Tasmania 2016, Day 11

Majella’s plan for today was to explore the Tamar Valley north from Launceston. It changed slightly yesterday when, after eating lunch at the Wursthaus, she crossed the mall and found Gourlay’s Confectionery Shop. In the course of conversation with the man there she discovered that the factory was in the Penny Royal Hotel and, with the help of some pressing by Maria, secured an invitation to see them working at 9:00 am. That had to happen before we could go anywhere.

Just before 9:00 Majella and the toffee watchers headed off. They were back, with sweets and satisfied with their viewing before 9:30. We all boarded the van and headed off to explore.

Before leaving town we did a quick drive by of the port area. Then we headed north, up the left bank of the Tamar Valley. Along with the tutorial on sweets manufacturing the man at Gourlay’s had offered a lot of advice about what to see in the Tamar. Majella had set Grindelwald, a Swiss style village, as our first target. The advice from Gourlay’s was to visit Rosevears first, or instead of Grindelwald. Apparently he was not impressed by it but recommended the pub at Rosevears for lunch with a view of the river.

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We took a few missed turns before discovering an excellent lookout across the Tamar Valley, and then finding the northern entry to Grindelwald. We drove past some interesting houses with Swiss styling, and exited via the turn we should have taken originally. This time we found the turn to Rosevears, drove that way along the Tamar, spotted the pub with a view and carried on to Exeter where the Gourlay’s man had recommended the bakery for coffee.

The Exeter bakery lived up to expectations. We had good coffee and a variety of tasty treats before getting back on the road.

Next on the recommended list was Gravelly Beach. I don’t think we really know why it made the list. We had some nice views of the Tamar but saw no gravel to justify the name.

From there it was full steam ahead to Beaconsfield where we planned to visit the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre. We arrived there soon after 11:30. The advice from Gourlay’s had been to buy the triple pass to the Beaconsfield museum, and the platypus and seahorse attractions at Beauty Point. We thought about it for a moment and decided that we might not want the extras. That was a good decision because we managed to spend a bit more than 2 hours in the Beaconsfield museum.

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A substantial part of the museum was devoted to the story of the rescue of Todd Russell and Brant Webb after the earthquake triggered rock fall in 2006. The 14 day rescue was detailed in an exhibit that includes opportunity to crawl through a pipe and pop up to experience the size of the space in which they were trapped. It also included a collection of news video that could have benefited from some editing of highlights to reduce the length.

Beyond that the museum offered some interesting insights into the life of the community over the period during which the mine operated and into the technology used to work the mine over that period. I was amazed by the use of large pieces of pitch pine, so called because of its resin content that retarded decay, to form pump rods that extended to 1390 feet (425 metres) and pumped up to 13 million litres of water per day out of the mine. There were many other interesting snippets that held our attention for more than 2 hours.

Conversations earlier in the morning had considered finding a local winery for lunch. By the time we exited the museum just before 2:00 pm we were intent on eating soon and opted for the local bakery. Some of us had pies but others had sandwiches on tasty  and crusty fresh bread.

From Beaconsfield we headed south to cross the river over the Batman Bridge near Deviot. Majella, Maria and I had watched part of a documentary about the 1960s construction of the bridge while in the museum. it is an interesting structure with a high A-frame tower anchored by cables and supporting the deck with cables. The Tamar is over 30 metres deep at that point so building peers was not a desirable solution and the cantilever construction with cables solved the problem.

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Once across the river we headed north again to Low Head where our first stop was the pilot station museum. We were greeted there by Alan, a volunteer(?), who provided us with some historical background, a demonstration of the historical foghorn, and other information about the exhibits before letting us loose to explore on our own. We found an abundance of interesting exhibits including many that we were able to ‘play’ with in some way. I enjoyed the portable foghorn with which I startled the group only to hear Michael sound a loud bell in response. Fay, Warwick, and Russell revived childhood memories of telephone exchanges in the exhibit about signalling and morse code.

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We drove on to the lighthouse at the mouth of the Tamar but most members of our party had decided at the pilot station that it was too windy and cold to set foot outside the van. I was permitted a quick stop for photos and took off. Warwick braved the elements to take a look too. It wasn’t until we had rounded the lighthouse and were thinking of going back that we spotted Jim who had followed us out. We took photos and headed back.

On the way back to Launceston we took the recommendation of Alan at the pilot house museum and checked out Bell Bay. None of us wanted to work there, as Alan had intimated, so we drove on to Penny Royal. Majella and I ventured out to grab some extra provisions for a simple dinner in the apartments which we ate before retiring for the night, Tomorrow is about golf and our next destination.

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