A Change of Plan

Our day started with some excitement. We were awoken by thunder and lightning at around 5.00 am. Rolling thunder continued until we were packed up and ready to leave St Helens at around 9.30 am. It wasn’t raining when we left but, wow, did that change!

Our plan for the day was to drive west through Scottsdale to Launceston. We filled the petrol tank and bought a breakfast toastie at Banjo’s cafe and headed out on Highway 3. We were about 15 km into our trip when the weather struck. It was some of the heaviest rain that I have experienced in my life. It was so heavy and the visibilty was so poor, we were only driving at about 50 kph. In the end we pulled into a farmer’s driveway and waited for the rain to stop. The rain was so heavy, it knocked out the front warning radar on our car.

The rain was caused by a significant thunder storm that was stalled over the north-east corner of Tasmania for many hours. While we waited for the weather to clear, we checked the Bureau of Meteorology’s Website on our phone. We could see that in half an hour, over 35 mm (1 1/2 inches) of rain had fallen on us.

After a while, the rain seemed to ease. We continued on for a couple of kilometres until we found a line of traffic stopped at a flooded creek. It looked as though there was a metre of water over the road. There was no choice but to turn around and head back to St Helens. I felt very sorry for the caravaners and truck drivers with vehicles that were too large to turn around on the narrow road. I guess they will be stuck at that creek for sometime.

It was no use for us to try and get to Launceston on an alternate northern route as the storm cell was above that road as well. The best choice seemed to be to head south, back through St Marys, and across the central part of Tasmania to Campbell Town. From there, we could head north up Highway 1 to Launceston.

On the climb up St Marys Pass, it became quite foggy.

But, once we over the pass and beyond St Marys, the weather cleared – firstly to showers and then to patches of sunshine.

When we made a thorough check of the day’s rainfall, we found that in twenty four hours, St Helens had received 147 mm of rain (almost 5 3/4 inches). What a wet day!

Tasmania has many small towns that have an historic background. After passing through St Marys, we soon came to a little town named Cornwall. It has the appearance of an old crumbling town but it has a memorial wall that commemorates the miners who helped to make the Fingal Valley one of Tasmania’s richest and most productive mining areas during the 19th century. The wall recalls the hundreds of coal miners (many from Cornwall) who tunnelled into the Mt. Nicholas Range with only a pick, shovel and a stick of dynamite and helped create an industry that would make the Fingal Valley prosperous for a hundred and twenty four years.

Later, at Fingal, we found one of those small Tasmanian towns where the charm lies in just wandering along the main street. There are a number of Victorian-era buildings and a quiet air of tranquility. The original Fingal Post Office, for example, was established in 1831. The current building was completed in 1907. Electricity was connected to the town in 1931.

We reached Avoca in time for lunch. After a quick whiz around town, we stopped by the memorial park to eat the sandwiches that we had bought back in St Helens.  This town also has a number of Georgian and Victorian era buildings that make the town special to see.

Parish Hall (built around 1850) which was originally intended as a storehouse for the local hotel when, in 1937, it was purchased and donated to the Anglican Church. It is currently used as the Post Office.

Marlborough House was intended to be a hotel but it could not get a licence because it was just across the road from the parish church. It was subsequently used as a grammar school and coaching stop before becoming a private residence.

We hit the main highway between Hobart and Launceston near Campbell Town. The historic buildings in that town are well worth a look.

The foundation stone for the three-arch bridge over the Elizabeth River was laid by Lieutenant Governor Arthur on 21 October, 1836. It took convicts fifteen months between 1836-38 to build it. The bricks were all made from clay taken from the south-eastern side of the bridge. It has been estimated that 1.5 million bricks were used in its construction. It was created at a time when only a few horse drawn vehicles crossed it. Today over 2 million vehicles cross it each year.

In the park by the bridge are some excellent wood carvings that illustrate the story of life in the district.

In one of the back streets, we found this row of old colonial houses. One was a soldier’s barracks, another was the officer’s quarters and the third was a watch house.

By the red brick bridge is the Fox Hunters Return. It dates back to 1833 and was constructed by convicts This two-storey rubble stone building  is regarded as one of the “most substantial hotel buildings of the period” and the National Trust describe it as “the finest and most substantial hotel building of the late colonial period in Australia.”

Campbell Town has an interesting convict brick walk. Each brick tells the story of a convict that was transported to Australia – their name, age, ship’s name, crime and sentence.

These are the stories of great poverty – most of the crimes are a result of starvation or theft of property – recorded in stark simplicity. One of these stories is the one of Elizabeth Bickford who, at the age of 17 stole some butter and was transported for seven years to Van Diemen’s Land. She eventually met and married Thomas Myers, aged 19, who had stolen a handkerchief and been transported for seven years. He never returned to England and died in Hobart. These days, we have kids breaking into houses, beating up the occupants and stealing their car. They get  probation and have the ability to repeat their crime on another poor victim.  It’s interesting that sentences two hundred years apart can be so extremely different.

Before reaching our destination at Launceston, we did a little deviation into Evandale, another Georgian era town – one of the five famous ones between Hobart and Launceston – Ross, Oatlands, Campbell Town, Richmond and Evandale. My first impression was that I was back in a little English Village.

An annual fair is held in Evandale on the last Saturday in February, and features a full day of Penny Farthing bicycle racing which includes the National Penny Farthing Championship. The championship has been running since 1983 and involves four circuits of the village – a distance of approximately one mile. A Penny Farthing statue is on the footpath near the Clarendon Hotel.

As we looked to the east, we could see the heavy cloud formations over the area where we had started our day. It’s amazing that the weather can be so different just a short distance away.

One thought on “A Change of Plan”

  1. What a day of. Any contrasts. Pleased you are safe and reached Launceston with Lester skies.

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