the humble bumble

One of the things we noticed on our earlier visits to Tasmania was the presence of the bumblebee, something we had only seen in Britain. I was distracted from my gardening recently by the frenzied activity around the Grevillea.

1.Grevillea

I sat with my camera, trying to capture these gorgeous little creatures at work. Bombus terrestris have round, furry bodies with a yellow band across the thorax and abdomen and a buff coloured tail end.

2.bumble bee3.bumble bee

They were first found in Tasmania in 1992, presumably introduced from New Zealand. Like their honey bee relatives, the bumbles feed on nectar. They lap up the liquid with their long, hairy tongues, sometimes making a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar.

4.bumble bee5.bumble bee

Our cooler climate doesn’t bother these bees, they can absorb heat from even weak sunshine and are well insulated under their thick coats.

6.bumble bee

Bumblebees are very social insects and, apparently, very smart. There have been many studies on the behaviour of bumbles, I like the idea that they can play football

https://www.nature.com/news/bees-learn-football-from-their-buddies-1.21540

7.bumble bee

Unfortunately, in Australia the bumblebees are considered feral, with some concern that, being such efficient pollinators, they will increase the spread of environmental weeds. However, their decline in Europe, North America and Asia is causing concern as they are important agricultural pollinators. Tomato growers in Tasmanian have fought for years to change the laws to allow them to use bumblebees as pollinators but their applications have been rejected on environmental grounds.

8.bumble bee

Newcastle, Eire

We left Edenderry early morning and headed for the east coast to embark on our counter-clockwise crusade of Eire. We had no accommodation booked, no firm destination. November in Ireland is not a popular time for tourists. We arrived at Warrenpoint around Guinness time and related our previous days escapades to the very friendly barman. He advised us to stick to the coast as, “there is nothing in the middle worth seeing.” Warrenpoint is in Northern Ireland, separated from the Republic by the Newry River. It was the scene of the deadliest attack on the British Army during the 30 year conflict between north and south. Eighteen British soldiers were killed and six seriously injured by two roadside bombs, aimed at their army convoy. The Warrenpoint ambush occurred on the same day, 27 August 1979, that Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb aboard his boat at Mullaghmore. The pervasive tranquility belies the violent history, the views across Carlingford Lough were stunning.

1.Warrenpoint looking west2.Warrenpoint Beach looking east

I wouldn’t mind living in one of these apartments.

3.Warrenpoint

The barman suggested staying the night at Newcastle, only twenty miles further up the coast. We called in at the tourist information office for some advice on accommodation. Most of it was quite pricey but there was one hotel that was awaiting star status so, for now, could only be considered one star. We were happy to have a look and found the Avoca Hotel, though not terribly attractive from the outside, was clean and comfortable and they served an amazing breakfast the next morning.

4.The Avoca Hotel

Overlooking Dundrum Bay and the Irish Sea, there were no complaints about the scenery, either.

5.Dundrum Bay

Newcastle became a popular seaside resort in the Victorian era following the arrival of the railway in 1869. The gorgeous buildings along Central Promenade are testament to that time.

6.Central Promenade

They all seemed well cared for, apart from one ‘renovators delight’ in the middle of the row.

7.Central Promenade

The Mourne mountain range, home to Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, lends an impressive backdrop to the town.

8.Newcastle, Eire9.Newcastle, Eire10.Newcastle, Eire

As the sun was descending in the western sky,

11.Dundrum Bay

our thoughts turned to refreshments. We had passed a place on the promenade and returned to ponder the menu. O’Hares had a welcoming, rustic atmosphere

and after a Guinness, we advanced upstairs to enjoy a superb meal. On second thought, there may have been more than one Guinness.

15.O'Hare's Guinness

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

https://www.facebook.com/Tasmanianfoodandwineconservatory/

Lough Ree

With two nights accommodation booked at Edenderry, we consulted the map and decided to explore the middle of the island. Scotch whisky has been my favourite tipple for as long as I can remember, although I have never really taken to Irish whiskey. Tullamore distillery was only half an hour away so a perfect opportunity to educate my palate. We enlisted the help of Holly (the satnav) who, true to form, deposited us on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and declared we had reached our destination. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we returned to the main road and issued the instructions again. She performed a perfect replay of the first attempt, this time we narrowly missed being flattened by an oncoming truck and we realised Tullamore was not on our agenda after all. Back to the main road, we continued to the town of Athlone. The River Shannon was as grey as the sky

1.Athlone

and, although it is the second most populous town in the Midlands, there didn’t seem to be much happening.

2.Athlone

The 12th century castle was closed for the winter season so we reverted to the usual Plan B – a pint of Guinness and a spot of lunch. After a post prandial stroll through the park,

3.park walk

we followed the river

4.River Shannon

until it became a huge inland lake. Lough Ree (Lake of the Kings) is one of three major lakes on the River Shannon. Thirty-two kilometres long, it is the geographical centre of Ireland.

5.Lough Ree

Myths and legends abound with ghosts of high kings and fallen warriors and, of course, a rumoured lake monster lurking beneath the depths.

6.Lough Ree

Small lakeside towns were picturesque in their autumn colours,

7.Lough Ree

though the marina lay empty, perhaps awaiting some warmer weather.

8.Lough Ree

Lough Ree is dotted with small islands, many have ancient ruins of monastic sites from the middle ages.

9.Lough Ree island

It is believed that when out on the water, the eyes of ancient monks peer through the mist and linger in the air. I was pleased to be safely on land.

10.Lough Ree islands

We left Lough Ree and returned to Edenderry for another superb meal and a pint at Larkins.

11.Lough Ree

Bali rice

One of the things we liked about the location of our villa in Bali was the open space around us. Rice paddies almost embraced our doorstep

1.paddies next door

and stretched as far as the eye could see.

2.rice paddies3.rice paddies4.rice paddies

We didn’t have to walk far to really appreciate the intensive nature of rice farming. Seedlings are cultivated in a special nursery and are then transplanted by hand into the ploughed paddy fields. It looked like back-breaking work, hour after hour bent over to plant the rice in long rows in the mud.

5.labour

Apparently, a farmer can plant 10,000 square feet of seedlings a day, each one placed 8-10 inches apart.

11.rice seedlings

The water level is vital for the developing crop

12.irrigation13.irrigation

and the innovative means of water control were fascinating.

There were thatched shelters scattered through the fields

18.shelter

and colourful shrines ensured a bountiful crop. Offerings are made to the Hindu goddess Dewi Sri at crucial periods such as planting, full moon, when the rice is a month old, the first appearance of the grains and before harvesting.

19.shelter & shrine

The rice is ready to be harvested after three months

23.rice

and the cycle begins again.

24.cycle