Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Taking the Slow Road Home - Snippets



Lighthouse at Low Head rebuilt 1888

A little bit of Low Head and the Top of the Tamar

I trundle over the river, via Beauty Point with its big wharves, past orchards, wineries and strawberry signs - Closed alas, to get a closer look at the lighthouse at Low Head.  It looks much smaller than when I saw it as a child. There are no lighthouse keepers now. It’s all automatic but it is still an important lighthouse. It sits high on a hill, overlooking the Tamar estuary, the pilot station and surrounding bays and hills. The earlier marine lights and attendant buildings are also attractive, but I'm disappointed that there's no sign of my penguins. 

The Lighthouse Keeper's House is now Tourist Accommodation


One of two Navigation Lead Lights built in 1882,  so that captains could  line their ships up with both of them  and thus  avoid the reef

I stay another night but I’m still dragging my feet. Instead of taking the main road I take the old coast road along the West Tamar which twists and turns as it follows the coastline. With the tide out, these are more or less tidal flats, but every now and then there are pleasant glimpses of the river. For a break I do the short walk to the ruins of the Supply River Mill - a popular picnic spot. A pelican is feeding in the river as I go by. Ducks swim on the greenish water.   I pass small galleries, boat yards, interesting looking  -restaurants and more wineries including 9th Island which is a favoured drop. Notice I said pass. No tourist should be allowed to travel on the main road. At Grindelwald, a pleasant transplanted Swiss Village created by supermarket king, Rolf Voss, the road rejoins the West Tamar highway.

The pelican is nearly as perverse as yesterday's seals
Gotcha! - remind me not to apply to be a wild life photographer
Immortelle - the periwinkle endures, where human endeavours fail
Remains of the Supply River Mill - begun 1825, its owner went bankrupt after one of his ships destined to feed the N.S.W. colony, foundered off the coast in Victoria. It was then overtaken by steam mills and its ironwork was ripped out for the war effort - World War 1, that is
I muddle through Launceston - the Cataract Gorge is worth a visit, then it’s off over the Lakes via Longford and Poatina on the B52– awesome scenery, splendid  isolation (i.e. no traffic)  and sealed all the way. Even in this inhospitable environment  - cold and rocky, the bush has done its best to put on a show.  I have never driven this section of the Lakes Highway before, only the other branch the A5, which goes to Deloraine and is only partly sealed. Both are subject to ice and snow and both involve a steep climb up to the plateau at one end or the other. Though the other section is more scenic – cloud cover permitting, in that it more closely follows the lakes and passes by numerous small shacks so beloved by fishermen, I am quite pleased to have discovered an alternative route.
Beyond Poatina, a former Hydro village, there are no signs of habitation.  At the Steppes, about seven kilometres past the junction with the A5 there is the old Steppes Church and Hall with several memorials to the pioneers of this district – to the shepherds and their families, the rabbit trappers and hunters, to the police, wardens, rangers and volunteers, to the inland fisheries officers, the Hydro employees and the road workers. These were erected in 2002 as part of the Year of the Outback. 

Steppes Hall and Church, built 1911

One of several memorials to the people of the Steppes. This one is to the Road Patrolmen and their families
One plaque carries a little poem which starts off like this:

“Spare a thought for the men as they worked on the road
It was tough in summer, worse when it snowed…. P.R. Rush October 2002

Part of a larger display in one of the shelters

Ode to the Shepherds inside the hall
The pictures are amazing. It is hard to imagine so many people living and working up here and an interesting glimpse into ways of life that have largely vanished. There is no one here now. A nice little stop though  the genuine pioneer toilets leave a little to be desired.  A little further on are the sculptures by Stephen Walker A.M., dedicated to “those who share in the love and care of the Highlands”  and further along still is the Wilson homestead, though I don’t  go in on this occasion. The last surviving members of this family which farmed here for over a hundred years have donated the property to the state as a bird reserve and it is now managed by Parks and Wildlife.
One of several sculptures of native wildlife by Stephen Walker A.M.  for "those who love and care for the Highlands"

 I shun the  A1 as long as possible  and drive via New Norfolk. Then I’m back into the frenzied traffic of  the Brooker Highway, heading into Hobart – we do get 7 minute traffic jams – and home. The bills are in, the coffee’s out. Don’t know why I bothered coming back. I am already planning my next escape.





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