East your heart out Don Bradman!
Tasmania might be small in size and population, but in the BIG THINGS department it definitely punches above its weight. I was unaware of this until I came across the BIG CRICKET STUMPS during a recent visit. Then, on my return home, a Spirit of Tasmania newsletter revealed the treasure trove of other BIG THINGS around which they have created a tour route. There’s the obligatory BIG APPLE, at Spreyton, near Devonport. Then there are the Big Trout, Penguin, Tassie Devil, Platypus, Potato, Lobster, Coffee Pot, Cherry and Raspberry. And, at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, the Big Slide Rule. But my favourite (apart from the Cricket Stumps for personal reasons), is the BIG THUMBS UP at Scottsdale
I came across the Cricket Stumps in Westbury, in the bucolic Meander Valley, just south of “Launnie” on the Bass Highway. The stumps are among Westbury’s drawcards – along with The Maze and Pearns Steam World – and the delightful township itself. The Stumps stand eight metres high, and three metres across, and commemorate the legendary Jack Badcock, a former wearer of the Baggy Green and the first Tasmanian to make a century for Australia in the 1937 clash against England. Commemorating Jack Badcock, and other significant figures from the town’s formative years, is the finely sculptured metal Westbury Silhouette Trail.
Metal silhouettes marking the histories of cricketer Jack Badcock; Father James Hogan; ; and wood carver Ellen Nora Payne.
Others joining the esteemed ranks include Father James Hogan, 1825-1899, Westbury’s first resident priest and a renowned horseman who served his community for 50 years and was revered by all denominations. Ellen Nora Payne, 1865-1962 , was a wood carver whose work can be found in prestigious institutions all over Australia and Britain. Some of her finest examples rest in St Andrew’s Anglican Church outside which her commemorative silhouette stands. And Sir Walter Lee, a wheelwright and local lay preacher who was three times Premier of Tasmania and a Knight of the Realm.
In the six years since I was in Tassie the migration from the mainland has gathered steam. In quaint Westbury my BnB proprietor had escaped the heat of Central Queensland, while another new business owner had moved from New South Wales. Westbury is typical of Meander Valley villages with original shops and houses. It exudes the feel of an English hamlet, with its own village green and town common, and a strong presence of imposing solid, century-plus churches. The town was surveyed in 1823 with early plans by Governor Arthur for it to be a major north-western Tasmania centre. Troops were stationed around the Village Green and free men, women and convicts moved in. Governor Arthur’s big plans failed to materialise and nearby Deloraine prospered instead.
The family-run Green Door Restaurant, and its courtyard; substantial old trees frame the town common.
Westbury has the charm essential for a developing tourist magnet. I settled comfortably for a weeklong stay in my Gingerbread Cottage BnB (the second “B” an optional element in the accommodation package) and enjoyed the hospitality of the newly renovated Green Door Cafe, Restaurant and Apothecary’s with its gracious indoor dining areas and spacious courtyard. A genuine family affair, Green Door proprietors have long-term plans for an ambitious enterprise that will cover paddock-to-plate dining, cooking and herbal remedy classes and takeaway picnic baskets. Hard working family members combine the skills of a horticulturist, a professional pastry and sweets chef, a trained barista and an accomplished cook.
Apple Tree Cottage and Gingerbread Cottage BnB in William Street; the sought-after dairy products from the Meander Valley’s contented cows.
Motoring around the (usually green) Meander Valley caps off the magic of this region. Sadly, I was there at the tail end of the hot, dry summer with bushfires burning above in the Central Highlands. A planned trip to the Liffey Falls had to be abandoned because of roads closed by the densely billowing smoke obliterating the afternoon sun.
Bushfires in the Central Highlands billow behind the Meander Valley.
Clouds of smoke blacken the afternoon sky; from Deloraine; getting close.