As we drove out of St Helens it was starting to rain and we thought we may have had a gloomy trip ahead; however, it soon cleared and the road was generally dry and the weather sunny. Today as we sit holed up in the caravan park at Longford the weather is in complete contrast with set-in rain steadily falling. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a road weather alert and a flood watch for local streams; widespread rain is predicted for Tasmania particularly in the north of the state. The seven day forecast suggests the heavy rain will only be for today with showers taking over in the next few days and mostly sunny on Monday.
The journey between St Helens and Longford was achieved without mishap and we arrived at the caravan park on the banks of the Macquarie River around lunch time. From the coastal plains around Scamander and Falmouth one drives up St Mary’s Pass on a relatively narrow very windy road; towing the van up this hill meant slow going and probable frustration for the drivers of vehicles caught behind. Once at St Marys the road flattens out and travel is much easier for all concerned.
Travelling along the Esk highway besides the South Esk River, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Esk_River) said to be the longest river in Tasmania, we crossed one of its tributaries the St Paul’s, at Avoca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoca,_Tasmania); we stopped in the town for morning tea at a small park where a monument to two of the districts Bush Nurses (http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/B/Bush%20nursing.htm) was erected. There was also a monument to Lewis McGee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_McGee) a Victoria Cross recipient in the First World War who was a one time resident of Avoca.
Having set up on our site at Longford on the Macquarie River (another tributary of the South Esk River) we had lunch then headed north to Beaconsfield (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaconsfield,_Tasmania), one of at least four towns in Australia having the same name, to check out the Mine and Heritage Centre located in the town (http://www.beaconsfieldheritage.com.au/). The location of the existing mine is smack in the middle of the town of Beaconsfield and one wonders about the effects of operation of the facility when it was a working mine.
On Anzac Day (25th April) 2006 there was a collapse at the Beaconsfield Mine trapping three men underground (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaconsfield_Mine_collapse), the body of one was found in the rubble and the other two – Brant Webb and Todd Russell were found alive and rescued on 9th May. The mine has since closed with the loss of about 150 jobs; there was talk of a new mine last year but it is not clear whether or not this will eventuate.
The Heritage Centre is interesting in that it covers the more recent history of the mine and the more distant history with the building constructed over the remains of two much older shafts; it is essentially a museum with the attached gift shop etc. The Centre covers not only the mine but also general history of the area including the farming of apples and other fruit.
Having spent a couple of hours in Beaconsfield we then drove north to Beauty Point to explore that area. There is a Platypus House (http://www.platypushouse.com.au/) and a Seahorse Museum (http://www.seahorseworld.com.au/) at Beauty Point adjacent to each other but it was too late in the day to visit either facility. We drove through the town took some photos of the waterfront then drove south toward Launceston.
We diverted to take a look at Batman Bridge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_Bridge) along the way. Built in the later part of the 1960’s the bridge spans the Tamar River and connects the West Tamar highway to the East Tamar highway and is named after John Batman a Launceston businessman and one of the founders of Melbourne. The structure is quite striking and somewhat unusual.
After a day of being confined to quarters while it rained and blew fiercely and we watched the farce associated with the leadership spill for the Australian government we spent the next morning in domestic chores – shopping laundry and the like. In the afternoon we visited two historic sites located near Longford with their history rooted in two branches of the same family and both estates being convict built.
Brickendon (http://brickendon.com.au/) was created by William Archer one of four Archer brothers who had emigrated from Hertford between 1811 and 1833. Brickendon was an agricultural property growing a variety of crops; the original buildings are able to be inspected today and are very interesting. Descendants of the Archers still reside on the property and run the farming operation. In addition to the farm buildings the exterior of the original home (circa 1828), associated buildings and the gardens are able to be inspected also. We spent an hour looking over the farm side of the property but ran out of time to tour the gardens section.
From Brickendon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brickendon_and_Woolmers_Estates) we moved across to Woolmers Estate (http://www.woolmers.com.au/) occupied by six generation of Archers beginning with Thomas Archer I in 1817 and ending with Thomas Archer VI in 1994. The property has been steadfastly maintained in the manner the Archer Family occupied the property and is extremely interesting to visit. We also took advantage of a house tour and received personal service from our guide as we were the only two on the tour. The interior of the house is very interesting and the tour leaves you wanting more as there are some areas of the house to which access is restricted.
The property also contains an extensive rose garden The National Rose Garden (http://www.woolmers.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=5&Itemid=3) and we decided to take a look. Unfortunately the weather has been quite windy in Longford and although there are many roses in bloom the garden was not at its best. After an hour and a half on the property we returned to the caravan park to prepare for the evening and our relocation to Launceston the next day.