June 30, 2020

Fiona McIntosh rejoices in winter

And the world around me has finally turned green and misty....perfect! Can't believe the lavender is showing off either.

Fiona McIntosh
Well, the rules are beginning to relax as I write this and we are all feeling a sense of optimism for salvaging our 2020 and using the time to prepare for a better, happier, safer 2021 that may even have a Covid19 vaccine in it.  If I'm honest I haven't felt nearly as isolated as a lot of other people I know but that's because I have hermit-like tendencies anyway plus living rurally and a few kms from the nearest town means we live in relative isolation anyway. What I have missed is seeing my family and meeting my friends so the reunions for all of us are going to be wonderful and I hope you'll start experiencing that joy as well soon wherever you are.

I don't like blitzing you with newsletters and in fact made a promise I'd only ever send out three per year but there may be four this year, mostly due to it being a weird year where a lot of folk are welcoming the distraction and interaction but also because I'm under some pressure to share my recipes for apples that have won some attention and I don't want you to miss out on new season apples for your baking. I've included French apple jelly, Tarte Normande and a magnificent German apple cake. You will not regret any of them although I can't tell you which apples to use - I am harvesting from a tree we've inherited at the farm. They look like Jonathans and have a marvellous perfume along with a brilliant acidic crunch for baking. And I have Ian to thank for keeping that tree going these last few years.

June 29, 2020

Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro is supposed to have strong roots back to Europe with the festival of lent often being represented as the origin of Carnival, leaving the influence of Africa forgotten.

The Portuguese ‘conquestadores’ claiming Brazil, brought with them slave trading, increasing in the 17th, 18th and 19th century until 1888 when it was banned. By the early 19th century, over six million slaves had been brought to the Caribbean and South Africa. Enough to make their impact on brazil carnival culture and Rio de Janeiro Carnival history!

The Legend of El Dorado

‘He went about all covered with powdered gold, as casually as if it were powdered salt. For it seemed to him that to wear any other finery was less beautiful, and that to put on ornaments or arms made of gold worked by hammering, stamping, or by other means, was a vulgar and common thing.’ - Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Spanish Historian, 1478-1557

For centuries the legend of “the gilded man” persisted in the Spanish conquered ‘New World’ territories of Peru and Colombia. But was the legend a true account of unimaginable riches as the Conquistadors believed, or a ruse by the enslaved Incas to lead the Spanish on treacherous expeditions into the dense Amazon jungles – and almost certain death?

June 24, 2020

Fred Rasmussen (1898-1963) Trainspotter and accidental historian.

A longtime friend of mine rang me one rainy Sunday and told me excitedly she had found a large cache of her grandfather's photographs and after some time I finally managed to get around to see them myself.

In a large biscuit tin were piles of BW prints and boxes of slides, all neatly filed. Some were inscribed with locations, but few had dates. We were able to ascertain that most of the late Frederick A Rasmussen's images were taken between 1958 and 1962, the last few years of his life.

June 22, 2020

Victoria: West is best

Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge

Travel restrictions still apply to several states but Victoria is generally open for visitors. Our trip was completed before COVID-19 appeared but it should be possible to visit everywhere we did by the end of June, although booking ahead for the wineries and Sovereign Hill may be required. Start planning now because it is a great experience.

A Victorian holiday is always interesting so my wife and I were keen to make the most of our time. Exploring the airline timetables, we discovered an effective way of gaining an extra day. There are evening flights into Melbourne so you can leave after work and begin the holiday that day.

Our flight arrived at Melbourne airport a little after 9pm and by using the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport hotel we could have been eating at the restaurant, drinking at the bar, swimming in the indoor heated pool or exercising in the gym by 9.30. Instead we went to bed!

The Parkroyal proved to be an excellent hotel. Staff were friendly, our room was luxurious, facilities were well maintained and the breakfast buffet was a feast. After checking out we took the elevator downstairs and rented a car for a week from a selection of six operators.

The drive to Ballarat was easy but unexciting. This grand old city was built on gold more than 150 years ago and many dignified buildings still exist from those times. After walking the main street and visiting the outstanding Art Gallery, we drove to Sovereign Hill.

This is probably Australia’s best historical park and it has grown even more impressive since our last visit. We watched the redcoats march and fire their muskets. We photographed the coach ride, the candle making and the metal spinning.

The Red Hill Mine Tour proved to be better than expected and the gold pour showed us what a $150,000 ingot looks like. A short visit to the theatre and a chance to bowl in a 140-year-old manually operated alley saw us looking for somewhere to relax. The Hope Bakery proved to be the perfect place.
Gold panning at Sovereign Hill 

No visit to Sovereign Hill would be complete without trying our luck gold panning. After 30 minutes my wife had collected gold worth about $5 from the creek.

Next day we reluctantly left Ballarat after spending the morning in the Botanical Gardens by Lake Wendouree. The gardens were established in 1858 and contain a remarkable collection of mature trees and statuaries.

Other highlights are the Prime Ministers Avenue, the Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage, the ex-POW memorial and the remarkable begonia conservatory. We should have allocated more time here.

Literally dozens of historic and boutique wineries are scattered across undulating western Victoria. Our desire was to visit some of them so we started in Avoca. Here the Blue Pyrenees Winery provided a chance to sample some spicy cabernet sauvignon and other classics before indulging in an excellent lunch.

Then it was on to the historic wine village of Great Western, known as the birthplace of Australian sparkling wine. The iconic Seppelt and Best’s wineries are here using grapes from vineyards that date back to the mid-1800s. Both offer tastings and we didn’t hold back. After selecting a few bottles to take with us, it was off to Stawell.

This historic gold mining town is world famous for its Easter Stawell Gift which was first run in 1878. We viewed the Hall of Fame and did a quick jog on the track which has created so many champions.

For thousands of years the dramatic Grampians mountain ranges have inspired wonder. Now largely covered by the Grampians National Park, the rugged peaks with their rich cultural heritage and breathtaking views are one of Victoria’s most popular destinations.

The area is suitable for everyone. There are hundreds of kilometres of bush walking tracks, excellent paved roads to waterfalls and spectacular lookouts, adventure tours offering kayaking, rock climbing and horse riding, farm gate providores and farmers’ markets, and comfortable accommodation.

We stayed in Halls Gap in a rental house. The cute tourist village is surrounded by remarkable mountain escarpments, forest and wildlife. Kangaroos graze on the football ground and birds are everywhere. There are numerous small cafes and restaurants and a general store and hotel.

We learned about the regions’ Aboriginal culture and history at Brambuk – the National Park and Cultural Centre just outside town. The extraordinary building has a bush food cafe and retail outlet as well as an information centre. A quick trip by car took us to one of five rock art sites that are open to the public.


Photographs: Phensri Rutledge

Further Info:

Parkroyal Melbourne Hotel - http://www.parkroyalhotels.com/en/hotels/australia/melbourne/parkroyal/

Sovereign Hill – www.sovereignhill.com.au

Halls Gap Visitor Centre – www.grampianstravel.com

Brambuk – www.brambuk.com.au

June 21, 2020

History on the Harbour: barnfind of old photographs

Some years ago, a friend’s mother turned up a box full of her late father’s photographs.

Big deal? Well perhaps at the time the photographs of the late Frederick Rasmussen were just mundane snaps of uninteresting street scenes, but given enough time, such images become fundamental to history.

June 20, 2020

History on the Hume: Heritage-laden Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands

Historic Berrima once rumbled all night long to the sound of heavy vehicles on their way to and from Melbourne and NSW's south. As one of many small towns and villages along the Old Hume Highway, Berrima was eventually bypassed in 1989, relieving the old roads and buildings of the constant, thundering traffic.

Before 1989, heavy traffic passed through Berrima day and night. (BDH&FHS)

The country around the Southern Highlands is the traditional home of the Dharawal (also Tharawal) people who were progressively displaced by the encroach of settlers. Give or take a year, Berrima became a town in 1830 and its first civic buildings sprung up soon after, the first of which being the large gaol in 1839. It operated on and off until 2011 and even served as a POW facility during WWI. It reopened as an operational low-security facility in 2016.

c.1900 – View from Church Hill, Post Office, Surveyor General Inn (1834), prison governor’s residence – right. Berrima Gaol (1835-1845) top left.

The abundance of excellent building stone and clean water discovered by explorers and surveyors under instruction from Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell accelerated the town's development. The 1834 hotel, the Surveyor General Inn, claims to be Australia's oldest continuously licensed inn.

The 1838 Court House in Wilshire Street was designed by Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis and is classified by the National Trust. It was the scene of Australia’s first trial by jury, that of gentleman bushranger William ‘Jacky Jacky’ Westwood in April 1841.

The railway reached the region in 1869 but did not service Berrima, instead favouring the more recent settlements of Moss Vale and Bowral. Many historians contend that this omission served to help preserve Berrima in its delightful historic state and why we have a list of heritage-listed buildings throughout the town.

Staying in Berrima

Jellore Cottage (RE)

One of our surprising discoveries was that of Jellore Cottage (aka Mundays Cottage) recommended to us by the Southern Highlands visitors' bureau. It's in places like this that the old cliche 'a step back in time' becomes reality. Jellore Cottage is a heritage-listed B'n'B that is offered as a fully self-contained accommodation able to sleep four people (1x double bed, 2x singles) in two bedrooms.

Every room is tastefully decorated in antique furniture and ornaments yet still offers all the modern conveniences like microwave oven, electric heating, fridge etc. 

At the rear, beyond the flower and vegetable garden which throngs with birds, is the Settler's Hut which offers another three beds (1x double, 1x single) The single is by way of a detached single room 'studio'.

Settler's Hut offers seclusion and authentic heritage accommodation. (RE)

"The hut was actually found on a property out west of Crookwell," our host, Paul, tells us as he delivers our fresh eggs and milk, "It was in a bit of a state, but it was dismantled and rebuilt here about 25 years ago."

Again the hut authentically recreates a time when pioneer pastoralists and their labourers first opened up the Australian bush to agriculture. 

Of all the options available to visitors to the Southern Highlands, Berrima is perhaps one of the most original in terms of architecture and heritage, a fact that is obvious on most weekends when the town comes alive with daytrippers seeking respite from the confines of the city. 

Getting Around Berrima

Schmokin' Cafe is the new bikers' hang in Berrima (RE)

Hire an ultra-cool Vallkree electric bike from Schmokin' Cafe right on the old highway, near the museum.

More Reading:
MORE: History on the Hume series

June 14, 2020

Fiji History: Momi Bay Battery Historical Park

When Japan’s Imperial Army stormed through SE Asia and headed into the Pacific, it seemed every island was a target. So in May 1941, two 6-inch Mark VII naval guns became operational at Momi Bay on the westernmost point of Viti Levu.

The two long-range guns could fire a 45kg shell more than 12 kilometres and did so only once in possible anger in late 1943 when something suspicious popped up on the radar screen. The site was closed in 1944 when Japanese forces were on the retreat and Fiji was no longer under threat of invasion.

In 2017 the whole emplacement was restored and is now a museum. The site is remarkable in that the original guns are still in place. Many were dismantled and sold for scrap after WWII.

(visited Sept 2010)

History on the Hume: Lennox's Masterpiece at Landsdowne

Driving north along the dual carriageway section of the Hume Highway at Carramar past what was once the last Sizzler restaurant in Australia, you could be forgiven for failing to notice the significance of the bridge you just crossed.

Painting by Conrad Martens created around the time of the bridge's opening.  (SLNSW)

Until the mid-1950s, the two-lane sandstone arch bridge at Carramar was the sole thoroughfare on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Liverpool.

Two hundred years ago, there had previously been a bridge, Bowlers Bridge, crossing Prospect Creek, but it was poorly constructed and was swept away by the first decent flood. In 1832, Surveyor-General Major Thomas Mitchell was faced with an unworkable road network in the burgeoning colony and began a concentrated review of the roads and bridges around Sydney. For much of this work, he chose a skilled artisan who impressed him while working on a relatively simple wall in front of the government building in Macquarie Street.

The Scottish-born master stonemason and engineer, David Lennox, was commissioned for the sum of 1000 pounds to build a single-span 33.5-metre stone arch bridge (total length 58m) which was erected by convict labour over a period of two years between 1834-36. The required stone was quarried 11 kilometres downstream on the right bank of the Georges River near the current M5 motorway crossing and delivered to the bridge site by punt.

Stone laid at the opening in 1836. (Roderick Eime)

The foundation stone was laid by the Governor, Major General Richard Bourke, on 1 January 1834 and the Landsdowne Bridge was opened on 26 January 1836. A particularly fine structure also known as Lennox Bridge, it remains the most intact example of all the Scotsman’s bridges and was heritage-listed in 2000. It has the largest span of any surviving masonry bridge in the country and was Lennox’s second such project, many say his masterpiece, the first being at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains in 1833.

Lennox went on to build another bridge that bears his name in Parramatta, completed in 1839 and, thanks to a public outcry, was narrowly saved from demolition in the 1990s.

Drone view of both Lennox Bridge and the 1957 concrete arch duplication (Lachlan Hyde) 

In 1957, a relatively austere two-lane concrete arch bridge was erected to duplicate the crossing of Prospect Creek and it now carries the Hume’s southbound traffic stream numbering around 30,000 vehicles per day. Built by the Department of Main Roads (DMR) by contract by Messrs. Hornibrook, McKenzie Clark Pty. Ltd, it cost approximately £50,000 at the time ($1.6m today).

When I visited in June 2020, major conservation work was well-progressed.

Restoration work on the Landsdowne Bridge is expected to continue through 2020 (Roderick Eime)

“The bridge hasn’t needed a complete maintenance upgrade since 1966 but it’s now time to ensure we protect its structural integrity, heritage values and character into the future. Work includes replacing sandstone blocks, cleaning the stone and repairing the drainage system to help reduce the pace of corrosion,” said Transport for NSW Sydney Maintenance Director, David Fishburn.

The multi-million dollar restoration work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.

MORE: History on the Hume series

June 11, 2020

History on the Hume: Gundagai's heritage bridges

The historic bridges of Gundagai are a fascination for all visitors. Whether they are history or architecture buffs doesn’t matter, the gnarly contortions of the vast timber truss viaducts capture the imagination of photographers and viewers just the same.

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