Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wet and wild

Looking out the windows of the Penghana B&B where we stayed in Queenstown on Tuesday night, we saw a spectacular storm, the first real cracker of a storm we've seen in Tasmania. Thunder, lightning, high winds and rain pelting against the windows. Then the lights went out. I fished my hiking head torch out of my bag and the owner showed up with an extra torch for us. We were in bed not long after 8.30pm! The power came on again some three hours later. The drive home from the west coast yesterday morning was wet and windy. There were many trees down along the Lyell Highway and leaves, sticks and rocks everywhere. When we arrived home, it looked like our place had escaped damage, but later I spotted a patch of sky where there had been none before - a large wattle has come down.

We are lucky. It's very little damage compared to people in other parts of the state, especially in the Burnie area where we were this time last week. It's still pouring. Our 40,000 litre water tank is overflowing not just from the lower overflow pipe, but back out the top as well. And snow is forecast for tonight. The weather is always guaranteed to be entertaining in Tasmania.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Great Lake

We couldn't have wished for a more beautiful winter's day for our car club's Christmas in July drive up to the Great Lake in the highland lakes district of Tasmania. We took the nice winding road out from New Norfolk to Bothwell then up the Highland Lakes Road to Miena. As we climbed the plateau, clumps of snow clung in the shadows at the side of the road, and many of the fishing shacks still had snow on the roof. The landscapes are stark and stunning. We have driven through there once before, on the way back from our Overland Track walk last December, but this was the first time we've stopped. We took a walk down to the lake and spent the evening enjoying a traditional Christmas turkey dinner in front of the fire at the Great Lake Hotel. It was -2 degrees and pretty icy when we left this morning to drive home and it was more than half an hour before we saw another vehicle on the road. The pub we stayed at is on the Tasmanian Trail route and I started dreaming again about walking that one day. I think it is time to book a date in the diary and plan to do it. I'm starting to feel a bit desperate for adventure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Huon Valley business in the spotlight

There's one month from today left to enter your business - or nominate a business or vote for your favourite - in the Huon Valley Business Awards.

Businesses can enter various award categories, including:

  • Best home based business
  • Best hospitality, Tourism, Events & Entertainment
  • Best online/web business
  • Best retail
  • Best professional services
  • Best new business startup
  • Best social media

The awards will be announced at a special dinner to be held in the Palais Theatre in Franklin on 13 September. It promises to be a great celebration of the hard work and success of local business people and the products and services they provide right here on our doorstep. Entries close 16 August. For details, visit the web site.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Into the fog

I've mentioned before how lucky we feel to live so high above the fog line, where we are in sunshine from the minute the sun peeks over the Snug Tiers opposite us. Far below, we see a blanket of white cloud in the bottom of the valley, which some hours later, drifts off down the Huon River. It's a trade-off, of course, between proximity to shops and other local services that we would have if we lived down on the river, and the optimism and natural vitamin D that comes from a bright sunny morning. Driving down the hill towards the river, we descend into the fog and lose a degree or two in temperature. This morning, it was 4 degrees at our place and 2 at the other end of our road. But there's something to be said, too, for the soft, mystical atmosphere provided by fog. The muted colours and sounds are a hallmark of Tasmanian winters.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saving St John's

St John's in Franklin is a beautiful heritage listed stone church that was built in 1863, replacing an older timber church built around 1840, on land given to the community by Lady Jane Franklin. It's a local landmark and one of the first things you see as you drive into Franklin, perched on the hillside overlooking the village. I love it.

The church is one of the earliest examples of the work by Hobart architect Henry Hunter, whose later works include the Hobart Town Hall and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It is home to family memorials and a beautiful organ and altar. The graveyard beside it is home to the history of local families and their memories of loved ones and generations past. And the occasional grazing horse.

As in many communities, the number of regular churchgoers is dwindling. St Johns has not been home to regular religious services for some years. During the Focus on Franklin festival this year, we were lucky enough to attend a recital given in the church by local musicians Steve and Marjorie Gadd. I smiled as I saw the piles of navy blue Australian Hymn Books stacked up behind the organ, the same ones I remember from school. The church building needs work but has such beautiful bones.

Now the Anglican Church wants to get rid of it. That's understandable I guess, as it costs money to maintain and for what? But Franklin cannot afford to lose (or lose access to) one of the few surviving original public buildings that remain. And the lack of consultation with the local community about the building's fate is offensive.

A group of interested people has formed to come up with a plan to take to the Anglican Church to safeguard the building's future. Most would like to see it used as a community resource, for exhibitions, concerts, organ recitals, Christmas carols, weddings and other family celebrations. I think it could also make a great home for a business - but one that allows public access to both the building and the graveyard. I'm horrified by the thought that it could be "converted" to a private residence or worse, allowed to fall into ruin and bulldozed. It's a wonderful piece of local history.

If you are interested in helping to save this beautiful building for community use, please show your support! Join the Friends of St John's - visit the Facebook page or email

UPDATE: Following an amicable meeting between a group of Friends of St John's and the bishop, a second community meeting has been called to update everyone on the situations and options for the future. It's on at 7pm tomorrow night, Wednesday 16 July 2014 at The Palais in Franklin.