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.

Domain Wintergardens

Lunch time was approaching as we hopped off the Hop On Hop Off bus at Parnell. Auckland’s oldest suburb, dating back to 1841, is also one of New Zealand’s most affluent. Parnell Road is lined with enticing shops, galleries and cafes

1.Parnell Road

and after an explorative stroll we had worked up a thirst.

2.Non Solo Pizza

There were a few options of dining areas

but we decided to stay roadside and enjoy a pizza before joining the bus once again.

The Domain Wintergardens was our next stop, built in the early 1900s so that the gardens could be appreciated all year round.

9.Wintergardens

We passed under shady pergolas

and entered the central courtyard which separates the two Victorian style glasshouses.

12.courtyard

Each glasshouse contains distinctly different plants. The Cool House was built first in 1921, we started in the Tropical House which was added in the late 1920s.

13.tropical house

Heated to 28°C, lush tropical plants thrive. Above the enormous lily pads

carnivorous pitcher plants are suspended, awaiting their next meal.

Foliage, intricately designed by nature,

19.tropical house

mingles with spectacular flowers only the tropics can sustain.

Neoclassical marble statues were added to the courtyard in the 1930s

and beautiful water lilies float in the sunken pond.

The temperate climate of the unheated Cool House affords a magnificent display of flowering plants that change with the seasons.

51.cool house

Once again, the foliage is as colourful as the flowers.

Some are less vibrant but equally impressive

and a few edible varieties complement the mix.

We noticed the crowd multiply significantly in the time we were at the gardens, the reason became obvious as we stepped outside.

62.tourists

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

Waiheke Island

One of the first things I booked when planning our New Zealand trip was a Taste of Waiheke Tour. With the promise of wine tasting at three wineries, lunch at one of them and olive oil tasting, how could I resist? Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, a very comfortable 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. Known as the ‘island of wine’, there are twenty-six vineyards to choose from, most offering gourmet delights as well as a diverse range of wines for tasting. The weather couldn’t have been better if we had ordered it. Both the sea and sky were a clear blue as we arrived at Matiatia Bay.

1.Matiatia Bay

Sailing boats dotted the water

2.Matiatia Bay3.Matiatia Bay4.Matiatia Bay

and beautiful homes nestled on the hillside overlooking the bay.

5.Matiatia Bay6.homes, Matiatia Bay7.house, Matiatia Bay

I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of the island lifestyle.

8.Matiatia Bay

Our bus driver and guide for the day was a vivacious local lady who has lived on the island for 25 years and regaled us with stories laced with a good dose of humour. The roads are narrow and winding and, although the island is only 92 square kilometres, it would be easy to get lost. After lunch and wine tasting at Stonyridge Vineyard, we called into Rangihoua Estate to sample their award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils. As well as four olive oil blends, they have a range of spreads and skin care products.

A floor chess board with magnificent carved pieces occupied a space in the tasting room.

11.Rangihoua chess set

We could have lingered in the immaculate gardens all afternoon

26.garden28.garden

29.garden

but we had another two vineyards to visit and more wine to taste before returning to Matiatia Bay for the ferry journey back to Auckland.

31.Matiatia Bay

With calm waters ahead

32.Matiatia Bay33.toward Auckland

we found a comfortable perch at the back of the boat, soothed by the thrum of the engines and the dancing droplets of the white wake.

34.farewell Waiheke

As we neared the city

35.Waiheke to Auckland36.tall ship37.Auckland

our attention was diverted by the appearance of an enormous sea monster, dwarfing what we thought was our rather substantial ferry.

41.Ovation of the Seas

The impressive Edwardian façade of the ferry terminal awaited, the tour had ended but there was more wine to be tasted that day.

42.ferry terminal