Downton Abbey Down Under

January 4 – 5

Brrrrrr! Cold. Grey. Windy. Rain. Aren’t we moaners about the weather! After enduring soaring temperatures in South Australia, now we were complaining it was too cold to be out and about because it was 14C “feels like 12C”. We did venture out for a stroll around the lake near our hotel and then headed back indoors for something of a “slob day” and then it was off into Melbourne to the theatre to see Hamilton. We took the scenic route in and saw some more of the local history as we drove through Point Gellibrand, which is where the “first Government settlement in Victoria” was established in 1835. We saw the old Timeball Tower that helped ships navigate. At the top of the tower, the huge ball would be lifted up and then dropped at exactly 1pm every day, which helped sailors set the chronometer on their ship, helping them to set their location and head in the right direction. Then on we went into the city, where walking through the streets, everyone was rugged up in coats and jackets and I heard a woman beside me comment to her companion, “It’s supposed to be summer!” To which the companion replied, “It’s freezing!”
“Why does everyone complain about Tasmania’s weather?” I said to Steve, “it’s no different here!”
We sat through a brilliant show at the theatre, with outstanding performances and then drove back to our hotel giving each other our reviews and comparisons between the Australian production of Hamilton and the original. Verdict: both exceptional.

A stroll around the lake on a chilly grey day
Not a day to bother the swans though
As regal as ever
I don’t think we had to worry. Too cold for the “Joe Blakes” to be out and about
The Timeball Tower, with the ball just visible at the top. It was obviously dropped one last time and left in that spot.

The next day, with Hamilton ear worms stuck in our heads, we set off into the final day of our trip. A day to fill before rolling onto the ferry for another crossing of Bass Strait. We set course for Werribee Park and Werribee Mansion, a grand historic home, something of an Australian version of Downton Abbey, with nice gardens to walk through too. We were pleased to be told on arrival that we were on Bunurong country which it has been for over 40,000 years, with the house itself being built by Thomas Chirnside and completed in 1877. Thomas had a bit of a story to tell. He left Scotland in 1838 with a few hundred pounds and headed to Australia, joined by his brother Andrew in 1841. They began buying up land until they had some 93,000 acres and a huge pastoral empire. With everything going so nicely for them, Thomas returned to Scotland for a visit in 1845, where he fell in love with his first cousin, Mary. He asked her to marry him, her parents said NO, so he retuned to Australia alone. Once Thomas was back, brother Andrew headed back to the homeland for his visit and Thomas asked him to bring Mary back with him, any way he could. In 1852, Andrew returned to Australia with Mary…as his wife! “What!?” I thought, ‘a double-crossing brother’!! Thomas still wanted Mary to have a nice place to live, so he built Mary and Andrew Werribee Mansion, where they lived with their three youngest children. Thomas never married. Well, I had Andrew down as a first-class bounder, until I read further along in the house, that his marriage to Mary was all part of the “bring her back any way you can” plan, “even if it means marrying her yourself” and had Thomas’ blessing. Still, seemed a tad drastic. One can only hope Mary had a say in things. We strolled through the house, looking at the multitude of rooms upstairs and down, learning a little more about the lives of the rich and fortunate in the 19th century.

Walking up the sweeping drive towards Werribee Mansion
Just a man and his shack
The library. The 19th century equivalent of the man of the house’s “shed”.
The Drawing Room
The dining room
The Saloon. This was used as a sitting area and where balls were also held. The orchestra would sit in the Vestibule at the far end, while the guests swished and spun their way around the room. There is 24 carat gold leaf on the ceiling of the Vestibule!
Not quite so opulent for the “downstairs” folk. A glimpse into the kitchen.
This little gadget is, of all things, a raisin and grape seeder! Some poor kitchen maid had to sit at this thing and one-by-one remove the seeds from the household grapes before they were served. I mean, REALLY!
Wistful thoughts of being Master of the house, looking out over his garden
As we know, not a great time to be a woman. Imagine having to try and eat a five course meal in this thing and breathe at the same time!
I mean, how do her insides even fit in that space!?

Then, a stroll through the garden and out to the rose garden just outside the grounds, where we stopped for elevenses before we were once again on our way. We’d timed our run well, arriving as the doors opened and the car park was empty and by the time we left, the car park was chocker block full and people everywhere. The day had returned to sunshine, so it was a top day for an outing and lots of people were enjoying a stroll in a lovely place.

A very nice place for a stroll
More flying foxes overhead!
The Grotto, that sits in the middle of the lake. A cool place for family or guests to sit and have tea on a warm day.
Looking out from the Grotto
This little fella just kept hopping along in front of me
Happy to find a Moreton Bay Fig, the new favourite tree
Into the rose garden

As we drove through the centre of Werribee, we saw some more terrific community art, this time in the form of a water tower, rather than a silo. The tower dates from 1914 and the mural was created by a local artist. It took forty days to complete on the 18 metre tall tower, being completed in July, 2020. Fun fact…it took 180 litres of paint. The main image shows a water bailiff checking the flow of water being delivered to farms for irrigation and then local flora and fauna are included too. Another nice picture on what would otherwise be a fairly drab piece of concrete.

Back onto the long, straight country roads which were virtually empty, which was nice and then we rolled into Lara for Steve to get in another nine holes of golf before we headed for the ferry. It was a nice course for a stroll, very low key and casual, but the balls were not cooperating and curved every way but straight down the fairway, so some extra walking was involved as we scoured the undergrowth and behind trees, searching for errant balls. Some top shots were played, but the fairways remained determined not to land a ball, so Steve ended with a muttered, “I need to give up golf.” Ah well, even the pros have off days. Tomorrow is another day. Putt on Big Fella, putt on!

Straight as a die and quiet. Perfect.
Too many magnetic trees!
“Look!” he said, “look where my birdie putt stopped! I give up!”

We had just enough time for a quick bite to eat in the car, organise our things and then head to the ferry and get in line to roll on. After our smooth as glass crossing on the way over, this one was a rocking and rolling affair, especially as we got to the Heads, so we rolled and swayed our way over Bass Strait and landed back on Tasmanian shores at the time favoured by larks of 5:30am. Steve dropped me off along the way so I could run home and then we were back on our home patch, just as we had left it.

There endeth our trip of mainland meanderings from South Australia to Victoria and back to Tasmania. Some running, some riding and some roaming complete. It was good to be out and about again. Nice to see pastures new, some different scenery, new places to explore and stories to be told. It whet our whistle once again to venture forth somewhere else. Not sure where. Not sure when, but venture we shall. And…in the meantime…maybe just some more tootling about closer to home. Whatever it may be, we will still try to find things to see, places to visit, people to meet and just enjoy the wide world and what if has to offer and teach. Sounds bonza to me! Onwards to run…ride…and roam!

2 thoughts on “Downton Abbey Down Under

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  1. Magnetic trees – LOL! Can’t believe that putt didn’t sink. Absolutely love the history and looks of the mansion and nice that they actually talked about the land pre settlement. Ugh to wearing a corset- can’t imagine. Nor can I imagine being happy that my brother would marry my sweetheart. That’s got to be difficult. Welcome home. I’ve so enjoyed your trip. Bernie


    1. Thanks Bernie. We enjoyed the trip and getting out and about again. I know…the corsets! Those gals just didn’t know the joy of a good elasticated waistband! Love having you along for the ride and so appreciate your comments and have loved that you’ve been down to this part of the world and can relate to some of the places and experiences we have. We hope to have more of them to share…


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