warm Whisky Raisin Brownie served with Anvers dark chocolate mousse, double cream and VDL cookies and cream ice cream.

I was especially surprised to discover, on paying the bill, a complementary bottle of coffee cream liqueur. Along with a jar of Whisky Relish (a must in any pantry) and a branded whisky tumbler, my collection is complete …. for now.

Heritage Walk

After discovering the beautiful Federation Homes of Burnie and delving further into the history of the town, I set out to investigate the civic buildings from this period. These are by no means the only significant heritage buildings in Burnie, they are merely the example promoted by the ‘Federation Walks of Burnie’ pamphlet. The prominent Ikon Hotel was established as the Club Hotel in 1912 by J.T. Alexander. The Alexander family pioneered European settlement at Table Cape and with support from his family, J.T. built his own hotel after leasing the Sea View (now the Beach Hotel) from 1902 to 1910.

Known for his generosity to many needy families during the Great Depression, Alexander faced mounting debts and was forced to sell the hotel in 1933. The three storey building, dominated by the tall pyramidal tower, is an example of Federation Free Style architecture with very fine cast iron valances and balustrades.

Built by the Hobart Bank in 1921, the St. Luke’s building is on the site originally used by the Don Trading Company as their wood yard. ‘Burnie Brick’ was used in the construction of many buildings of this era, dug and fired in the Cooee brickworks until 1967 when the clay was eventually exhausted and the business closed. Federation Free Style often incorporated features from other styles such as the Romanesque semi-circular arches and Art Nouveau pediments above the downstairs windows seen on St. Luke’s.

In 1899, a Baptist Church was established in the town with services held in the Town Hall. Funds were raised to purchase land and erect a purpose built weatherboard church and adjoining two-storey brick manse. By 1925, the church proved too small and the new brick version was completed almost entirely by voluntary labour of the parishioners. There are some medieval elements to the Federation Gothic style including pointed arch windows and doorways, blind turrets and arrow slits and a parapet resembling a battlement.

The Christian Brethren began services in Burnie in 1875 and a simple timber building was constructed a year later. The current Gospel Hall, built in 1915 and enlarged in 1930, is another example of Federation Gothic architecture with a steeply pitched roof, arched windows and the inclusion of Art Nouveau leadlight.

The current SES Regional Headquarters is housed in a magnificent two-storey Federation Filigree home originally built for the Lucadou-Wells family as a combined residence and dental surgery. The ornamental screening on verandahs and balconies was usually timber but in this case it is cast iron.

Constructed in the Federation Free Style for the Commercial Bank in 1913, I think this sandstone and brick structure is looking somewhat neglected. Known as the T.G.I.O. Building (Tasmanian Government Insurance Office) through the nineties, it is now inhabited by Steadfast Taswide Insurance Brokers.

Another beautiful building sits sadly neglected. The former Burnie branch of the Launceston Bank for Savings opened in 1928 and was most recently the premises of the Spirit Bar, a welcoming hub offering Tasmanian beer, wine, cider and spirits as well as delicious fare and live music. The forlorn façade has deteriorated dismally since the unfortunate closure of Spirit Bar a couple of years ago.

My disappointment reached a new level when I saw the condition of the Old Post Office. Purpose built in 1898, it is considered an important example of Federation Free Classical architecture. An enthusiastic couple bought the property in 2014 with plans to renovate but I can find no further reference to that story and it certainly appears deserted and decrepit.

The former Bank of Van Diemen’s Land (V.D.L. Bank) building, just a few doors down from the Old Post Office, has been beautifully restored and maintained. Completed in 1892, the prominent corner position is ideal for what is now ‘Food & Brew’, a successful restaurant and wine bar serving Tasmanian produce and making the most of the stunning period architecture, both inside and out.

I fail to understand why some these buildings that are considered significant enough to be listed on the Heritage Register are not being maintained. Surely the conservation recommendation of, “this place should be retained” indicates an obligation to upkeep the premises? Perhaps some Council coffers could be allocated to restore Burnie’s historical buildings, especially those promoted in brochures to entice visitors to the town?

frosty fingers

Having just returned from ten days in Darwin, I am struggling to adapt to the climate shock. Tasmanians are used to the four seasons and we enjoy the positive in each of them. Not long before my recent sojourn, I took Poppy for her morning walk into the Blythe Conservation Area that adjoins our property. There is no need to consult the BOM website to know the temperature has dipped into the minus, the frozen birdbaths are evident enough.

Risking frostbite to my digits, I transformed my thermal mittens to fingerless gloves (an ingenious design purchased at Cradle Mountain some years ago). Crossing the paddock, it seemed the forest was on fire with the trees reflecting the glow of early sunlight.

To the north, an aircraft’s vapour trail draws a line across the pale blue sky.

Looking back, the frost is heavy on our house roof

and the neighbour’s horses are rugged up against the cold.

Once into the forest, brushfires of rising sun create autumnal hues

and someone is patiently waiting for me to catch up.

Further into the woodland, I have stumbled into paradise,

even Poppy takes a moment to appreciate the spectacle.

We may have trespassed into sacred sulphur-crested cockatoo territory at the end of the trail, the ear-piercing screeches from on high warned others of our presence.

Retracing our steps, highlights from ascending Sol lingered

and the frosty paddocks would soon warm to the glow.

Reclaimed garden edging and fallen leaves hold onto the frost

but the daffodils are promise of the coming spring.