The Conservatory

Over the years of living here in Tasmania, we have made many trips to Launceston. About halfway along the Bass Highway, at a place called Parramatta Creek, there is a fascinating building that has always intrigued us. The conservatory was built 40 years ago by a Devonport man who designed it to house his grand piano.

1.Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The mother-daughter team who run the café and providore approached the owner of the building and he eventually agreed to sell. In March 2015, The Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory opened. The interior is reminiscent of a bygone era,

2.interior Conservatory

the furnishings are comfortable and inviting.

The beautiful grand piano has pride of place.

The shelves are stocked with 100% Tasmanian goods from the best growers and producers across the state.

I took a stroll around the gardens before lunch, the late spring rewarded with some magnificent blooms.

27.front garden

Returning through the rear entrance,

36.rear view

lunch was served. The menu changes daily to make the most of fresh, local produce. Two of us chose Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake served with Scottsdale twice cooked sticky pork belly, crushed toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, bean shoots, fresh chilli and Thirlstane Gardens coriander.

It was a tough decision between the pork and the Braefield pulled lamb burger on a Pigeon Whole bakery brioche bun with smoky baba ganoush, baby spinach, crispy Brandsema balsamic eggplant and house pickled red onion served with sweet potato chips and tzatziki.

39.Pulled lamb burger

There are also vegetarian options, including a selection of delicious dips.

40.dips

Of course, the local wines are superb. I don’t think we can travel to Launceston without stopping in for, at least, a coffee and cake.

41.not our car42.Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory

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petal pilferer

We’ve had a lovely display of water irises in our pond this year, the bright yellow contrasting beautifully with the verdant surrounds.

1.water irises2.water iris

Despite the mild weather and lack of winds, the flower heads have been disappearing soon after opening.

3.water iris

While enjoying a morning coffee in the back room last weekend, we found out why.

4.petal thief5.petal thief

The Superb Blue wrens, while being socially monogamous, are apparently the least faithful birds in the world. Although they mate for life and will share the feeding and upbringing of their young, they are remarkably promiscuous. The females have a particular weakness for males bearing a yellow petal.

6.petal thief

She may be courted by up to 13 males in half an hour and, for the right one, will leave the nest, mate with him and return as though nothing happened. Consequently, the offspring in any one brood will have different parentage. Maybe it’s because the male never presents a petal to his mate?

7.petal thief

And why a yellow petal?

8.petal thief

Meelup Trail

Our last day in the Margaret River region dawned clear and sunny, perfect for a morning walk. The Meelup Trail starts at Old Dunsborough beach

1.Old Dunsborough Beach

and follows the coastline for 11.5 kilometres to Eagle Bay. We fortified ourselves with coffee from the Silver Bullet Espresso van, a gorgeous Airstream caravan parked at the boat ramp.

2.Silver Bullet Espresso

The detail in this lovely sculpture doesn’t really show in silhouette. Sculpture by the Bay is an exhibition of works held on the foreshore each March as part of the Dunsborough Arts Festival. This was the winning piece from 2015, installed near the boat ramp.

3.Dunsborough boat ramp

We walked past some beautiful homes with stunning views

4.Geographe Bay

before the trail narrowed and we were embraced by dense coastal vegetation.

5.trail

It was a bit early for most of the wildflowers,

but the magnificent Barrens Clawflower was putting on a wonderful display. Endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, the name is from the location where it was found in 1920, West Mount Barren.

Further on, the trail opened up and the coastal views were spectacular.

13.trail14.Geographe Bay15.Geographe Bay16.shags on a rock

Strategically placed seating invited a chance to rest and take in the view and perhaps spy a passing whale.

17.whale watching18.Geographe Bay19.Geographe Bay20.Geographe Bay

Granite rock formations lay scattered throughout the landscape

and along the sheltered beaches.

26.beach27.beach28.beach29.Geographe Bay

Lunch time was approaching and there were more wineries awaiting us. We returned along the same path,

30.forest

encountering this Shingleback lizard basking in the dappled sunlight.

31.Shingleback lizard

Isn’t he handsome?

32.Shingleback lizard

Acacia abounds

Through the cold, damp haze of August, the first promise of spring starts to appear across the landscape. The expanse of green in the forest turns a lovely shade of yellow as the wattle trees flower. With over 1,000 species of Acacia worldwide, around 950 are native to Australia. We mainly have two species on our property, both are endemic to eastern Australia. Acacia melanoxylon grows to 40 metres in Tasmania, twice the height if its mainland siblings, and can live over 100 years. The Tasmanian blackwood is a beautiful tree and we are surrounded by them.

1.Tasmanian blackwood

The timber, with its variable colours and grains, is sought after for furniture making. The Aborigines used a hot infusion of roasted bark to bathe rheumatic joints. The same potion was used to stun fish to make them easier to catch. The creamy yellow flowers have a fluffy appearance and grow in clusters.

2.Tasmanian blackwood flowers

Our morning walks with Poppy look quite different when the wattles are flowering.

3.forest walk

Acacia verticillata is my favourite. Prickly Moses doesn’t actually have thorns but the small, flattened leaf stalks are prickly.

4.Prickly Moses

The flowers are quite different to the blackwood, a brighter yellow and cylindrical in shape.

5.Prickly Moses

The dense, prickly foliage offers a safe home for little critters like bandicoots and birds.

6.Prickly Moses

I have seen Acacia mucronata, or Narrow-leaved wattle, in the conservation area adjoining our property. It has creamy yellow cylindrical flowers and, not surprisingly, narrow leaves.

7.Narrow-leaved Wattle

I’ve often wondered why Acacias are called wattles. Apparently, it comes from the term, “wattle & daub”, a technique used by the early British settlers for building their huts. The branches were used to make the framework which were then daubed with mud (and perhaps a few cow pats). The Acacias were used mostly and so, they became known as wattles.

Boranup Forest

After a day of indulging in the digestible delights of the Margaret River region, it was time to walk off some of the damage. Boranup Karri Forest was the perfect destination. It is possible to drive through the forest but calories are not burned that way. We parked the car

1.Boranup Karri forest

and choosing a walking track,

2.Boranup Karri forest

we were soon surrounded by towering Karri trees.

3.Karri forest4.Karri trees

The Karri is a eucalypt, native to south western Australia, with a light coloured trunk that turns brown before it is shed.

5.Karri tree

The leaves are dark green on top and lighter underneath, hence the botanical name Eucalyptus diversicolor. The third tallest tree species in the world, mature trees branch only from the top third of the trunk.

6.Karri trees

At ground level, there were cosy homes for the wildlife

7.Karri tree

and a few early wildflowers added colour to the forest.

It’s hard to believe these magnificent trees are little more than 100 years old. The area was extensively logged between 1884 and 1913, the long, straight timber widely used in the building industry.

12.Karri forest

Hopefully, these trees will be left in the forest for future generations to enjoy.

13.Karri forest