Monthly Archives: March 2021
End of the Trail
We are now making our way along the Cobb & Co Trail towards Ipswich. We will not go all the way, will leave that settlement for a another day sometime down the track.
First stop was about 10 km from Laidley at the small settlement of Grandchester. There is a heritage listed railway station here that is famous for being the terminus of Queensland’s first railway line in 1865. Nearby is the old railway dam built to supply water for the steam trains. The line ran from Ipswich to Grandchester, then known as Bigge’s Camp after an early settler. Cobb & Co coaches would run from Brisbane to Ipswich, then transfer passengers and freight to the train which would chug up the line to Grandchester. There were stops at Walloon and Rosewood. At Grandchester Cobb & Co would take the passengers and freight back and head off for Toowoomba and further west into the Darling Downs. As the line was extended up the range to Toowoomba, becoming the first line in Australia to cross the Great Dividing Range, Cobb & Co left from the new railheads and took the passengers further west.
A little further along we stopped for lunch at Rosewood, the current terminus of the train line for Brisbane/Ipswich electric commuter rail services. We cleaned a pie van out of its last two large sausage rolls. Not much to be said about the sausage rolls, somewhat average. Cobb & Co also used the town as a staging post and there is an original coach on display in a local park. All along the main street there are strategically placed benches bearing the Cobb & Co Trail logo. These appear to be meant to be ‘original’ waiting benches for the coaches. Can not find out whether or not that is the case, maybe some historical licence is being taken. This area is also the location of numerous old coal mines, as well as a large currently operating mine. Dinosaur footprints have been found in the ceilings of some of the old tunnels, you actually look up at the underside of the beast’s footprint. The largest wooden church in the Southern Hemisphere (so it is claimed) is also located here, St Brigid’s RC opened in 1910. It had been fenced off for repair work and we couldn’t get in to have a look see. It has a pressed metal ceiling and numerous murals and stained glass windows.
A little further along is Walloon about 10 km from Ipswich, another old railway town and former stop along the Cobb & Co Trail. The land around the town centre is now being subdivided and the urban sprawl expanding at a great pace. A large shopping centre graces former farm land. A small park is dedicated to a poem by Henry Lawson the “Babies of Walloon”, its words are engraved in a grid of railway sleepers. The poem recalls the drowning in 1891of two young sisters in a pond. The girls were attracted to the pond by its lilies and fell in. Quite a pretty spot opposite the old school house.
So having completed the Cobb & Co Trail, apart from the small section through to Ipswich, we returned to Lake Dyer for our last night in the Lockyer Valley. The weather had closed in and a storm was brewing further west but we took the opportunity to drive up to the lookout in Laidley known as Cunningham’s Crest. This is the spot where explorer Allan Cunningham stood in 1829 and surveyed the land stretching out below and naming it “Laidley Plains”. There is a display of artwork and writings on the staircase leading up to the lookout platform. The display illustrates the indigenous background to the area and the stages of subsequent European settlement.
Next day we left Lake Dyer and headed off home making a slight detour to Bigriggen Park beside the Logan River (more like a creek here), south of Beaudesert near Rathdowney , for a two day camp with some friends from Centenary UC. Along the way we stopped off at the Scenic Rim Brewery at Mt Alford. A great lunch stop looking out over the mountains and farm land on our way to Bigriggen.
The Cobb & Co Trail has been a great way of seeing and learning something about the places near to home. We generally travel a long way to see our country but this trip has shown there is plenty to see and do on our doorstep. We are going to do more of this!
PS We have been home for a few days, well before all this rain started.
Have been in an internet black hole and have now returned to the task. We had an interesting morning in Gatton. It is the ‘capital’ of the Lockyer Valley, although Laidley is I think ‘nicer’! There are around 8500 people in this regional centre, providing services to the surrounding farms and grazing properties. A sign of the times is the local ANZ Bank branch, closed on Wednesdays and only open in the morning on the other weekdays. The NAB branch is full service as is the Heritage Bank, didn’t see the other banks. The main street though is quite busy, a few cafes, the pub and restaurants battling the COVID restrictions.
Dropped into the regional Cultural and Visitors Centre for a look at the Legends Wall, photos and stories of the legends of the Lockyer Valley. Quite an impressive line up of locals who have made it in the limelight. Andy Bichel, Qld and Australian fast bowler was a local Laidley lad. The only other character I recognised was Bill Gunn, the local member and a minister in the Joh Governments of the 70s and 80s. There is also an ANZAC Wall, with some of the local soldiers and their deeds highlighted. The visitors part of the Centre was being done up for the post COVID world, so no coffee available! Steered clear of the Art Gallery. Not far from the Centre is the Lights on the Hill Trucking Memorial to truck and coach drivers who have died while on the job. The memorial also recognises the work the truckies do in keeping the country connected. Quite an impressive symbol.
Back in the centre of town there are the usual murals which seem to be cropping up in most of our regional towns. Spent a while trying to find one in particular and finally worked out in was now invisible, on the wall of a building that had been demolished to make way for a park. A bit frustrating walking up and down this street looking for it! It was a mural depicting a local maths teacher who had spent 49 years teaching at Lockyer District High, now he deserved to be on that Legends Wall.
After the murals it was off to lunch, jAK & MO. Only small, but a very tasty lunch. Althego had a Greek seasoned chicken salad in a pita bread, looked a bit like an open oyster shell. Homealone devoured some Mexican soft shell tacos. All made with local produce it is claimed. Washed down with a blue lemonade from Crows Nest soft drinks. We had seen this factory in Crows Nest when were camping in the National Park. One of the few family owned soft drink factories left. Can thoroughly recommend this spot in the main street.
On our way back to Lake Dyer we stopped off to see the towns War Memorial and gardens, very picturesque spot, there is a weeping mother atop the memorial. Also the usual gun on display, maybe captured in some foreign battlefield and donated to Gatton after WW11. We now aim to complete the Cobb & Co Trail before heading home. This will take us down towards Ipswich.
Lockyer and Lake Dyer
We are now in the heart of the Lockyer Valley, a kilometre or so from Laidley, staying at Lake Dyer. It is a very pleasant place overlooking the dam. To think we might have been checking out the backpackers in Gatton does not bear thinking about. We have decided to stay four nights, the fourth night here is free for grey nomads, so that averages down the nightly camp costs.
While here the weather has been a bit variable, some clear sunny days, others overcast. One evening a storm blew in from the west sending the sky an inky black. Fortunately it did not come to much, only a bit of moderate rain, passing to the south and heading for Brisbane we suspected.
Have taken the opportunity to look around the Laidley township. Had a light breakfast and a coffee in the Community ‘Grounds’ Coffee shop. Run by a local not for profit community group. Prices a bit cheaper maybe than the other eating places in town, don’t know what they think about it? We were in Laidley two or three years ago for the spring festival. That was quite an event. A few sculptures occupy the shopping mall area. Not much changes in these small rural villages to the west of Brisbane. The population seems to be building though as there are a number of sub divisions occurring and people moving here to escape the rat race, or starting out in the housing race. The properties being more affordable than those closer to Brisbane. Blocks of land bigger too.
Allthego has received a number of advices from readers that the mystery crop in the last blog post was in fact Sorghum. No dissenters either suggesting it was something else! Thank you! So all good. We are heading off to Gatton next.
Into the Lockyer
We have now moved on from Murphey’s Creek Escape and into the Lockyer Valley proper. The trail takes us through Grantham, another town badly affected by the 2011 flood, to Gatton.
Originally, we had intended to stay in Gatton for a couple of nights. One look at the only caravan park turned us off this idea immediately, unfortunately a terrible place! Set up for numerous permanents and backpackers as lodgings for seasonal farm workers. Grey nomads and touring types should avoid. So we headed a little further along the trail, passing through Forrest Hill, for Laidley and the camping ground at nearby Lake Dyer. This turned out to be an ideal base and we have stayed here 4 nights in very pleasant surrounds overlooking the dam.
The following day we back tracked through Forrest Hill, stopping for a while to check out the small village. Very nice old pub has been restored to its former glory and opposite is a well manicured lawn area, war memorial and Cobb & Co Staging Post marker. The old Cobb & Co route passed about 5 km south of the town.
Further back towards Gatton we called in at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus, formerly the Queensland Agricultural College. Drove round and round and finally found the 1896 Foundation Building of the College. A grand old complex now used as a function centre. The Avenue of Palms is also nearby and this is where the students seem to hang out.
Decided to leave Gatton township to another day and returned to Lake Dyer for the afternoon by the Lake. Passed by a crop near Forrest Hill, don’t know what it is. Maybe a reader can satisfy our curiosity?
Murphy’s Creek Escape
We have made it down the Range from Toowoomba to Murphy’s Creek, via Spring Bluff. Stopped in at Spring Bluff for a quick look. The train station and surrounds were being prepared for the Carnival of Flowers and were not as colourful as usual. Still looked pretty and well cared for, a credit to the committee that looks after this historic little station on the Toowoomba line.
Murphy’s Creek township is a short distance further down the Range and our campsite is about 4 km on the other side of town, down a gravel road for a further 3 or so km. It sits on the banks of Murphy’s Creek, The Murphy’s Creek area was decimated in the floods of 2011, a few people perished in the torrents of water that came down the range through the town. The camp ground used to have a grassed area beside the creek, but it and the access road were washed away, it has not been replaced. The current grounds are further up the hill away from the creek. There are quite a few campers and vans in residence, it is Saturday and people are obviously out and about. The creek is presently bone dry as we look across it from our site. Very attractive camp ground with plenty of room. An eco billabong pool has been installed, complete with resident fish. Allthego has had a couple of plunges, the weather is quite warm and humid, and the water is pleasantly cool. Some of the little fish nibble your back and legs, slightly off putting until you get used to it.
While here we have tripped down to Helidon, famous for it’s sandstone. It also used to be a spa town and produced bottled mineral waters, but this has long closed. Coming back we stopped for lunch at the German Bake & Wurst House in Postman’s Ridge Road. A very tasty pork sausage and cheese kransky were enjoyed in the bushland setting. Highly recommended!
Have also back tracked to Murphy’s Creek township for a look around. Not a lot here apart from the local tavern and school, people have rebuilt on a hillside estate well above the flood line! Some nice houses among the trees. We called in at Jessie’s house built in 1899. There were a number of these types of ‘kit’ homes built in the area in its days as a railway town. It did not have a ceiling and the interior walls were a little over head height. Several thousand workers lived at Murphy’s Creek in the 1860s during the construction of the Brisbane -Toowoomba rail line. It seems that Cobb & Co did not travel through Murphy’s Creek, the very talkative lady in Jessie’s House thought that their route probably lay further up the ridge line along the current day Postman’s Ridge Road.
Back at the campsite on Sunday people had departed and we were pretty much alone. The rainbow lorikeets. galahs and cockatoos though still come in for their nightly feed! We even had a solitary peacock join this mob.
We now head off for Gatton and Laidley in the Lockyer Valley.
We have now moved on to Toowoomba, about 50km down the New England Highway from Crows Nest. We have stopped off here for a couple of days. Toowoomba is Australia’s largest inland city, in excess of 100,000 Queenslanders live here. So there is a lot to see. But our main objective is to start the Cobb & Co trail here and then head back towards Brisbane following its ‘original route’ which has been somewhat adjusted by the tourism people to fit in a few of the towns that now lie along its path. We are staying at the Jolly Swagman Caravan Park, a few blocks off the centre of town. A small park with reasonable sites, although a bit squeasy to get in. The ambience of our spot a little compromised by the dump point being directly behind us. Thankfully, most did their dump early morning and it didn’t disturb our breakfast. Although one chap chatted with us on and on, a verbal ‘dump’ if you like, about all sorts of stuff before finally dumping his ‘stuff’ and moving off.
The Information Centre recommended that we take a mini coach tourist drive around town to get the general lie of the land. This we did, 5 of us all up enjoyed a two hour journey around the eastern side of the town which took in the lookouts towards Brisbane and the numerous rather expensive large homes being constructed on the range looking east and also west over the town. Several million dollars each. Also wandered around the now suburb of Drayton, the original area settled in the 1840s. Had a brief stop at the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Qld. Our driver was a mine of information and we finished the trip just so much wiser about most things Toowoomba! Seriously, he was quite entertaining.
Following this expedition it was off for a feed. We were encouraged to frequent a few different eateries by the lady at the Information Centre and settled on Sofra, Turkish. Rather excellent lunch and can thoroughly recommend. Mountains of great food at reasonable prices. After lunch we then wandered around the centre of town looking at some of the street art. Plenty of it, varying in quality we thought. But it did liven up some of the lane ways. Started to get a bit weary so we headed back to the Jolly Swagman to recuperate and prepare for the following day.
We had made our necessary booking, for COVID reasons, at the Cobb & Co Museum, for 9.30 am. It was not crowded. Safety in numbers does not apply in these days of COVID. There is another old saying gone! Anyway, it was a great display of old Cobb & Co coaches, buggies and other horse drawn transport of the 19th and early 20th century. We had a bit of a chat with the head of the National Carriage Factory located in the complex. He was one of those now rare craftsman who works in wood. No power tools. Just those old planes, rasps, hand drills, calipers, set squares. hand saws , chisels etc from days gone by. His main project at that moment was restoring/rebuilding an early 1900s buggy that had been found in a creek bed near Oakey. Not much was left, just the iron work and a few timber pieces. He was rebuilding it from the ground up based on other carriages of the day. No plans. Steel rimmed wooden wheels and all. Very interesting stuff, he was four months into it! A Roman exhibition from the Queensland Museum was also on show, some interesting pieces illustrating their engineering prowess, road building, bridges, aqueducts etc.
Time flew and our 3 hours expired in time for lunch. Fortunately, a spud van was in the car park and we indulged in a smashed baked potato with mince (Homealone) and ham (Allthego), sour cream, cheese, chives and coleslaw. Very tasty but filling, so it was off for a walk around Queens Park to work it off; also took in Laurel Bank Park on the other side of town. The parks were preparing for the Carnival of Flowers in September so many of the beds were fallow awaiting planting. A few of the summer displays were coming to a close, but the gardens were still quite special.
Before heading back to the Jolly Swagman we stopped in at the Four Brothers Brewery, a craft brewer located in the old Dairy Factory. Enjoyed an ale, they seem to have a liking for some fruity type beers, as well as standard lagers and bitters. Didn’t care much for the fruity styles, the lager was quite good, the bitter a bit bitter for Allthego’s taste.
We now head down the Range in the morning to continue along the Cobb & Co Trail to Murphy’s Creek. Not before though putting a booking on our site for Carnival of Flowers in September, includes a food weekend as well. It is something that we have talked about doing but never got around to!
Just a little bit further along this track
As was mentioned in the previous post we had come to the Crows Nest NP not just to sit around in the sun, but to also do a walk or two to stretch the legs. So, after our first night in the park we rose at the crack of dawn and set off for a walk at 8am. To get away at this time we had to skip the morning shower and managed with a piece of toast for breaky. It was going to be a hot day so we packed a flask of water and set off.
The 2 km return walk to the ‘pools’ was attractive. It was a gentle start but not long into it various steps were encountered, not only on the main track but also on the sides down to the creek. The area has not had much rain since January and the stream was not flowing, some stagnant pools trapped by boulders. Certainly no swimming or lounging around in cool shallows.
We completed the ‘pools’ track and decided to continue on to the Falls Lookout. The creek here plunged over a cliff line into a deep pool below. No water though was making the plunge. Dry as a bone. Coming back to the main track we decided to continue on a further 900 metres to the Koonin Lookout. This section of track was considerably more demanding than the one we had just completed, mostly steadily uphill, with numerous steps until we reached the ridgeline looking down the gorge valley. Quite spectacular rugged wilderness. After some recovery time and admiring the view we turned around for the return trip. It was downhill mostly this time! Steps were a little tougher on the knees. Then a long uphill section to the day use car park where it all started.
All up we had completed 6.4 km, hot and sweaty, and arrived back at camp a little before 11am. A bit more than the 2 km we had set out to do. All our water had gone and glass of cold water was most welcome. After a sit down and cool off it was into the shower and a freshen up to face the afternoon sitting around recovering. Not a lot was done. Spotted a large goanna sauntering around the camp and a number of Kookaburras in residence. Late in the day a storm seemed to be brewing with great billowing clouds coming up the escarpment from the east. Nothing came of them, but they looked quite impressive.
We head off now for a few days in Toowoomba.
Beyond the Bunyas
We have now headed south back towards Toowoomba. Initially, we had aimed for the small township of Bell on the western side of the Bunya Mountains. Bell is on the road between Kingaroy and Dalby. Allthego thought it wise to check whether there was a dump point in Bell. These are quite important places to identify otherwise one needs to dig a hole in the bush somewhere to ‘dump’ the contents of one’s toilet cassette. There was no dump point in Bell. Just had to update my dear readers on this because we ended up in Jandowie not Bell. Yes, there was a dump point in Jandowie, it is around 80 km further west than we would have liked. Nice little town on the Southern Downs. We stayed at the town’s showgrounds/racecourse, economical spot and we had it largely to ourselves.
Except, for one particular chap who insisted on telling us about his ‘journey from Perth’. Had left Perth in 2014, rented the house out, and was travelling the country. Had his old V8 Falcon pulling an aging van, and swore by both being the ideal option. Fair bit of rev head talk and life on the road stuff. He seemed a little under the weather and kept repeating himself ad nauseum. Eventually wandered off to his van. Part of the challenge of road travel!
Plenty of agriculture and grazing around Jandowie. One of its claim to fame is that the Dingo fence starts nearby and there is a monument in town to the dingo and the fence. The fence stretches from here through to South Australia and we came across it on our West Australian trip a few years ago. There are plenty of Bottle trees in the landscape as well. A great big one spreads itself across a side street in the town.
After a pleasant night in the Showgrounds we headed off the next morning across country to Bell. We intended to have lunch there. Along the way we stopped off where the Dingo fence starts on its 5,400km run to South Australia. There is a tourist drive that follows the fence for around a 100 km as it heads west before turning southwest on its journey to South Australia. Another time, maybe.
Bell is a small village on the slopes of the Bunyas. Not a lot seems to happen in Bell. One of its major attractions is the small RC Church. It has developed a ‘Biblical Garden’ themed on the Stations of the Cross. Local artists have contributed various pieces; mosaics, wood carvings, metal work and pottery to illustrate the various stations. Plants from biblical times are supposed to be represented in the gardens. Quite impressive. The Church has its interior walls clothed in murals illustrating major turning points in the biblical journey, from Creation to the Cross. A bit ‘over the top’ and ‘in your face’ artistically we thought. It was like a modern day replacement for 18/19th century stain glass windows in European churches. Nonetheless, it was eye catching and thought provoking!
From Bell we made our way to Crows Nest NP where we were to stay two nights and attempt a couple of walks to the creek and lookout. Great little camping ground, 13 spots for tents, trailer campers and small vans (we qualify). We enjoyed our pork, bacon and maple syrup sausages on the BBQ as the sun set and lit up the late afternoon sky. It is quite warm and humid. We are heading off on the walk early in the cool of the morning, a couple of kilometres there and back.
It is a while since we were on the road and the call of western Queensland has come. Not too far west just out up along the Brisbane Valley to Kingaroy, peanut capital of Australia. Sir Joh lived not far from here, don’t you worry about that! We will then make our way back via Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley to Brisbane.
Kingaroy is about a 3 hour drive with the van behind. The trip takes us west along the Ipswich Motorway, Warrego Hwy and then north along the Brisbane Valley Hwy to Esk. Before getting there we stopped for lunch at the famous Old Fernvale Bakery, enormous chicken and salad roll and sandwich. Acquired some country fresh Easter buns for snacks. Back in the car we passed through Esk, Blackbutt (birthplace of Roy Emerson, great Australian tennis player in 1950/60s) and Yarraman.
The lure of Kingaroy was to spend some time in a local vineyard. They offer free camping out the back with the temptation of wood fired pizzas for lunch and a wine tasting at the cellar door. We are here for two nights. First up the next morning was a trip into town to learn about peanuts. There is a lot we didn’t know about peanuts. Learnt all about them at the Heritage Museum. From planting, growing, harvesting, processing and marketing, all steps were covered. From how it was done in the 1950/60s compared to how it is done today. We were guided through the 30 minute video presentation by a chap who worked in the factory for 42 years. Started as a peanut bagging boy when he was sixteen and retired as the plant manager 42 years later! Not bad for stepping up the rungs of the ladder. The museum is also full of old peanut planting and harvesting equipment through the ages. We now know all about the strange little green plants in the fields around town.
Back at Kingsley Estate Vineyards we enjoyed our pizza for lunch, along with some ‘nice’ red. We can recommend dropping in here when next in Kingaroy, even if you don’t stay out the back. A little later in the day it was out with the corn bags game in the paddock, where we introduced the game to some fellow travellers. Seemed to amuse them as it did us. Great talkers though.
After two nights in the vineyard we are now heading south towards Ipswich