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Roaming in Roma

Close to home #14 Roma

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The western Queensland town of Roma is located more than 500 kilometres from the ocean and the landscape is often parched from lack of rain. But at Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams there are gentle walkways with water views and, after good spring rainfall, the area is beautifully green. In both locations, it’s all about the trees.

A huge bottle tree marks the start of the Adungadoo Pathway, which follows the course of Bungil Creek. Said to be the largest in the district, the tree measures more than nine metres around the trunk and is thought to be at least 100 years old.

Even older are the river red gums on the creek bank. Some have been dated to 400 years and, along with tall coolabah trees, provide shade for walkers and cyclists. In spring, birds are attracted to the golden flowers of the silky oaks.

There are places to rest along the pathway, but there’s also the chance to be more active.  The frisbee course, similar to a golf course, has baskets instead of holes and a par for each round. A gym circuit has exercise equipment suitable for all abilities.

In the past, there was also a lot of activity at the Railway Dams. Originally built in the 19th century to supply water for passing steam trains, the dams are now surrounded by the Roma Bush Gardens. Eleven distinct areas are planted with native trees and flowering plants found in the surrounding Maranoa region.

A circular walkway passes through all the gardens, past more river red gums and coolabah, brigalow and belah trees. Bottlebrush shrubs laden with red blossoms grow at the water’s edge.

Walkers aren’t the only ones attracted to Bungil Creek and the Bush Garden. Rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras perch high in the river red gums and blue-faced honeyeaters dart around the flowering bushes. Pacific black ducks and swamp hens forage at water level.

 Even on the hottest and driest of days in Roma, the walking paths beside Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams are cool and shaded.
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BYO Birdseed

Close to home #13 Bunya Mountains National Park

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Scenic Circuit walk at Queensland’s Bunya Mountains National Park is aptly named; there’s a beautiful view of the North Burnett region from Pine Gorge Lookout. But it’s not just the scenery that attracts visitors to this isolated section of the Great Dividing Range.

Fondly known by all who visit regularly as “The Bunyas”, the park is Queensland’s second oldest and home to the world’s largest stand of bunya pines. These magnificent trees tower above the subtropical rainforest at the top of the range. Every three to four years, they produce huge cones up to 30 cm in length which contain large edible seeds called bunya nuts. Although the distinctive pines dominate the landscape there is a wide variety of flora and fauna, some only found in this area.

Our circuit walk begins from the picnic area at the tiny settlement of Dandabah, where small groups of red-necked wallabies gather to graze. In spring and summer, flowering black bean trees attract crimson rosellas.

Once on the walking track we need to be on the lookout, because many of the forest’s inhabitants are timid. We almost miss a motionless eastern water dragon, sunning itself on a log by the creek.

Not so worried about hiding is a male brush-turkey, more interested in attracting a female to his mound of leaf litter than avoiding us.

As we continue along the path, an eastern yellow robin darts along the forest floor ahead of us.

Higher up, bird’s nest ferns hang from tree trunks, and overhead the spreading fronds of tree ferns provide welcome shade.

Not so welcome are the giant stinging trees, their leaves covered with fine, silica-tipped hairs. Even the lightest touch causes pain which can last for days. We’ve heeded the advice on the warning signs and worn our closed-in shoes on this walk, because even dead leaves on the ground can be harmful. Luckily there are no stinging trees close to the path and we move on unscathed.

After a dry winter, only a trickle of water flows over the rocks at Festoon Falls but it’s enough to sustain the lush ferns and mosses clinging to the rock walls.

In the shallow waterholes below we spot large brown tadpoles, half hidden by the dappled sunlight on the water. They will take up to three years to mature into great barred frogs, which live in burrows in the creek banks.

It seems as if all life in the mountains grows slowly; strangler figs take hundreds of years to completely overwhelm their host plants. The walking track passes spectacularly between the aerial roots of one giant fig. The tree is more than 400 years old and the space is all that is left after the host plant died.

The circuit finishes with a gentle climb from the forest floor up the hill to the picnic area.

In the late afternoon, birds gather when seed is put out for feeding and photo opportunities. Regular visitors bring their own birdseed, because small bags from the general store are costly. Crimson rosellas and king parrots compete for attention, while sulphur-crested cockatoos wait more patiently till the rush dies down.

Kookaburras would prefer to snatch a sausage from the barbecues of unsuspecting picnickers.

When you come to the Bunyas bring your shoes, bring some bird seed and definitely bring your camera. You’ll want to photograph more than just the scenery!

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Paving the Way

Close to home #12 Flagstaff Hill

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

At the north western end of Isla Gorge National Park in central Queensland, there is a remarkable example of  mid 19th century engineering – an isolated time capsule preserved in the bush. To reach it, we turned off the highway and headed towards Flagstaff Road. Wide, flat and unsealed, the road goes through private cattle properties. Several times we had to slow down as we crossed cattle grids and passed by stock grazing at the side of the road.

Ahead in the distance, the Dawson Range rose abruptly out of the dusty plain.

Just inside the national park boundary at the top of the range, a narrow walking track led through the bush to the remnants of a hand-made road.

Constructed in the 1860s, the road was used to transport wool from the western town of Roma to the coastal port at Rockhampton. For this 150 metre section up the range, massive slabs of rock were cut by hand from boulders on the site. No cement was used to lay the pavers; they were shaped to fit neatly together, creating a firm surface on the steep slope. Hand-made culverts drained rain water away, preventing erosion and conserving the area. Six men took six months to build the paved road at a cost of £200.

In the early days, bullock teams pulled massive drays loaded with wool on the journey east and returned with supplies for those living in the remote west of the state. The bullockies who managed the teams were highly skilled in the tricky maneuvers needed to reach the top of the hill.

The road was used until the 1930s but, when other sealed roads made the westward journey easier, most traffic was diverted. Today the hand-paved road up Flagstaff Hill lies hidden in the bush, a silent tribute to the men who laboured to build it.

Staying Up, Looking Out

Close to home #11 Isla Gorge National Park

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

Running the full length of Australia’s east coast for 3,500 km, the Great Dividing Range is the third longest land-based mountain range in the world. Formed more than 300 million years ago,  the range was named for its length and width rather than its height; erosion has worn the mountains to the extent that even Mt Kosciusko, Australia’s highest mountain, reaches just 2,228 metres.

The Great Dividing Range is a composite of mountain ranges, plateaus, tablelands and gorges. In the far north, the slopes are clothed in the ancient tropical rainforest of Gondwana, while in the south the alpine region is Australia’s winter playground. More than 50 national parks provide protection for much of the range and make its spectacular scenery and unique flora and fauna easily accessible.

In Central Queensland’s Sandstone Belt, one national park surrounds the rugged cliffs and dense bushland of Isla Gorge. There are no designated walking tracks into the gorge and only experienced hikers armed with navigational aids should make the descent. But it’s not necessary to go so far into the wilderness to see the sandstone cliffs and monoliths eroded by the waters of Gorge Creek.

From the car park a narrow path tracks along the top of the ridge, although even here walkers need to take care.

In some places, the escarpment falls away sharply on either side and elsewhere lichen covered rocky outcrops pile up, creating a steep, natural staircase.

At the end of the ridge a sandstone spur juts out, forming a level platform from which the vastness of the gorge is revealed.

The erosive power of water is evident all through the gorge, from the rounded mountain tops to the jagged pillars of the Devils Nest, standing like sentinels on the horizon. Why bother walking down, when the view from the top is as good as this?

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Rounded

London Walking

Exploring England #42

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I do love London! On our second last day, we made the most of the fine weather with a walk in the city, where we found monuments, memorials and M&Ms!

After leaving the Jewel Tower, our destination was the Prince of Wales Theatre for a performance of  The Book Of Mormon. With a few hours to spare and not far to go, we had plenty of time for sightseeing on the way.

From Abingdon St, we turned into Great George St where we paused while the bells of Big Ben rang out on the hour.

At Westminster Bridge, we admired the mighty Boudicca on her chariot, charging into battle against Roman invaders.

Modern battles are also remembered along Victoria Embankment. The Royal Air Force Memorial is dedicated to Air Force members who were casualties of World War 1.

Further along, the dramatic Battle of Britain London Monument commemorates British airmen who took part in the Battle of Britain in World War 2. The monument also acknowledges those from 14 other countries who joined the Allied Forces.

Just before the Golden Jubilee Bridge, we turned onto Northumberland Avenue which leads to  Trafalgar Square and Admiralty Arch, commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria.

Trafalgar Square is dominated by Nelson’s Column, dedicated to the memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four Barbary Lions surround the column while a statue of King George IV dressed in Roman regalia overlooks the square.

Leaving Trafalgar Square we walked around the National Gallery into Charing Cross Road. The small restaurants lining Irving Street reminded us it was time for lunch. After a break for pizza at Il Padrino, we walked into Leicester Square, the entertainment hub of London.

A kaleidoscope of colour greeted us at M&M’s World, where we stocked up on sweet treats for later.

Even after stopping at all these places we were still early for the theatre, so we continued on to Picadilly Circus and the Cool Britannia store where we bought some last minute souvenirs.

Finally it was show time, so we joined the crowd waiting to enter the Prince of Wales Theatre on Coventry Street.

That’s another thing I love about London – so many theatres, so many shows.

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Meeting James and Jo

Exploring England #36

The list of notables who come from Yorkshire is long. Through the centuries many English inventors, entertainers, artists and writers along with those who have excelled in their chosen sport and those who were saintly have been Yorkshire born and bred. Explorers feature prominently. Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, and Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia, are on the list.

In a single day we met two of Yorkshire’s famous wanderers; the 18th century navigator and cartographer Captain James Cook and the lovely lady known to many of us as Restless Jo.

Our first contact with James Cook was at the the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby.

He lodged in this 17th century house as a merchant navy apprentice from 1746 to 1749. Here he learned the skills of navigation, trigonometry and astronomy he would later use in his explorations in the Pacific Ocean. The museum’s extensive collection of Cook memorabilia includes letters and maps detailing his three great voyages of discovery. Of most interest to us was his first voyage, from 1768 to 1771 in HMS Endeavour, when he circumnavigated New Zealand and mapped the east coast of Australia. We imagined a young James Cook looking out over Whitby Harbour from the attic window, dreaming of future adventures on the high seas.

We found Captain Cook again, at the top of North Terrace in Whitby, gazing out over the North Sea. Depicted with his nautical mapping instruments, the statue pays homage to his status as one of history’s greatest cartographers.

We met Jo and her husband Mick in Great Ayton, the town where James Cook lived as a boy and attended the Postgate School from 1736 to 1740. The original building no longer exists but another constructed in 1785 in the same materials now houses the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. Near the School on the High Green is a statue of Cook as a school boy.

Of course, cake and a walk are obligatory when spending an afternoon with Jo.

We shared a delicious afternoon tea at Stamps Coffee Shop before driving out of town to Gribdale Gate. Here a wide path led up onto Easby Moor to another monument to Captain Cook. Erected in 1827, this towering obelisk looks across the heather to Roseberry Topping where Cook often walked as a young boy, his thirst for exploration already evident.

There was one big difference between our travel-loving group and Captain Cook and his crew. Unlike James, who relied on artists to make detailed drawings of all he saw on his journeys, we waylaid a fellow sightseer and gave her our cameras. Memories of an adventure shared were captured in an instant.

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A Walk Around York

Exploring England #32

On our first day in York we had one goal – to visit The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, more commonly known as York Minster.

Dating from the 13th century, the church is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. To make the most of our visit, we took a guided tour around the vast interior. With our enthusiastic leader, we learned the stories behind the medieval stained glass, Gothic carvings and ornamented ceilings inside the church and marvelled at the intricate stonework outside.

It would have been a mistake for us to think, once we’d seen the minster, we were finished with York. We spent the rest of the day exploring beyond the minster and found a wealth of historical buildings with their own stories.

Described as the best preserved medieval street in the world, The Shambles is  lined with haphazard half-timbered buildings. Each storey overhangs the one below until, at the top, they almost touch. Once filled with butcheries, the street now bustles with artisan stores, cafés and souvenir shops.

Until King Henry VIII’s reformation of the churches in the 1500s, the Treasurer’s House was the official residence of the Treasurer of York Minster. It was given to the Archbishop of York in 1547 and now belongs to the National Trust. Built over the top of a Roman road, the house is said to be haunted by a group of Roman soldiers who march in formation to an unknown destination.

The Abbey of St Mary was another building forever changed by Henry. Once the richest Benedictine Abbey in England, it was closed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Much of the stonework was reused on other buildings; today only the north and west walls remain. The gardens of the nearby Yorkshire Museum enhance the jagged beauty of the ruins.

In contrast to the ancient buildings of York, the museum is relatively new. Opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, it was one of the first in England specially built as a museum.

We came across many more wonderful buildings on our walk. We did not know their history but we were entranced by their appearance.

After wandering the streets, we found a different way to view the beautiful architecture of York. The city wall, complete with medieval gates and defensive towers,  gave us another insight into the past.

It also provided us with excellent vantage points to appreciate once more the glory of York Minster.

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