Bothwell – Part Two

Seeing that we are in Bothwell for two nights (and we don’t have a long distamnce to drive today) we took advantage of the time to sleep in and a slow start. We didn’t leave Ratho Farm until after 1030 am.

Our local exploration first took us to The Steppes about 20 minutes north of Boswell. Thie reserve protects an important piece of Tasmania’s high country sheep-grazing heritage. Sheep grazing was an integral part of early settlement life and the need for grazing pastures and stock rotation meant pastoral families tended to live remotely, allowing them to more effectively manage their stock and ensure access to an adequate food supply year-round.​

Since 1863, the Wilson family settled at The Steppes, where their existence revolved around the sheep they managed. The Steppes remained the family’s home for over a hundred years. During this time, The Steppes was utilised as a police station, a church, a site of weather observation, a summer school, post office and offered lodging to travellers visiting the lakes district. 

There is some confusion over the origin of the naming of ‘The Steppes’, however, the evidence suggests that the name was given by James Wilson. A police station was constructed at the Steppes in 1863 and James Wilson, due to his extensive knowledge of both stock and the Lake Country, was offered the position of Superintendent of Police, a position he held for 30 years. He was assisted in his work by 2–3 constables. Stock was driven up to the highlands to rest the lowland paddocks during the summer months.

James and his wife Jessie raised five children at the Steppes; a sixth child died in infancy and is buried nearby. James was made redundant when the police station was closed at the Steppes in 1894. The Wilsons were allowed to stay as tenants of the Police Department.  James died in 1922, aged 85. Mrs Jessie Wilson and her three daughters continued to live at the Steppes.

The last of the family was Miss Marjorie (Madge) Wilson who lived her entire life here at the Steppes. She passed away in 1975 at the age of 92 years. In 1910 James Wilson became a volunteer weather observer for the Bureau of Meteorology. From her father’s death in 1922, until her own in 1975, Miss Madge Wilson continued these observations. As her eyesight failed her in her later years, Miss Wilson had trouble maintaining the records and a friend, Jack Thwaites, would travel from Hobart to assist her. She is reputed to have fed the birds an animals (including tiger snakes) around the cottage by hand.

In 1957, the surviving family members, Miss Madge Wilson and her sister Mrs Marion Carr offered their private land at the Steppes for inclusion in the reserve. Their motivation was that it afforded protection to the birds and other wild creatures that they loved so much. Beside the reserve is now a memorial (Steppes Statues) to this remarkable family. 

Just north of Steppes, we came across the small village of Miena. It is on the shores of Great Lake in the centre of the main area of Tasmania’s Lakes District. The lakes were created by glaciers around 100 million years ago. The town’s surrounding sub-alpine landscape consists of mountain peaks and alpine lakes. During winter, snow settles on the shores of the lakes and clear crisp days satisfy those who enjoy feeling close to the environment. The great appeal of Miena is the fishing for which the lakes are famous.

After driving along an unmade road, we passed trough a place known as Interlaken that sat on a narrow gap at Lake Sorell. The road continued to the town of Otalands . This town is located on the shores of Lake Dulverton about half way between Hobart and Launceston and on Tasmania’s Midlands highway, The town grew in the colonial days as a result of it being the ideal stopping place between Hobart and Launceston. It is also a close enough destination to both Hobart or Launceston for a day’s short drive.  It still has a large number of its original Georgian buildings such as the Town Hall. .

The Callington Mill mill complex at Otlands was the major flour mill in the region for many years. The complex of stone buildings includes a five-level windmill tower, a granary, steam mill, stable and miller’s cottage. Callington Mill is a Lincolnshire tower mill built in 1837. It has been restored so that it is now in full working order and is the only operating mill of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Anglican Church is a little way out of the current town and can easily be seen from the highway. It has a typical Norman style of architecture, as do many English churches, and has an extensive churchyard (graveyard).

We completed e circuit back to Bothwell finding people playing golf at Ratho. It was 28C and quite warm – too warm for thse people to have rented traditiona golfing clothes of tweed and plus fours for their round on this old course.

2 thoughts on “Bothwell – Part Two

  1. What an amazing number of diverse changes in vegetation, geology, waterways, colonial settlement, architecture, grand and humble dwellings or civic buildings, all within small kilometre distances compared to mainland Australia. Is the Wilson history at the Steppes that of your family Bruce?

  2. Looks so peaceful.. the photo of the huge gum tree, is it gorse all around? 28C. much more peasant than the 2 days at 35C+. back to 14C at 07:00. travel safely

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