It's school holidays and Yamba's Main Beach should be packed with beach goers. After weeks of lovely Spring weather Winter has returned with cold winds and showers. I feel sorry for the beach kiosk who should be doing a big trade in icy poles, hot chips and coffee.
This is my 1st post using the new Blogger App on the iphone, so I am unsure how my post will go today.
The elephants of Woolgoolga make for an incongruous sight at the junction of the Pacific Highway and main street. They were built for a long closed Indian restaurant. Now they stand amongst broken glass, cigarette butts and moss; they look very angry as the heavy traffic rushes by.
They are building a by-pass of Woolgoolga and there is some talk of the Raj Mahal site becoming a supermarket. Whatever happens the fate of the elephants is not promising.
The true 'Tree of Knowledge' was a very large Ghost Gum in Barcaldine in Western Queensland, where legend has it the Australian Labour Party was formed under it's shady branches during the great Shearers Strike of 1891. Although this location shares the same name I strongly doubt that anything so momentous will ever occur at this picturesque spot. This is typical of Australian humour; self-deprecation, taking the piss etc.
The original "tree of Knowledge' in Barcaldine died when someone doused it with Glyphosate. Minnie Waters has also seen a liberal use of defoliants over the years. Unlike the Labour Party Ghost Gum that was murdered due to differing political views, in Minnie its the view of the ocean from the verandah that must not be spoiled by rogue Banksias.
Minnie Waters is a very popular place to launch a boat and go deep sea fishing in the blueness of the South Pacific Ocean. Unlike Yamba, Wooli & Red Rock, where you need to traverse sometimes dangerous river mouth bars, the inshore reef provides a mostly safe spot to set off and catch those big Schnapper or Parrotfish.
Another attraction of Minnie boat ramp is the excellent post-fishing socialising.
There is a very scenic and enivro-friendly fish cleaning bench where the blokes gather and talk (talk about the one that got away, compare boat sizes and have the odd tinny (can of beer)). This is all overlooked by the 'Tree of Knowledge' which I will show you tomorrow.
I featured the bright red shop in Gladstone on the Macleay river a few weeks ago. Here it is again combined with a classic old pub mirror advertising a once famous NSW beer brand. I don't think my faithful and hard working camera has ever featured on Clarence Valley Today, can you see it in the corner?
Grafton Clock tower celebrated it's 100th birthday in 2009. The names of the mayors of Grafton City Council were once recorded on its marble tablets. With the 2004 amalgamation of all the local government areas of the valley into the Clarence Valley Council this practice was discontinued. The last name recorded mayoral name of Grafton City was Shirley Adams.
Clarence Valley Seafood is famous. The 3 courses served at Gate to Plate were spectacular.
Wooli Oysters with Lemon Salt Air, Kilpatrick Caviar and Mornay Pearl.
Potted Yamba Prawns with ginger and kaffir lime, papaya salad and nahm prik relish.
Palmers Island Mulloway "loup en croute".
It was a very special moment when all the chefs carried in the Fish Pie and sliced it up. Pictured is Grafton Chef Mark Hackett. The restaurant that he and is wife Judy own, Georgies Cafe, has just appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide for the 13th time .This was my favourite dish of the day.
The tables are set, the guests are arriving, welcome to Gate to Plate 2011.
Gate to Plate is an annual event organised by the Grafton Regional Gallery Foundation. It seeks to showcase regional cuisine through the use of the top quality local produce prepared by the best chefs in the Clarence Valley.
With 320 guests, 10 courses and matching wines from the Granite Belt, served over 4 hours: it is a gastronomic marathon celebrated in the historic 'Barn'.
Welcome to 'The Barn', or to give it it's real name the no-one ever uses, the T J Ford Pavilion. This would one of Grafton's most loved buildings. Built in 1888 but moved to its present location in 1906, it is the centrepiece pavilion of the Grafton Agricultural Show Society.
However it has greater significance for Graftonians than just that. Over the last century it has been a place for them to hold their wedding receptions, auctions, balls, plays, discos, in fact you name it and it has probably happened at 'The Barn'.
It's architecture is classic Australian vernacular with roof and exterior walls in glorious corrugated iron and attached Victorian barge boards: stinking hot in summer and freezing in winter. It was very dilapidated in the 1980's but a Government grant allowed it to be restored. It has just had a new commercial kitchen installed in the lean-to section at the left of the building thanks to the lobbying of the now ex-local MP Steve Cansdell. Next job is replacing the very old toilets!
Tomorrow we will attend a very special event that has just been held within this tin temple of good times and happy memories.
Here is Steve Cansdell (4th from the right with hat) winning best celebrity hamburger at the Gate to Plate Market one week ago. On Friday he resigned from the the New South Wales Parliament as Member for Clarence after making a false statement on a Statutory Declaration over a speeding fine. What do they say about roosters to feather dusters or is that prized bulls to mincemeat in this situation? Click here for a trip down memory lane.
Between Maclean's main street and the Clarence River there is a rabbit warren of shabby lanes, pathways and seemingly abandoned Victorian cottages and warehouses. There have been various schemes to redevelop the area into the obligatory park with cafes and shops. Until the project begins (if ever) it is a great spot to explore and photography heaven.
It has been a perfect week of deep blue skies and warm days, winter is well and truly now behind us.
Here are some very old Canary Date Palms at the Grafton Racecourse. It was a very popular planting 100 years ago but like most non-natives is now regarded as a pest. I still like them for their exotic look and majesty, they take me to Marrakesh, Damascus, Mecca, Khartoum.........
The Northern Rivers is a famous dairying area that is dominated by the Norco Cooperative in Lismore. It is nice to see a revival of more traditional and artisan farmhouse cheeses. Deb and Sue from Tweed Valley Whey are dedicated and passionate (you would have to be) craftspeople who make a delicious product. Click here to visit their fantastic website. They sell most of their produce at Farmers Markets on the North Coast but a few retail outlets who understand their product stock it as well. In the Clarence Valley it is Causley's Deli in Yamba.
This is Deb, one of the blessed cheese makers, a very interesting, amusing and passionate speaker. She was speaking at a Wine & Cheese Masterclass at Ender's Olive Farm on Carr's Creek Peninsula.
To read about the Ender's story click here.
The wine was supplied by Robert Channon Wines of Stanthorpe and like Deb, Robert was passionate and interesting. His website is here.
A glass of sparkling wine from the Granite Belt and the freshest Yamba Prawn imaginable, what a way to celebrate the month of September which is designated Clarence Valley Food Month.
The Clarence Valley Council, the Grafton Regional Galley Foundation and other organisations will be holding a series of events that showcase and recognise the unique and high quality produce the Valley produces.
We began our visit to the Macleay Valley in Gladstone so lets end here as well. This is the old Federal Store that has been dramatically reborn as Hammond & Harwood. As you drive down Kinchela St you cannot possibly miss it.
In muted contrast the solid but elegant Court House now serves as the Police Station. It was designed by prodigious NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet and completed in 1885. The groundbreaking and disturbing 1978 Fred Schepisi film, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, used the court for the trial scene.
The residents of Gladstone and Smithtown have been fighting a proposed closure and sell off of the Courthouse and Police residence by the State Government.
This is the 1921 Gladstone Methodist (Uniting) Church. The square foyer/bell tower is imposing but also beautifully proportioned with a slightly tapering effect as it reaches for the sky.
It has been a wonderful week in Crescent Head but it is now time to head back north to the Clarence Valley. If I could choose a way to depart this sleepy village then this 1960's classic motor would have to be it.
See you next September CH.
The footbridge over the creek allows access the lovely Killick Beach which runs for 14kms to Hat Head in the north. It is a friendly spot where locals and visitors pass each other on the narrow walkway.
The view from the Crescent Head lookout is spectacular; to the south is Port Macquarie, to the north is Smoky Cape.I also admired the brass plate viewfinder, its patina rich and interesting from a combination of weathering, vandalism and guano.
Barnett's is the local bakery and it is a real winner with great breads, meat pies, sausage rolls, lamingtons, neenish tarts, vanilla slices, apple turnovers, sponge cakes and good strong coffee. It's another big tick for Crescent Head.
Crescent Head is dominated by a large headland known as Big Nobby. It protects the village from the southerly winds. There is also an unusual type of beach for Eastern Australia, made up of shingle, cobbles and even boulders. The Beachsafe App rates Pebbly Beach as one of the most dangerous in New South Wales. It does not look like an appealing spot for a swim.
This is a Watery Wednesday Post. Click here for more wet scenes.
The Crescent Head Country Club has an amazing and very egalitarian golf course. It is spectacular as Pebble Beach in the USA but is also entirely different to any 'glamour' course in the world. It is set in the middle of town and no-one minds if you wander across the course to get to the beach, just give way to the Golfers. It's only 6 holes and a little bit ram shackled but in in a lovely unpretentious way.
I met a local lady who was having a hit while her Alsatian dog followed her around the course, not many golf clubs would allow this.
The path to Little Nobby Headland (and the jump off point for surfing) winds around a hole and tee but everyone is friendly and they seem to recognise that everyone has a right to their own form of leisure, active or passive, young or old, rich or poor, man or beast.
Since the 1950's Crescent Head has been the first stop north of Sydney on the North Coast surfing safari. The point break is legendary for long boards with its 300m perfectly formed ride over boulders/stones.
In 2008 Crescent Head National Surfing Reserve was established to recognise and protect this world famous surfing mecca.
There are many vantage points to watch the surfers 'hang ten' and 'walk the plank'.
Like most Australian towns, Gladstone in the Macleay Valley has a memorial to the Great War. It is an image that still resonates on many levels in the local/national psyche nearly a century later.
He stands in cold white marble, a paradox to the flood of red blood that was spilt so many thousand miles away on the distant battlefields of Flanders.
Woolumbin 200kms away: Taken from the Washpool National Park.
Woolumbin 50 kms away:
The Aboriginal Peoples of the Bundjalung Nation called it Woolumbin (Cloud Catcher/Rain Maker).
In 1770 Captain Cook named it Mt Warning as he passed by in a ship to warn future mariners of an offshore reef.
It is an ancient volcano and these 2 shots give a differing perspective of this ancient and iconic extinct volcano.
More and more people refer to it as Woolumbin these days, a much more interesting name than Cook's.
In the distance it appeared out of the sand, was it an antediluvian monster whose ancient petrified bones had been revealed by the great storm or was it the wreck of a ship from the age of canvas and timber?
The child in me wanted it to be the dinosaur, ( I named it Woolgoolgasaurus), the adult went home and researched that it was a ship, called ironically the Buster, who came to grief 118 years ago on Woolgoolga Beach. Every decade or so after another great storm produces beach erosion, it's mysterious bones/timbers reappear.
In the end I decided I could easily reconcile both perspectives, child and adult, imagination and reality.