A couple of months back, beautiful timber plinths started appearing along the main street of Franklin. Then slowly, plaques outlining the history of each building were attached to them all, as well as to the walls of street-fronting buildings like our own new home, the former Commercial Bank of Australia building.
Today, the Franklin History Walk was officially opened, with a launch at Abbey on Main (former Methodist church, now accommodation) and a display of snippets of Franklin history. The walk is a project of the Franklin Progress Association, funded by a Tasmanian Government community infrastructure grant, and clearly took a lot of work from the Franklin History Group and others in the local community. It's a fantastic addition to the village and hopefully will encourage people to walk the full length of the main street as well as along the river banks, where a series of waterside panels explain more about life on the water.
A lovely booklet outlining the town's history and including a map listing all the points of interest along the walk is available for only $2. In addition to the white settler history, the booklet pays respect to the traditional and original owners of this land, the melukerdee people, as well as today's Tasmanian Aboriginal community who are the custodians of this land. I picked up one copy today, but think I'd better keep a few more handy for visitors. Come on down sometime for a stroll. It takes about 1.5 hours to walk the whole thing, depending on how fast you walk and read I guess!
Each year, businesses in the south of Tasmania are encouraged to light up in red in support of the Dark Mofo festival, the annual winter art and music festival run by the team at MONA. Whether it's red lighting, red coloured food and drinks or limited edition red packaging, many businesses get into the spirit of this fantastic festival that brings many visitors to the state. The idea is to create a great experience for tourists and local festival-goers as they travel around the Hobart area. As we now live on the main road and David runs his technology help business from here, we decided to light up the Franklin Old Bank in red too. Spooky huh! I love this time of year.
Some years back, friends and neighbours Deb and Martin and Shane and Jane had a really lovely idea - to create a public walkway lined with fruit trees along the boundary of their land, between Old Road and New Road in Franklin. The sun came out this afternoon as we gathered for the official opening of this great gift to the local community. We took the dog and a thermos of tea and enjoyed some sweet treats, the violin of Marjorie Gadd and a poem written and read by Steve Gadd for the occasion. The walk has beautiful views over Franklin village, the river and Egg Islands and north to the Wellington Range. Cattle graze in the neighbouring paddocks. The walk is being planted with fruit and nut trees and runs alongside a wildlife corridor with bandicoots frequent visitors to the property.
The first home we tried to purchase in Tasmania was in Lalla in the north of the state. On the boundary was a 'pear walk', a corridor of pear trees planted more than 100 years ago. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Now thanks to the generosity and vision of these local property owners, our community will be able to enjoy the peace, get some exercise and in time, pick some fruit along the way on this lovely pathway. From the Huon Highway, walk up either Old Road or New Road and you can't miss the signs.
Twenty minutes walk from our old home up in the hills of Franklin, you could catch a glimpse of the Hartz Mountains. At sunrise, with a fog in the valley between us, it seemed extra special. The forestry roads were rocky and sometimes a little icy or muddy or dusty, depending on the season. Quiet, but for the amazing lyrebirds and the thud of pademelons hopping away in the undergrowth.
Now, we live on the main road in Franklin. I can either hike directly up the steep Old Road hill for a good heart starter and return in an easy jog down New Road, or pick a direction and head along the river. There are streetlights, cars and trucks. Whatever the weather, the view across the river is pretty.
It's been ten days since we moved down from the hills of Franklin into the centre of the village. This morning we walked across the road to the war memorial for the Anzac Day service, followed by a community breakfast at the Franklin Bowls Club. We've gone from having a large fenced yard to a small garden with no grass, so we take Gretchen across the road for regular short walks along the river. She's quickly settling in to being dog-about-town instead of farm dog. Yesterday evening we ran into friends on our walk who mentioned they were heading to the pub afterwards, so we met them there. Collecting our mail means wandering next door instead of a drive down the hill. There's a lovely little organic store only a short walk down the road, where you can refill your jars of dry goods like flour, rice and spices. David has had customers visit his main road office. And to my great surprise, the traffic noise hasn't kept me awake at all. I'm sure it will have its challenges, but so far village life is proving to be a nice change and an interesting little adventure.
Yesterday we finally made it to the Hobart edition of the Bernese Worldwide Walk 2019. We've missed previous years due to other commitments and dear old Baerli being unable to walk very far in her last couple of years. This year, there were 16 of these beautiful, good-natured dogs and their owners. We gathered near the Cornelian Bay Boathouse for a short walk and a photo opportunity of course. Gretchen was such a good girl, we weren't sure how she would go with such a large group of dogs without Baerli to follow. Amazingly at 8.5 years she was the oldest Bernese Mountain Dog there! There were four 18 month old ones from the same litter, oh boy, they were boisterous and funny. We had a lovely couple of hours, patting all the dogs and meeting all their owners. It's hard to say if Gretchen enjoyed it, but fair to say she enjoyed the trip to Willie Smiths on the way home, more specifically the tiny piece of ham that "fell" from my cheese-and-ham toastie.
It's a sad day as I farewell all 14 of my remaining chooks, including Vladimir the rooster. They are all safely packed in boxes, cat carriers and crates and on the way to their lovely new home as I type. This time next week we'll be moving into our new place "in town" with no room for chooks. This morning I threw their favourite leftover rice and curry out for them, gave them fresh water and felt a little sad watching them peck around in excitement.
I felt even sadder when I closed up the empty shed tonight. No-one left on the perches. But I am so happy that they going to such a nice new home in the Huon and all staying together as a flock. In other good news: the two friendly New Hampshire hens I gave back to the people I got them from as chicks have settled in well. They are now known as "The Suzies". That really makes me smile. Longer term, I will definitely miss eating an egg that was only laid yesterday for breakfast! It's the best.
It's exciting times for us, as we look forward to moving into The Old Bank in Franklin next month. It's a building we've admired over the years, as much for the huge shed immediately behind it with so much potential as for the very solid brick building that is part of the village streetscape, and heritage registered for that reason. One night over pizza at the Aqua Grill, David raised the idea of buying it. It was on the market again after selling to a lovely couple a few years back. Before that it housed a Naval Museum which we visited with my parents some years back.
As much as David and I love all the beautiful old homes in Tasmania, when we first moved here our choice was to move into a newer house, for a few reasons. We were bringing a (small) house full of modern furniture with us from Sydney, such as a huge glossy white bookcase that wouldn't fit into an older home with low ceilings and cosy rooms. We couldn't afford to replace everything. We also needed to get back to work immediately and couldn't spend time renovating. I really admire the lovely renovated farm houses and historic homes we've visited here over the years, but I'm not sure I could do it myself. And so many older homes on the market at the time seemed so draughty and dark, with lots of wood panelling and small windows. So we bought an almost new colourbond home on 9 beautiful acres up in the hills, where we could move right in with all our existing stuff and get straight back to work. Almost nine years on, we're thrilled to now have a little piece of local history to take care of.
People keep asking us what we're going to do with the Old Bank. To be honest, we don't know. There are so many possibilities, lots of ideas floating around. So to start with, we'll be moving in and doing exactly what we are now - working a corporate job (me) and running a business (David). We'll have a mortgage again, so we can't go crazy! It will be a significant lifestyle change for us, living on the main road in the village. I'll miss the sun first thing on winter mornings, the silence and delicious tank water. I have to sell my chooks. But we'll be right across the road from the river! We'll have bin night! We can walk to buy a coffee, a pizza or a cider! There's a bus stop at the door, hardly any garden and so many rooms! It's time for a change and I'm looking forward to it.
It was a long weekend, and boy was I grateful for this one. We needed the time to adjust to our new one-dog household. Just to give ourselves some space, without obligations. Yesterday we took Gretchen on a short outing to Cygnet. We picked up a few things, popped into a couple of stores that we hadn't been to, had coffee and cake at Lotus Eaters in their nice dog friendly outdoor area. Gretchen is having to get used to being solo dog. Over the weekend she kept looking out the door or around the garden for her missing sister, which was a little heartbreaking. But at least she gets the whole back seat of the car to herself now. We couldn't face going straight back home, so called a kind friend who had offered support and popped in for a chat. It did us both the world of good.
Today we left Gretchen at home alone for a few hours while we headed to the Taste of the Huon. The weather was beautiful, and loads of people came from Hobart and beyond to sample a huge range of food and beverages, a much needed boost for local businesses affected by loss of income during the recent bushfires. We had coffee and doughnuts, sampled some Indonesian fare, bought some local saffron and wine and a take-home pack of ginger beer, then settled down with a Simple Cider to watch a performance artist called Samora Squid pass his entire body through the head of a tennis racket, then swallow a sword. That guy is a true entertainer.
Finally over the weekend, the alert levels on the Tasmanian Fire Service web site for the Huon Valley areas around the Riveaux Road fire that started in mid-January were dropped. Hooray! You could almost hear everyone breathe a collective sigh of relief.
On Thursday we heard a number of enormous explosions as fire affected trees were felled in the forestry area behind us. The house shook and my PC monitor wobbled dangerously on its stand! Fire services vehicles are still patrolling up our road regularly. We are grateful for the huge amount of work that has been done and still continues to keep our community safe. I haven't been far into fire affected areas, but you can see below what it looks like just 1km from our house. The burnt smell sure penetrates the nostrils.
I'd forgotten how grief creates physical pain. There's now a great aching hole in my heart, shaped like a Bernese Mountain Dog. Yesterday was a very rough day for us, as we said goodbye to our beautiful girl Bärli , after more than 12 wonderful years. I've already said all I wanted to in a post on Facebook, reproduced below, but wanted to share it here too, so that when I print my next annual blog book these beautiful photos of her will shine from the pages. Next, I plan to write down the happy memories, the small things, in case I forget anything. I don't want to forget. RIP my bear.
Today we said goodbye to our beautiful girl Bärli (“little bear”), originally Zanzebern Q T Pie, aged 12 years and 4 months. That’s a pretty good innings for a Bernese Mountain Dog, but it doesn’t make it any easier to lose her. She was a grand old lady but in the last few days life had become a struggle for her and we had to let her go. Our late friend Alan once said that I look at Bärli like a mother gazes at her newborn – and he was right. I absolutely adored that dog. She was my first dog and the best cuddle ever. She was funny, gentle and placid with many facial expressions and not an aggressive bone in her large 54kg body. Many people (even folk who know Bernese) mistook her for a male due to her size – she got that from mum Orsa and dad Denzel, both gorgeous Zanzebern dogs. Thank you to breeder Nicole for letting us have her. Bärli had a happy life, first in Sydney then in Tasmania since 2010 where she got to enjoy the snow like a proper Swiss dog. She loved the water too. And car rides, head out in the wind. We thought we’d lost her a few years back but thanks to some quick action from the kind vets at Southern Tasmanian Vet Hospital we got to enjoy another three years with her. Much of that time she spent on the lounge, as you’ll see in these photos! The second you turned your back she was up there, even during her very last night. Bärli was on TV, in the paper and magazines and even in an advertisement for chicken coops (see photo). She once won a “greediest dog” competition in a group of around 30 Bernese, because she gobbled up celery and snow pea sprouts that other dogs spat out. She’s had millions of pats and cuddles from us and thousands more from strangers, especially hordes of little girl fans everywhere we went. Goodbye sweet girl. We love you so much.
Escaped Sydney in 2010 for a piece of paradise in Tasmania's Huon Valley. I'm a keen walker, remote worker, incompetent gardener, Bernese Mountain Dog owner, fan of almost anything German (food, language, cars, beer), amateur linguist, chook fancier, childfree.