Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Blog Performance October 2010

The graphic shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) Stats October 2010 2to this blog over the year to the end of October.

Traffic, while now low, has stayed at a steady level because of search engine traffic.

The most visited pages over the last month have been:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brunette Downs Picnic Races

Back in January 2008 I carried a story, In Praise of Picnic Races. Girl-w-green-shirt-hat-55182It will be clear from the story just how much I loved going to the Picnic Races.

Now Bob Gosford has posted a rather wonderful story, Hats off at the Brunette Downs races and rodeo. I quote the start of the post.

Brunette Downs is a huge cattle station – at 1,221 million hectares there can be no doubt of that – in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Barkly Tableland and this past weekend I’ve been at the 100th annual ABC Amateur Race Club meeting.

You can’t get much more remote than Brunette Downs – it is 850 km from my home in Alice Springs, 1000 or so km from Darwin and 450 km from Mt Isa in western Queensland. By comparison Tennant Creek – the nearest town of any size – is a short stroll away at 350km.

I won't quote the whole post, but it's worth a read.

Monday, May 03, 2010

New England's bumper wine crop

The New England wine region - essentially the New England Tablelands and its western slopes  - is one of Australia's oldest wine growing areas but also its newest in terms of formal recognition.

In my post on New England Wine Regions - Hunter Valley I spoke of the role played by George Wyndham in establishing the Hunter Valley wine industry. I also mentioned that in 1831 he brought the 100,000 acre property "Bukkulla" near Inverell on the edge of the Northern Tablelands and there established another vineyard. Other settlers also planted vineyards and made their own wine.

By 1870 George had 10ha of vines bearing fruit which contributed to the total 11,000 gallons of Wyndham Estate wines being produced. By 1905, wine production from the Inverell area of New England was 227,000 litres from seven or eight larger vineyards and a number of smaller vineyards.

Between 1870 & 1920 wines from the area won many awards at wine shows in Sydney, Amsterdam, London, San Francisco, Chicago & France. A prominent English wine judge of the time wrote of the Bukkulla wines, “(They) have a character and quality above the average of most wine-producing countries. The lowest quality is better than a large proportion of the ordinary wines of Europe, while the best would not suffer in comparison to the finest known growths”.

Thereafter wine production went into decline, really re-emerging over the last ten years.

Now I see from the Armidale Express that it has had a bumper grape crop. I can't give you a link because this story is not on line.

The excellent grape quality is expected to translate into very good wines. Sadly, you won't be able to buy them in your local bottle shop because sales via cellar door or to local outlets take up most of production. If you want to try the wine, you will need to visit or contact wineries direct.   

Friday, April 16, 2010

The complexity of Regional Australia

I really love the complexity of Regional Australia. You can't see it from the air or along the main freeways: everything blurs into a sameness. You have to get  to get off the highways and simply wander.

I mention this only because the Broke area in the Hunter Valley has just had a little Italy Festival among the local wineries. Now I know the area reasonably well, although it is a little time since I visited. Because my memory was imperfect, I spent a pleasant half hour on Google maps just refreshing myself as to how the area fitted together.

Google maps really is an invaluable aid. In both my historical research and in my broader writing, I constantly find myself wanting to sort out local detail.

Mind you, Google maps is far from perfect. A good atlas or relief map is absolutely necessary in some cases if you are to understand the patterns of life and the geography that underlies them.

Each valley in Regional Australia has its own story. Sometimes those stories have been lost because rural depopulation has removed local people and visible signs. Then you have to dig. At other times, locals have fought to retain their heritage and to explain it to outsiders.

In all cases, the sometimes subtle variations in the natural environment provide constant variety.

You cannot understand these from a car. When travelling, I stop. Sometimes I just stand and look around. At other times I walk around to see what I can see. Sometimes I find nothing to see. At other times, I find unexpected pleasures - a view, a rock structure, particular grass types, some secret of primary production.

I accept that I am naturally curious, willing in most cases to forgo the need to get from point A to point B in the fastest possible time. yet the unexpected pleasure that I have got from stops and meanders is quite remarkable. Why don't you try it sometime.     

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Murray-Darling Basin Authority's sustainable limits study

Browsing round for background material on a post on my personal blog, Floods, Lake Eyre and yachting, reminded me about  the current Murray-Darling Basin Authority Sustainable Diversion Limits study. A dry title, but one whose purpose is defined in this way:

A central element of the Basin Plan is to set environmentally sustainable limits on the amount of water that can be taken from the Basin’s water resources. These are known as sustainable diversion limits (SDLs). SDLs will limit the amount of surface water and groundwater that can be taken from the Basin and will replace the current cap system.

Last year the Authority released an issues paper for comment; 155 submissions were received in response. You can find the issues paper and public submissions here.

I mention this because the outcomes from the process with its strong environmental focus are likely to have significant and differential economic and social effects across the vast basin affecting, among other things, jobs and land and real estate prices. For that reason, those who currently live in the Basin or who might want to move or invest there really need to monitor the process.

I haven't got my own mind around the issues yet. I will try to do so for a later post.   

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lord Howe Island


Another photo from Gordon Smith's archives, this one of Lord Howe Island.

A world heritage site, Lord Howe Island is formally part of NSW, but lies 600 km to the east from the mainland. 

This is a very beautiful place indeed. Visitor information can be found here.   

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Crossing the Simpson Desert

In winter 1985, Gordon Smith and five others set out  in three vehicles to cross the Simpson Desert west to east. They were following the French Line, a track made by oil exploration companies in the 1970’s.20100131-17-56-48-winter-1985--simpson-desert-crossing

This is actually quite a remarkable shot because it brings out the sheer difficulty of the terrain.

Each year visitors die in the Australian outback because of their failure to take simple precautions - the right vehicle in the right condition, letting people know what you are doing, having reserves of food and especially water.

I often use Gordon's photos on this blog because they are simply so good. Have a browse.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Jobs growth

The global economic downturn had variable effects across Regional Australia. In general, the impact was less than in metro areas, although some centres dependant on particular projects were hit. Many regional centres also came out of downturn earlier.

I mention this because I see from the Singleton Argus that labour shortages have reappeared in this Hunter Valley mining and agricultural centre. Hat tip to Wollombi Valley for the story.