7 Feb 2020

7/2/2020: Longford, Tasmania

We seemed to spend all of yesterday in the car tracking across the north of the island from Stanley in the west to Longford, near Launceston in the east. The reality was actually only four hours but we were both tired by the time we arrived at our accommodation for the next two nights. When planning our trip, neither of us had really realised just how big Tasmania is, nor how windy the roads! Throw in our underpowered hire car and the numerous hills, then we don't make very quick progress!!

An early start yesterday saw us climbing 'The Nut', an iconic volcanic plug linked to the north coast at Stanley. It was a steep ascent, climbing 150 metres in only 450 metres distance, so one in three, but we made it and were proud of ourselves for not taking the easier chairlift option! A 2 kilometre walk circles the summit with views along the coastline and out into Bass Straits, the stretch of water separating Tasmania from Australia. Yesterday, under leaden skies, the sea didn't look very appealing and was quite rough but the view wasn't bad at all!

We took the scenic route across the island enjoying the vistas of rural Tasmanian life. Stopping at Evandale, a town that is noted as an historic place in its entirety, we strolled the quaint streets for a short break before continuing to our lovely accommodation in Longford. And what a fabulous place to arrive at, a small studio apartment with views over farmland and with use of the swimming pool. Our photos just don't do it justice .... we really have been very lucky with our accommodation so far.

After an excellent night's sleep we headed to The Woolmers Estate this morning, Australia's oldest sheep station which is now an UNESCO World Heritage site. Established in 1817 by Thomas Archer I, an immigrant to Australia from Hertfordshire in 1813, he was granted 300 acres of land and assigned convicts to help him manage it under a governmental initiative called the Assignment System. This system assigned transported convicts to free settlers who were then responsible for adequately feeding, clothing and housing them in return for labour.

Through hard work and purchase of neighbouring property,  the Woolmers Estate totalled nearly 5000 hectares by the time Thomas Archer I died in 1950. His heir, Thomas Archer II, predeceased him leaving the estate managed by a family trust until his grandson was of age in 1865. TAIII showed little interest in the estate and his gambling habits saw him in almost continual financial trouble from 1870 to his death in 1890. His successor, TAIV, also had little interest in the estate being a prominent early golfer, motorist and keen sailor. His love of golf passed on to his only son TAV who competed in the Australian Open. He also only had one son who never married and bequeathed Woolmers to a charitable foundation on his death. The house and its contents look very much as they did on the death of TAI back in 1850 with all the original furniture and family possessions still in place.

In its heyday the estate employed 65 convict labourers to tend the sheep, harvest the wheat and apples. 1 in 10 of these were women and they lived in the attics of the family home while the men lived in barracks on the riverbank. By all accounts the Archers were good and fair masters and many assigned convicts remained on the estate as free men when their sentences had been worked. The wooden sheep shearing shed and apple barn are the oldest wooden barns in Australia, having survived given Tasmania doesn't have termites!

The convict trail, crossing the Macquarie River, links Woolmers to the neighbouring Brickendon Estate, another historically significant convict site operated by TAI's brother. The assigned convicts were shared between the brothers, travelling the trail on a daily basis as needed. We walked a short distance along it but in 83 degrees and with no shade it was very hot.

Instead, after a late lunch we retreated to our accommodation for a lazy afternoon and swim in the pool. Just what the doctor ordered!

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