Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Two (short) rustic walks in Kingston

A little green at last

As you may have noticed I haven’t been out much lately. Too much rain and too busy with family events – we have a new baby in the family – [Welcome Marlow Elvie and congratulations to your Mum and Dad! Be sure to give them a hard time for me], but I did finally manage to do  a couple of short walks in the last few days.
I’m not sure where our summer went, but now it’s that mellow time of year – not always sunny, but perfect for walking. The nice thing about these walks is that they were neither very long nor very far away so you could leave late in the day and still get home in time for tea. In fact, I was surprised how many of these walks there are in the neighbouring municipality – 31 to be precise, not counting those on Bruny Island, and I look forward to exploring the rest.

Top of the Kaoota Tramway Track- not many photos as we kept getting caught in drizzle

Our first walk took us to the back of Kaoota which lies between Margate on the Coast and Sandfly on the Huon Road. This was a coal mining area- the third highest producer in Tasmania until about 1910, and the Kaoota Tramway Track follows the rail bed of the former tramway which took the coal to the wharves. This track is twelve miles long and descends gently through bushland to farmland where, with slight detours it joins the Neirinna Creek Track and then the Margate River Track. 

Yes you can "immerse yourself in tranquility " and enjoy a bit of our industrial history here

The main track takes four hours, but being a bit short of time, we cheated by leaving one car at the top (where you are supposed to park) and one at the bottom and having a nice easy walk down.
While driving back around Allen’s Rivulet, we could see some interesting cliffs and I was delighted to discover on returning home that there was also a track there. This is the one we did yesterday.
It is also the start of prime fungi season

Native Hens* scattered in their frantic roadrunner way as we started down the path. Lazy horses lolled in paddocks. Then the track which had begun so boldly, stopped abruptly at the creek. There was no indication - not even footpads, of where to go next. I assume that people on horseback probably ride straight up the creek but that wasn’t an option for us as there was too much water in it. After we had managed to cross it we found ourselves stranded amongst thistles and fences.
These impressive cliffs were visible from the top of the Kaoota track

Much to the consternation of my walking partner, we eventually risked climbing through one of the fences though it’s not something I’d recommend, especially as this one had insulators and connectors on it and we weren’t quite sure whether it was electrified or not. Entering by way of the second track sign a bit further up the hill from the parking area would be much easier, except perhaps when the creek floods the little bridge.
They are flanked by soaring Mountain Ash trees with ferns at their base

The cliffs did not disappoint. They were quite striking with tall straight mountain ash trees and a bit of wet sclerophyll forest – the sort with tree ferns interspersed with dogwoods and blackwoods, at their feet, but this made for a rather short walk to the Allen’s Rivulet Bridge – the whole track only taking 40 minutes, so we walked down Moody’s Road and Crofton Drive to where a newly opened track continued along Platypus Creek and back to where we had parked the car. This took us through pleasant hill country where curious alpacas gathered to peer at passers –by, and then through rough, undulating bushland until we reconnected with Moody’s Road and finally our car.

The fungi were out here too, but there was no sign of any edible ones yet

We didn’t see any platypi, but there were birds, butterflies and a shy pademelon hiding under a bush.  All in all, a pleasant afternoon stroll – about two to two and a half hours all up, through country I hadn’t seen before with glimpses of wild apple trees, a bit of autumn colour and always against a backdrop of mountains -  a lovely mix of the wild and tame.

* Find out why Tasmanians call Native Hens "Turbo Chooks" here:

And in case you were idly wondering if they might be tasty, here's how the Tasmanian recipe for them goes:
"Take a large pot of water
Add one Native Hen and a large stone
 Boil until stone is tender
Remove native hen and eat stone"

This may explain why they are not yet extinct here, apart from the fact that we don't have foxes or dingoes. They are now only found in Tasmania

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bidencope’s Lane gets the kiss of life – more street art

The old look  - messy and uncoordinated

Bidencope’s Lane backs onto what was once one of the most exclusive shops in town with an international reputation for its hats and a core business providing uniforms for soldiers, police and firemen.  Joseph Bidencope, a tailor, had begun it in 1877 and although carried on by successive generations, it was finally sold in 1977. Since then new upmarket shops have opened around the front facing Murray Street, but the rear of the premises had been neglected and were a prime target for taggers and graffiti artists.  The mix of styles, the different ages and quality of the work, plus the fact that it usually had to be carried out in haste and in secret – the Council has strict policies about graffiti, meant that the end result looked messy and a bit sad, rather than uplifting. 

A bit of @lukansmith

There is a mix of bold design and whimsical with many famous street artists represented

This year the lane was the focus of the City Council's Vibrance Youth festival and it has exploded with colour. Yes, it is still a mix of styles featuring many famous street artists, but it is rather like a walk in gallery. Even better, it has started to attract new shops. A tiny pop –up shop featuring handmade produce is currently holding the fort until a coffee shop opens and the whole lane is a much more attractive alternative to walking noisy, traffic -choked Liverpool Street or even the busy CentrePoint Arcade. 

"Knock gently"says the hidden door in this design by @brainfoetus

Bold and bright by @tstella

A more delicate design adorns this door - someone loves bees. They are also featured in a loading bay around the corner
Speaking of the popup shop, it has two things in its favour – for the four ladies who run it, it is a cheaper alternative to formally renting space or even going to markets, and as far as the streetscape goes, it certainly looks better than empty shops.  Long may they reign and bring life to hitherto dead corners.

Kirthy from Finland minds the store
It's a bright spot in what used to be a wasteland and an eyesore
Visitors come to admire the new work
Easily recognisable - a bit of Tim O''Hearn's work. He has also outlined a whole wall here which has yet to be filled in. Apologies to the other artists whose work I don't immediately recognise. See more on the Vibrance Facebook page

Could this be be the start of a flourishing lane culture?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Down at the Cat Café - coffee, cats and cuddles

A chilled out Pablo at the Hobart Cat Café

Cat cafés are all the rage, so on Sunday, at the insistence of my daughter and granddaughters, I  visited the one in North Hobart to see what they were all about.

Taiwan is officially credited with starting the first Cat Café in 1998, but the idea was so popular with Japanese tourists that they soon started their own. Since then they have flourished around the world, particularly in regions where pet ownership is becoming more problematic.  Even in little old Hobart getting a rental property which allows animals – no, not so much as a goldfish, is almost impossible, as my daughter recently found out. At last count some 30 countries from Latvia to India, from Russia to Canada, from New Zealand to Denmark had Cat Cafés with more being added every day. 

A more aloof Tiger Lily reposes on a stool

Not all of them are the same. Some have cats which can be adopted offering new hope to abandoned cats; others only allow you to pet them. The “Bag of Nails” in Scotland is a cat pub. The Brooklyn Cat Café shows movies. Feline Yoga is offered at “Crumbs and Whiskers” in Los Angeles and Washington.  Some offer Train and Groom Your Cat sessions; “Morgan’s” in New York teaches you how to paint cats, and so on.
The Cat Café I visit is more like a petting zoo with a permanent cast of ten characters who mostly entertain by being themselves. “Pearl” aged 15 and the oldest member of the team – the correct term is a clowder of cats -lounges luxuriously in one of the baskets attached to a veritable cat’s play gym in the front window. “Pablo” is more lively, but still pretty laid back. It hard to feel stressed when there’s so much purrfect schmoozing going on.

I think this might be Oreo who seems more interested in the goings on in the street than in the cafe

Hanging out in the Cat Café - the cats radiate calm

 Indeed, research has shown that cats* are good for humans. With their 50 -60 Hertz purr, they have been shown to reduce blood pressure, depression  and risk of stroke and heart attacks as well as reducing stress and anxiety.   Sarah, co -owner of the Hobart Cat Café says her cats help to reduce the isolation of those in group homes and elder care facilities, especially in cases of dementia, where cats can help to bring back memories. Children with autism also seem to benefit from association with cats.

The food doesn't look half bad either

That’s all well and good, but is it also good for the cats? Some Cat Cafés have come under fire for not paying enough attention to hygiene and the health and welfare of their cats, but in places where animal welfare and cafés generally are of a high standard – in Japan for example, cat cafés must be registered and are regularly inspected, there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.

This is certainly the case with respect to the local café. Their cats were especially chosen for their temperament. The animal hospital is across the road (I actually thought the café was part of it) and they are regularly checked by vets. The whole area is very clean and food production is separated from the cat area by a small vestibule where visitors are asked to wash their hands before and after playing with the cats. The cats themselves may not be picked up, though they may be stroked and patted. If the cats have had enough attention, or feel uncomfortable at any time they can retreat  through the cat doors into their own human -free space. None of these cats look as if they ever want to leave.

Guests pass through a special entryway

In the case of rescue cats being petted and pampered and having the chance to find a new home, it surely beats being confined to a small wire cage and possibly being euthanized, which is often the fate of older cats, when they have passed the cute kitten stage. Though the Hobart Cat Café doesn’t do adoptions itself, there’s a sign in the window on behalf of the Hobart Cat Centre, which does. The café also accepts donations on their behalf.

Cat related pictures and paraphernalia  adorn the café

 For the best Cat Cafés in Europe click here
and the best in the USA here.

P.S. If you would like more cat company but aren’t quite ready for the long term commitment of cat ownership, the Cat Centre also has opportunities for foster carers and casual cuddlers.

Want more cat pats but don't want to adopt one? It is also possible to foster, though not via the Cat Cafe
*Dogs confer similar health benefits on their owners. Both have co -evolved with humans but the same does not necessarily hold for non -domestic animals - such as owls or even hedgehogs, which have now started being pressed into the same kind of service, much as we might enjoy their company.