Saturday, 1 February 2020

The Great Southern Rail Trail

GSRT
Gippsland, running from the New South Wales border to Phillip Island in Victoria, is one of those rare regions, in Australia, where the grass is green, the rivers full and the countryside bucolic. All this verdant beauty comes at a price though, and that price is rain - lots and lots of rain. David and I are fair weather cyclists. We came to South Gippsland for four nights to cycle the Great Southern Rail Trail and what we got was one perfect day, one okay day and two days of wet, windy weather. Instead of the whole trail, we cycled from Koonwarra to Meeniyan and from Meeniyan to Fish Creek, a total of 26.5 kms (53 kms if you count the return journeys), a little more than a third of the trail, but it was a magical third. We both agree The Great Southern Rail Trail is the best rail trail we have cycled in Australia, and we have cycled a lot them (go to my Bike Paths & Rail Trails tab and chose a destination to read about the others). The scenery is lovely, the towns are idyllic and the wildlife, especially the koala we saw right next to the trail, is magical. GSRT - we are coming back!

Sunday, 19 January 2020

A Tour of Ned Kelly Country: Following the trail of Australia's most famous bushranger?

Ned Kelly
Edward ('Ned') Kelly was born at Beveridge in Victoria in December 1854¹. He died at the end of a hangman's noose in Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880. In his short life he gained an enduring place in Australia's history as our most famous bushranger (outlaw). David and I got struck by poor weather on a recent cycling trip to Victoria and had to find something else to occupy ourselves for a few days. As it happened I was in the middle of a biography of Ned Kelly and since we were not far from Kelly Country we decided to do a tour of the places whose fame still rests of the legend of Ned.

Like many Australians the main thing I knew about Ned Kelly was what he is most famous for - making a stand against police at Glenrowen. Vastly outnumbered, he donned a suit of armour made from ploughshares before shooting it out with Victoria Police. It made him look like a medieval knight and earned him a place in Australian folklore.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Silo Art Trail of North-East Victoria

silo art Australia
Silo art has taken off in Australia. In March 2015 the small town of Northam in Western Australia engaged two artists to paint murals on the 'canvas' of the town's grain silos. Brim, a country town in Victoria, followed up with its own painted silo, then Ravensthorpe in Western Australia and then Patchewollock and Sheep-Hills (don't you just love the names) also in Victoria. Not to be outdone, towns without silos embraced the idea and painted water tanks and towers. Before long there were painted silos, towers and tanks popping up all over the country and a movement was born - a peculiarly Australian movement.

Today there is silo art in almost every corner of the country. With more than 100 painted silos, water tanks and towers across more than 7,500 kms, following silo art trails has become the ultimate Australian road trip.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Sculpture by the Sea 2019

Sculpture by the Sea 2019
Sculpture by the Sea is on again in Sydney. Set against the striking backdrop of the coastal walk between Tamarama Beach and Bondi, the annual sculpture exhibition converts the most die-hard critics of modern art into fans. I admit I am not a fan of modern sculpture but Sculpture by the Sea sets out to make world class art accessible and enjoyable to the masses (for masses - read 'me') and it succeeds. It is hard not to be impressed.

Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi is the world's largest free sculpture exhibition, with 500,000 visitors expected during the 18 days in which it is open.  In 2019 there are 111 sculptures exhibited by 140 artists who come from 18 countries.



Saturday, 19 October 2019

The Best Rail Trails and Bike Paths in Australia - UPDATED Feb 2020

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge
UPDATED IN FEB 2020

Have you ever imagined yourself on a cycling holiday, but not sure you can keep up the pace day after day, and absolutely certain you don't want to dodge trucks and other traffic while rediscovering your childhood bicycle skills.  Have I got the solution for you!

Lots of old and disused railways which once ran through the countryside are steadily being re-purposed as 'rail trails'. With tracks removed, bridges repaired, or diverted around, and tunnels made safe they make perfect corridors for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Since trains never handled anything other than gentle gradients they are generally flat and easy to cycle. Their routes are dotted with small towns whose populations are welcoming and, as rail trailers arrive so do small businesses like trail side cafes, boutique accommodation, and bicycle support services giving country Australia a tourism boost.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Cycling the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail - How adventurous are you?

Yimbun Tunnel Brisbane Valley Rail Trail

The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) follows an old rail corridor from Yarraman to Ipswich in south-east Queensland. At 161 km, it is Australia's longest rail trail beating the Great Victorian Rail Trail and the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail by almost 30 and 50 kms respectively. Queenslanders like to do things differently however so if you head up to the BVRT for a bit of spring cycling with the idea that the trail will be just like its easy-riding Victorian counterparts only longer, you are in for a shock.




Thursday, 19 September 2019

Swooping Magpies: Surviving the Mad Magpie of Toogoolawah!

Australian Magpie
Talk to an American or a Brit or almost anyone else about Australia and the conversation inevitably comes around to animals. Not the cute ones, like koalas and wombats and baby kangaroos, but the ones out to get you - the deadly ones.  There is no denying this country has its fair share of dangerous creatures. Google 'the most venomous snakes in the world' and there are bound to be a few Australian natives on the list. Then there is the world's most deadly bird, the beautiful but very cranky cassowary; one of the world's most dangerous spiders, the Sydney funnel web; the lovely to look at but deadly to touch blue ringed octopus and the infamous Irukandji jellyfish. The funny thing though is that nobody ever mentions the animal Australia is most afraid of, the creature which sends grown adults into paroxysms of dread with a single flap of its wings, the springtime terror of southern skies - the Australian swooping magpie.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

National Trust, English Heritage or Historic Houses - which should you join?

Sherborne Castle
National Trust, English Heritage or Historic Houses - which membership is best? Then there is the National Trust Overseas Visitors Touring Pass, membership of a National Trust Overseas Organisation or the English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass. Confused yet? Each membership gives you access to different attractions, has different pricing structures and different rules, some of which are clear and some of which are hidden in the fine print and downright sneaky.


Thursday, 8 August 2019

Is the London Eye worth it!

The London Eye
Is the London Eye fun? Absolutely! At £30 for a standard ticket in 2019, is the London Eye worth the outrageous price? No!!!  But - my advice is do it anyway. Read on for how much fun it is - as well as a few tips on getting it just a little bit cheaper.  And - whether you should pay even more by adding a skip the line ticket to your purchase. For a 30 minute ride the London Eye works out at a pound a minute. Think of it that way and it doesn't sound so bad.




Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Avebury Henge: A stone circle to rival Stonehenge

Avebury Henge
Ancient Britons were an industrious lot. 4,000 years ago, around the same time they were piling up huge stones on the Salisbury Plain to create Stonehenge they were doing more or less the same thing 12 miles (20 kms) to the north to create the stone circles of Avebury Henge. Although a lot less popular than its more famous cousin, Avebury Henge is in many ways more interesting. For one thing you can walk right up to the stones and touch them. For another, once you have paid to park, the site is free - although there is a way to see Stonehenge for free which is almost as good as the paid entrance.