Highfield House

I know I’ve said it before but Stanley really is one of our favourite places and having guests from interstate is always a great excuse to return. The drive up the hill to Highfield House and the views as we descend back to the beach are quite spectacular. A few years have passed since we took the time to visit Highfield House so we welcomed the opportunity on a recent expedition. The Van Diemen’s Land Company was formed in 1826  by a group of London based businessmen to establish a wool growing venture on the island. Edward Curr, the chief agent of the VDL Company, arrived at Circular Head in the remote northwest with his family in November 1827. They lived in a small cottage until his new homestead, with twenty four rooms, was completed in 1835.

1.Highfield House

The garden is immaculate

and the house impressive even on an inclement day.

4.Highfield House

Through the front door, down the main hallway

5.hall

we entered the gallery where guests would be welcomed. Portraits and stories of those who lived and worked in the house and around the estate adorn the walls.

6.gallery

Storyboards in each room relate a different part of life at Highfield House, the history of the VDL Company and the settlement of Circular Head. First impressions of the settlers to the wild, rugged northwest are shared in the adjacent drawing room,

7.drawing room

while the failure of the planned fine wool enterprise and hefty financial losses are described in the study.

Across the hall, the china closet displays remnants of crockery that were found during restoration of the house

and parts of the original ceiling and walls have been exposed.

Henry Hellyer travelled to Van Diemen’s Land in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the VDL company. His explorations and mapping of the remote northwest opened up the area to settlement. In 1831, he began designing Highfield House but, sadly, he committed suicide in September 1832 and never saw his plans come to fruition. His adventures are told in the room set up as a nursery.

Beneath the staircase, two cellars provide ample storage for the plethora of goods imported on the Company ships. Detailed inventories indicate the residents of the house wanted for nothing.

Places are set at the dining room table and snippets of conversation are written on the cloth. The clinking of glasses and cutlery accompany the gossip of the day.

22.dining room

25.dining room

Upstairs,

the master bedroom is set out beautifully, though it is shrouded in sadness with the sound of a woman sobbing. Presumably, Elizabeth Curr is mourning the death of her two year old daughter, Julia, in a tragic accident.

28.master bedroom

Conversely, there is a calm ambience with stunning garments laid out

and a surprisingly comfortable ensuite.

32.ensuite

Down the hall, the children’s bedroom seems a bit on the small side for fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters. Apparently, all were sent back to England for schooling around the age of four.

33.children's bedroom

The guest room has a spectacular view of the Nut, the ancient volcanic plug around which the town of Stanley has grown. Suitcases half packed (or unpacked) give the impression of visitors in residence.

Returning to the ground floor, through the Butler’s Pantry (which is now the Reception Office) there is another hall

36.hall

that leads past the larder and pantry ( with more exposed original ceiling)

to the kitchen.

40.kitchen

A collection of not-so-modern appliances make us aware of how arduous the simplest of tasks were at that time.

The kitchen leads to a rear courtyard

46.rear courtyard

and we set off to explore the various outbuildings on the estate. A small stone building houses a chapel on the ground floor

and schoolhouse above.

51.chapel:schoolhouse

There are stables

52.stables

and a large barn that was divided up for separate uses.

56.barns

Through the straw barn

57.straw barn

there is a separate section that houses some old implements including a rather striking woolpress.

At the other end, on a mezzanine level, the original threshing barn is now a popular venue for weddings and functions.

65.threshing barn

Following Curr’s dismissal in 1842, Highfield House has had several owners until 1982 when the State Government acquired the estate. If you are planning on a visit to Stanley, be sure to take the time to explore Highfield House.

66.Highfield House & The Nut

glorious garden

Three weeks ago, we attended the official opening of the flowering season at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. A glorious spring morning was a wonderful surprise after a number of inclement days. Enjoying delicious sandwiches and scones, we were entertained by David Turner while taking in the view from the balcony across Lakes Grebe and Pearl.

1.Lake Grebe2.Lake Grebe & Lake Pearl3.Lake Pearl

Edgar the emu dressed for the occasion.

Following a welcome and introduction from garden manager, Geoff Wood, and an entertaining speech by Bill Lawson AM, we set off in the sunshine to explore.

14.path

Though still early in the season, there were some spectacular blooms.

The main gazebo was just visible through the foliage.

19.main gazebo

We passed the colourful Chinese Pavilion

24.Chinese Pavilion25.Chinese Pavilion

and crossed the Japanese footbridge

26.Japanese foot bridge

to the ceremonial teahouse.

28.Japanese Tea House

It would be a lovely setting for a picnic,

on the edge of the tranquil Sea of Japan.

30.Sea of Japan

The path to the Japanese covered bridge

33.Japanese Covered Bridge

was edged with more floral delights.

The bridge overlooks the Sea of Japan, an island affords a peaceful haven to enjoy a spot of fishing.

44.Japanese covered bridge

41.island, Sea of Japan

Across the lawn, a stone pathway leads back to the tea house.

45.Japanese Tea House

The lawned area adjacent to the covered bridge is a popular wedding venue, it’s easy to see why.

46.Sea of Japan

A few cherry blossoms were blooming in readiness for the Cherry Blossom Celebration on 19th October.

47.Cherry blossom

The American Gazebo rests sedately on the shore of Lake Pearl.

We returned to the tea rooms

50.Tea rooms

around the edge of Lake Grebe,

52.fountain, Lake Grebe51.Tea rooms

across Olympus Bridge.

53.Olympus Bridge57.Olympus Bridge

As if the day hadn’t already been perfect, we spied a platypus cavorting in the lake. These elusive creatures are not easy to see in their natural habitat and equally difficult to photograph.

If you haven’t yet visited Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden now is the best time, until the end of November, to see these magnificent blooms.

Queenstown

Queenstown has always been one of those places we passed through on our way to somewhere else. The first time was on holiday in 1998, the barren terrain and torrential deluge didn’t entice us to linger. The largest town on Tasmania’s west coast has changed considerably since then. The early 1900s saw mass logging as the mining town boomed and the expansion of the copper mines left an eerie, lunar landscape bereft of vegetation. The main street is reminiscent of a wild west movie set with Mount Owen towering above re-forested hillsides.

1.Orr Street

We made our way to Spion Kopf Lookout for a different perspective of the town. Tasmania was one of the first British colonies to send volunteers when the second Boer War broke out in 1899. The British suffered a humiliating defeat on a hill in Natal called Spion Kopf, meaning ‘Spy Hill’, and on returning home, the British survivors named stands at their local football grounds ‘the Kop’ to commemorate the fallen. I don’t know if Queenstown had a football ground, but this hill was named for the same reason. There is a poppet head made from materials from the old mine

2.poppet head

as well as a restored cannon, one of two cast at the Queenstown smelters in 1898.

3.cannon

The second cannon was transported to Victoria in 1910 where it was used to fire the royal salute on the coronation of King George V. It was used again in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War I but, unfortunately, it was overloaded with powder and exploded when it was fired.

4.lookout

From our perch, we had a fabulous view of the rather impressive Penghana, built in 1898 for Mr. Robert Sticht, the General Manager of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company. The home certainly reflects the power of a man in his position  and the wealth in the town at the time. Robert Sticht died in 1922 and ten more general managers and their families lived at Penghana until 1995 when the title was transferred to the National Trust. The house is now run as a unique bed & breakfast, I think we need to find an excuse to stay at Penghana.

5.Penghana Bed & Breakfast

The hills surrounding the town still have some regenerating to do and the isolation is evident from this outlook.

6.lookout view7.lookout view8.Mt. Owen

We returned to ground level for lunch at the Empire Hotel, a beautiful, heritage listed building dating back to 1901.

The lobby is dominated by a stunning hand-carved Tasmanian Blackwood staircase. The raw timber was shipped to England, carved and shipped back to Queenstown.

13.Empire Hotel lobby

The tasteful furnishings echoed the era

15.Empire Hotel lobby

and the traditional dining room had a cosy ambience

16.Dining Room

with a beautifully restored ceiling rose.

17.ceiling rose

The menu was extensive but who can go past fish ‘n’ chips on a Friday?

18.fish & chips

Fortified, we were ready to tackle the ’99 bends’, the infamous road between Queenstown and Gormanston that makes us appreciate the innovation of power steering. As the road straightened, we turned off to Iron Blow Lookout, an extended viewing platform over the former open-cut mine.

19.Iron Blow Lookout

Miners flocked to the area when gold was discovered in 1883 but they found the plentiful copper deposits more profitable. The colours were striking on this sunny day.

20.Iron Blow Lookout

The view across the Linda Valley to Lake Burbury was spectacular,

21.Iron Blow Lookout22.Lake Burbury

while the denuded landscape remains as a legacy from the past.

23.Iron Blow Lookout24.Iron Blow Lookout25.Iron Blow Lookout

The nearby settlements of Gormanston and Linda were built for workers of the Iron Blow but both are now ghost towns. The only evidence of former lives in Linda is the haunting remnants of the Royal Hotel. The original structure burnt down in January 1910 and T Kelly rebuilt using concrete to avert any future disasters. The hotel finally closed in the 1950s and the shell still stands despite more recent flames.

26.Royal Hotel, Linda27.Royal Hotel, Linda

We left the west coast behind as we crossed the bridge over Lake Burbury, uplifted by the afternoon sun glistening on the pristine water.

28.Lake Burbury

Lake Plimsoll

Our trip to Pumphouse Point earlier this year gave us the opportunity to travel a road we hadn’t been before. Anthony Road, built as part of the Hydro Tasmania scheme, leaves the A10 five kilometres south of Tullah and reconnects just north of Queenstown. I had been advised by a work colleague to stop at Lake Plimsoll lookout for some spectacular views, it was very good advice.

1.Lake Plimsoll

In 1994, the Anthony River was dammed by the Hydro-Electric Commission and the 340 hectare lake was created.

2.Lake Plimsoll

Named for Sir James Plimsoll, the Governor of Tasmania from 1982 to 1987, it was the last major dam constructed by the Commission.

3.Lake Plimsoll

Beyond the lake lies the Tyndall Range, an area marked by the course of  glaciers in the last Ice Age. It seems fitting that it is named in honour of Irish physicist Professor John Tyndall, who had a special interest in glacier motion.

4.Tyndall Range

The sharp peaks of the range contrast with the gentle arch of Mount Tyndall, composed of Owen conglomerate from the Ordovician era, about 480 million years ago.

5.Mount Tyndall

We wandered down to the water’s edge, the sunlight sparkled on the surface. Stocked with brook trout, the lake is a popular fishing spot. I can imagine spending a few hours afloat, though I prefer the company of a good book to a fishing rod.

6.Lake Plimsoll

dewdrop diamonds

Walking in the forest on a crisp, cold morning after a heavy frost is like strolling through nature’s jewellery store. The sun, low in the sky, turns simple dew drops into glittering diamonds.

1.dewdrops2.dewdrops3.dewdrops4.dewdrops5.dewdrops6.dewdrops

Even those stems bereft of foliage held onto the occasional glistening droplet.

7.dewdrop8.dewdrops9.dewdrops10.Prickly Moses

I was like a child in a sweet shop, I couldn’t get enough of this amazing beauty.

11.dewdrops12.dewdrops13.dewdrop

The gems would disappear as the sun climbed, but for now I was content to experience another of nature’s treats.

14.dewdrop