Having collected our new campervan last month we were keen to try it out before heading off on our exploration of the British Coast. We decided to go for one night fairly locally to visit somewhere we had not been to before and to revisit an old favourite. Rufford Old Hall is situated in Lancashire, not the part I walked through earlier in the year, but west of the M6. It is now owned by the National Trust having been built in 1530 and owned by the Hesketh family until 1936.
Later wings were added in the 17th and early 19th centuries. We were there not long after it opened and on a week-day, it was quiet. So much so that the room guides jumped on us as soon as we entered a room and were keen to talk whereas I was happy to look around in peace. They had a number of items of furniture, ornaments and paintings etc which had belonged to the family and had been returned to the house. They also had a collection of antique maps of Lancashire including some by John Speed and Robert Morden. Photography inside is only permitted in the Great Hall which has a fabulous carved roof visible from a window in the first floor drawing-room.
Outside there is the garden and woodland to explore. Volunteers were tidying up after the recent gales and torrential rain. Celandines and violets were in flower and bluebell leaves emerging in the woodland so there should be a good display in a few weeks time. We were very thankful that the weather had improved and the nearby Rufford Branch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal was so still that the trees were reflected in it.
There is a cafe and a few shelves of pre-loved books but nothing I fancied. We spent the night in a nearby Britstop. This is a network of pubs and other places which once you have joined by buying the current year’s catalogue, allow you to park up for the night for free. We stopped at the Farmer’s Arms in Bispham and after enjoying a meal in the pub, settled down on a very misty and wet evening. The following day, the 20th March is the Spring Equinox and a super moon is supposed to be visible but the cloud made this look unpromising. The next morning was a pleasant surprise with clearing cloud and sun. Our destination was Martin Mere which is run by the Wildlife and Wetland Trust. We last visited several years ago in winter as many migrating birds stop off or stay here including 2000 Whooper Swans from Iceland. At this time of year they have all returned north. It is divided into two parts, one devoted to the nature reserve and the other houses endangered birds from around the world. In the nature reserve were many familiar birds including Mallard
a Black-Headed Gull
and a Shelduck Diving.
There were other geese, ducks and waterfowl in the distance. Some people had recently heard a bittern in the reeds. The last time we heard one was in 2003 on Barra but heard nothing today. There were so many other birds in the other half:
A red-Crowned Crane
Spring had indeed sprung as we had our first coffee sitting outside this year before heading home on a relatively quiet motorway for once.
Today was our last driving day of this trip. Before we left Wollongong, we decided to take a look at the lighthouses. It is the only place in eastern Australia to have two lighthouses in such close proximity. The oldest is the Breakwater Lighthouse in the old harbour. Construction began in 1871 and the light first shone in 1872. It was deactivated in 1974 and later restored as an historic building. It now at least provides a good fishing spot.
The second lighthouse was built in 1936 on Flagstaff Hill and was the first fully automatic lighthouse in Australia.
We then began our slow route to Sydney. First we drove along the Lawrence Hargreave Drive (B65). It continues up the coast through several small communities. There were several surfers hoping for better waves at Stanley’s Beach.
A little further north is Seacliff Bridge. It was opened in 2005 and built to avoid the constant landslides and rockfalls which beset the old road which ran right against the escarpment. There are car parks at both ends of the bridge (although those at the south end are a little nearer) and there is a footpath along the entire span. Today was brighter than yesterday but there was a lot of haze.
Today was the first time we have seen this sign
and people seemed to be respecting it as we did not see any padlocks. Someone has been painting letters on the piers but I could not see all the piers and the whole word.
Below us, a man in a small boat was putting lobster pots out. We had coffee at Stanwell Park which is the largest village on this section of the coast and has two cafes. Afterwards we stopped at the very busy Bald Hill Lookout which has views out to sea and down the coast and is very popular as a launching place for hang gliders.
We then drove through Royal National Park and had our lunch by the Hacking River in Audley. Several Purple Swamphens were eating on the bank.
Afterwards, the minor road joins Highway One, the Princes Highway and we followed this into the city, continuing on another road to avoid the motorway. We had to drop the hire car off at an office at the bottom end of Pitt St near Circular Quay. My navigation system suggested a route for the last few miles but major road works and ‘no right turn’ notices kept foiling us. Fortunately, the traffic was not too busy. After being re-directed several times we saw a police station and James was given a route which avoided all the problems and via a very small lane, got us to our destination. We thought that we would soon be installed in our hotel. Not so. As the car hire office is next to a hotel and taxi rank, it should have been an easy task to hail a cab and jump in for the short journey. Many of the taxis in Sydney run on gas and have a tank in the boot, reducing the space for luggage. As we have a fair pile after such a long trip the first guy refused to take us and there was a prolonged discussion between the drivers. I spotted an estate car across the road and when the drive appeared, asked if he would take us. He was reluctant as he was the last taxi to arrive at the rank but eventually was persuaded to take us. Today we only drove 92 miles and the final total for the whole trip is 11, 584. We now have a couple of days in Sydney to relax, see friends and get ready for our homeward flight where we will be planning our next journey.
We awoke to black skies and wet roads. Unfortunately as we left the city, the rain returned. I had decided to take James to Healesville Sanctuary to see some of the wildlife we had only had brief glimpses of on our trip so far. We arrived just before opening time and tried to spot animals and birds who were trying to stay dry. It was quite a contrast to my visit 14 years ago on a sunny day when emus came to the fence and the dingoes were lying on the rocks soaking up the rays. The emus were hiding as were the dingoes and there was no sign of the platypus.
On the way back towards Highway One with the Yarra Range in the clouds, we passed an appropriately named sideroad: Rainy Hill Road. After being in the city it was a pleasure to be back in the hills surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees. We stopped for coffee at Pakenham where a thunderstorm cut the electricity off in the café briefly. There is a secondhand book exchange in the shopping centre and I found a couple of books by one of the Duracks which were recommended by our friend in New South Wales. Interestingly the hotel here has a big sign outside saying that there are definitely no pokies here. A little further along the highway we stopped for lunch at Trafalgar. The train stops here and the old station house now houses a pop-up arts and crafts shop. It has been part of a state programme to re-use redundant railway buildings. It needed a bit more TLC though as grass was growing in the gutter. The next part of our journey was almost like home: a traffic jam due to roadworks on the road on a holiday weekend Friday afternoon. It did not delay us too long and we settled into our motel at Lakes Entrance before the forecast gales arrived later in the evening. It was still windy in the morning and all the water birds were sitting on the edge of the water as it was too rough to feed in it. From the lookouts it did not too rough.
The next morning we got back on the highway and stopped for coffee in the Bushaware Café in the General Store near Cabbage Tree Creek. The cicadas were deafening and speaking to the owner, I learnt that they only come for two weeks every year. There are 200 hundred species in Australia and the noise can reach 120 dB, enough to damage the human ear.
The sign was being repaired. 100km or so further on, we crossed the last state border on this trip and were back in New South Wales. At Eden, the Whale Festival was on and it was very busy. This part of the coast is known as the Sapphire Coast: this is the colour of the sea, nothing to do with the gemstone.
We continued on Highway 9 to Merimbula, where we met up with a friend and walked along the boardwalk at the edge of the water.
There were a number of birds: a Barn Owl with an injured eye, Black Swans and a Yellow Thornbill. The café was shut – in Australia they often shut in the afternoon.
We then visited Bournda National Park which has a walk to a cove,
And lots of kangaroos hanging out.
On Sunday morning we left and continued on the coast road from Tathla to Moggreeka inlet and after a drive uphill, to Cuttagee Beach on Barragga Bay.
We stopped at Bermagui for coffee and then re-joined Highway One towards Narooma. The road winds upwards in the forest and then down to Camel Rock Beach.
with the mountains behind.
The Highway then passes between Dromedary Mountain 806m on the left and Little Dromedary Mountain which is too low to have its height measured on my app. There are a number of small interesting towns on this coast. Mago, a gold mining town dating from 1850 there are a number of craft shops and cafes on the street and it was very busy. At Milton, there was a long queue of people waiting to get into the theatre to see Calendar Girls. Narooma has a lovely situation on the inlet. I could spend longer in them all. Before we arrived in Wollongong, we diverted to Jervis Bay to look at Hyams Beach which claims to be the whitest beach in the world.
At Shellharbour we took the quieter and slower B62 to our hotel as the Highway was very busy with people returning to Sydney. Our mileage over the last few days was 658 and our total before our last driving day is 11,492.
Last evening some bikers arrived at the motel with very noisy bikes. I had hoped that they would not be leaving too early in the morning and was relieved that it was 8am before they zoomed off. We returned to the Great Ocean Road, our first stop being at Cape Patton lookout. It is one of the highest on the road. The road was completed by soldiers who had returned from the First World War. It hugs the rock face very closely in places and must have been very challenging work given the lack of machinery at that time.
Further on is a memorial and grave. The ship WB Godfrey was built in Greenock and was wrecked along the coast here on a voyage from San Francisco to Melbourne in 1891. This is all that can be seen of the wreck which now supports molluscs and other marine life.
Those on board survived but several people trying to salvage the cargo afterwards did not. At Artillery Rocks which is between Jamieson and Wye rivers, a guy was fishing with six rods. I have not been able to find out why they are called Artillery Rocks. The many holes in the rocks could resemble bullet holes. At Lorne we found the perfect combination: Moons Espresso & Juice Bar next door to Lorne Beach Books which has a very comprehensive and well organised selection of new books. I could have come out with a pile but have to think of my baggage allowance on the way home. The one we had finished reading in Apollo Bay was donated to the local Men’s Shed: an organisation which addresses mental health and well-being in men.
There were a couple of interesting signs here:
And a variant on ‘don’t’ feed the sea gulls’
This part of the coast has good waves and is known as the Surf Coast. At Lorne beach surf school was underway and others were attempting to get going.
The road was fairly quiet and at numerous points work is going on to stabilise the cliffs and prevent landslides and rockfall. A particularly winding section is known as Devil’s Elbow. It winds down to a beach at Spout Creek. Our next stop was Aireys Inlet where a small sanctuary around a pool has a number of birds. I spotted a number of Pacific Black Ducks and this male Superb Fairy Wren. His more dapper lady friend was hiding in the undergrowth.
We then drove out to Split Point Lighthouse
and Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary.
We had lunch near Point Roadknight Beach and I had a wander along it afterwards.
I am not sure what the significance of this metal hoop with yellow ribbons hanging from it, dangling one the bushes behind the beach.
At Torquay, the decision was made to head to Queenscliff, take the ferry to Sorrento and the slow road round Port Philip Bay to the city rather than the freeway from Geelong into Melbourne. The crossing only takes 40 minutes.
14 years ago, I had decided to go across to Sorrento one weekend and do some walking in the National Park on the headland. Unfortunately, a storm followed me across the bay and by the time I got off the ferry in Sorrento it was raining so I abandoned my plans. We got into the city eventually (my navigation app did not know that you cannot come over the bridge and turn right onto Flinders Street between 3pm and 7pm Monday to Friday) and parked the car up for a couple of days.
Robe sits on the Limestone Coast before it ends at the state border – the coast decays into interesting shapes and structures. The obelisk was built in 1855 by a local man.
Initially painted white it proved difficult to distinguish from the white sands and the limestone cliffs so red stripes were added in 1862 to improve its visibility. The current lighthouse was built in 1973 and is similar to the one at Cape Jervis. Some Galahs were sitting on the rocks alongside the car park when we returned to the car.
We took City Wells Road back to Highway One; the Princes Highway. The surrounding land was mostly farmland with oilseed rape and pasture. After Millicent there are large pine forests and we could have been in Northern Europe or North America. We passed a paper mill and a sign to Glencoe Woolshed which was built as a shearing shed in 1863. There are still a lot of merino sheep around this area.
On Saturday we had cyclists on the road and today it was motorcyclists – three groups of 20, 12 and 8 passed us, going in the opposite direction. Mount Gambier was our first stop. It sits on an extinct volcano with most of the town on the southern slope. It is the largest town in the area and in one street we had the choice of three cafes for coffee but as it was Sunday, the Book Place was closed. The crater lake is 4km south of the town centre and turns cobalt blue in summer. Today in late spring there was a hint of it but I am sure it must get more vivid.
The padlock craze continues here at one of the lookouts.
There is a cactus garden at the lake edge established in memory of Mrs A. Dodd, a former cacti grower.
On the way out of town is the Umpherston Sinkhole. The sinkholes here are limestone. This one was turned into a garden by James Umpherston in the late 19th century and his home used to stand alongside it until it was demolished in 1964. The cavities in the rock provide shelter for insects and birds.
After crossing into Victoria, we ate lunch at a rest area by the Glenelg River which had water in but was brown. On the Highway near Tyrendarra is a property with 100m of fence with shoes hanging on it. The owners saw a similar fence near Marlborough in New Zealand and decided to replicate it with some worn-out family shoes a few years ago and have encouraged others to copy them.
We passed through Port Fairy which in 2012 was voted ‘the most liveable town’. It has more 19th century buildings down near the port than most others. Soon we had reached Warrnambool. Like many of the towns on the south coast, it started life as a whaling and sealing town. At the right time of year, whale watching is possible from here. We are staying for the night. As it is the off-season, we got yet another upgrade. Today’s mileage was 206 taking the total to 10,157.
Having woken before dawn, we decided to leave as soon as we had finished our breakfast in the hope of catching an earlier ferry. As we were loading up the car, our lorikeet friend was again feeding on the Callistemon flowers.
Unfortunately, the cyclists we had met yesterday going in the opposite direction to us, were now all leaving their campsite on the way to the ferry port. There were around 200 of them and although there was not too much oncoming traffic, the road goes over a few blind summits, so it took a while to get past them all. We arrived at the port just as the earlier ferry was leaving. The port was very quiet with only a few humans and cormorants fishing.
A lot of passengers were disembarking from the incoming boat and I noticed an older woman with crutches and only one leg. We have had various conversations here about what health insurance covers and what it does not. Perhaps it does not cover prosthetic limbs and if you cannot afford private care you will be left without. We eventually got on the boat and I spotted some dolphins as we left the harbour. We arrived on time and retraced our steps to Delamere, passing lots of Muscle Cars heading for Cape Jervis and an event on the island. We turned onto the B27 which took us over the hills and past a forest to the Encounter Coast and Victor Harbor. We stopped for lunch on the esplanade.
A woman and child on the beach were the focus of interest of the gulls who were hoping they were eating. They were not. Eventually they realised that we had food and some wandered over to have a look.
There is a walkway to Granite Island which sits in the bay and is home to some wild penguins, but we did not have time to visit. The road continues on past Port Eliot and Goolwa. In order to get around Lake Alexandrina, we had to continue to Strathalbyn and then cut across back to Highway One. The road passes through olive groves and vineyards around Langhorne Creek but then the land becomes drier. We past Mulgundawa Salt whose huge pile of salt was visible from the road. At Wellington, there is no bridge across the Murray River; there is a ferry. There are 11 in total on the river and have been winched across since the 19th century. This one was free and open 24 hours a day.
Like a Sunday at home there were a lot of old and interesting cars on the road. Back on Highway One (B1 in these parts) we stopped at the Pink Lake a few km north of Meningie. Like the one we saw a few weeks ago, the colour is due to algae.
The road then runs through Coorong National Park which is on the coast. At Kingston SE, we turned off onto the B101 Southern Port Highway to Robe, a coastal town which was our destination for the night. There was a beer festival on at one end of the esplanade but it was otherwise fairly quiet. I understand that in high season and school holidays it gets very busy. Mileage today was 286 and we have broken the 10,000 mark with our trip mileage now up to 10,157.
Today was the first day we have had condensation on the car first thing in the morning. It warmed up nicely later and promises to be hotter tomorrow. Most of the interior of the Eyre Peninsula is farmland with some bush alongside the road and some nature reserves. Leaving Streaky Bay, the Flinders Highway crosses land before returning to the coast at Mount Camel Beach which sits on Anxious Bay. The Bay was named by Matthew Flinders, but I have not found the reason for this name. There are also views to Venus Bay further north and the rocky coast to the south. The beach was deserted when we arrived, but footprints told us that a couple of people and a dog had been there earlier.
There was a notice about the local seabird populations. Hooded plovers are declining and the number has dropped to around 500 in SA. Habitat loss, predation by foxes, cats and dogs and human impact such as vehicles and dogs on beaches plus disturbance of breeding areas is thought to be responsible. Pied Oystercatchers are also resident, and the Red-necked Stint migrate here from Siberia every year. Visitors are advised to stay below the high water mark, keep dogs under control, stay away from birds and chicks and watch where you walk as eggs and chicks can be hard to spot. I saw a few Oystercatchers and gulls from a distance. Further south Lake Newland conservation area lies between the road and the sand dunes. It is only accessible with 4WD. Elliston is a small town that sits on Waterloo Bay.
The café was closed and for sale, but the bakery also did coffee and we were not the only customers. While topping up my caffeine levels I read a leaflet in the bakery written by the Australian Wilderness Society about the proposals to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. The ocean here is much rougher than the Gulf of Mexico and an investigation into the capabilities of the government and the states to deal with a major oil spill concluded that they would not be able to. The report had been updated in August 2018 and said that while BP had pulled out, other companies were still persisting in trying to get permission. If we had more time, the 13.6K coastal trail and the sculpture trail might have been an option.
Today was Lizard avoidance day as several were crossing the road. I managed to get a shot of this Shingle-Back/Pinecone Lizard before he disappeared into the bush.
We managed to avoid them all and a couple of kangaroos but saw a snake that did not make it. South of Sheringa we saw a side road signpost: ‘Nowhere Else Road’ which has to be the best yet. The road then runs between Lake Hamilton and the shore.
Towards the southern end of the peninsula there are a number of lakes, the grass is greener and there are a few more larger trees around. The highway descends towards Port Lincoln after the turnoff for Coffin Bay. This is the largest town we have stayed in since we left the west coast. It has a population of around 15,000. The main industry is tuna fishing: it has the largest fishing fleet in the southern hemisphere. Also known as the seafood capital of Australia, the town sits on Boston Bay which is three times the size of Sydney Harbour. In addition to the swimming and fishing jetty on the esplanade, there is also a large Viterra mineral processing plant and commercial pier.
The town was named by Flinders who was from Lincolnshire. I feel quite at home as there is an Edinburgh Street and a Liverpool Street and South Shields is a little further up the coast. There are lots of things you can do around here: cage diving with great white sharks, water sports etc but I am quite happy to relax, digest the weekend paper and plan tomorrows drive. We have even spotted a bookshop in town which will hopefully be open tomorrow. Todays mileage was 191 making the total so far: 9,275