Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fit for a King

Sometimes you walk into a café, and it fits. You know, like coming home.
That’s how I felt when I first visited the newly opened King Henry Arts Café on the mountain.

I’ve been a regular there ever since.

Built in 1902, the old cottage interior has been tastefully renovated inside and out.

Delightful old furnishings grace the interior.

 A cosy table for two - lucky number 13

 The man himself, HRH…

The ambience is warm and welcoming, and the cottage wears its antiques well.

There is even a stunning four poster bed in a room off the front entrance that would make anyone feel like a royal sleeping in it, I’m sure.

Outside on the wide, wooden deck, comfortable bench seating overlooks peaceful gardens.

A path lined with graceful, lush tree ferns that winds its way down into a secretive forest gully to a shaded winter creek hidden below tall trees.

One can almost expect a lyrebird, echidna or wallaby to pass by at any moment.
And, if you sit awhile, you might be rewarded for your patience.

The grounds are a wonderful place to explore and delight in sights, sounds, scents and textures.

Venture across the bridge to a magical, forested world...

Even esteemed four legged visitors have a stately font to drink from.

Back at the café, the large open corner window offers an enticing glimpse into the “engine room” filled with gleaming wares and machines at the ready for brewing that perfect cup of choice.

The friendly staff are there to greet and seat with a chilled glass of water while viewing the menu for breakfast, lunch, Devonshire tea or coffee and cake.

To me, the test of a good coffee is a flat white - no sugar.
If a well made coffee has correctly heated milk, then it’s sweet enough. Taste the full bodied flavours – without the sugar mask.
That goes for espresso too. There should be a hint of caramel, but never be “bitter”.
At King Henry, the head barista is always on point.  She knows coffee.  Has an affinity with it and builds a great coffee.  Fresh roast, grind and milk.  Correct dose.  Never burnt/bitter.  Never cold.  Just right.  Consistently.

And, when a barista samples their brews throughout the day, you know you’re in good hands.  Always something to look forward to.

On Saturday, hubby and I decided to drop by for breakfast.

I drew a sigh of contentment as I sat in now familiar surrounds on the deck.
Cradling our kick starter coffees, we relished the still cool, crisp mountain air - a welcome morning respite before the heat of the day.
We enjoyed a well prepared, cooked and served breakfast.  Each mouthful was savoured.

The old saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.

Well, we dined like a king - and queen - and were comfortably replete for the rest of the day.

We really are fortunate to have wonderful places such as this so near to home.
A restful haven to sit a while, replenish the senses and recharge the batteries.

I hope this café does well and draws visitors from near and far. A royal reward for all of the hard work and passion which the owners, and staff, have devoted to it.

Long live the King!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Dirty Harry

Meet Harry the Hare.

The first time you saw him, he was sewn but still, flat and lifeless, waiting for me to fill him with puffy soft clouds.

As I padded him, bit by fluffy bit, he came alive in my hands.

His long ears were wired, coloured and jauntily placed.
I used warm wooden buttons for his moveable joints.
And, I gave him a soft little cotton tail.

At 97cms (38 inches) from toes to tips of his ears, he sat comfortably upon my knee as I sewed for him a final flourish of fluttery lashes.
His character was complete.

Or, so I thought.

Late one night, while I slept, Harry snuck outside.

In the morning, I awoke to find him sitting on my studio table - just as I’d left him the night before.
But, as I entered the room, I gasped at his appearance.
He stared at me, as I stared at him - damp, dishevelled, dirty and... defiant.
“Well, haven’t you had quite the time, good sir”.

By the look of him, he’d traipsed through muddy puddles as he explored the big wide world of tall, tall trees and thick forest floor under the cover of darkness.
Creatures of the night must have looked upon this strange and unusual being with their large, round eyes wide in wonder, and suspicion, as he passed them by.

He'd nearly got the stuffing knocked out of him - from racing past sharp brambles, tumbling over slippery logs and sliding down mossy banks, no doubt.
I had to hurriedly stitch his torn seams and patch him up to make him better again.

And he is.

Although now, I think he has an air of shabby worldliness that he didn’t have before, with his ever so distressed countenance and a kind of knowing in his eyes.

Seeing as Harry is a curious hare - and to discourage him from wandering about on his own - I’ve decided that, if he behaves, he can come out with us sometimes.

So, keep a lookout for him - you never know when he’ll appear in photos on future posts...


Monday, 26 January 2015

The town that gold built

Hubby and I had been planning a road trip to a historical gold mining town situated at the base of a deep valley in Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland region, for quite some time.
As we were coming up to a long weekend, we decided to make the trip on Saturday.

First, I had to make sure our son would be home to look after Jack. A long drive on a warm day in a stuffy car to unfamiliar places, where a lot of walking would be required, is too much for his dear old self these days. He spends much of his time sleeping on our bed - in between cuddles, treats and toilet breaks outside to bark at unseen strangers.
He much prefers to stick to a daily routine walk in his favourite park, where he can sniff his way around his usual route safely.
Just like on market days, he is comfortable at home as he awaits our return.

We set out early for the two hour drive to Walhalla - named from Norse mythology, “The Valley of the Gods”.

The deeply forested road twisted and turned back on itself for miles.
A short distance from the town, we stopped at the Thomson River Bridge.

As I stared down into the beautiful, wild river, I realised that the little telltale rippling wake of water I watched in the distance was not a fish, nor a duck, but a platypus. I could just make out the occasional sideways action and its rudder like paddle tail as it made a bee-line for a little burrow among a tangle of tree roots on the riverbank, returning home for the day after an early morning forage for breakfast.
This is indeed the perfect environment for these most elusive, secretive creatures.
Sadly, my small camera lacks any decent zoom, and there would be nothing distinguishable in the walnut brown water anyway. One day, I’ll be in the right place at the right time for a good photo.
But, it was exciting nonetheless.

A little farther on, we drove into Walhalla.

When gold was discovered in the small, remote valley in 1862, a town quickly grew, flourished and became home to over 4000 residents in the boom of 1863 - 1900.
During that period, over 70 tonnes of gold was mined, making it one of the most prolific gold producing towns in Australia.
Amid the hardships of living, the community thrived, for a time.

Transport was by horse only. There was the need for a railway.  But, by the time the train finally arrived in 1910, it was too late.
Gold yields had dropped dramatically. Major mines were closed, and by 1914, Walhalla was all but abandoned - until the 1980's.
Today, there are just twelve permanent residents who live in, and care for, this peaceful, pretty place.

Interestingly, Walhalla became the last mainland town in Australia to be connected to a reticulated electricity supply in December 1998.

Here, Down Under, it is the middle of summer, so I was pleasantly surprised at the still grey sky and definite cool, crisp nip in the clean mountain air.

Just 40 kms (24 miles) away, is one of Australia’s (few) winter snow fields - Mt Baw Baw, which is on the southern edge of Australia’s Alps and the High Country beyond.

Heritage stories abound about the struggle of settlers determined to carve out a life for themselves and their families in these rugged, inhospitable, densely treed mountains.


Where sure footed brumbies (wild horses) roamed the area for nearly two centuries.

Tales of bushrangers, hiding out in remote caves and canyons in their attempts to evade the law, are told around campfires.

Cattlemens' tin huts sit rusting in small clearings - many are preserved living history, and today, they are essential shelter for alpine adventurers.

Novels and movies weave narratives around this historical bygone era.

We arrived to a town still asleep.

None of the quaint little shops were open.

Coffee was yet to be brewed.

There's always time to stop and smell the roses.

No residents were about and, as yet, there were very few other tourists - just as we like it :)
So peaceful was it, that I felt anything above a whisper would intrude on the almost eerie, muffled silence. And, in a valley such as this, any noise travels far.

As we walked the deserted street, I caught a glimpse of a man standing by the old fire station. His green shirt and dark blue pants discernible, yet somehow blurred.
I turned to face and greet him with a “good morning”, but, he was gone.
A trick of the morning light? A fanciful optical illusion? Or, something else…
The feeling that someone was watching me remained in the chilled air.

I can imagine what it must be like here in the dark of night.

The dead far outnumber the living in this historic village.
There is indeed a sense of spirit about the place - it is undeniable.
Ghosts of a ghost town.
Over one hundred and thirty years of human emotions held and absorbed by the forested mountain walls and deep within the very soil that contained the veins of gold they sought – and died for.

I felt enveloped by an ethereal veil as I stood staring into the road.

We walked on, quietly remarking on the buildings, pretty cottages and the crystal clear creek that bubbled alongside the main street as it wound its way out to the deep river.

Some of the cottage entrances had wooden bridges over the creek.

Stringer's Creek, where summery golden shadows reflect echoes of the past.

The old fire station.

Photo courtesy of hubby

Due to the lack of suitable flat ground, the building was built in 1901 straddling Stringer’s Creek, and is considered to be the most unusual fire station in the state.

Bank of Victoria Vault.  The bank was demolished after the mines closed, but the vault still remains, as a reminder of the vast cache of gold once stored therein.

The post and telegraph office.

Before the train arrived in 1910, all mail was delivered by horse drawn coach. Miss Doreen Hannan purchased, and continued to operate the post office until 1963. She lived there until her death in 1988.

Post office side garden.

 Where we each bought a delicious scoop of liquorice ice cream in a waffle cone.

 The dramatic, textural shale and slate which define the town.
Photo courtesy of hubby

 The quintessential outdoor dunny.

 A classic red telephone box. Rarely seen these days.

Pretty church in the bush.
Photo courtesy of hubby

 Extra, extra, read all about it at the Chronicle.

Nods to the mining days still remain...

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Mines from another time.


The old smithy looks just as it would have a century ago.

Texture and light - outside the smithy.

 From the town lookout.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Images of long ago show a once bustling mini metropolis.



 Geological Survey party leaving Walhalla for Mount Baw Baw, January 1904

Many of the buildings were torn down after the bust. Some were relocated. Others that burned in bush fires were rebuilt in keeping with the originals.
Luckily, some survived the fires unscathed and have been lovingly restored.

There is so much more to tell about this old town, but I couldn’t do it justice in a few words. To find out more about its history, you can read further here.

The dreamlike silence was soon broken as the town filled with more and more - what felt to me like irreverently loud - day trippers in a continual procession of four wheel drives. 

We sought out what we hoped would be the last refuge of peace in the now busy township - the Walhalla Cemetery.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

High up and hidden from the road, the cemetery is recognised as one of the most unique in Australia.
Legend has it that people were, “buried standing up”, as the ground was too steep for flat plots.
However, this is of course untrue.

Even in the crisp morning light, the permanent solitude lent a haunting, melancholy air on the wild unkempt hillside.

The terrain makes it difficult to maintain, and nature will have her way.

 A pine grows from the grave of a mother and child buried together.

It somehow seems right to let the dead sleep undisturbed by petrol driven mowers and grass trimmers - so jarring to the ear.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Individual stories of hardship, heartbreak, triumph and defeat are carved onto every monument.

Photo courtesy of hubby

An unusual wooden marker weathering gracefully.

In the peaceful morning between the graves, this young early bird got her worm.

Photo courtesy of hubby

Walhalla is truly a fascinating place, and we feel that not enough time was spent investigating it further. So, we have decided that sometime in the autumn, we will return - for an overnight stay in one of the old cottages.
My curiosity to find out what it would be like at night will be satisfied, I hope.

But then, you know what they say about curiosity...