Friday, September 29, 2017

On Top of Knocklofty – The Artist's Way

The John Glover Track - Knocklofty, above Hobart

I have been running in my new walking boots on the hills around Hobart.  Knocklofty is the one nearest to me and overlooks the town rather nicely. Were it not for the great bulk of Mt. Wellington/Kunanyi (1271 m) stealing the limelight, it would be an important feature in its own right. The upside is that it is easily accessible and offers pleasant views of the river and the city from a less Godlike perspective – you can make out the detail of individual houses, a gorgeously flowering magnolia, a man on a bicycle, as well as the blue ribbon of river curling away to the south.

One of several old quarries
In the earliest years of white settlement in 1804 it was known as “Woodman’s Hill” and was a kind of wild commons where people gathered firewood, hunted possums and grazed a few cattle.  Much of the sandstone for the colony’s early buildings and even those in Melbourne was also cut from here. In 1942 -43 some 140 hectares were set aside for the people of Hobart as a recreational reserve. The few dwellings in it were either lost to bush fires or allowed to decay and over the years both schoolchildren and Bushcare Group, Friends of Knocklofty have restored much of the original vegetation. Today it boasts over 300 native plants and is a popular place to exercise, walk the dog or simply to enjoy rambling and scrambling over its many tracks and trails.

The trees which inspired Glover  -though the originals would have fallen to the axe long ago
My latest walk has taken me in the footsteps of John Glover (1767 - 1849), a C19th landscape artist already well established in Britain, who came to Tasmania in 1820 at the age of 64 to join his three sons. It is said that he walked from his home in Melville Street with his easel, brushes and paints to paint the scene which now hangs in the Henry Hunter Gallery at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It would have been a long steep climb up Poet’s Road if it existed then. The route he took as he walked up the valley from there is now called the John Glover Track.  

This is very close to where Glover painted the famous picture which hangs in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, though there are more trees now than in the picture, thanks to rehabilitation work by schools and community groups

He was very taken with the strange new vegetation and eagerly sought to capture it on canvas, without making it look like the English countryside. He is now regarded as the father of Australian landscape painting and was also one of the first to paint Aboriginal people. 

What Glover saw - this painting hangs in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery along with several other works by Glover
In Glover’s day, the valley would have rung with the sound of the quarrymen wielding their mallets and chisels and the clatter of their drays as they took sandstone blocks to Hobart Town, but today I am accompanied by the sound of birds – Knocklofty has around seventy five species including the endangered Swift Parrot and some of the biggest crows I have ever seen. Though I am overtaken by the occasional runner or dog walker, the glen through which I pass is peaceful, greener and more sheltered than much of Knocklofty. The occasional golden splash of wattle and a few early wild flowers are a bonus.
Splashes of wattle add colour

The first wild flowers
If you would like to see more of Glover’s work, one of his sketch books is currently on display as part of the Museum’s “Strange Trees” exhibition which runs until 26/11/2017. One of his "Patterdale" works hangs in the history room at the State Library. Others can be found in State and National galleries and even in the Louvre. "Patterdale" was the name of John Glover's farm in the Northern Midlands and he is buried nearby at the Deddington Cemetery.

Funnily enough while looking for a bottle of wine to take to a gathering, I came across this one, dedicated to Glover. It not only has his portrait, but a little description of the man.

"He is a sturdy, untidy thick-build man with two club feet. His countenance a good but almost heavenly aspect - a sober man, he enjoys excellent health and spirits..."
-Peregrine Massingberd, diary 1832 -3
I like him already, but yes, he must have had a robust constitution, these hills are killing me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

And now for a bit of Industrial History - The Lisdillon Saltworks

Ruins of the Lisdillon Saltworks

There was one other place I wanted to see on the way home. It’s the Lisdillon Saltworks which lie about twenty minutes to the south of Swansea.

 Its substantial ruins stand proudly and forlornly on a headland as if gazing out to sea waiting for the owner who never returned. It is rumoured that his was the headless corpse found in a carpet bag near Waterloo Bridge, while he was in London on a short visit in 1856, though this was never proven. 

You can just see Freycinet Peninsula and Shouten Island in the background

James Radcliff, an Irish immigrant, built the saltworks in the 1830’s as an adjunct to his farming activities. He was also the district's coroner and a Justice of the Peace. Although the saltworks were innovative in design and salt was in high demand in the colony for preserving meat and tanning, the saltworks were never really profitable.
It is thought that this may have been partly due to its location -too close to a river mouth which may have diluted the salt, but also because convict labour and the high tariff on imported salt both ended in 1841.  

Lonely and proud - the Lisdillon Saltworks overlook the Tasman Sea

Eventually Radcliff leased out the site and the land was given over to pastoral activity. The peaceful sadness that surrounds the site today may not just stem from the failure of the enterprise. It is said that  Radcliff’s wife,  Anna Maria Butler, not only met every ship that came into Hobart, but like Lady Franklin, spent many years gazing out to sea, waiting for her lost husband to return. Such was the lot of the pioneer’s wife.

At the headland overlooking the site

Meanwhile salt making in Tasmania is not dead. Almost two centuries later, two new companies have taken up the challenge in this very area. Tasman Sea Salt operates a few kilometres away to the north of the saltworks site and Bluestone Bay Seasalt which specialises in gourmet varieties such as sea salt with Wakame, lies a little to the south. I wonder if James Radcliff would be pleased. Perhaps it's an idea that has found it's time.

Further reading:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lost No More - Lost Falls Revisted

McCubbinesque landscape - early morning sunshine filters through the trees

I should have looked at Lost Falls last year when there had been so much rain on the East Coast. I’m within 27 km of it on the Great Eastern Drive, so I give it another try now. The main road to Campbell Town has greatly improved since my last visit. The chicanes are still there, much to the delight of motorcyclists, but the road is wide and smooth. It's mean of me to say it, but I wonder if the improvement has more to do with enabling wealthy pastoralists to get to their beachside holiday homes than “connecting communities” as the signage says, or they would have finished the Midlands Highway by now or even the Lakes Highway years ago. The road into the Falls however, hasn’t changed since I was giving my son driving lessons there a decade ago, though the signage is better. Last time the alternator failed and we had to hitchhike home from Campbell Town.

Lost Falls is only four kilometres off the highway but I’m going so slowly it feels like forty. Don’t take your hire car on this road unless it’s a four wheel drive. At least this time I find the location straight away.

Eucalytus oil  adds a blue note to distant mountains
It’s early morning in the bush. It is a beautiful time. Shards of sunlight filter through the trees. Birds chirp. Eucalyptus oils give the mountains their bluish hue and there is that golden light, captured so well by Frederick McCubbin. I can see where the falls are supposed to be, but there’s a smudge, rather than a torrent. They are impossibly high -it’s a long way down and would be an amazing sight after a decent rain.

The Lost Falls

One of the rock pools at the head of the Falls
The landscape is still interesting. There are rock pools and spectacular columnar rock walls with huge drop -offs into richly clothed gullies. While the waterfall and rock pools lie to the north, there is also another track on my left which goes to a lookout.

 It comes out on top of two rocky outcrops about the size of a football field and looks over forested mountain chains in every direction. I am always a bit surprised how even the bush looks from this perspective, when the reality on the ground is so different - broken and ravaged by wind, by fire, by humans - and the trees themselves shed their bark, leaves and branches with gay abandon, leaving  messy looking litter on the ground.

On top of the world at the lookout

 It’s a bit hard to tell where you are supposed to go on the lookout, but the views are amazing in every direction. Far off to the east there are sea views, presumably the Freycinet Peninsula with Coles Bay nestled in the corner. It’s very picturesque. Wish I had been here at sunrise. I can also see rain clouds  gathering in the south. Perhaps I bring the rain with me. Just call me next time there's a drought..

Looking east there's a glimpse of the sea