Tag Archive | World Heritage Site

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.

A Morning in Port Douglas

Goin’ Cruising #7

Day Five – Port Douglas

Port Douglas is the gateway to the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and, even on a sunny morning, the distant mountains are dark with a dense covering of forest. We’ve been to the rainforest before so this time we stayed in town.

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Our walk began from the Reef Marina, where small boats were moored alongside luxury yachts and fishing trawlers.

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It was a short walk around the waterfront to Market Park and the Church of St Mary’s by the Sea. Inside the church, the window behind the altar created a real life artwork.

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Leafy Macrossan Street begins at the end of the park. This bustling street is lined with souvenir shops, cafés and pubs and we wandered along, stopping on the way to admire local arts and crafts.

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Macrossan Street leads to the Esplanade and the northern end of Four Mile Beach. Our goal was Flagstaff Hill, where an easy walking track leads up and over the summit to Trinity Bay Lookout.

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From here, the view was breathtaking: Four Mile Beach curving away to the distant mountain range, Pacific Dawn resting at anchor in the Coral Sea and beyond her, the fringes of the Great Barrier Reef showing dark blue on the horizon.

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We continued walking down the other side of Flagstaff Hill, past luxury homes hidden behind tropical gardens. We envied their million dollar views and debated which home we would buy should we ever win the lottery.

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At the bottom of the hill we left our daydreams behind and joined the tourist crowd on Macrossan Street. We retraced our steps back to the marina, where a little orange tender was waiting to carry us back to the ship in time for a well-earned lunch.

Join Jo for more Monday Walks

 

Nature’s Designs ~ Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Ornate

When spring comes to Western Australia the wildflowers bloom in abundance. At first glance the blossoms look simple but closer inspection reveals the fine details. These wildflowers were all found in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Ornate

The Thong Shack

Round Australia Road Trip #14

There’s a shrine on an isolated beach not far from the little coastal town of Denham. It doesn’t honour a deity and worshippers do not come on pilgrimage here. Nevertheless, it’s a shrine –  dedicated to the famous Australian fashion icon, the thong!

Are you thinking of that tiny, barely there undergarment? No it’s not that. Australians have another name for that.

We wear thongs on our feet. They’re durable, comfortable and casual; the perfect holiday footwear.

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The Thong Shack is decorated with all types of thongs: large, small, pretty or plain. Many have been inscribed by their owners and pay homage to their wanderlust.

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Where have you worn your thongs?

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Up Close and Personal

Round Australia Road Trip #13

Monkey Mia, in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, is one of those rare places where you don’t have to go looking for wildlife; the wildlife comes to you.

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In the 1960s local fishermen began sharing their catch with the dolphins who lived in the bay, feeding them by hand at the shore. As word of the dolphins spread, visitors came to see them. In 1982 scientists began studying the dolphins and in 1985 a visitor centre was built. In 1990 the area was declared a marine park and since then the Department of Parks and Wildlife has monitored the dolphins and developed a feeding program that allows visitors to enjoy a close encounter with the dolphins while ensuring they remain wild and retain their hunting skills.

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The dolphin interaction can take place up to three times a day, between 8 am and midday. Of course there’s no guarantee the dolphins will come to shore but in the last five years there have only been four days they haven’t appeared. We arrived at the reserve early and lined up with about 50 other people, bouyed by anticipation and hoping that the dolphins would grace us with their presence. When the first dolphin appeared in the bay the sense of excitement was tangible!

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Before going to the water’s edge the procedure was explained. We were to line up at the water’s edge and only enter up to our knees when told to. We weren’t to touch the dolphins, a few people would be selected for hand feeding and we were to leave the water when asked. All these precautions are necessary for the well-being of the dolphins. They are fed up to three times a day and only receive a small percentage of their normal daily requirement of fish. This means the dolphins have to spend the rest of the day hunting and feeding naturally.

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After we had entered the water, the dolphins came close to shore and swam up and down the line of tourists. With their eyes on the side of their head, dolphins turn sideways to see and I had the feeling these dolphins were inspecting us as closely as we were watching them. One park ranger explained the dolphins’ behaviour and characteristics while another kept close watch over both the dolphins and the people.

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Park volunteers entered the water with buckets of fish and selected a couple of people to hand feed a dolphin. They were spaced along the beach so everyone had a great view. When the feeding was over we all left the water and stood on the sand. This was the signal to the dolphins that the feed was finished and they headed out to deeper water to their waiting calves.

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If the dolphins return to the shore before midday, there is the chance of two more interactions and hand feeding sessions. If they come more than three times or in the afternoon, they can be observed but they won’t be fed again. On our day, the dolphins returned a second time within ten minutes.

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By then the crowd had lessened and we were able to stand even closer: thrilling, magical and such a privilege.

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Shark Bay ~ On The List

Round Australia Road Trip #12

To qualify for World Heritage listing a place must meet at least one of ten selection criteria determined by UNESCO. Shark Bay World Heritage Area, on the mid north coast of Western Australia, is one of only 16 places in the world to meet four criteria and was inscribed on the list in 1991.

The criteria are

  • superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
Shark Bay viewed from a lookout on the NW Coastal HIghway

Shark Bay viewed from a lookout on the NW Coastal Highway

View from Eagle Bluff

View from Eagle Bluff

Road through Francois Peron National Park

Road through Francois Peron National Park

  • outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
3000 year old Stromatolites, living fossils and the simplest life on Earth

3000 year old Stromatolites. These are living fossils and the simplest form of life on Earth, growing at a rate of 0.4 mm each year.

Shell Beach, composed of tiny cockle shells up to 10 metres deep, i km wide and 120 km long.

Shell Beach, composed of tiny Hamelin Cockle shells layered up to 10 metres deep. The beach is 1 km wide and 120 km long.

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  • outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
Eagle Bluff. The dark patches of water indicate seagrass banks, largest in the world and home to an eighth of the world's population of dugongs.

Eagle Bluff. The dark patches of water indicate the largest seagrass banks in the world, home to an eighth of the world’s population of dugongs.

  • important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Francois Peron National Park

Francois Peron National Park. Five critically endangered mammals are protected in the park. Four of these are found nowhere else in the world.

820 species of plant, including springtime wildflowers grow here.

820 species of plant, including endemic springtime wildflowers grow here.

Glen’s Eggs

Round Australia Road Trip #8

I don’t really like eggs, especially fried eggs. Eggs for breakfast would not be my ideal way to start the day, but when we camped at Purnululu National Park eggs were on the menu.

The road into Purnululu isn’t caravan friendly so we left our van at a stay station just off the highway and took our basic camping gear for an overnight visit: the tent, airbeds and the gas stove for cooking. We camped at the southern end of the park in the Wallardi Camp, a tranquil bush setting next to the dry stony bed of Bellburn Creek.

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At sunrise we were woken by a dawn chorus, the melodious calls of tiny finches and doves competing with the raucous cries of sulphur crested cockatoos. It was time for breakfast. “Never fear my dear. I will cook the eggs for breakfast,” said Glen. “My fried eggs are delicious!”

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There was just one small problem. The non-stick pan did not live up to expectations and my eggs were a mangled mess. Naturally, after washing the pan to clean away the remnants of my eggs, Glen’s eggs came out perfectly.

I really don’t like eggs!

Ancient Stone

Round Australia Road Trip #7

The beehive shaped sandstone domes known as the Bungle Bungles are located in Purnululu National Park, in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia. The unsealed road leading to this World Heritage listed area is only 53 km long but with rough corrugations and muddy creek crossings it can take up to two hours to get to the Ranger Station. It’s worth the effort though, for the privilege of walking through these ancient stone formations; the sandstone layers were laid down more than 350 million years ago.

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On the western side of the Bungle Bungle range, sheer red cliffs are bordered by eucalypts and surrounded by plains covered with spinifex and desert grasses.

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The landscape on the eastern side is a stark contrast. Sculpted by fierce winds blowing in from the Tanami Desert over the last 20 million years, vast sandstone domes, banded in orange and black stripes rise up to 200 metres and deep chasms and gorges lead into the range.

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There are several walks in the park, ranging from 500 metre walks to overnight treks. The Dome Walk is a 700 metre loop walk through the sandstone domes along dry, sandy creek beds. The stripes in the rock formations are formed by cyanobacteria, tiny organisms which cause the black colouring. The red stone glows under the intense mid-morning sun.

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This walk joins on to the longer Cathedral Gorge walk, 2.8 km return. The path leads up over narrow ledges and rocky outcrops; it’s cooler in the shadows.

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The gorge opens up into a massive natural amphitheatre. At the end of the dry season there is no water flowing, but it’s easy to see where wet season rainfalls tumble over the cliff edge. All that remains now are small waterholes, their glasslike surfaces making perfect reflections.

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The amphitheatre has amazing acoustics. When we sing our voices echo around the space and when one person speaks, everyone else can hear clearly as the sound travels around the rock walls.

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People have lived here for 20 000 years. I wonder how many other voices have echoed in this space.