Tag Archive | World Heritage Site

Abundance

Kevtoberfest #16 Blue Mountains

In late September the Blue Mountains were in full bloom, with flowering natives and exotic blossoms competing for our attention at every stop.

At Jenolan Caves, spring flowers and magnolias filled every available space.

On the Federal Pass track to Scenic World, tiny native blossoms glowed in jewel-like colours.

In Leura, cherry trees laden with delicate blossoms attracted photographers and bees alike.

Waratahs grew wild beside the road to Anvil Rock

and at the Botanic Gardens alongside rhododendrons, proteas and camellias.

Clusters of golden flowers glowed beside blackened seed pods on banksias at Gordon Falls Reserve.

Springtime in the Blue Mountains is blooming beautiful!

Views, Brews and Two Yarn Shops

Kevtoberfest #15 The Blue Mountains

The first place we went to after arriving at Katoomba was the Visitor Information Centre at Echo Point. We collected tourist magazines, maps and brochures, which we used to plan our next few days. Every day we followed our itinerary, but some of our discoveries along the way weren’t on the maps or in the brochures!

The Blue Mountains National Park covers an area of 2,680 square kilometres and dozens of vantage points and lookouts are marked on the maps. Although the majesty and expanse of the mountains and valleys is revealed from every one, each view is a little different.

From Govett’s Leap Lookout, the densely forested Grose Valley disappeared into the early morning mist. The lookout was named for the surveyor William Govett, who we hoped didn’t actually leap from the cliff into the valley below.

Looking across from Gordon Falls to Sublime Point, we could see homes surrounded by bushland on top of the ridge. Opposite them on the other side of the valley were the Three Sisters, a different perspective from that seen at Echo Point.

The best lookout we visited wasn’t on any of our maps; it was by chance we followed a weathered sign off the main road. Anvil Rock is a weathered sandstone outcrop located at the end of a walking track along a narrow ridge.

From the top of the rock we had 360° views of the mountains, escarpments and gorges.

Near the lookout is a large wind-eroded cave, easily reached along another sandy track. It was fascinating to see up close the formations which make up much of the natural beauty of the national park.

Not all our discoveries were of the natural kind. Driving through Blackheath on our way to the Campbell Rhododendron Garden, I was quick to spot two craft shops next door to each other, and even quicker to suggest we stop to investigate. I went first to The House of Wool and then to Blackheath Haberdashery and Fabrics. With so much beautiful yarn it wasn’t easy to select just a few, and Glen was happy to help.

Another day in Katoomba, I noticed a sign pointing the way to the Katoomba Brewing Company. Located in a converted power station behind the iconic Carrington Hotel, the brewery makes several beers which are served on tap next door at the Old City Bank Bar and Brasserie. Of course Glen ordered a glass of Oktoberfest Lager, in preparation for Kevtoberfest.

It’s great to make plans and get the best out of each day, but we’re always prepared to abandon the plan when something unexpected comes up.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 6/Craft shops 3

Hidden Beneath

Kevtoberfest #13 Jenolan Caves

Surrounded by forest-covered mountains and accessible by a single narrow winding road, the tiny village of Jenolan is one of the most visited places in New South Wales. The heritage listed hotel is picturesque, the pretty gardens are filled with cool climate plants and the river walk is scenic, but they’re not the main attractions.

The road to the village passes through the Grand Arch, a massive open cave at the base of the mountain. With a length of 127 metres, the cave gives an indication of what is to come. It has entrances to more caves and features a stone bathroom reminiscent of Fred Flintstone’s style.

Deep inside the mountains is a glistening wonderland: stalactites and stalagmites, shawls and crystals, massive caves, underground rivers and ancient fossils. The Jenolan Caves are among the oldest in the world, formed more than 340 million years ago from limestone dated to 430 million years. Eight show caves, each with its own unique natural display, are open to visitors on guided tours while more can be seen on self-guided walks.

The most difficult choice will be which of the caves to see. Tours allow for groups of different sizes and have varying levels of difficulty and accessibility so everyone is catered for. The circuit walk through Chifley Cave, with its high chambers and sparkling grottos, has 421 steps over 690 metres. This cave was the first in the world to be lit with electric lights, originally multi-coloured displays designed to decorate the formations. Now, more subdued lighting enhances the natural colours in the limestone, showing up the ripples and waves.

The Orient Cave contains both the smallest crystals and largest formations in the cave system. Covering a distance of 470 metres and 358 steps, the walk through the chambers is illuminated using the latest lighting technology, giving better views of the stalactites and stalagmites while protecting them from unnecessary heat.

There are several walks in the caves area, and one of the easiest is the River Walk. Starting from the Grand Arch, the track passes around the shore of Blue Lake. Formed in a natural swamp when a dam wall was constructed in 1908, the lake is coloured by dissolved limestone particles in the water. The still water reflects mirror-like images of the surrounding she-oaks and ribbon gums.

The dam wall is part of a hydro-electric plant which still produces power for Jenolan. Remnants of the original system are visible further along the track on the Jenolan River, where it cascades over boulders and drops in rushing waterfalls on its way out of the valley.

Crimson rosellas dart through the trees and Eastern water dragons can sometimes be seen basking on the rocks by the river.

On the return journey, Carlotta Arch is silhouetted high on the ridge above the road. The jagged limestone stalactites hanging from the ceiling give one last reminder of the beauty hidden beneath the surface at Jenolan.

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Thrillseekers

Kevtoberfest #12 Blue Mountains Part Three

After scaling the heights of Prince Henry Cliff Walk and negotiating 900 steps on the Giant Stairway, you might think we’ve had enough adventure for one day. But at Scenic World there are four record-breaking options for seeing the Blue Mountains from completely different perspectives – our day is not yet done.

We arrive at the Scenic Railway just in time to see the shiny red train departing Bottom Station on its way up the mountain. The 310 metre track goes through a tunnel in the cliff at an incline of 52°, making it the steepest passenger train in the world.

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We join the crowd on the platform and don’t have long to wait; the train runs every ten minutes and it’s soon back at the bottom again.

We take our seats and, while Glen would have liked the front row seats, I’m secretly relieved we’re sitting further back. Like the other passengers, we hold on tight as the train begins its steep ascent.

Next we ride on the Scenic Skyway, which we’ve already seen gliding across the Jamison Valley at the start of the day. Travelling 270 metres above the valley floor, the cable car is the highest in Australia.

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As we leave the station, the glass floor beneath our feet changes from opaque to clear. Far below, cockatoos rest in the treetops. The water of Kedumba Creek drops over the edge of the escarpment and tumbles over rocky outcrops on its way to the forest floor.

As we come to Skyway East Station, it’s easy to see how close to the edge the walking path and lookouts we’ve been to earlier in the day really are.

After returning on the Scenic Skyway, we take another ride in a different direction. The Scenic Cableway carries Australia’s largest cable car from the top of the mountain, over the edge of the escarpment and down 545 metres into the Jamison Valley. On this ride we pass close by Orphan Rock, once accessible but now closed to walkers, and wonder how they ever got to the top.

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Instead of returning in the cable car, we decide to walk back to the Railway via the Scenic Walkway, 2.4 kilometres of elevated boardwalks through the temperate rainforest. We’re hopeful of spotting one of the lyre birds which live in the forest but it’s late afternoon and they’ve gone into hiding.

We waste no time searching because the last train leaves Bottom Station at 4.50 pm – and we don’t want to walk back up those steps!

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#MarchSquare slideshows – March Squares with Becky

More Than a Walk in the Park

Kevtoberfest #10 Blue Mountains Part One

There are many ways to enjoy the splendid scenery of the Blue Mountains. From lookouts like Echo Point, perched on the edge of the escarpment, views of the sheer sandstone cliffs and forest-filled valleys are magnificent.

More than 400 kilometres of walking tracks allow visitors to explore both on top of the mountains and down below.

For those less keen on hiking, there are options to soar above the valleys in Australia’s highest or largest cable cars, wander through the forest canopy on the longest elevated boardwalk in the country or ride on the steepest passenger train in the world. When it comes to seeing the Blue Mountains, it’s possible to take advantage of all these choices in a single day.

Our day long exploration begins at Katoomba Falls, where Kedumba Creek tumbles down waterworn cascades before wending its way to the cliff edge. Here the walking is easy, along a level graded path with wide steps leading to the beginning of Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

Not far from the start we come to the Scenic Skyway East Station. We’re right on time to see the cable car silently gliding over the valley, soaring like a golden bird 270 metres above the forest floor.

After the station, the track becomes narrower and hugs the edge of the cliff, skirting between massive sandstone formations and windswept eucalypts clinging precariously to the steep edges.

There’s not always a fence and we are careful to walk closer to the rock wall, slowing down when other hikers pass by.

There are many lookouts on the track and, although this is listed as a 45 minute walk, we stop so often it’s nearly two hours before Echo Point and the Three Sisters come into view.

Even though we’ve already been to Echo Point we halt once more, lingering to take in the beauty of this place before walking on.

To be continued…

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By Day, Into Night

Kevtoberfest #9 Echo Point, Katoomba

The Blue Mountains Region, west of Sydney, is part of the Great Dividing Range and covers an area of 11,400 square kilometres. The rugged sandstone escarpments, sheer cliffs and deep valleys filled with dense eucalypt forest are World Heritage listed and visited by millions of people each year.

One of the best vantage points to view the splendour of the mountains is Echo Point, at Katoomba. Perched on the cliff edge are several lookouts, some jutting out over the valley floor.

With spectacular views of the Three Sisters, the lookouts are popular at any time of day, and especially at sunset when the colour of the stone and sky changes by the minute.

There’s a sense of excitement as the sun begins its descent but, when the last rays of light disappear behind the cliffs, most people watch in silence.

Even the sulphur crested cockatoos, settling into the gum trees for the night, cease their screeching as the daylight begins to fade. It’s an awe-inspiring sight for everyone!

One Tower, Many Stories

Exploring England #38

London’s skyline is dominated by skyscrapers and towers; some are famous and are visited by thousands of tourists each year. At a height of 27 metres the White Tower, part of the Tower of London, was the tallest building in London at its completion  in 1098. Standing at a far more impressive 306 metres and completed in 2012, The Shard is the tallest building in the UK.

Another tower, less well-known but claiming an equally significant place in English history, is the Jewel Tower, located behind the Houses of Parliament. Dating from the 14th century, the tower is one of only two buildings to have survived the 1834 fire which destroyed the Palace of Westminster.

Built in 1365 on the orders of Edward III, the tower was originally known as the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’. It housed his personal collection of jewels, silverware and luxurious wall-hangings. To protect the king’s belongings, the ground floor had no windows and 18 locks were placed on the doors. A moat surrounding the tower, filled by water from the River Thames, added extra protection.

The tower later became known as the Jewel Tower because of a misconception that, in medieval times, it had housed the Crown Jewels. From 1580 to 1864, it was used as a storage facility for the official parliamentary records of the House of Lords. Documents including Acts of Parliament and the death warrant of King Charles I were filed by the Parliamentary Clerk, who lived in a small house next door.

Occupancy of the tower changed again in 1869 when the newly-created Standard Weights and Measures Department took up residency. With its thick stone walls, the tower was the perfect place for testing delicate instruments and creating standardised units of weight and measure. It was here the imperial system of measurement was developed. The Department continued its important work until 1938, when it was found that vibrations caused by an increase in passing traffic affected the precision of the instruments.

In 1987, UNESCO declared the Jewel Tower and its surrounding land a World Heritage Site. It is also protected as an Ancient Monument and Grade I listed building. Today, English Heritage has custody of the tower, which is open to the public every day. Exhibitions on all three floors showcase the different roles the Jewel Tower has played over the years, with replicas of King Edward’s silver plate, copies of historical documents and 19th century measuring instruments on display.

The Jewel Tower may not be imposing or beautiful, but it’s worth spending a couple of hours learning more about this unique building and its fascinating contents.

When Is A Walk Not A Walk?

Exploring England #17

With the forecasters predicting sushine and record breaking warm temperatures, the day seemed ideal for a trip to Liverpool. Rather than braving the traffic and trying to find a car park, we decided to travel by train and spend the day on a self guided walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre and docklands. That was the plan…

It was overcast when we arrived – not the sunshine we were expecting, but perfect for walking. Lunch was our first priority and the menu at the busy Pump House restaurant was enticing. A local lady dining at the next table gave us some friendly advice. “Have the fish and chips,” she said. “They’re the best in town.” We did, and she was right.

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We weren’t so sure about her next statement. “It’s going to rain this afternoon,” she said. “It’s going to pour at 2 o’clock.” That’s not what the weather forecast said, we were thinking, although we were too polite to say so.

Fortified by our delicious lunch, we set off to explore Albert Dock. Opened in 1846, Albert Dock was once the centre of a bustling port for sailing ships from around the world. As these ships were replaced by modern vessels, the docks and warehouses became redundant and they finally closed in 1972. After a restoration project lasting six years, Albert Dock reopened in 1988 with cafés and restaurants, galleries, shops and museums bringing people back to the old warehouses along the River Mersey.

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This part of the river is more than a kilometre wide and the buildings on the opposite bank looked like doll houses. Undeterred by the heavy, grey clouds gathering low in the sky, we wandered along Kings Parade where hundreds of engraved love locks decorate the path by the river.

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Even on this dull day, tiny ferries were busy on the river and we thought a cruise would be a pleasant way to see the city. But just as we turned towards the ferry terminal, it began to rain. Our lunch time companion’s prediction was correct. It wasn’t just a light shower – it was pouring!

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Even with our raincoats walking was no longer enjoyable, so we decided to see Liverpool from a different perspective and boarded a CityExplorer bus. We sat downstairs, where the view wasn’t as good but the seats were dry. The driver’s live commentary was as entertaining as it was educational and for the next hour we listened to his stories of Liverpool and her beautiful buildings.

Eventually the rain eased enough for us to start walking again. We left the bus on Victoria Street and went around the corner to Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed nearly 300 times in the early 1960s. One benefit of the rain was the lack of people and we walked straight in…or down, as the steps went below street level to the basement. It was warm and dry and a great band was playing Beatles music – it was fun to stop for a while and enjoy  the vibrant atmosphere.

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After browsing in one of several Beatles shops, we headed once more towards the River Mersey.

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The city’s maritime history is commemorated at Liverpool Parish Church where a weather vane in the form of a golden sailing ship sits on top of the tower. In the Church gardens, the Liverpool Blitz Memorial depicts a young mother taking her children to shelter during a bombing raid. On the roof of the Royal Liver Building, once the tallest building in Europe, sit two mythical Liver birds, medieval symbols of the city.

Our last stop was St John’s Garden, a terraced sculpture garden featuring statues of well-known Liverpudlians including Prime Minister William Gladstone and a memorial to the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

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We arrived back at the train station just as the leaden skies opened again. We’d had enough of walking in the rain and, as the Beatles would say, we had tickets to ride!

 

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Poldark is Everywhere!

Exploring England #14

We couldn’t go anywhere in the south of Cornwall without seeing the handsome face of Ross Poldark. From cushions to coffee cups, his presence was unavoidable. I wasn’t complaining. I’ve read Winston Graham’s wonderful historic tales of the Poldark family, and I enjoyed watching both the original 1970s and new 2015 television productions as much as anyone.

So did my sister-in-law, who asked for a souvenir. When I purchased a key ring for her, I made sure to tell the shop assistant it wasn’t for me. He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard that story!

The Poldark name doesn’t just belong to the fictional family though. Close to Helston on the Lizard Peninsula is the Poldark Mine, and you’d be mistaken if you think it’s a television set left behind after filming.

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Tin has been mined in this area since the Bronze Age and records show it was being processed here in Tudor times. As the oldest surviving complete tin mine in Cornwall, it’s part of the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

The mine shafts visible today date from the 18th century. The only way to see them is on a guided tour; wearing protective helmets, visitors go underground to explore the old tunnels and shafts on several levels. The walls are slick with moisture and the sound of water still flowing deep in the mine fills the dark spaces.

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While modern access is via metal steps, remnants of the old ways remain in place and veins of ore-bearing granite left untouched make a dark tracery across the rock walls.

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So what is the connection to the Poldark name? Winston Graham launched the last book in his Poldark series here in 2002 and underground mining scenes in both television shows were filmed in the mine. According to our tour guide, the author was a friend of the mine owner and gave his permission for the mine to be renamed in honour of his much loved characters.

Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but it makes a great story!

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Buried Treasure

Exploring England #4

Like many people, we visited Dorset’s spectacular Jurassic Coast for one reason. Well-trod paths over dramatic cliffs lead to pretty coastal villages but we weren’t looking up. With heads down and eyes on the ground we had one goal  – to find fossils.

The 154 km stretch of coast between Exmouth and Studland Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage area, with geology spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Millions of ancient creatures and plants are preserved in the sedimentary layers of the cliffs, waiting to be revealed when the cliffs crumble away during wild weather.

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At the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre we saw huge ammonites dating from the Jurassic Period. With high hopes we joined the crowds on Charmouth beach and, although we found many tiny treasures, there were no 185 million year old fossils lying around waiting to be discovered.

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Continuing our search, we travelled west to Lyme Regis, a very busy town with very narrow streets. Avoiding the congestion and costly parking, we left the car at Charmouth Road car park. From the top of the cliffs it was a gentle downhill walk to the foreshore where a wide wall, built to protect the cliffs from erosion by the sea, doubles as a walking route into town.  It was only 400 metres but we took our time, enjoying wonderful views of the English Channel, the Jurassic limestone cliffs and the stony beach connecting Charmouth and Lyme Regis .

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Evidence of fossils was everywhere in Lyme Regis.

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The Lyme Regis Museum houses a vast collection. Some fossils were collected by Mary Anning, who made her living finding and selling them in the first half of the 19th century, while others have been found by modern enthusiasts. Along with more beautiful ammonites, there were fossilised plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, sea creatures whose descendants include whales and dolphins.

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Fossils are still sold in Lyme Regis but we didn’t want to find our first fossil in a shop. The best way to achieve our aim was to join one of the museum’s guided walks, led by paleontologists Chris, Paddy and Tom.

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We met the our group outside the museum and, after a short explanation about the geology of the coast, our guides led the way to the beach, where early morning wanderers were already scouring the shore.

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Paddy showed us how to look for signs of fossils in the stones and demonstrated safe techniques for breaking them apart.

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Armed with a little knowledge and much anticipation the group spread out, and before long fossils were turning up everywhere.

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Our guides made sure everyone ended the walk with a handful of history. Ours included a tiny ammonite encased in mudstone and two belemnites, distant relatives of today’s cuttlefish.

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With our goal accomplished and our walk completed, our perspective changed. It was time to look at more than just the beach!

 

See more walks all around the world at Jo’s Monday Walks.

Lyme Regis Museum is currently closed for refurbishment but daily fossil walks are still taking place. Check the timetable for costs, dates and times.