An interlude in Victoria’s temperate rainforest.

Friends and followers its a while since I last posted. At that time I foreshadowed further tales of my forebears pioneering times in Western Australia

But the truth is that 8 months of travel on a motorbike much of it sleeping in a tent left me tired and a case of still itchy feet complicated my enthusiasm to write

The only remedy was getting back out into nature.

To the east of Melbourne the Grand Ridge Road is a winding 132 km ride across the the Strzelecki Ranges and a mix of sealed and unsealed road.

The road runs through rich farming land, old growth temperate rain forest and sadly, old forests that have been destroyed by clear felling.

At the eastern end, the road winds down into Yarram through the Tarra Bulga National Park

Here are some views of this beautiful forest.

Coming down of the mountains the forest is dryer and the wild flowers abound.

To the West of Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road and the Otway Ranges – a favourite haunt I have written of often.

But even on a day trip to a well known area there are new places to find and the waterfalls were at their best after the spring rains

The swimming hole at She oak falls was too inviting to resist

Unfortunately I got to Stevenson Falls late in the day and as it was too late for a dip on a day trip

But I had enjoyed my time having a beer and a swim at Wye River.

A stop off at the beautiful harbour at the coastal village of Apollo Bay

The perfect end to any day trip is of course- A beautiful sunset.

Now I’ve had a little interlude, a couple of day trips and the batteries are starting to feel recharged I will get back to my families pioneering tale. After you are warned at the start of my blog it is a discontinuous narrative!!!

With time served in Fremantle Gaol then it was on to York

The area around Fremantle and upstream in the Swan River to Perth is quite beautiful.

Beautiful sandy beaches flank the mouth of the Swan River and its bustling Port.

From Kings Park there are views over the River and the City of Perth

Kings Park includes the Perth Botanic Gardens and its amazing native flora collection.

Not that my Great grandfather would have had time to enjoy any of these beautiful sights as his home was Fremantle Gaol. From his arrival in 1853 until he and his brother were given a pardon in 1855 they worked, like all convicts on the gaol. The limestone extracted from the site of the gaol and cut into blocks on site.

It would have been hot dusty work with no escape. Summer temperatures in Perth are often in the high 30c range and not unusually 40c+. Temperatures unheard of in Ireland, but the convicts toiled in the heat, sleeping in quarters on the quarry at night.

I should introduce my Great grand father. His name was Edmund and his convict records describe him and 6ft and 1/2 inch tall (only 1 inch shorter than me) stout with a ruddy complexion, (mmm could be me) with brown hair and hazel eyes (phew Im not a reincarnation my hair was once ginger and eyes are blue). A tall strong man in modern days in 1853 he was the tallest on the ship and I can imagine that strength was well put to work in the prison quarry till he and his brother were pardoned in 1855.

Not long after being pardoned, Edmund married and Irish Bridget and with his brother they all headed west to the farming centre of York. York was the first inland white settlement in Western Australia with the colonial settlement process continued the dispossession of Aborigines starting in 1831.

So I followed in their footsteps and checked out of Fremantle Gaol and headed to York

Its a bit over 100km to travel from Fremantle to York and it was certainly easier whipping along the road east on a motorbike than would have need the journey in 1855.

The road to York crosses the Darling Ranges, a low mountain range the attracts rainfall that feeds the catchments of Perth to the west and the towns on the eastern hinterland.

Recent bushfires had scared the bush but in the miracle that is the Australian bush there are the plants that like fire. The grass trees or Xanthorrhoea australis to be formal are one example.

Bush fires, grass trees and strange animals. I wonder what my troop of intrepid Irish forebears thought as the headed east after a mere 2 years in this strange land.

Looking out over the town of York and its surrounds you can see the lovely green bush .

Down in the town the grand buildings tell the tale of past prosperity.

But the grandest of buildings is the Town Hall

I had come to York om a bit of a hope and a prayer about finding any information of my Great grandfather in years so far past.

In the town hall I walked up the stairs to the balcony and there was an Honour Board of the councillors.

And when the Municipality of York in 1861 was Edmund Cahill

Now I hear some of you saying that that goes to prove that local government is just full of criminals. But just hold your horses.

At the York Historical Society Archives I was able to view a copy of the 1859 York Census filled in by Edmund showed that they had worked hard to be successful farmers in this new land.

At the farm there was Edmund and his brother, and wife Bridget, their two children and two employed labourers also from Ireland. The had 50 acres under cultivation and 46 head of livestock. This in the 4 years since pardoned and land that could only be dreamed of back in Ireland.

The family was also instrumental in establishing catholic church a beautiful building still standing and prominent in the town.

But such acquisition doesn’t come without a cost.

The cost was being paid by the local aboriginal people for whom land is part of them.

In the park opposite the church on the eucalypts the aboriginal colours are crocheted onto the tree. The colours have meaning. Black represents the aboriginal people, yellow represents the sun, the giver of life, and red represents the land and aboriginal connection to that land.

That connection with land, with country will never be broken for a first nations person.

You may have thought that with success in York Edmund and Family would have settled and be content but there are more twists to this tale yet.

In the next blog let me show you some some of the towns around York before we rejoin Edmund and his family as they continue their pioneer journey further east.

Fremantle and finding the convict streak in me

There were around 167,000 convicts transported to Australia from the UK and now Republic of Ireland

My Great Grandfather and his brother were two of them.

Driven by the horrors and starvation of the Irish Famine, they resorted to stealing cattle and were sentenced to transportation to Australia for 10 years.

They arrived by ship in Fremantle in 1853 after a long and torturous voyage.

The gates of Fremantle Gaol greeted them. Built by convict slave labour to incarcerate convicts. Its a World Heritage Site along other buildings built by convict labour.

So I thought I should visit the spirit of my forebears

A wing of the old Fremantle Gaol has been turned into hostel accomodation. I booked a cell.

A double cell in fact as the wall between every second cell was knocked out to allow enough room to fit a modern single bed in.

So did my spirit mingle with my Great grand father’s? Well I don’t know but thoughts of him and his story of marrying and moving east as a frontier pioneer have certainly permeated my mind. Since I was in Fremantle.

The Round House a prison fort was the first public building in the new Swan River Settlement later to become Perth.

The Fremantle Gaol soon followed as a major public building.

Fremantle is now a major port city of many beautiful historic building

But in 1853 the sight would have been very different for the 309 convicts who arrived with my Great grandfather.

After 110 days sailing from England on a putrid sailing vessel, where 10 convicts had died on voyage, the land that greeted them was dry brown and barren compared to Ireland.

But their home had been gripped with famine since 1845. During ‘The Famine’ its estimated 1 million Irish people died from hunger or disease related to malnutrition and another 1 million migrated to America, Australia and other destinations to escape starvation and British brutality.

For some of the convicts, the sight of the Australian landscape must have been frightening for others a lucky escape from a desperate life.

Their ship arrived in September, the start of Spring in Australia but where they came from the start of Autumn and the cold wet months of Winter. Did they even know that the next months would be hot and dry. Hotter than they had ever experienced.

My Great grandfather was convicted at the age of 20. Since 15 he had only known hunger. After being imprisoned for two years he was transported and at 22 he landed in the Great Southern Land.

So dear friends and followers now that I’m back in Melbourne and can publish from a laptop rather than a smartphone. I will take you, in the next few posts, from Fremantle on the trek of an Irish/ Australian convict pioneer as he and his family moved east with the expanding frontier of the Western Australian Colony in the second half of the 1800s.

Wave Rock

Wave Rock is much more than its famous wave like curve but part of a granite rock field that spans hundreds of kilometres south to the coast near Esperance and east past Norseman to the Nullabor Plain.

The curve is just the face of this Granite Inselberg.

The huge rock hold little forests on top.

A drinking water dam at its side

Views across the adjoining country side.

And rock formations carved by time

The rock has an edge effect forest around its base. The water run off from the granite rock providing a water supply in an otherwise arid place.

At a nearby granite outcrop there is a cave with some very old aboriginal rock art.

Hand stencils are considered some of the earliest forms of rock art and this cave near Wave Rock has many examples.

These can be seen clearly if you enlarge the photos.

So there is much more to Wave Rock than can bee seen at first glance.

Jewels in the South of Western Australia-Denmark and Esperence/Cape Le Grand

After months in the hot tropics of northern Australia and the arid dry coast of central Western Australia arriving in the cool damp southern parts of the state was a sharp change of environment.

The area was cool and moist with rain never far off and a swim in the Southern Ocean is nothing short of bracing.

The landscape around the river and lake is quite beautiful.

But for my the highlight was walking through the coastal forest of Black Butt, Paper Bark and Melaleuca trees.

With the colour of wildflowers and moss sprinkled through

Around 350km east of Denmark is the city of Esperance with the Cape Le Grand National Park near by.

The coast at Cape Le Grand is wild in natural beauty etched by the wind and water.

It’s the quartz in the granite rock formations that makes the sand the whitest in Australia.

In an environment like this I could not help but scale a peak

Or take a dip in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

Cape le Grand was such a peaceful beautiful place.

A mother kangaroo happy to show off her baby joey.

Maybe we should all pause a time and think about the beauty of the natural world because it is nature that sustains us.

Maybe can all stand up like the people of little Denmark did in the lead up the World Climate Change Conference and say We Can Do It by cherishing our natural world.