Monthly Archives: September 2021

CHANGE OF PACE

Time for a change of pace and get away from the flowers, or at least try to. Everyman and his dog (is that politically correct these days?) seems to be participating in the festival atmosphere by planting a few annuals, putting up banners etc. So we have gone off to a few places where the flowers are not the main action. The journey took us out to Drayton on Toowoomba’s south western flank. This was where settlement first took place in the late 1840s, later moving a bit further east to present day Toowoomba.

Drayton is where Toowoomba’s big sprawling cemetery is located, established in 1864. Quite an expanse of grave stones and lawn cemetery, plaques etc. There is quite an attractive section with gardens and a water feature. Probably the best spot to be for the long haul! We had a little bit of a drive around, up and down the grave lane ways. Doing the guided historical stroll searching for past icons and other famous types did not appeal. There is a night time tour that might be a bit more interesting, focuses on the macabre deaths!

After a while we moved on to the DownsSteam tourist railway and museum. This is a very active restoration group. They are nearing completion of their major project, the restoration of a C16 steam locomotive that was originally built in Toowoomba in 1914. It is the only remaining one of its type. To be known as the ‘Pride of Toowoomba’. The project should be completed in the first half of 2022 at which time plans are afoot to run locomotive trips out to Warwick, then south to Stanthorpe and Wallangarra on the border with NSW. From Warwick there is the ability to go further west to Goondiwindi. They have a good set up at Drayton in yards beside and access to the main line. The steam train has apparently passed most of its operating tests, regulatory and safety hoops and hurdles are the next challenges. They also have six or maybe seven stainless steel carriages being prepared for the trips.

The workshops also have their flower beds in bloom. They say they ‘compete’ with Spring Bluff to see who can do the best layout. There is an old photo reproduction of an oil painting of a steam train coming through Spring Bluff Station, it would have been a quite impressive sight chugging up the steep incline.

Time for a little more history at the National Trust property the Royal Bull’s Head Inn. It has been slowly restored to its mid to late 19th century glory. It was established by an ex convict in 1847 as stopover point on the journey from Moreton Bay to the Darling Downs. There were lodgings, stables for animals and rooms for social occasions in the town. The double story Inn would have been quite a sight along the dusty roads. There is a rickety old kitchen set up attached to the back of the building that would have provided meals and snacks to patrons. Although closed for inspection we managed to get a quick look through the building as a guide was there preparing for a late afternoon tour group and she let us wander around. Of course there were also a few gardens in bloom just to be part of the Festival action.

We managed to get in another lunch at Gips restaurant. They were putting on a festival special which Allthego couldn’t resist, a pastrami sandwich. Traditionally, pastrami sandwiches are made with rye bread, but these days anything seems to go so long as it is a tasty artisan type bread. The chef at Gips used some Turkish bread and it was very tasty! Homealone passed on the sandwich and had some whiting filets with chips.

We now head to Crows Nest NP, it is about 50km north of Toowoomba, for a couple of days. We are going to return to Toowoomba from there for the festival’s Grand Central Floral Parade. An iconic event and a bit of a highlight for the locals. One hundred thousand people are supposed to line the streets and fill the parks.

YET MORE FLOWER BEDS

We are away again on the trail of flower beds and gardens. But first an interlude. We have been the victim of a clothes line heist. Yes, Homealone has done a wash and hung things out to dry and low and behold someone has snatched items from the line! Never before has this happened to us. What has gone? Two towels. They could have taken the old stretched underwear, but no it was the two towels that we have had for nearly ten years! Lucky we have two spares on board. Homealone was ‘generous’ and thought it might have been a husband who was a bit confused and sort of grabbed them from the line as they were leaving the park thinking they were theirs! Argh, argh!!!

Back to the gardens.

First stop off was at the Boyce Gardens. This is an old property gifted to the University of Queensland by the Boyce’s who lived here for 60 years or so. It is a great property. Toowoomba by the way is a big bowl. The city CBD and commercial area sit in the bottom and the residential areas are on the fringes and ridges that surround the bowl. The Boyce Gardens look down into the bowl from the eastern side of town. It is a great rambling sort of place, order within disorder!

A change of pace then took us to Newtown Park on the western side of the city. Here lies the Queensland State Rose Garden. Newtown Park has been around for a long time dating back to pre WW1 days and hosting all sorts of community activities ever since. The plaques that abound tell all sorts of tales of the human adventures that took place in the park. World War mobilizations, community halls and activities, dances, croquet, horses etc. But these days it seems roses are the main go. Now roses are funny things and they just do not fit the timing of the Toowoomba Festival of Flowers! We had a little chat with a lady who seemed to be involved with the Garden, her line was ‘ we are all volunteers you know’. She gave us a brochure and explained that the roses were due to bloom October, not September! But we still had a walk around and there were a few blooms out, there are always early bloomers.

Third stop for the day was at Laurel Bank Park, back in the city. The gardens here were in great form. They had a dinosaur theme running through them. Many of the beds had ‘hidden’ dinosaurs in them that could only be seen when looking down from above. There is a stand in the park that allows you to get up a few metres and look down into the garden beds. Some pretty clever gardeners involved in this! The Loch Ness monster was even there peering out from under some flowers.

Pictures tell a story in a way words cannot. The Toowoomba Parks have been just so good! Excellent even!

Allthego has been having some teething problems with the blog. We have to work with some new design software. Why do things have to change! Photo inserts are a particular learning curve and some gremlins are causing some inconsistencies in the post layouts. Hopefully I will get on top of this shortly! I am told by the system that I need to do some tutorials on the new software. Mmmmmm. I have done lots of tutorials over the years and am getting past them!

More flower beds to come!

MORE FLOWER BEDS

The flower beds call and we are off to Spring Bluff Railway Station to check out their floral display. Spring Bluff is a heritage listed railway station on the Brisbane -Toowoomba line. It was a key stop for steam engines as they climbed up the Toowoomba Range. The line is now mostly a freight line and there are few passenger services, none stop at Spring Bluff. A very colorful display indeed.

This journey is not only about flowers, it is also a food and wine festival experience, and there is much promotion of local food establishments and regional produce. A number of country pubs in nearby towns are being promoted for an eat out. After strolling around Spring Bluff we headed off to Meringandan, a small town about 25 km north of Toowoomba. There is a country pub here owned by Geoff Murphy. This fellow played lock for the North Sydney Bears back in the mid 70s. Very popular place and the bar is adorned with a collection of NRL team logos.

It was quite appropriate that the Parramatta Eels were placed side by side on the wall with the Newcastle Knights, we had just beaten these characters in the race to the grand final. Anyway the food here was just great. Enormous meals, great steaks. Homealone called for a doggy bag and we took half her Parmie back to the van for later consumption. We had some soup for dinner and retired to bed very satisfied.

Queens Park was next on the list. This Park is a dominant land mark in Toowoomba. It has its origins in the mid 1870s with the establishment of the botanical gardens. Adjacent to this is a great area of rambling parkland and playing fields. A great display of spring blooms were on show. It is hard to describe. Bed after bed of flowering plants that are in full bloom. People everywhere examining the plantings. A few selfie takers among the flowers as well.

We are getting into the habit of finishing off the garden bed touring around lunchtime and heading off somewhere for a snack before returning to the van to put our feet up for the afternoon. A good number of the food establishments have a special menu item to promote the Carnival, We thought we should support some of them. So it was off to Urban Grounds where we had some ‘salmon, citrus and caper croquettes’; with a nice little green avocado and grilled lemon salad. Very tasty and a fitting end to the mornings activities!

More flower beds to come!

ESCAPE FROM BRISBANE

The van has finally been fixed and we are on the road again. Only 4 months to fix the broken suspension, delay in getting parts. COVID probably contributed too! For the last couple of weeks we have been sweating on the daily Queensland COVID announcements and case numbers. Would our dear leader call a ‘short sharp lockdown’ to quell an outbreak and thereby prevent us from getting to Toowoomba to smell the flowers at the 2021 Carnival of Flowers and Food Festival? No, she didn’t and so here we are in Toowoomba among the free for a bit over a week. Escaped.

We are staying in the Jolly Swagman Caravan Park which is pretty well located for an urban experience, not the greatest ambience but it is clean and well maintained. No fires! Been here before, so it is familiar. The weather is also good, clear sunny skies are forecast for the week, the air is crisp in the mornings and it gets a little chilly at night.

The Carnival is an iconic Queensland event. It has been going for 72 years and is Australia’s longest running horticultural event. I’m not so sure about this as some of the capital city Easter shows have surely been going longer, perhaps they don’t fit the ‘horticultural’ category? This year the Festival has been expanded to take up the entire month of September.

Anyway, we have come up the mountain to have a look at some of the public spaces and private gardens that are on show and also check out the food and wine part of things. After checking into the Jolly Swagman and some lunch the first stop was at Picnic Point which is at the top of the Range and looks back down over the coastal plain. Quite a view and some nicely laid out garden beds were in full bloom.

Saturday morning saw us at the Farmers Markets to stock up on some food items. Got caught at the organic pig farm butchery truck with what was some overpriced bacon and pork chops. It was then time to join the masses at the Food and Wine Festival in Queens Park for the afternoon and evening. There was all day entertainment on the big stage and numerous local food and vineyard outlets plying their fare. Quite a multicultural food offering. We settled for some pulled lamb burgers and a bit later a grazing plate of cheese and assorted meats, a pizza and a little wine to top it off. Listened in the sun under an umbrella to about 8 hours of music of variable quality.

The highlight act was two old rockers. Brian Cadd and Russell Morris. Both pushing into their 70s. Quite a show, both were probably a little past their best but they were still entertaining and sang some of their old hits. Brian Cadd was into ‘Ginger Man’, ‘A Little Ray of Sunshine’ (which he says he sings to his 5 grand children), ‘Arkansas Grass’, ‘Don’t You Know It’s Magic’ and others. Russell Morris belted out ‘Wings of an Eagle’, ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’ and ‘The Real Thing’. Plenty of old age gags and banter. I seemed to remember most of the songs so I probably also qualify for the age group.

Sunday saw us off to the University of Southern Queensland to check out their Japanese Garden. The cherry blossoms were out in full force. Nice little walk around the lake, quite a calming spot. Back to the van for lunch and the afternoon with legs up before Allthego ventured to the Federal Hotel, nearby the Jolly Swagman, to watch the Parramatta Eels clean up the Newcastle Knights. Homealone remained at the van and did some craft.

More flower beds to come!