Friday, September 30, 2011

Gostwyck Chapel, Uralla, NSW.


Gostwyck Station is a grazing property near Uralla, which is 23 km south of Armidale, and about half way between Brisbane and Sydney on the New England Highway.  Gostwyck Station has been owned by the same family since its establishment in 1834.


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Gostwyck Chapel was built in 1921 from bricks made and fired on the property. It was dedicated to the memory of Clive Collingwood Dangar (1882-1918). 


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The history of the chapel from this notice board reads as follows:

“This chapel was dedicated in memory of Major Clive Collingwood Dangar, M.C., who died in World War 1.  He was the youngest grandson of Henry Dangar, 1796-1861, who emigrated to the colony as a free settler in the Jessie 1821.  Henry was appointed assistant surveyor to John Oxley.  He and his brother William, 1800-1868, purchased Gostwyck in 1834.” 



The stone wall surrounding the chapel was built as protection against flooding but the floods of the 1950’s rose higher than the walls and caused much damage to the furnishings and carpets.



Apparently the Virginia Creeper on the walls is a blazing scarlet in autumn.  Will have to come back.



The magnificent avenue of 200 elm trees was planted by a man brought out from England by the Dangars specifically for that job.  (Elm trees must be hard to plant.)


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There were some rosellas in the elm trees, silhouetted against the sky.


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This was as close as I managed to get to a rosella.

Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW.


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Siding Spring Observatory is Australia's largest optical astronomy research facility, located 27 kilometres west of Coonabarabran on the edge of the Warrumbungle National Park.

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The site was chosen for its favourable combination of conditions: high elevation (1160 metres above sea level), low humidity, a non-turbulent atmosphere for viewing clarity, clean air, plus an average of 70% of night skies clear.

There were also stunning views over the Warrumbungles, and it was freezingly cold.


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While we were there some black clouds rolled in – maybe it wasn’t going to be a good viewing night.


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Siding Spring Observatory is Australia’s premier facility for optical and infra-red astronomy. The Observatory has several telescopes on the site including the world famous 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope – although I had to admit I hadn’t heard of it.  But that is one of the reasons to travel – to learn new things.



The Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) is a 3.9 m telescope ranked fifth out of the world's optical telescopes, and considered the most scientifically productive optical telescope in the world.  The telescope was commissioned in 1974 with a view to allowing high quality observations of the sky from the southern hemisphere, as in the 1970s most major telescopes were located in the north.



The AAT is jointly funded by Australia and the United Kingdom, with observing time made available to astronomers worldwide.  It was one of the first telescopes to be fully computer-controlled, and set new standards for pointing and tracking accuracy.



There was a visitors’ centre there which promised all kinds of hands-on activities, but we were there before it opened, and didn’t have time to wait.  This little fellow wasn’t able to give us much information.


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I wasn’t sure if this was a viewing platform, a sculpture or another telescope, and there was no one there to tell us.  So at this point it remains a mystery.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wombat, NSW.

When a town has a name like Wombat, you just have to go there!
The town of Wombat (population 120) is 362 km SW of Sydney, and 14 km S of Young.  Wombat was established in 1865, after gold was discovered at Young in 1860, with 20,000 miners converging on the area.  In 1865 the Wombat Public School was founded in a bark hut.
There are a couple of theories as to how Wombat came by its name.
One is simply that it was named after the furry little marsupial. Another is that after the gold rush, there were so many mounds and holes left by diggers, the area looked as though it had been the home of many wombats. Strangely enough, locals swear there has never been a wombat sighted in the wild.

The Wombat Hotel commenced trading in 1877, and the present building was constructed in 1903.  This hotel claims to have the longest continually-operating hotel licence in Australia.

Visitors to Wombat are welcomed by a 50cm statue of a pink wombat, perched on a rock.

British tourist Peter Vardy enjoyed his visit to Wombat so much that he donated funds for the creation of the wombat sculpture.  Perhaps it was his idea that it should be pink.

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The Pink Wombat was unveiled in 2002 by Aunt Mary, the oldest person in the village and Bronte Sprenger, a local school student who won a colouring in competition.

My friend Ken has written a poem about Wombat:

A town called Wombat has one that is pink,
And a wat'ring hole where locals can drink.
What else does it have?  I'm blowed if I know,
And just to find out is too far to go.

Canola cultivation, NSW.

Canola refers to a cultivar of either Rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) or Field Mustard (Brassica campestris L. or Brassica Rapa var.). Its seeds are used to produce edible oil suitable for consumption by humans and livestock. The oil is also suitable for use as biodiesel.

The name "canola" was derived from "Canadian oil, low acid" in 1978.  Although wild rapeseed oil contains significant amounts of erucic acid, a known toxin, the cultivar used to produce commercial, food-grade canola oil was bred  to contain less than 2% erucic acid.

A genetically engineered rapeseed that is tolerant to herbicide was first introduced to Canada in 1995, and since then, genetically modified rapeseed, canola, has become a point of controversy and contentious legal battles. 

The introduction of the genetically modified crop to Australia is generating considerable controversy. Canola is Australia's major oilseed crop, and also Australia’s third biggest crop, and is used often by wheat farmers as a break crop to improve soil quality.  In 2003, Australia's gene technology regulator approved the release of canola altered to make it resistant to the herbicide Glufosinate ammonium (Zero or Roundup).  This can encourage the evolution of weeds also resistant to existing herbicides, so farmers will be forced to use more powerful herbicides.

The Australian Oilseeds Federation gives a glowing report of the benefits of all Australian oils on its website  The website mentions nothing about genetic engineering.

I have read highly emotive literature on both sides of this debate.  My conclusions so far are that there has been insufficient research into GE crops and insufficient information given to Australian people about their introduction here.  From now, I will try to avoid purchasing any products containing canola oil or any other GE products, and attempt to become more informed on the subject.

That said, the flowering fields of canola looked very attractive.  This field of canola was somewhere south of Gooloogong, NSW.

These fields were somewhere north of Binalong, NSW.

Binalong, NSW.


Binalong is a quiet and historic little village (population 250) about 90km north west of Canberra.  Prior to European occupation there was a large Aboriginal population in the area, mostly Ngunnawal people. The town's name derives either from an Aboriginal word said to mean “towards a high place” or from Bennelong, the name of a noted Aborigine.

In 1821 the exploratory party of Hamilton Hume became the first known group of Europeans in the area. Hume returned with William Hovell in 1824 during their ground-breaking expedition to Port Phillip Bay (i.e., Melbourne). Settlers followed them, bringing flocks of sheep which heralded the start of the local wool industry.

In its early days the township was a major stopping place for Cobb & Co coaches. When the railway arrived in 1876 it became a departure point for gold shipments from Lambing Flat.

Ben Hall's bushranging gang harried the district around Binalong throughout 1863 and 1864, robbing travellers, stores and mail coaches. Johnny Gilbert, a former compatriot of Frank Gardiner and a member of Hall's gang, was killed in 1865 during a gunfight on the Boorowa Rd, near Binalong. His grave can be seen on the outskirts of town.

One of Australia's best-known poets, A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson, moved to nearby Illalong station at the age of five, and attended primary school at Binalong. The township featured in and influenced a number of his poems (e.g., The Bush Christening). His father is buried in the local cemetery.



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Hotel Binalong, established in 1922.



Dining room, Hotel Binalong.



Staircase, Hotel Binalong.


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Photograph of the Hotel Binalong, taken in 1938.



1960:  Publican of the Hotel Binalong fined four pounds for selling liquor on a Sunday.


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Detail, floor mosaic, Hotel Binalong.



The Commercial Hotel, Binalong, was built from pisé (rammed earth) in the late 1840s and operated until 1922, when its licence was sold to the Hotel Binalong next door.



Cecil Paterson was the last licensee of the Commercial Hotel when it closed in 1922, so the locals affectionately call this building “The Old Paterson Pub”.



Old Paterson Pub doorway.



Old Paterson Pub inscription.  Here are those “spirituous liquors” again.  Must be something they have in NSW.



Former Royal Hotel, Binalong, established 1912.  Now a private residence.



General store, Binalong.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cooma Cottage, Yass, NSW.



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A single storey colonial home built in 1835 outside Yass, about 50 km north of Canberra, Cooma Cottage was the home of the famed explorer Hamilton Hume from 1839 to 1873.

Restored in a conservation program by the National Trust, Cooma Cottage houses an exhibition of the life of Hume, plus art exhibitions from time to time.

Cooma Cottage is somewhat more grandiose than I would have expected for a cottage – I would have placed it more into the homestead category.  However, it was not open when we were there – maybe it is smaller inside than it looks.  Pictures I had seen of it showed a pretty garden at the front door.  Obviously the National Trust are not heavily into gardening.



This flowering tree beside the house helped to compensate for the lack of garden.



This is more my idea of a cottage.

This delightful building was also in the grounds.  Perhaps it belonged to the gardener.



The National Trust – or someone – had been making more of an effort with this garden than that of the main house, although the hanging basket by the front door has seen happier days.  An endearing touch is the picture of the duck outside the front door – an essential warning to anyone of average height or taller.


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Outside the cottage was a map of the Hume and Hovell Walking Track.

The route, 440 km long, coincides wherever possible with the path of the expedition led by Hume and Hovell in the spring and summer of 1823-4.  For those without a spare spring and summer who are not prepared to walk the whole 440 km, the track also suggests half day, one day and weekend walks.

Canberra: Floriade.

Floriade began in 1988 as a commemoration of Australia's Bicentenary and Canberra's 75th birthday. Floriade blossomed for the first time with a stunning floral display of exotic bulbs and annuals, which grow beautifully in Canberra's climate. The community embraced the inaugural Floriade, making it such a success that it became an annual event - Australia's celebration of spring. Since its beginnings in 1988 Floriade has been held in the city, in Canberra's Commonwealth Park.
Floriade is Australia's premier spring festival and a world-class floral spectacular. More than one million blooms create a stunning backdrop to a month-long festival filled with music, cultural celebrations, horticultural workshops, artistic displays, entertainment and recreational activities. Floriade runs from mid-September to mid-October.

We were very lucky to be in Canberra at this time, and took ourselves off to Commonwealth Park where this stunning event takes place.  Here are some impressions:











You could ride on the Ferris wheel for a bird’s eye view of the spectacular displays.









This bed of flowers was planted to represent a giant watermelon wedge.



These dark flowers in amongst the red ones represented the watermelon seeds.

















A sculpture by some Canberra art students of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (1952), owned by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.


Blue Poles Jackson Pollock


In 1973, the Australian Government purchased the work for $AUD1.3 million.  This controversial purchase by the then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam elicited an amount of public debate, firstly over the painting's value - this was the highest price ever paid for a “modern painting” - secondly questioning the financial aptitudes of the then Labor Party, and finally a novel debate between art-lovers and many who considered abstract art in general a worthless investment. In the conservative climate of the time, the purchase created a political and media scandal.  (From Wikipedia.)