It was cool this morning at Cradle Mountain – about 8C. I had a hearty beakfast fiollowed by a short walk along the Enchanted Walk that winds through the forest and returns to to Cradle Mountain Lodge along Pencil Pine Creek. Unfortunately it had a number of steps along the way so it wasn’t suitable for Jill.
It wasn’t long before I came across one of the marsupials that inhabit this area. The Pottoroo is a small, hopping marsupial native to forests and shrub land of southeastern Australia and Tasmania. It digs at night for fungi, roots, or small insects. At first glance, the potoroo with its pointed nose and grey-brown fur looks very much like a bandicoot — that is, until it hops away with its front feet tucked into its chest, revealing its close relationship with the kangaroo family. It is rarely seen in the wild although this one was quite comfortable in letting me get close enough to photograph it with just my iPhone.
There were some every pretty views along the creek and I took a good number of photos. I liked this view the best.
After we were packed, we left Cradle Mountain behind and headed towards our next destination at Stanley on Tasmania’s far north west coast. I saw this view of the mountain in the rear vision mirror and stopped in a drivway to take it from the middle of the road. So afr, the roads on which we have travelled in Tasmania are in good shape. There are no potholes like the typical roads in Victoria.
Further on, we came across Black Bluff Lookout where I walked uphill on a track that led to a power pylon. From the top, I could see across the Vale of Belvoir to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff on the horizon. I once climbed both of these peaks while bushwaklking through the area. The Vale of Belvoir is a large open grassy valley of striking appearance located northwest of Cradle Mountain. At 800 m altitude, it is Tasmania’s only subalpine limestone valley. The Vale has one of the most extensive and diverse areas of montane grassland in the state and contains several threatened vegetation communities and plant species. The valley once provided Tasmanian Aboriginal people with abundant wildlife and shelter, and their burning practices maintained its predominant grassy nature. Europeans arrived in the 1820s and grazed cattle from the 1850s onwards. However, to their credit, they maintained the Aboriginal burning practices.
We diverted to the old mining town of Waratah for a much needed coffee and found one at the service station – the only shop in town. Waratah once had the largest tin mine in the world with a populaion of over 3,000 people. It now has a poulation of just 200. Some of the old buildings remain but the outstanding feature of the town is the waterfall (right in the middle of the town). Waratah is quite remote – it is the only town that we came across before reaching the coast at Somerset in the afternoon.
Most of the way between Waratah and the coast was through forest with a descent to the Hellyer Gorge. A liitle track along the river gave me another view of a typical Tasmanian Mountain River.
After reaching the coast, we took a number of detours off the main highway. One of these was to Table Cape with its lighthouse. It is was built in 1888 and is set on a sheer cliff and surrounded by fertile farmland.
Near the ligthouse is a tiny grave. The sad story behind it was that the head lighthouse keeper’s 15 month old child died just a few weeks after the taking up his post. Apparently, the undertaker rode out from Wynyard in heavy rain, balancing the tiny coffin on his saddle. He convinced the family to bury the child nearby, beecause of the bad weather.
Around this area, opium poppies are grown in large paddocks. Tasmania produce about 50% of the world’s licit poppy straw that is later refined into opiates such as morphine and codeine. There is strict security in place to protect these crops. Initially, opium poppy production was tested in a number of locations in southern Australia but the north of Tasmana gave the best results
The high ground near Table Cape, gave us some good views along the coast.
We arrived in the town of Stanley, just in time to visit Highfield,- an elegant Regency-style house and outbuildings which was designed by surveyor Henry Hellyer for Edward Curr, the first chief agent for the Van Diemen’s Land Company. Construction began in 1832 and the result was a house with 61 cm thick walls, 12 rooms and ceilings 3.65 metres high.
The Historic Site website describes the building as “a rare example of domestic architecture from the Regency period”. Later additions to Highfield were built during 1844-45 for the company’s second agent, James Alexander Gibson. The property was leased in 1857 and became an historic site under the management of the Parks & Wildlife Service in 1983. The entire site includes a cart shed, stables, a threshing barn, a chapel, cattle yards and pig sties. The short journey from Stanley to Highfield provides superb views of Stanley.
The story iof the Van Diemans Land Company is a long one but the short version is this:
“In 1824 a group of woollen mill owners, wool merchants, bankers and investors met in London to consider establishing a land company in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) similar to the Australian Agricultural Company in New South Wales, to meet the demands of the English Midlands manufacturers for improved strains of fine wool. Up until that time the United Kingdom had to import wool from Spain and Italy at premium prices, so the opportunity to develop a wool industry of its own in one of its colonies was grasped with both hands by the British Government”.
“Encouraged by the support of William Sorell, the former Lieutenant-Governor, and Edward Curr, who had recently returned from the colony of New South Wales, the Van Diemen’s Land Company was formed and it applied to Lord Bathurst for a grant of 500,000 acres. James Bischoff (managing director), John Jacob, William Burnie, Brice Pearse, Thomas Sheppard, Jacob Montefiore, George Rougemont were among its directors”.
“The aims of the Company were ambitious: bringing the land into production, importing purebred livestock, building roads and bridges, wharves and settlements, and encouraging the free settlement of the colony. Bathurst agreed to a grant of 250,000 acres. The Van Diemen’s Land Company received a royal charter in 1825 giving it the right to cultivate land, build roads and bridges, lend money to colonists, execute public works, and build and buy houses, wharves and other buildings. The VDL Company has operated on its original royal charter land grant longer than any other company in the world, gifted by King George IV in 1824. They were granted six parcels of land in the north-west of the colony, eventually amounting to over 350,000 acres”.
Stanley is dominated by ’The Nut’, It is a top attraction to which visitors come to this distant part of northwest Tasmania, near this historic village of Stanley. The Nut is the remains of an ancient volcanic plug with a large, mostly flat surface that can be circumnavigated on foot (hence its original name, Circular Head). We’ll see some more of this town over the next couple of days.