This was our day to explore in and around Launceston so we were not needing an early start. Laundry needed doing so that was scheduled for 8:00. Michael and Maria had an appointment at 9:30 so our plan was to leave at 9:15, drop them, visit Cataract Gorge, and pick them up before lunch and some afternoon sightseeing.
Our apartment building is undergoing some major additions and renovations. That doesn’t affect our apartments but we were warned at reception last night that a crane would block the road access from 7:00 and we should park overnight in the main hotel car park. The hotel is only a couple of minutes walk from the apartments but we had a better solution. Warwick volunteered to rise at his usual early hour and move the car out onto the street where parking would be easy and more convenient. He took the opportunity to walk up Cataract Gorge which is about the same distance in the other direction from where we are staying.
I was up at 6:00, showered, and mixed breakfast with catching up on some work email that had languished while we have been without really useable WiFi since we left Hobart last Tuesday. The laundry was done on schedule and Majella had time to sit by the window and watch the crane. She has developed a fascination with cranes, especially those that are used for construction of tall buildings. This was not one of those but had her interest for as long as she could stay. We got away from the apartments a little earlier than planned, dropped Michael and Maria for their appointment, and drove to Cataract Gorge.
The lower entrance to the Cataract Gorge reserve is just across Kings Bridge, less than 100 metres from our apartments, but the driving directions sent us a couple of extra kilometres to the parking area above the expansive First Basin area with its chair lift, cafe, and pool. We parked and meandered down the steps and tracks toward the water. I was distracted by the signs offering short walks, and some longer, to lookouts and other attractions but Majella suggested we take a look around and then decide who was going to do what, if anything. We continued down, past the chair lift that did not attract any of us as customers, and across the suspension bridge which induced mild dread in some. That turned out to be less terrifying than expected – it didn’t swing nearly as much as the one that somebody rocked on our NZ trip 2 years ago.
Once across the bridge we walked around the path and found the cafe. By that time it was definitely coffee time so we paused there to refresh and consider plans for the day. Majella revealed that a key reason for her visiting Launceston was to go to the National Trust Old Umbrella Shop she had heard about. Some of us were less than enthusiastic about that. Warwick and I opted to walk up the gorge to Duck Reach, the site of the 1890s hydroelectric power station. We suggested that we could walk up and back at least as far as the apartments. The others decided the shops were preferable to the gorge.
The signs gave the distance up to Duck Reach as 3 kilometres with a time estimate of 90 minutes for return. Warwick and I set off at a comfortable (for us) pace, stopping occasionally for a view of the gorge and, in my case, photos. We made it to Duck Reach in a bit less than 30 minutes, crossed the suspension bridge, replaced when the original was torn away by the 1929 flood, which also wrecked the power station leaving Launceston without power. The power station was replaced within a year but it took longer for the bridge, less essential, to be replaced.
We spent some time in the Duck Reach Museum in the now decommissioned power station to watch the video and look at the old machinery before heading up the side of the gorge opposite where we had come down. When we set out we assumed we would return by the same path but discovered at Duck Reach that there was an alternate track on the other side of the gorge and decided a circuit might be more interesting. The climb began by following the pipes for the turbine up the gorge side to the tunnel which brought water through the mountain, rather than around, from Deadmans Hollow. Our path continued up the hill far past that point until we emerged on relatively level ground in the Trevallyn forest. We followed the rough path through the forest and descended to join one of the paths we had first seen when we arrived at the Gorge carpark.
Majella called as we were part way back to ask if we had arrived at Duck Reach yet and to tell us they planned to be back at the apartments a little after 1:00 pm by which time they would have had lunch. She told me that Warwick and I would need to feed ourselves lunch.
We managed a substantially quicker time than the advertised 90 minutes for the round trip and continued down the path to Kings Bridge. At that point I checked Majella’s location on my phone. It was not a precise reading because she was in a city building but near enough that we decided we could walk to where the rest of the group might be. Along the way I called Majella to confirm her location in Wursthaus at Olivers in Quadrant Mall. The rest of the group had just appeared so we headed that way and ate lunch with the rest.
After lunch we arranged to meet at the van around 1:15 pm and found our separate ways there. The plan for the afternoon was to visit historic houses at Franklin House and Clarendon Estate.
First stop was at Franklin House on the outskirts of Launceston as we headed south. We were greeted by a woman from the National Trust who recounted highlights of the history of the house which had apparently been built with the intention of renting and was later used as a school before falling into disrepair. It has now been restored and furnished appropriately for its historical period but is still in need of substantial and expensive work. We wandered through the rooms, downstairs, upstairs, and in the adjoining kitchen and schoolroom sections. From there we walked across the street to look at the small church that was part of the estate. It was built during the time when the house was used for a school with the intention of removing the need for the school boys to walk long distances to church twice on Sundays. That use has long passed but it is still in use as a church.
The woman at Franklin House had advised us that the house at Clarendon was closed for repairs but that the gardens were open. We decided to drive the 20 kilometres or so for a look regardless and headed further out of town to the Evandale area. We were able to park in front of the house at Clarendon and walk around the grounds. It was an impressively grand house with several outbuildings.
On the way back to our apartment in Launceston we stopped for a walk around Evandale. The main street where we stopped and walked had several well preserved and presented buildings. Another claim to fame at Evandale is that it hosts the National Penny Farthing Championship.
From Evandale we drove back to our apartments for a rest before dinner. We arrived there about 4:00 pm and agreed to meet for dinner at 6:30 pm in the nearby Kings Bridge Bar & Restaurant which is part of the Penny Royal complex. I was already meeting a colleague from University of Tasmania there at 6:00 pm for some talk over drinks so that would work in well. Majella and I walked down to see about booking for dinner but found Jim, Warwick, and Russell already there having a beer after making a booking for 10. We joined them for a quick drink before heading back to our apartment.
Dinner at the Kings Bridge was very good. The meals were well presented, tasty and generally large. Majella had ordered the smaller (entree) version of the calamari but struggled to finish that and I found my Scotch fillet with salad and chips more than sufficient. Surprisingly a few of us found room for dessert before we wandered back to our apartments a little before 9:00 pm.