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Backroad Therapy* – A bit about Bothwell and Beyond

*I stole this great title from a country song by Alexandra Kay  Not sure if I like the song yet, but perhaps it will grow on me. I do like listening to a bit of country music when I'm on the road.  


This post should probably have a Scotch Thistle but its the season of dog roses and hawthorn


I love Tasmania’s winding country roads with their hedgerows and lovely old towns and I've seen much too little of them these last three years. It’s taken over a year to get the van back due to a lack of parts and now we were set to have four days of good weather, something else we haven’t seen much of this year. It snowed again on Tuesday night – Snowvember, our public broadcaster called it, so the timing couldn’t have been better.


Bothwell has more than 50 heritage listed buildings. This is St. Luke's (1830), Australia's second oldest church

I call in briefly at Bothwell. Although the official population is around 499, it serves a much larger rural community of about 3,700. It’s one of Tasmania’s oldest towns and has just celebrated its 200th birthday. Thanks to its Scottish roots it has Australia’s oldest golf course (1830) and until recently (see below) a world -famous whisky distillery. Bothwell is full of sandstone buildings and charming cottages. There are also some interesting places to have afternoon tea and coffee, but today I just stop in at its Visitor’s Centre to make sure that the roads are open. You never know what to expect in Tasmania’s High Country. There can be  snow and ice at any time of year and after all the rain there might even be a bit of flooding in low lying sections. 


Approach to the Visitor's Centre. Everyone takes pictures of Bothwell's charming cottages and stately homes, but I'm in love with its beautiful old trees. Apologies for the dull pictures. These are from another trip when the weather wasn't as kind but I wasn't in such a hurry

Just inside the Visitor’s Centre there’s an enormous ball of wool. It was started by local resident Barbara Fowler (OAM), who unfortunately passed away recently at the age of 95. Her dream was to collect pieces of wool from every part of the world  -enough to stretch right around the world to connect people and places in a Thread of Friendship. I keep forgetting to bring some, but you can still add your bit. It’s also a reminder that Bothwell has or had a thriving Spinning and Weaving culture which had a festival every second year, though it seems to have gone into recess since the pandemic. It may also have had something to do with Barbara Fowler's passing. She was quite a mover and shaker.


You might still find a Tam -o -shanter or a beanie in your clan colours in Julie Honner's crowded Weaver's shop in the old school building along from the Visitor's Centre. It also sells a lot of other things including old patterns, knitting needles and bric a brac

The current Post Office was one in the 1830s and then became a wheelwright's premises.Today it also has excellent homemade cakes, gifts and freshly ground coffee. Note the whisky barrel rubbish bins. The town also has tartan street signs, both a legacy of Barbara Fowler's work.

This Post Office dates from the 1890's. It still has a hitching post outside

 A Scandal

After crossing the River Clyde, I pass the sign to Nant Homestead. They aren't farms around here but properties which get passed on from generation to generation. Nant dates from 1824 and still has a water -driven grist mill. Until recently it was also the site of one of Tasmania’s best known whisky distilleries. Unfortunately it is now also known as the site of one of Australia’s biggest financial scandals Apparently there was quite a bit of creative accounting and it’s alleged that advance sales of whisky far exceeded actual production. This meant that not a few investors got their fingers burnt as did the people of Bothwell. I thought it sounded like a great plot for a movie, but I hear that Netflix is already working on it. It’s a great setting. The song “Friends in Low Places” comes on as I pass by. It would make a great soundtrack. 



Don’t despair about missing out on a wee dram of the good stuff. I am told that although Nant hasn’t reopened to the public yet, production has resumed. In the meantime, there are at least 70 other places in Tasmania where you can try the liquid gold on Tasmania’s Whisky Trail. Brewing whisky has been a fine Tasmanian tradition since the earliest days of the colony, despite Governor Franklin's best efforts to stamp it out. 

Other country songs spring to mind as I climb up the series of hills out of Bothwell. I learned today that there is a pair of them here which are colloquially known as the Sabrinas for reasons that may become apparent as you drive past. A few black -faced sheep look up as I drive by as do a few of what are most likely the progeny of the Black Angus cattle which were marched overland from Hobart after arriving from Scotland in 1824. They are now the dominant breed in Tasmania and a mainstay of the local economy.  

This is still the home of the Mountain Cattlemen who take stock up to the high country in summer. Someone I used to know who used work as a jackaroo in these parts said it was so cold in the mornings that his feet would stick to the floor of the caravan he was staying in. The only relief from the daily grind was being allowed into town on the occasional Saturday night. Since then I always think of Lee Kernigan’s “The Boys From the Bush.” when I’m driving through.


The signal fades as I reach the wild bush country. Before the Hydro Electric Commission came, this was the realm of the hunters and trappers. Remnants of their rough huts can still be found in them thar hills but most of them have either returned to nature or been replaced by up - market weekenders, especially around the lakes.

I search in vain for a song dedicated to them, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Nor is there one for the road workers, though there’s a memorial to them at the Steppes further up the A5. I won't see it this time as I'm turning off towards Waddamana.