Friday, April 2, 2010

Wiseman's Ferry

Wow, I haven't posted since January. It might seem silly to post about our summer holiday when it's now in the beginning of April. I was just going to sum it all up in a highlights post but I couldn't decide what to keep out so you'll just have to bear with me.

After staying the night at Coff's Harbour we made our way down the coast. The original idea was to stay in Sydney but I couldn't find anywhere prior to stay that suited us. We were planning on taking a side trip to a town called Wiseman's Ferry which is an hour NW of Sydney, so we decided we would stay there instead for a couple of days and just make Sydney a day trip.

Our reason for visiting Wiseman's Ferry was that it was named after my Great-great-great-great-grandfather, a convict called Solomon Wiseman. As kids we were raised on romantic stories about he was transported for thieving, was apparently an astute and cunning business man but not a very nice one, how he supposedly murdered his first wife by pushing her down the stairs...and her ghost still haunts the inn.  Not stuff you'd normally be proud of in an ancestor but it's far enough removed to make it thrilling rather than disgraceful. He'd gotten wind that the Great Northern Road (a convict-built road from Sydney that took seven years to build) was going to come close to him so he started the ferry that crosses the Hawkesbury River (still the only way to cross it) and that's how he made his fortune along with his inn he started and getting the contract for supplying the convicts and overseers with supplies.

I, naturally, passed all the stories on to my girls so you can imagine our excitment when after hours of driving, we came at last to this sign.

We crossed on the now-modernised ferry and into the town which was so small we drove out of it again without realising it. We had two nights booked at a lovely place called Retreat at Wiseman's, with a comfortable room, free breakfasts, swimming pool for the kids and a beach volleyball court where we taught Ella how to play.

Dinner, of course, was at Solomon's original house (which is now a pub) made with beautiful huge blocks of hewn stone and THOSE stairs. We got a thrill by standing on them and wondering..."Did he really do it.... and would we see her ghost?" Of course, I didn't have my camera with me.

The next day we went on the tourist drive around the valley where you could see old picturesque buildings

and places like this atmospheric graveyard

full of old graves

although I liked the ones better that hadn't been touched up. 
The cemetery was partly overgrown and there were little graves here and there, nearly hidden by fern fronds and long grasses, some with only a word or part of a name still legible.

I liked to read them and muse "how did this "dearly beloved" child of three die and was his mother inconsolable, and what was life like for William Douglas, born in 1757. It makes history seem real and not just a flight of fancy from a novel. William Douglas would have really worn all those clothes I read about in my historical romances and driven carriages and maybe even carried a musket.

The girls didn't share my fascination, declaring it creepy which Mitch joked about when he found an old glove lying on the ground.

We ended up in the village of St Albans where the centrepoint is the Settlers Arms Inn est. 1836.

The potenial of this place had me seething in frustration, for although it was in a picturesque spot with outdoor tables and beautiful old trees and still very original and historical inside (the doors were so low Mitch had to duck to go through)

it was dingy and dark,  the owner was a dour old man who gave you the impression that you were invonveniencing him by ordering a drink, there were no devonshire scones like advertised as they didn't make any that day and there was nothing else to choose from. In exploring the few different rooms, I walked into a parlour (?) which had the remains of a fish lunch covered in flies, which had been sitting on a table long enough to have dried up and filled the room with a decidedly fishy stink. I was just itching to take the place over and give it new life. I could see the tourists sitting at tables being served huge fluffy scones and dainty tea cakes. Although I must admit I would probably want to whitewash everything inside as it was so dark which would lose me points for historical authenticity.

We continued on our drive and one of the things I like best about holidays is the lack of deadlines. So we had time to pull over and take photos of old stone churches and admire the views and pat the horses on the side of the road.

After two days, I'd had enough of Wiseman's Ferry as pretty as it is. There is almost an atmospheric brooding to the place that had both Mitch and I reluctant to stay any longer. I think it's partly due to the fact that it's nestled at the bottom of a valley surrounded by these huge cave-dotted cliffs which you can see in the below photo, although it truly doesn't do them justice. It felt like more than that though and if I found out that it was a spiritually significant indigenous place or that there had been some atrocity commited there, I wouldn't have been surprised.

So we left for Sydney along the twists and turns of the Old Northern Road, just stopping for one last look at the valley were we had stayed.

Get to know me

  • I love the smell of cinnamon and vanilla.
  • My favourite flowers are daisies.
  • My favourite trees are pine trees.
  • I always like to have the bickie jar full and a cake on the cake stand. I know...not that healthy, but so good to look at.
  • Autumn is my favourite month, although I do wish we had more of a change of colours up here in Queensland.
  • I love Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls Wilder. They started my love affair with "old-fashioned" stuff.
  • I'm a boots and jeans kind of girl, but also love vintage skirts and dresses.
  • I like sewing and am in love with quilts at the moment.
  • I love reading. (I have a weakness for archeological thrillers and historical romances, but not Mills and Boon-type ones.)
  • I love old houses with character. No new estate houses for me. (Sorry Rosie.)
  • I love vintage/cottage/farmhouse decorating and pretty pinks and blues, with a splash of red for colour.
  • Polka dots can make me sigh with delight.
  • I have 4 chooks. They are MY pets. Another tick on my dream-come-true chart.
  • I don't eat dessert much any more. I'm not dieting, I just don't want it. (Does that mean I'm growing up if I say no to an icecream cone?)
  • I'll still always say yes to chocolate though!
  • I like to sit on the front stairs in the sun, to drink my morning cup of tea, while I contemplate what to do in the garden.
  • I've got the gardening bug again recently. It comes and goes with the weather. I'm envisioning cottage flowers in pink, blue and white to go with my green picket fence.