A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Ye Olde England Downunder

sunny 28 °C

Tasmania is roughly half the size of England but has merely 1% of the population, so it’s hardly surprising that most of the country is given over to agriculture. The island has perhaps the perfect climate – rarely too hot or too cold, (though sometimes too dry) - and northern climate crops of all kinds flourish here: vineyards and olive groves vie for land amongst fruit orchards and fields of vegetables, while sheep, goats, alpacas and cattle graze the paddocks alongside wallabies and kangaroos…
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Tasmania is just about as far away from Britain as it is possible to get without dropping off the edge and it is understandable that it was chosen as the first place to transport the ‘great unwashed’ of Victorian times when they became a nuisance at home. It was perhaps inevitable that the administrators, guards, and even the prisoners, would try to make their new home as much like the old as possible. Every town and city has a wealth of buildings straight off the pages of “Victorian British Architecture.” This is Launceston’s High Street…
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This ‘Olde Worlde’ stone bridge at Ross was built by convicts in 1836…
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As was this perfect little church that could be at the centre of any English village…
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…as could Ye Olde British Hotel in Deloraine…
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…and this Lincolnshire flour mill in Callington that still grinds flour today…
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Tasmania is much more British than British Columbia and is even more British than today’s Britain. Tasmania’s high streets are reminiscent of the English high streets of our youth, when sweets could be bought by the ounce from jars like these in Evandale’s general store…
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Unlike the high streets of Britain today, Tasmania’s aren’t awash with charity shops and mobile phone emporiums. Big box malls, dollar stores and American fast food joints are probably coming, but the town centres are still delightful reminders of a lost world. This Fly Fishing store has been here in Launceston a century or more…
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Cornish Pasties, Fish and Chips and Devonshire Cream Teas are staples in Tasmamia but just when you are convinced that you’ve slipped through a time warp and ended up in 1960s Britain you round a corner and find yourself in Switzerland…
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This is the town centre of Grindelwald in central Tasmania while Interlaken is not far away.

Tasmania has a great deal to offer visitors – much more than we anticipated – if only it weren’t so bloomin’ far away. Sentiments no doubt echoed by the thousands of convicts who ended their days here in this corner of a foreign field that will be forever England.

Posted by Hawkson 02:24 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

A Short History of Tasmania's Short History

semi-overcast 23 °C

When it comes to “The New World” nowhere comes much newer than Tasmania. Despite the fact that Dutchman Abel Tasman discovered this island and named it Van Dieman’s Land after the governor of the Dutch East Indes in 1642, it was 1802 before the British navigator Mathew Flinders paved the way for the first European settlers, The Americas had been colonised some 300 years by the time the community of Swansea was established on Tasmania’s east coast and by 1820 it was already considered a place to relax,,,
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With mile after mile of wide sandy beaches and sheltered anchorages it’s easy to sea why people flocked here. This general store has stood at the heart of the community since 1838….
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When it was discovered that the bark of the local Black Wattle trees contained tannic acid, necessary for tanning leather, an industry was born and Swansea flourished. Swansea today has just one store, one gas station, one restaurant and a church, but it also has the only original wattle bark mill in the world…
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A locally made Heath Robinson contraption was used to chop, grind and sieve wattle bark until it could be shipped to tanners throughout the empire. Swansea’s wattle bark was in demand until the 1960s when synthetic chemicals took over nature’s role in the production of leather. The mill was simply abandoned leaving the machinery as it had been for nearly a century.

Swansea’s wattle bark museum gave us a wonderful glimpse into the lives of its earliest inhabitants…
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Tasmania is sparsely populated with less than a half a million inhabitants and, although it is the last weekend of summer, there is little traffic on the roads. There is, however, an astounding amount of wildlife. We’ve already seen numerous kangaroos, wallabies, possums and other unrecognisable creatures along the roadsides… Wouldn’t it be nice if we saw some of them before they became road kill!!!
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Posted by Hawkson 22:06 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Downton Abbey in Tasmania

sunny 24 °C

We arrived at the gates of the Great Park just after sunrise and had a magnificent view of the estate’s church spires through a copse of English oak…
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The great house itself stood someway off at the end of a drive of weeping willows…
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However, as we were not expected before 9 am, we hoped no one would object if we took a stroll through the gardens. Herbaceous borders of Jersey lilies and geraniums, together with fragrant roses, made a beautiful show in the morning sunshine…
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The stable block was abuzz with activity as the grooms prepared the steeds for the family’s morning canter…
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The castellated turrets of the medieval castle overlooking the estate must surely have been a whimsical folly designed to amuse His Lordship’s visitors, for this stately home itself was not built until 1833…
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The weather was absolutely perfect, just a light southerly breeze, so we took a boat out into the bay for a clearer view of this superb period mansion in all its glory…
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At the appointed time we knocked and fully expected Carson to open the door and usher us into the presence of the Earl of Grantham and his daughter, Lady Mary Crawley. But hold onto your kangaroos a minute – methinks we may have been deceived. Surely Downton Abbey doesn’t have bars on all the windows…
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What a mistake - this isn’t Downton Abbey at all. This is the infamous prison complex at Port Arthur on the remote southeast coast of Tasmania.
From 1833 to1877 it housed the most hardened and recalcitrant of villains who had been transported from Britain to the colonies…
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Only the best behaved prisoners were able to peer through these bars at the manicured English landscape reserved for the administrators and guards. Escapees and other recidivists spent their sentences locked inside tiny windowless cells so that they could reflect on their misdemeanours. Trustees were set to work on chain gangs cutting timber, boatbuilding and mining for coal in the nearby pits, while more educated prisoners were given administrative roles. The prison became a mental asylum once transportation was abolished in 1877 and today it is the most visited site in Tasmania.
Footnote: On 28 April 1996, twenty-six year old Martin Bryant of Hobart shot and killed 35 people and wounded a further 23 at this already tragic site. He is currently serving 35 life sentences in solitary confinement.

Posted by Hawkson 23:20 Archived in Australia Comments (6)

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