Thursday, December 31, 2009

Take a look around ...

Yes, I have been more than a little remiss in keeping up the content, but here's something I hope will make up for that. It's a very short video shot by my mate, Joseph, who was staying at the Gardens House with Chris. It gives you an idea of the panorama there.

The video was shot from the beach in front of the Gardens House and starts from the Gardens House, then scans around anti-clockwise, all the way back for a full 360.

Have a Happy New Year, and there'll be more up soon!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September moods

Tasmania is smack in the middle of the "Roaring Forties" - the belt of westerly winds which prevail about 40 degrees south of the equator. In September south-easterly changes bring rain and occasional storms and pile the waves upon the shore.

This is the time to head for the Bay of Fires if you like surf, or a reason to rug up, light a fire and create a cosy nest. Take advantage of breaks in the weather to wander along the beach and see what has come in on the tide, or head a bit inland along the flat near Big Lagoon and look for the first of the new season's orchids.

And some people think the beach is just for lying on a towel in the sun ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Avoiding the floods!

The usual way to get to The Gardens House is via C850 - the Binalong Bay Rd - and turn off on The Gardens Rd (C848). Recently, the higher than usual rainfall caused some substantial flooding in the low lying area of the Binalong Bay Rd, roughly where the A - B line is on the above map.

This is not a major problem, as there are shops at Binalong Bay for basic food supplies, not to mention the Angasi restaurant!

There is also the alternative of Reid's Rd (C849) which takes you back through the hills to Priory. This is a fairly good, but unsealed road, so a modicum of care is necessary when driving. It does avoid all the low lying areas which tend to get flooded and is a good alternative in these circumstances!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's not actually pink!

You can always tell the the poor tourism websites by the way they talk about the pink granite at The Gardens!

Phrases like "magnificent outcrops of pink granite, orange lichen" and so forth roll off the tongue, but unfortunately they miss out on accuracy. The granite at The Gardens is grey. In fact it is definitively grey and called Gardens Granite or Gardens Granodiorite if you want to get really technical.

Actually, if you think about it, grey and orange is a much better combination than pink and orange! Still, evolution is not necessarily fashion conscious so I suppose we'd better be thankful that it turned out that way.

If you are looking for a good escape, and are interested in staying at The Gardens, then make sure you book through a website that knows the place and what it is like ... this one for instance!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

No Tsunami for Tasmania

The image above shows the process for sending tsunami warnings in Australia.

Yesterday, after a quake south of New Zealand a "marine warning" alert was issued for the south eastern Australia, including The Gardens, and, given the The Gardens house is only metres from the beach it did spark some degree of concern. It was originally reported as up to 7.8 on the Richter scale, but later this was downgraded to 5.9.

A marine warning is a "warning of potentially dangerous waves, strong ocean currents in the marine environment and the possibility of only some localised overflow onto the immediate foreshore."

I don't think "localised overflow" would have affected the house at all, but I did like the advice "to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water's edge!" The view from the balcony would have been enough for me!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why "The Gardens?"

This is a picture of Lady Jane Franklin, hosted on the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria website. She was the wife of the 1840's Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (as Tasmania was then known), Sir John Franklin, and an amazing woman. She was an explorer, established a private botanic garden but was perhaps slightly unimaginative as far as names go.

Apparently, she named The Gardens because of the abundance of flowers in the area. That's certainly an accurate observation even if, as I mentioned, slightly unimaginative. Unfortunately it's all downhill from there ... nearby Swimcart Creek, was named that because it was flowing strongly, and they had to swim the cart across the creek. She also named Big Lagoon - because it's, well, big!

Still she had plenty of company, when it comes to being unimaginative ... Captain James Cook named Thursday Island. Guess which day of the week they landed on it?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rugs at The Gardens House

Jo Wild has sent me a link to a great slide show of the rugs that were worked on at the hooking weekend at The Gardens House. It was put together by Rita at Gone Rustic at St Marys.

If you live in Tasmania and are interested in hook rugs, feel free to contact Jo at the Lasting Impressions website.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

National Parks Hitch?

The Mercury newspaper has raised questions over the creation of a national park which includes the Bay of Fires. An article suggests that the state government budget cuts to the parks portfolio has raised real questions on whether there will be sufficient funding to go ahead. The state government says that community consultations are still going on.

The suggestion of a larger national park to cover north-eastern Tasmania came after the Bay of Fires region was named the world's best travel destination for 2009 by Lonely Planet travel guides.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dolphins on the Move

On of the things the Happy Hookers reported was that there are dolphins in the Bay of Fires at present! I should confess that the photo above was actually taken by Jenny Cocker of a pod in Recherche Bay, further south. Dolphins, whales and seals all pass through the Bay of Fires on their migrations.

The first time I saw a large pod of over 50 dolphins on the move, I thought it was the wake from a boat, except there wasn't a boat! Dolphins make the most of being in the water. Often they seem to surf the waves.

A few years ago, a seal made its home in the Bay of Fires for several months. It could often be seen just drifting and basking in the waters off The Gardens House. Whales are regular visitors, but tend to stay further out than dolphins and seals.

Maybe you'll see some on your visit!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Hookers endorse The Gardens

Recently the Happy Hookers had a weekend for relaxed rug making at The Gardens House. Deloraine Hook Rug Group was established at Elizabeth Town Bakery Cafe in 2004 with a one day workshop funded by Arts Deloraine. They are known locally as the Happy Hookers & meet monthly to help & encourage each other in our rug making & lives. In America this is known as a "rug frolic."

They suggest it should be described as:
80's Retro Beach House overlooking the Bay of Fires
See a sea eagle & sometimes swallows & dolphins from your balcony.
Share with family &/or friends only a hop step & a jump
from a pristine beach front with granite boulders.
Sleeps seven.

Looking forward to seeing you & yours soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Say Cheese!

When it comes to taste, I'm definitely over towards savoury rather than sweet. (Excluding chocolate - that has its own category!) Pyengana is a small town up in the north east of Tasmania, and it has a history of producing good cheese. One of my favourites! Nothing like a really sharp cheddar!

I can remember buying one of the small cloth wrapped rounds, cutting a core part way through, filling the resulting hole with port and resealing the end. Every day for several months the round was turned end for end. The resulting cheese was very nice indeed.

The Healey family who operate the enterprise built the house two down from The Gardens House.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Getting there - Weldborough Pass

I always think one of the best parts of a trip is getting there! When it comes to getting to The Gardens, you have three choices - along the Avoca/Fingal road, up the coast road from the south or across the north east via Scottsdale and Weldborough Pass.

Weldborough Pass has one of the most amazing old myrtle forests, and you must stop and have a wander. The walk is short, fairly level and most people should be able to handle it without any problems. The reward is a cool, shaded meander amongst some seriously beautiful myrtle, ferns and fungi. If the image above is not enough, have a look at this Flickr site where it came from, for some excellent images.

The area was originally slated for rural development but the discovery of alluvial tin de-railed that. There was extensive tin mining nearby which attracted the largest Chinese community on any tin field in Australia. Their Joss House was donated to the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, on the condition it remain available for use.

If you do find yourself overwhelmed by the walk, the Weldborough Hotel is also nearby.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Go Scuba at the Bay of Fires

So far on this blog, I have mentioned things to do around the Bay of Fires, on the Bay of Fires, but I haven't mentioned diving in the Bay of Fires, and strapping on some tanks is very worthwhile.

If you want the real detail, though, you'd have to ask my sister, she's the serious diver - wreck diving and the like all over the place. But that's another story. The Bay of Fires is a beautiful underwater as it is on top. But don't take my word for it, slip over to Bay of Fires Dive and have a look for yourself. They're based in Binalong Bay on the road out to The Gardens house.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tasmanian Tigers at The Gardens

I'm sorry to say that you will not see a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) while staying at The Gardens. My father actually saw the last one (above) in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart in the 1930s - he was a small boy then.

OK, you are probably wondering why I am so certain that the Thylacine is extinct. It's hard to prove something's not there, so I'd be pleased to be wrong, but here's my logic.

First up, the Thylacine was a plains animal. It liked a bit of bush to lay up in, but it did most of its hunting over grassland. From this I draw two conclusions:
  • the deep bush sightings are unlikely to be Thylacines
  • given Tasmanian patterns of land use we should see a lot more of them, if they were there
The most persuasive arguement comes from the 1930s depression. During that time many Tasmanians went trapping for fur and subsistence, and there were more people more widely scattered through the state than at any time since, many more than during the Thylacine searches since. Also, during most of that time there was still a bounty on Thylacines. If there were still Thylacines about, someone would have trapped them and claimed the bounty.

So, sorry, I really don't believe there are any ...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shameless plug ... a guilty pleasure

Some time last century (is it only me, or do other people feel funny saying that?) I was at uni and met Lew Bretz. Lew and I had quite a few opinions in common ranging from the usefulness of technology, our politicians and the quality of Tasmanian beer.

Surprisingly, neither pancakes nor elephants came up ...

Quite ironic, given that Lew and his partner Pam, now run the Mt Elephant Pancake Barn. Now this establishment is not actually at The Gardens, or even really on the way to The Gardens, but, as the name suggests, it's at Mt Elephant, just south of St Marys.

If you are coming to The Gardens through the Fingal Valley, it's only a short detour and your tastebuds will love you! The range of pancakes is extensive, through both savoury and sweet and has many unique combinations. Alternatively, it makes a good lunch stop on a day trip doing the loop south through Falmouth, up the Elephant Pass to St Marys, then back down the St Marys Pass and north to The Gardens.

If you drop in, say "hi" to Lew and Pam from me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Refined encounters with nature!

This image is hosted on a website called Premier Travel Tasmania, and I had to include it because of the position the picture was taken from. It was used some years ago on a Tourism Tasmania poster and I've still got a copy of it - a bit tattered now, but still a great poster.

It's very close to the view you get from The Gardens House, in fact, I think the house would be just to the right of the tall bushes in the foreground. The tide is looking pretty much fully out, and the rocks are exposed. A good time to drop a line in from the rocks -- you can cast well out and get some flathead. You can also see Big Lagoon on the right of the photo.

I've never seen horses on the beach, other than in this photo. I don't know whether they just happened to be there or whether they were brought in for the photo shoot. Either way it's a great photo.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Orchids revisited

This is truly beautiful, and I had to put it up. It's a flying duck orchid (Caleana major) which you could probably have guessed from the shape of the flower. This picture was taken by Garry Richardson in the Humbug Point area, on the way from St Helens up to The Gardens.

There's no secret that The Gardens area was named by Lady Franklin because of the flowers in the area. It's when you see a shot like this that it really brings home just how lovely they are.

A stay in The Gardens in springtime is a great way to see them and wander around through them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eastcoaster Jazz Festival

Jazz has been a part of the East Coast cultural life since 1984, when the Suncoast Jazz Festival kicked off in St Helens. Among the guest artists who have appeared at the festival in the past are Bob Barnard, Alex Hutchinson, Paul Furniss, Erie Holroyd, Tom Baker and well-known Tasmanian jazz musician lan Pearce.

In 2008, the Eastcoaster was launched and in 2009 will take place on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th October 2009 at St Helens. Information regarding this event will be available on the Hobart Jazz Club website from the 1st April 2009. Update: Alas, the Eastcoaster will be held in 2009 at the Louisville Resort at Orford.

A relaxing weekend alternating between this event and the beach would be as close as I could get to perfection ...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

See The Gardens from a yacht

Unlikely as it seems, it is just possible that you might get bored with watching the waves from the shore. If that happens, then the best antidote is to try watching the land from the sea. The best way to do that is from the deck of a fully equipped cruising yacht.

Bay of Fires Sailing Cruises operate a 38 foot yacht, Running Away, out of St Helens. Now you could just take a short sail around St Georges Bay, but my pick would be a day sail up to the Eddystone Lighthouse, taking in the entire length of the Bay of Fires.

Your skipper is Alistair Bailey who fell for living in this area when he visited from the mainland. Running Away is surveyed for eight people and has two ensuite cabins.

Dolphins and seals and occasionally whales add to the enjoyment of the day. But the highlight is anchoring in the Bay of Fires and setting about crayfish and oysters. And the wine of course.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Busting out at The Gardens

One of the fun things about Big Lagoon is that it is usually blocked off from the sea. This makes it comparatively safe for young swimmers. However, as with most lagoons there are a couple of creeks feeding into it, and the level oscillates and eventually rises until the water is lapping at the base of the roadway on the little bridge we use to get to The Gardens.

When that happens, the local council sends a bloke along with a shovel, and he digs a narrow trench -- just two shovel widths wide -- to release the water. Now, with the amount of water backed up in the Lagoon and the nature of the loosely packed sand, the trench doesn't stay narrow for much time. Away it goes! Click on the photo above to see it full size. That's about an hour or so after the trench was dug.

All of a sudden, the nature of the beach has changed again. The channel from Big Lagoon has now become a water chute you can have fun in with boogie boards.

This is very much a temporary phenomenon and in a few weeks Big Lagoon will be sealed off again and the water will begin to build behind it for a year or so, and then the whole things starts again!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Big Lagoon - a safe alternative

Pounding surf is not for everyone, and The Gardens area caters for that as well. Close by the surf beach, about 300 metres from The Gardens House, is Big Lagoon. Yes, it's not a very imaginative name, but you've got the English to thank for that, specifically Lady Franklin ... I'll tell you about that another time.

Big Lagoon is a couple of kilometres long and really deserves its name, regardless of the lack of imagination. More importantly, there's a great place for kids to get into some supervised water play up at the beach end. It's shallow, clean sand, no current - ideal for kids to muck about in. It is water, and they should be supervised at all times though.

Because the lagoon opens to the sea occasionally, fish get in and it's also a good place for junior fishers to drop a line in and try their luck and develop their skills.

The surrounding sandy beaches provide a very comfortable area for the adult supervisors to relax and enjoy the antics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Surfing ... of course

The Gardens is at the northern run of the East Coast surf beaches. Cosy Corner is just a short drive away, or, if you are not feeling that energetic, you can always step out the back gate straight on to Taylor's Beach - four km of lovely white sloping beach, and the main break is up the top end, right near the house.

The other good news is that there are quite a few surf areas before you get to Taylor's Beach, so the break is not usually crowded - all the other areas would have to be dead flat before Taylor's becomes crowded. You can find information on Eastsurf Online Surf Magazine.

The good news is that Big Lagoon is a good area for the "grommets" to splash about in, in relative safety.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not a French connection

This is a picture of Tobias Furneaux, who, despite his surname, was English. The name is thought to have come to England along with William of Normandy in 1066. Furneaux commanded HMS Adventure on Cook's second expedition to the antipodes. On 17 March 1773, he named St Patrick's Head, St Helen's Point, the Bay of Fires and Eddystone Point. In the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Dan Sprod describes him as "an experienced, if somewhat unimaginative, navigator."

Furneaux named the area the Bay of Fires because he saw a large number of small fires as he passed that section of the coast. He also reported the area as being heavily populated, and he was not too wide of the mark as there are many sites with evidence of occupation. Many of these sites are Aboriginal middens (shell and bone deposits) in the sand dunes. These sites are protected and it is important not to disturb these sites.

Furneaux is remembered by name of the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait. The two largest islands of which are Flinder's Island and Cape Barren Island.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Calvados?

If you have already visited The Gardens House, you may have noticed that it's actually called Calvados and perhaps have wondered what that is and why the house is so named. There's an interesting story about both of these questions.

Calvados is a truly wonderful drink from northern France. It's a double distilled apple brandy. Apples (and in a few varieties some pears) are fermented into cider. This is then distilled into eau de vie de cidre. It's then aged for a minimum of two years in oak. The name falls under the French appellation controllee system and the area it comes from is restricted under those regulations. There's a good general article in Wikipedia.

Henrick Mattsson (pictured above) is a Calvados enthusiast and has published a book on the drink and the region, even recipes.

My family's link comes from my great-grandfather Louis Jeanne. He was born and raised in Isigny-sur-Mer in one of the appellation districts in Normandy. It's not exactly the best known town in France, but Walt Disney traces his family back to Jean-Christophe d'Isigny ("of Isigny") who came from there. Louis Jeanne jumped ship in Melbourne in the late 19th century. The name of the house celebrates that link. The nameplate was originally attached to my grandfather's house in Ivanhoe, Victoria and came to The Gardens when my parents retired here about 100 years after Louis Jeanne arrived.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sea and Seafood

I have to admit that one of the things I really enjoy about being at The Gardens House is relaxing and reading while looking at the ever changing seascapes. Seeing the migrating whales and dolphins is incredible. I remember once noticing what looked like a huge wake from a boat, but when I put the binoculars on it, it was a large pod of dolphins moving across the Bay of Fires. One year a large sea lion made the Bay his home and could be seen most days swimming and drifting.

Of course, the other alternative is to actually get out there in the water and look back at the land from the sea. Binalong Bay began life as a fishing village and there's a number of charter operations there and at St Helens. One of these is Professional Charters run by Rocky and Angela Carosi. The fishing is sensational - if you don't believe me, just check their photo gallery.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Watch out for Wombats!

The title of this entry can be taken two ways - look for them, and look after them. There are quite a few wombats in The Gardens area, especially down on the flat near Big Lagoon. They have also been seen around The Gardens House, especially around sundown. They are fairly regular in their habits, so if you see one, note the time, it may well be back at around the same time the following day. Bear in mind that they don't have watches, so if the following day is significantly different in terms of cloud cover, then that may not work.

Wombats are the Mack trucks of the marsupials - it's not that they carry stuff around, but they are solid and determined and their natural response when disturbed is to hunch down for a while, then continue on their course. If you are driving, always give way to them - if for no other reason but self interest. Look at their size, imagine hitting a rock about that size - it won't be quite that bad but you'll know you hit one!

This habit of keeping to their course means they will walk quite close to you, which is a great way for kids to see them, but they're not toys, so look and learn, but let them go as they wish. If you find an abandoned young one, contact the Parks and Wildlife Service, they do need special care.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wonderful Images of The Gardens

I have recently discovered Bay of Fires Images and Publishing which has an excellent photo resource of The Gardens area of the Bay of Fires, as well as other surrounding areas. The aerial photographs in particular give a good impression of the relationships of the various features. In the main image (shown above as a thumbnail) you can clearly see the size of Big Lagoon at the back, with Taylor's Beach coming in from the top left.

The Gardens House is on the bank just before the first headland as you trace Taylor's Beach downwards. Make sure you also have a look at the Taylor's Beach photos, as they are taken from The Gardens House end of the beach, which you step down to from the back gate.

A link to Bay of Fires Images and Publishing has been added to this page, or click here.