Raving About Ravensbourne

Driving north from Toowoomba to Ravensbourne is a 38 minute journey taking in the hamlets of Cabarlah, Geham and Hampton before turning to discover the stunning views of the Great Dividing Range on the Esk-Ravensbourne Road.

Always on the lookout for the local highlights and quirky treasures around the place, our first great find was the entrance to Hazelmont Cottages. What a treat of a retreat! Owner hosts, Sue and Jonathan Barford have an idyllic setting to offer guests the peace and quiet of a bush B&B stay.

Roadside produce is tempting, and the lush green countryside appears to be an ideal avocado growing area.

Ravensbourne National Park beckoned and what a panorama! Looking out from the Gus Beutel Lookout across the Valley is quite breathtaking. How many local families and daytrippers have rested and picniced under the huge trees, learnt about the forest creatures or oriented themselves using the direction finder?

For those with an interest in trains, in history, in timber and logging, this place offers a step back in time.

At the end of the road is the steam engine shelter, currently being upgraded, which highlights the former logging industry, the pioneer spirit of the European settlers and the Tramway Walk which takes in the track, bush, birds and tree species.

Munro’s Tramway – what a find! Hikers and bikers will love it.

Ravensbourne locals have lots of community spirit and activities if Kate’s Corner Saturday coffee spot, the festivals, community hall and tennis courts are any indication.

High Country air, soil and rainfall produce some interesting plants, fruit, veg and crafts. What a relaxing drive.

The lure of a good steak lunch is hard to ignore, and the Meringandan Hotel is widely known for its great pub grub. Certainly worth the slight diversion on the way back to Toowoomba. As were the local butcher’s gourmet sausages.

Yes, we rave about Ravensbourne – a great spot on the edge of the divide.

Indulgence – Travlyn between the Covers

After an absolutely joyful weekend away at the Clunes Book Festival with three other bookish friends, the week flew by and the suitcase was barely unpacked before I was cruising down The Range through the Lockyer Valley, bypassing Ipswich on the freeway and parking at Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct ready for a day at the Brisbane Writers Festival – Mother’s Day Indulgence to self!

First session saw the first real live audience since COVID restrictions turned us into online voyeurs. Felt great! Who better to open the Deadly Threads Festival than classic comedian, Jean Kittson! Her wit and wisdom meld in her book ‘We have to talk about Mum and Dad’ – a guide to parenting ageing parents. It appeared as if most of the audience members could relate to her anecdotes, but for me it was a wake-up call. I suddenly realised the dream run our family has had with our wonderfully well 90 year old mother might need reassessing. Having seen my sister and brother-in-law recently cope with his parents’ decline, I bought two copies of what is a cross between a manual for trudging through the maze of forms and flames of ‘the systems’ trying to get the best care available, and a gentle, funny personal account of Ms Kittson’s journey through the maze. One copy is for me when the time comes for Mum, and the other is for my sister.

The selection of diverse writers, conversations and book browsing of Writers Festivals is an annual highlight for me. 2021 had started with the Words Out West Festival in Dalby where this small regional Queensland town attracted a great cast of well-known and new names to a well designed program. I indulge my thirst for words and the different worlds they take me to, thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of these talented writers.

But back to Brisbane.

I loved hearing the stark realities of Andrew Boe’s life in the law, and found I needed the silence of a wander around the adjacent Gallery of Modern Art to process his words.

GOMA has always shared mighty exhibitions over the years, and I meandered through the rooms wanting more. Thank you Brisbane for the public spaces, and the themes that push our buttons.

The final session was a sell-out as the crowd hailed local Brisbane son and recent acclaimed author, Trent Dalton, who shared thoughts around his current best-selling All our Shimmering Skies. My day of indulgence ended with a smile.

Little did I know that only a few weeks later, I would need Jean’s book as the family now faces Mum’s hip replacement and recovery following a fall ………but she is doing well!

So the past ten days have been spent juggling time zones from Wales to join the online feast of the HAY Festival which has been an absolute total indulgence, a distraction from mundane days and a sheer delight to listen to the world’s best writers in the comfort of my dressing gown. My To Be Read pile continues to grow – and the Lifeline BookFest is coming up. Bring it on!

Railway Street

Yes, if you guessed Railway Street – winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As well as the wonderful social enterprise cafe, EMERGE, where young people at-risk find themselves and a future under Jen Shaw’s wonderful leadership, there is the historic and fascinating Railway Station across the road.

Did you know there was an air raid shelter at the bottom of the steps? Reminds me of my mother’s stories of having to do World War 2 air raid drills at South Girls School with a peg between her teeth in the trenches dug by the fathers.

Exploring the platform; looking across the tracks to the restored Workshops; wondering what to order from the INBOUND restaurant menu; or looking at the curiosities in the garden beds might whet the appetite.

If so, then a wander and read of all the historical plaques and landmarks heading towards Russell Street will satisfy your thirst for some of Toowoomba’s history.

Then cross the road to select fresh fruit from longtime business BETROS BROTHERS or slip next door to ORTEM for a delicious bite. Looking for anything bikes, then BIKELINE is a friendly place to pedal in to.

Still hankering for a touch more nostalgia, then search for hidden treasure at the ANTIQUES store. It might only be a short street, but it has loads of character to explore.

Travlyn Toowoomba

You might have been – but have you seen?

Are you ready to put your local knowledge to the test? Guess where, what and why?

The following collage was spotted all in the one street in the inner city. Where am I? Put your guess in the reply box below the blog and any suggestions for another interesting street or area to capture. Then pop on your walking shoes and check it out in person.

No captions, no clues. Sharp eyes – you can’t lose !

CBD Cuppa Anyone?

Toowoomba north, south, east, west – join our Compass of Coffee

Grab a cuppa – take a rest

For someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee, this is a real challenge 🤣 So I am relying on my Toowoomba buddies to share their favourite independent coffee spots around this great city. The coffee culture here has come alive in recent times……so we are starting in the CBD and working our way further afield. For this adventure we are not including the more familiar franchises.

Strolling down Ruthven Street past the City Hall, the Art Gallery, and the peaceful Village Green, the notion that the CBD died when Grand Central dominated Margaret Street appears to be very wrong. Between the block bounded by Herries and Russell streets there are coffee spots and alleys and arcades ripe for exploring………and just a few streets away there are plenty more.

No need for my taste buds to be the judge, and no need to rate their cups, but we are happy to share all the vendors for you to judge for yourselves. Grab a friend or two and drink up!

Don’t be shy…….share your favourites in the comments below. Wherever in the world they may be. More to come in this Sipping Series. Keep your cups handy!

and a short stroll away.going CBD north…..

and time for another stroll heading CBD south….

and heaps more to come in our Compass of Coffee series. Bring your travel cup and discover your new favourites.

What’s Your Point?

PICNIC POINT

Yes, the view from the edge of the Great Dividing Range is probably the most iconic tourist image of Toowoomba, but Picnic Point is so much more than the view. Past generations of locals and weekenders have walked the parks, enjoyed a picnic, climbed the rocket, or laughed at the cans of fresh mountain air sold to gullible visitors. But what does Picnic Point offer in 2021?

The View east to the Lockyer Valley is a wide panorama, with sweeping hills and plains and dominated by the bald Table Top mountain with its single tree on the summit. Many thousands, including my mother and her siblings and school friends in the 1940s, spent weekends climbing the mountain. It hasn’t been until relatively recently that the history of Multugerah the Jagera Aboriginal warrior and the mountain (One Tree Hill) have become widely known……and the naming of the Second Range Crossing in tribute to this determined leader shows its important significance in Toowoomba’s history. You can find the fascinating, yet disturbing history at tr.qld.gov.au site or search for One Tree Hill history.

As you would expect, a place named Picnic Point indicates the casual al fresco meals or ice cream treats eaten at the many bench seats or rotundas or on rugs spread on the grass beneath giant hoop pines and native gums. There are so many picnic options to choose from that there is never any chance that families, young romantic couples, groups looking for a space to kick a soccer ball or the more sedate seniors or less mobile cannot find a suitable spot.

Looking for walking tracks or waterfalls? You are in luck! The view north along the track shows the Range Highway snaking its way up the 780 metres, though it is nowadays much less congested because the large trucks use the Second Range Crossing which diverts traffic to the north near Mt Kynoch.

Following the European trend of placing a lock to symbolise eternal love commitment, The Hitching Rail brings a smile to those who are heading to the waterfall. The track through this section winds around the base of the waterfall and is a very pleasant path any time of the year. Following the tracks around the edge of the escarpment allows walkers to check out the vegetation, birdlife and keep a keen eye out for small animals. You have earned your rest at the end of the trails.

For the less adventurous, there is the gentle stroll past the famous statue of ‘Puppy’ the terrier mascot of the Toowoomba Thistle Pipe Band; more stunning views; the rose garden; the huge Australian flag which can be seen from many kilometres away; the landmark white water tower or the direction dial which helps orientate your travel. Certainly works up an appetite!

Luckily you don’t have to look far for a great meal. The restaurant offers great food options and sensational views through the tree canopies, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Even your canine companions are catered for at the outside tables. The ice cream options are delicious summer treats. Of course the BYO picnics are always a favourite.

Or perhaps you are a Mum looking for a place to bring the little ones. The playgrounds are beautifully presented and maintained, as are the public restrooms. The different facilities are testament to the hundreds of volunteer organisations who have created such a wonderful area for many generations to come. Quirky play forts or contemporary versions of the Lions Park rocket slide and octopus are definitely child-friendly favourites! And there are many different swings and slides scattered around the area. All ages are catered for.

Wow! All this and you have only just reached the edge of Toowoomba! So much more lies ahead …….Picnic Point welcomes visitors and locals alike. Grab a sandwich and head on up!

Travlyn Toowoomba – Discovering Drayton

Wow! I am excited to have been asked by Kim Cahill from Toowoomba&Darling Downs to share 6 Tuesday posts showing different PLACES in the Toowoomba area.

SO off we go to Drayton on our Doorstep

Remnants of that early settlement still stand and the Heritage listing of the Drayton Cottage at 56 Gwynne Street starts to build a picture of what this place might have once looked like. The Bull’s Head Inn on the main highway is now proudly restored and maintained along with the memorabilia of the past eras by the National Trust and is a major drawcard to Drayton. The stories of the Horton and Lynch family owners, and the yarns of the boarding house and hostelry are littered all over the buildings, and offer much of interest to all ages. So where is this Drayton?

Drayton Cottage

Drayton sits 6.2 kms from the Toowoomba CBD heading southwest towards Warwick. Its history dates back to 1842 and is populated by stories of ex-convicts and pioneering families before this earliest settlement lost its attraction to the area further north where Toowoomba CBD is now.

Bull’s Head Inn

Strong characters, many of the criminal persuasion, saw the potential of this area long before the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859. Though facilities were almost non-existent, soon enterprising souls such as butchers and blacksmiths moved in and the settlement grew rapidly. The Toowoomba Regional Library holds the records of the early history of Drayton, and the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery on Anzac Avenue contains fascinating headstones which tell the story of the hardships and health issues suffered by these early settlers.

The first Anglican Church soon followed with Benjamin Glennie bringing the ray of Christian hope to a rather ramshackle and at times lawless township. Today the second St Matthew’s Anglican Church and its community complex off Cambooya St overlooks the fertile valley stretching southwards. The Atherton Memorial Park across the road is a very pleasant spot to sit and take in the view.

A famous resident of Drayton was Arthur Hoey Davis – better known as Steele Rudd, the author of the Dad and Dave books based around Davis’s family and their years scratching out a living around the nearby Greenmount area. The stories were later made into much loved radio and stageplay performances. His memorial cairn stands near the Drayton State School, established in 1852. Some of the land on which the school stands was donated by my great, great, great grandfather, Owen McGrath. Owen operated the weekly mail service between Drayton and Ipswich in the 1850s, riding his horse to collect the mail and then delivering it back via the staging stops for giving the horse its rest, to these poor families eager to hear from relatives back in the United Kingdom or Europe in those days.

Later in its history, the sons of Drayton sacrificed their lives for their nation, and the freedom and diversity we enjoy today is gratefully remembered through the memorial in the centre of this now bustling little village.

Drayton exists today as a thriving outer suburb of Toowoomba and offers a superb hiking spot for the outdoor enthusiast. Mount Peel may just be a by-passed landmark on the way to Westbrook for many, but its care and maintenance by the Toowoomba Regional Council, makes this a very easily accessible adventure spot off the beaten track….and no need for a 4 wheel drive!

Family fun and learning more about trains is just down the road in Cambooya St. The Downstream Tourist Railway and Museum looks very inviting. Thousands of hours of volunteering, spit and polish have gone in to this wonderful facility where visitors can let their imaginations run free.

When the lure of understanding the past has been quenched, then your thirst can be quenched at The Downs Hotel, or one of the contemporary shopping outlets, or perhaps at the very popular Bowls Club. There is also the Sikh temple centre Gurudwara Sahib, and the Jack Martin Sport and Community Centre respecting the cultural diversity in the community.

There is something to suit everyone in Drayton where country living blends with city comforts……Discover Drayton for yourself 😃

TRC Regional Library

Clunes continues to shine

Woke up to subdued sunrises and spectacular Autumn weather and leaf swirls. Lascelles is an ideal location and the sunlight really picks up the decor. What a find!

Breakfast at The Turret on the corner of our street was a culinary experience enhanced by the interior decoration which gave attention to all the minor details. My gf cauliflower fritters with chilli jam and poached eggs did the trick.

Then when we arrived at Clunes Town Hall for the opening session for the day, the coffee van brought a smile to the dial. Apparently you can never have too much of a good thing!

Ross Garnaut and Bill Bowtell, both eminent specialists in their fields of economics and health, shared their perspectives on the impact of global pandemics, political versus social policies to address them and the impact we will feel for a long time to come during The Recovery. A heavy topic to start Day 2, but one which left me with many thoughts – sadly not one of them was about wanting to buy their books. 😥

Shirl the Pearl and I ducked in to the Clunes Museum on our way to the next session – and found quite a collection of Gold Mining history, the machinery of the once thriving knitting mill, and more local Aboriginal hsitory and artefacts. Worth the gold coin donation for sure.

Session 2 was an entertaining one – Monica Dux shared her novel Lapsed. Yes, the personal story of her family’s rather fraught relationship with Catholicism and her uncoupling from its childhood entrenched practices and rituals. It obviously resonated with the interviewer, Sue Lawson whose own experiences echoed Monica’s. A fun romp through my strict Methodist upbringing parallels. Perhaps it was that generational weight of expectations which lapsed in my own adulthood, or perhaps because the Senior Citizens’ Hall was so stuffy, but it was a relief to escape in to the fresh air, and explore the Lolly Shop instead. The less said about purchashes there the better.

Then it was back to the Town Hall for the final session of the weekend.

Palawa man, Prof Wayne Quillam, shared his journey through culture and Country to publish his book of beautifully captured photographs of Indigenous Australian diversity. He explored the protocols of gaining the trust and permission from different groups, and the promise of an understanding and acceptance of cultural mix in to the future via the younger generation.

Farewell and Thank you Clunes.

And we waved farewell to Clunes, headed back to Ballarat and our own platter and wine dinner. Now sadly we are driving back to Melbourne and leaving regional Victoria behind, with much gratitude for our ability to be back flying, and enjoying such wonderful festivals as this.

Clunes Writers Festival

Yep…finally! This is the start of my global quest to visit 6 Booktowns in person. Clunes is our only Australian Booktown, and this weekend is the first of 3 events scheduled for May. BC (Before COVID), the annual Festival on the first weekend in May drew huge crowds to the streets and old heritage buildings, but 2021 sees a new format to cater for social distancing and the contingencies of lockdowned authors etc…..so a great lineup of Victorian authors. Easy access to Melbourne helps.

Friends know this has been a burning ambition of mine since M (affectionately known as LSM – Long Suffering Mate) and I stumbled over the historic gold mining town on a driving holiday a few years BC. So, with our tickets firmly in hand, we 4 intrepid adventurers headed through the undulating countryside to Clunes.

Of course no woman can adventure on an empty stomach, so we ate a wholesome breakfast at Johnny’s in Ballarat – actually delicious with the best gf bread I have had EVER……and that is saying something from a coeliac of 27 years. Thank you to the waitress with the most perfect teeth I had seen in a long time.

Gaynor and the best scrambled eggs in many a year.

Easy drive and in plenty of time to wander and orientate ourselves before the beautifully serene smoking welcome ceremony by Dja Dja Warrung Elder Aunty Paulie Ugle in the Town Centre. What an inspiring speaker and teacher. We learnt lots.

And so the program for Turn the Page on 2020 began. In between the sessions of diverse topics, writers and interviewers, there was time to wander the streets and ponder the history of Australia’s first recorded gold find. What a treasure trove!

The first session was In a Nutshell: The art of the Short Story. Elizabeth McCarthy chaired the panel of Sean OBeirne, Leah Swann and Scott Gardner who shared their insights in to that unique genre. Definitely steered me to more contemporary short story writing. A great way to kick off the day for me.

Short story – not short on ideas

Then it was on to the lively discussion with Margaret Hickey, Rosalie Ham and JP (Josh) Pomare around how Landscape can be character and steal the scene…..locales in country Australia taking a central role in delivering that intensity which grabs the reader through the smells, colour and earthiness. Thank you Robert Gott for a masterful panel moderation.

Of course the setting of sessions in the magnificent Town Hall added as special touch. As did the quirky and unique Clunes characters in its streetscape.

Session 3 was the well-known and regarded host of the ABC radio The Book Show, Romona Koval. Her quest to find the answers to human transition and where that might lead in an evolving future, took her on many global adventures and to the realisation that there is no definitive answer. Her novel Letter to Layla (her grand daughter) follows that thirst for answers, and hints at a more robotic future.

I discovered a very nourishing lentil curry gf pie for a quick bite before the final session for Day 1 – for flagging energy levels, the panel of Katherine Kovacic, Sandi Wallace and Lyn Yeowart certainly entertained. Their personal traits, backgrounds or preferences were revealed and discussed openly and courageously. What interesting women writers….and Maggie Barron was a great interviewer interrogating Rural Noir.

Sisters in Crime supported this session and the monthly YouTube sessions are a delight – highly recommended for those who enjoy exploring good crime writing.

And that was the end of our first day in Clunes……we drove back to Ballarat where we found delicious dishes at Thai Sala Pavilion within a short walk of the Lascelles digs and then we crashed and slept like logs.

Up in the Air again

What can I say?……………COVID put the chocks under our plane wheels and we had turned to regional car trips or uncovered hidden treasures while walking in our own local back streets for many months. These were enjoyable, but there was always the feeling that our wings had been clipped. That is until today! Yes, four friends joined in an adventure – flying again.

How do you keep the strain of clenched teeth and crunched knuckles from bubbling over each time there was a news report of another outbreak and local lockdowns were back in place? With great patience!

So, 4 friends hooked on books and the love of all things about writing and writers finally donned their masks, peeled those luggage tags and boarded the domestic flight to Melbourne. What a joy! Front row seats, extra leg room, pre-ordered snacks and a hassle-free flight from Brisbane heralded a long weekend which had been almost 2 years in the planning, replanning and ‘holding our breath’ phases. To step out of Terminal 4 to cloudless Melbournian skies was even more joyful!

Hire car routine was friendly and less worrisome than anticipated, and we were soon off up the M8 to Ballarat relatively smoothly. My trepidation at being the driver of an 8 seater was slightly eased through the handy navigation from Shirl the Pearl. Ballarat beckoned and our arrival at the heritage Lascelles terrace house put the icing on the cake of that first day.

A beautifully equipped two-storey bnb presented us with the delicious dilemma of which of the beaut bedrooms to choose….some dilemma😁 Quirky art works, light fittings and accessories certainly add a sense of whimsy to the place. Our initial impressions were WOW!

We had decided on a quick luggage drop, then off to discover a bite to eat. Lake Wendouree Boatshed was a great choice! With the sun glistening on the water, black swans gliding past and our meal choices hitting the spot, we all relaxed in to our holiday away. The absolute joy at being in our Golden Olding ex-teacher years was realised when we saw a group of students nearby obviously on an excursion, and not one of us was tempted to join them.

But we had tickets booked for a visit to the well-respected Ballarat Art Gallery, so we hotfooted it down Sturt Street admiring the historical architecture and opulence of this once thriving gold town and spent a pleasant hour or so admiring the exhibitions. Having a key art teacher’s eye in the group with G was a boon.

What is a weekend away without drinks and nibbles? Lacking! So it was a supply run on the way back to our digs, a fabulous platter, some fortifying wines and mellow lighting as we sunk in to the comfy couches in front of a fireplace in the lounge. The fireplace remained unlit, though the evening chill in the air meant Queenslanders – well myself – eagerly switched on the electric blanket. An early night beckoned after the very early start.

And so endeth Day 1 of our flying again adventure………