midwinter morning

Winter is well and truly upon us. After a very mild autumn, we are having one of the coldest winters in Tasmania I can remember. Maybe it’s just that the bones are getting older? One morning last week, I awoke early and, after turning off the alarm on my phone, I checked the weather forecast. Currently 1ºC, feels like -3ºC. Fortunately, it was considerably warmer inside as the wood fire was still burning. Just before I left for work, I became aware of the subtle hues in the sky, promising a spectacular sunrise.

1.pre sunrise2.pre sunrise

Making my way to the garage, I noticed the bird bath had frozen. The nocturnal creatures had left their calling cards as usual.

3.birdbath

The frost was beautiful

4.frosty garden

and crisp underfoot as Michael and Poppy headed off for their morning walk.

7.frosty paddock

Driving along the dirt road toward the bitumen, this vision had me reaching for my camera.

8.almost sunrise

As I drove, I kept watch from every angle, intermittently testing the brakes as I stopped to capture the spectacle.

9.almost sunrise

The newly ploughed chocolate paddock had a delicious topping of vanilla ice.

10.chocolate field

Travelling north, the fire in the east simmered,

11.sky on fire

the roofline silhouettes a captivating contrast.

12.silhouette

In the valley, the frost lingered

13.rolling frost

before the road climbed again. One last glimpse of nature’s wonder.

14.sunrise at last

The moon was still high in the sky over the suburbs of Burnie.

15.moon over Burnie

I really had to get to work.

York

Being the largest county in the UK, there were so many places we wanted to see in Yorkshire. Aware of our limited time, we had to make some difficult decisions. The town of York was an obvious choice. We entered the historic walled city, founded by the Romans in 71AD, along Micklegate. Once the most important of York’s four medieval gateways, we passed beautiful old buildings

1.Shops on Micklegate

on our way to the river.

2.River Ouse

There are nine bridges across the River Ouse within the city of York, the oldest being at the site of the present Ouse Bridge as early as the 9th century. The history behind the Ouse bridge is quite interesting. In 1154, the stone bridge collapsed when a large crowd gathered to welcome Archbishop William to York. It was considered a miracle that no-one drowned and the Archbishop was later canonised and had a chapel named after him. The replacement bridge was supported by six arches and was lined with houses, shops, a toll booth, a courthouse, a prison and the chapel dedicated to St William. In 1367, the first public toilets in England were installed on the bridge. In 1564, the river flooded and the bridge collapsed, the buildings were swept away. The next new bridge was built much higher and houses and public buildings were again built along its length. After 250 years or so, in need of repairs, the bridge was replaced. Started in 1810, the present day bridge took 11 years to complete.

3.Ouse Bridge

Across the river, we made our way to The Shambles. Dating back to the 14th century, York’s oldest street has some fascinating architecture.

4.The Shambles

Historically a street of butchers shops and houses, the name is thought to come from the medieval word Shamel, meaning booth or bench. Livestock were slaughtered at the back of the premises and the meat laid out on what are now the shop window bottoms.

5.The Shambles

The overhanging fronts of the timber-framed buildings almost touch each other in some parts of the street. This was deliberate to shelter the wattle and daub walls and protect the meat from direct sunlight.

6.The Shambles

The butchers shops of old have been replaced by quaint businesses more appealing to the tourists that flock to The Shambles.

7.The Shambles

There isn’t much left to see of York Castle. Built in 1068, there were originally two circular castles, this one known as Clifford’s Tower. The wooden structure was replaced in the 13th century with stone, suffered some damage during the Civil War and was then gutted by fire after a major explosion in 1684. It wasn’t restored until the 19th century and was then used as a jail until 1929.

8.York Castle Clifford's Tower

It would have been wonderful to have had two hours to spare to walk the 3.4 kilometres of beautifully preserved town walls. We had to be satisfied with the short section that took us back to Micklegate and our next exciting destination.

9.Town walls approaching Micklegate

Watershed Winery

With lunch time approaching, we arrived at Watershed Winery, not far from the township of Margaret River. The expanse of regimented vines

1.Watershed vines

followed us down the driveway to the impressive cellar door edifice.

2.entrance

The light, airy café and restaurant are separated only by seating arrangement and menu.

3.restaurant

Head Chef, Dan Gedge, was trained in Cornwall by none other than Rick Stein. Sourcing the freshest seasonal produce, he creates a very tempting menu. I can’t remember what we ate and I have no photos but I do know it was delicious. On a warmer day it would have been perfect to sit outside. The extensive alfresco dining area

5.alfresco6.alfresco4.alfresco

delivers stunning views over the dam and rolling vineyards.

7.vineyard & dam

The architecture is exceptional, and with the beautiful setting, I can see why it is a popular venue for weddings.

8.rear entrance9.rear courtyard

We didn’t linger after lunch, there were more wineries to conquer.

mellow monotreme

We rarely see echidnas in the wild and were very excited when, travelling back from lunch at a friend’s house, we spotted one foraging in the grass.

1.echidna

Echidnas are fascinating creatures. Along with the platypus, they belong to the order of monotremes, the only living mammals that lay eggs. Evolving between 20 and 50 million years ago, their ancestors were aquatic before echidnas adapted to life on land.

2.echidna

The cream coloured spines, around 50mm in length, are actually modified hairs. The fur between the spines provides insulation and ranges in colour from honey to dark reddish-brown and even black.

3.echidna

Long-beaked echidnas are only found in New Guinea, we have the short-beaked variety here in Australia. The Tasmanian ones are larger than those on the mainland and their fur is thicker and longer, concealing most of the spines.

4.echidna

Their diet is mainly ants and termites but the echidna is also partial to grubs, larvae and worms.

5.echidna

The pointy snout is an amazing appendage. Not only can it sense the smell of its prey, it detects the electrical impulses from the insect’s bodies. Then, the long, sharp claws on strong forepaws are used to dig into the soil or open up ant’s nests, followed by the devoration of a meal with a sticky, 15cm tongue. They have no teeth, but grind their tasty morsels with horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues.

6.echidna

Breeding season is between June and September. A single egg is laid into the backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days. Echidnas don’t have nipples, they secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Around 3 months of age, the puggle (such a cute name for the baby echidna) leaves the pouch or rather, mother ejects it due to the growth of the spines. Mum leaves the puggle while she goes off to forage and returns every 5 days to suckle it, until it is weaned at 6 months of age. She then leaves it to fend for itself, never to return.

7.echidna

Echidnas do have natural predators, despite their spines, such as eagles and Tasmanian Devils. They were a favourite food of the early settlers and Aboriginal people. Fortunately, even though they are not considered endangered, they are now protected by law. After posing for a few photos, we left him (or her) to enjoy afternoon tea.

8.echidna