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Our September Spring

as spring arrives
our hearts expand
like peach blossoms

spring sings
as daisies awaken
to a warm sun

flaming tree –
nature’s spring paintbox
a red dazzler

 

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A small rural village in Queensland’s Samford Valley marks the site of our home. Here on Australia’s east coast, surrounded by two state forests and four rugged mountains, we enjoy exploring ways to engage with the beauty of our natural surroundings.

One favourite destination is a large mountain, Mount Glorious.  It rises to a height of 600 metres above sea level. In the oppressive heat of our high summer we often head to its crest and cooler temperature, where we spend a comfortable day.  Driving through the mountain’s splendid scenery we are always amazed at its abundance of native rain forest cover—mighty trees, tall palms, and numerous ferns. Flocks of tropical birds, white cockatoos, and brilliant parrots often fill the skies.

On a recent visit, a sign post entitled, The Westridge Outlook, caught our eye. Exiting onto a dirt road we followed this to a car park. Here a wide board walk, enclosed by a fence of metal railings stretched ahead. This walkway was built to encircle an immense rocky outcrop.

Strolling along we admired a mixed forest of grey gums, spotted gums and tall tallowwoods.  Long ago these original timber forests were harvested by timber cutters using only axes and cross-cut saws. The fallen trees were loaded onto wooden carts and pulled by a team of oxen to the nearest sawmill. Thankfully this deforestation was discontinued, and today its remains are protected as a reserve for public enjoyment.

Reaching the half-way mark, the boardwalk expanded into a large viewing area, to expose an open outlook. The rims of distant mountain ranges, shrouded in a blue haze, framed the horizon. We stood in awe at the view of Lake Wivenhoe, our main dam and water catchment area. The upper reaches of the Brisbane River snaked through the landscape, as the D’Aguilar State Forest spread its abundant natural beauty beneath us. It was a breathtaking sight.

   We finished our walk around the ancient rocky escarpment, to end at the point of our beginning. Hopefully other visitors will also discover this hidden treasure, and the magnificent views on offer at the Westridge Outlook.

 

The Sunflower Way

Whenever the yen for discovery returns, it is time to be off again on a road trip. By choosing to explore an unfamiliar back road or byway, delightful and unexpected surprises often result.

The Queensland road between Warwick and Toowoomba is always a busy highway. While searching for an alternate route, we discovered a 50 kilometre stretch taking us from Warwick to Allora. Since this lovely little town is only a stone’s throw away from Toowoomba, our newly found road, the Sunflower Way, beckoned.  At Warwick we entered it via Victoria Street, turned right into Rosehill Road, and followed the signs to Allora. This proved to be a perfect choice!

A patchwork countryside of ploughed black soil, green lucerne, and brick-red sorghum delighted us. But it was the fields of sunflowers in full bloom that provided a magnificent sight, even in late March at the end of the sunflower cycle. Drifts of golden fields stretched as far as we could see.

Sunflowers are majestic, towering over most people’s heads, and they grow best in full sunshine. The seeds are sold as a snack food or as a component of a bird seed package. Sunflower oil, extracted directly from the seeds, creates inexpensive cooking oil and is also an additive to biodiesel fuel. After the seeds have been processed, the remaining cake becomes healthy livestock feed.

The name, Sunflower (helianthus annuus), possesses only one large flower head, sitting atop a tall unbranched stem. It may have derived its name from the blooming yellow head, which resembles the sun.  A number of fields had already been harvested with their brilliant flower heads gone and the stalks standing alone–now solitary sentinels. They will finally whither and fall, waiting to be ploughed back into the soil as green manure. Thankfully enough fields remained in all their blazing glory to make our drive along the Sunflower Way a memorable one.

When we reached the township of Allora we explored its historic streets. Buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s featured, together with lovingly tended gardens and parks. The area also offers an opportunity to visit the heritage listed, ‘Glengallan Homestead.’ Our drive was a delightful way to finally reach our destination of Toowoomba. If you find yourself here in high summer, its radiant fields of gold will take your breath away. Yet in any season this back road is a beauty, so be sure to put it on your bucket list and make time to enjoy the Sunflower Way.

 

Whenever the yen for discovery returns, it is time to pack a picnic lunch and be off for the day. Not for us—the freeways with their endless lines of speeding traffic and sterile scenery. Instead we head for the back roads and byways, where many surprises are found.

Our own slice of heaven lies in the small semi-rural village of Samford. Situated in Queensland’s beautiful Samford Valley, its surrounding lush green meadows, rolling hills, two state forests and the majestic North Pine River, are offset by a counterpoint of four mountains, part of the D’Aguilar Range. High in the hills of remote Upper Wight’s Mountain Road rests an early treasure, Queensland’s last remaining Aboriginal bora ring. Thankfully this has been gazetted as a reserve, and the Queensland University’s Anthropology Section has accepted nomination as its trustee. The ring is maintained by the local Rotary Club.

Prior to European settlement, the Samford Valley and Pine Rivers area was home to a number of Aboriginal clans. These all belonged to the Turrbul, Kabi and Wakka language groups. The basic unit of Aboriginal society was a self governing clan of about 70 persons.  All were responsible for their own homeland. Their ties to the land were unique as they believed that each one belonged to their land—not the land to them. A tribe included several clans, all sharing a distinctive ceremonial and a common dialect.

The Samford Bora Grounds comprise a large man made ring 26m in diameter, enclosed by a raised earthen mound. From this central ring a sunken path, 700m long and known as the Sacred Way, is linked to a second smaller ring. The rings were dug out by hand with sharp sticks and stone tomahawks and the earth was carried on sheets of bark to the outer mound. Women took part in the ceremonies at the large ring but were forbidden to walk beyond it. If this law was disobeyed, the woman’s penalty was death.

In the ceremonial bora rings, neighbouring tribes gathered regularly to celebrate and perform important tribal rituals. At the Samford Bora Ground the boys, age 12 to 15 were transformed into young men—Kippas. Their noses were pierced with a small sharp spear and then plugged. The boys received tribal body paint markings and were given new names. This ceremony lasted for several weeks and marked their official graduation into manhood.

The Samford Bora Grounds were last used by the Aboriginal clans in the 1870s when the Wight family, living on the next ridge, heard their corroborees. Occasionally we still visit the large central ring as this is the only section now being cared for. Here a deep quiet always lingers, and I experience an eerie feeling when I stop to reflect here. Thankfully this archaeological site still exists to remind and surprise us of our rich, Aboriginal cultural heritage.

 

 

The Year’s End

wreath-for-the-blog

This is my final blog post for 2016.
Have a fantastic Christmas and
here’s to a big and beautiful new year ahead.

Cheers,
Mary

colours-of-broome

“The earth has music
for those who will listen.”

~ George Santayana

A Carnival of Flowers

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The sun feels warmer on our backs and the days are spreading out. Its time now to get adventurous and enjoy the delights of the early summer. Toowoomba, one of Australia’s garden cities, is located west of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. A university and cathedral city, Toowoomba’s residents also enjoy its 150 spectacular parks and gardens. Situated high on the crest of the Great Dividing Mountain Range, with its cooler climate and rich volcanic soil, ‘Absolutely everything will grow here,’ say the locals. By way of celebrating their love of all things horticultural, a Carnival of Flowers is offered every year during September.

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   To savour the delights of this festival, our first stop includes the magnificent grounds of the Laurel Bank Park. Here an incredible free-growing meadow has been planted. Visitors wander amongst a cacophony of colour as they stroll through tulips, daisies, pansies, and an arbour festooned with lavender wisteria.

laurel-park-wisteria

   Our next stop at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, leads to a room where landscape and botanical paintings from the gallery’s collection have been hung. Scattered among the pictures are stunnng sculptural works, created by members of the Toowoomba Ikebana Group. Decorated in the Japanese style, each piece showcases fresh flowers, leaves, and branches – all appearing in their individual beauty.

ikebana

   After a tasty lunch and a strong coffee, we decide to spend the rest of the day in the city’s heart. Here lies Queens Park, Toowooba’s premiere site. This key landmark is the focus for the 176th Carnival of Flowers, its Flower Market, the Food and Wine Festival and a Live Concert Series. Many activities are happening here.

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   We enter  the park through a lovely cherry blossom walk into the expanse of a typical 19th century Victorian park land and botanical garden. It has been styled as a parterre garden, presenting an arrangement of ornamental flower beds in various sizes, shapes, and colours. All are contained beneath a canopy of stately trees and between areas of expansive green lawns.

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   During the 2015 Carnival of Flowers, 100,000 visitors flocked to Toowoomba from far and wide. It was a delight to see so many with us again this year, absorbing the beauty and peaceful ambience of the park. Cameras and smart phones were snapping away in every pair of hands as the children roamed and played freely among the parterre beds. The weather had also been kind as the day was warm and sunny. We finally left the park on a botanical high, and next year we plan to do it all over again.

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