Happy New Year from Chudleigh!

It has been so good to see our old friend Louise & her partner Nigel.  It’s been almost nine years since we met &  spent a couple of months together in a special place up in the Kimberley.  They have now made their lovely home in the quiet country village of Chudleigh, a place where folk are warm hearted & the weather is intermittently likewise. We have been able to spend time with them before & after the new year, house & dog sitting for them whilst they were away for a few days with family for New Year celebrations.

For us the whole experience of stopping in one place for longer than we have been accustomed to lately has been relaxing & most enjoyable. It has reminded us that whilst travelling is wonderful that so too is the opportunity to stop & to be domesticated now and again. We have loved ‘staying home’ & just pottering in the garden. Having a dog to look after (& to be looked after by) has been the icing on the cake for us.

Missy, an 8+ year old  Red Heeler inspired Kimberley cross, has been a joy to be with. Initially a little aloof with us, understandably given she had never previously met us, she warmed to us, especially once we had taken her out bush walking where we learned to trust her & she learned to trust us. The transition was something really quite obvious & very interesting to watch. We walked to a local landmark – Lobster Falls – some of which involved some reasonably arduous (for us, not her) steep & rocky climbs. She had quickly shown herself to be well behaved & willing to accept commands from me, so much so that we were comfortable for her to be off lead often walking ahead of us. She would regularly check to see where we were, but when MrsTea began to lag behind when the track became more difficult, she not only checked my position, but frequently came back past me to go check on MrsTea. It was very clear that she was the one ‘looking after’ us , rather than us her. That she would do this made us both feel a little special. Once back ‘home’ & for the remainder of our time in Chudleigh the aloofness was replaced by affection.

Missy. We’ll miss her, she’s far to loyal to run away from home as a stow away in our Tvan!
Sharing another woman’s bed!
It must be love!

Whilst here, we have enjoyed a few ‘outings’ in between bouts of pottering & laziness. The bushwalk to the falls was a good one, as were other walks with Missy through local forests in the foothills of the Western Tiers which surround Chudleigh like a giant natural wall, contributing a sense of being embraced & kept safe. Perhaps this is part of what helped the residents we met on dog walks through the village to reach out to us. Recognising Missy with us no doubt helped a bit too! 🙂 Another walk was up to the impressive ‘Devil’s Gullet’, this without Missy’s company, as it is in a conservation area which doesn’t allow dogs. At Devil’s Gullet there is a knee trembling sheer drop into a wild valley below, reached by a walk through alpine flora, snow gums etc, all of which were unfortunately burned a couple of years ago by extensive bushfire. Today most are dead & the slow process of regeneration is still at early stage. Even so it was interesting boulder country with colourful carpets of mosses & lichens. It was also cold & very windy being at a high elevation. This gave some explanation to the constantly changing outlook along the top of the Tiers one sees from Chudleigh. Every day brings a different vista. From the edge of Devils Gullet we could see a long way, across to Cradle Mountain & beyond.

A view up to one of the many features of the Western Tiers, this one named ‘Mother Cummings Peak’ – snapped during one of our walks through the forests near the village
Missy at Lobster Falls
Devil’s Gullet
MrsTea gazes out across burned out forest from the edge of Devil’s Gullet
Some may recall MrsTea’s willingness to ‘live on the edge’. This was no exception. Me, if there is no handrail to hold on to I confess to getting a tad jittery.
A ‘carpet’ between the boulders & burned out snowgums.

Readers of previous posts may have noticed that we are like Scotsmen (We can say such things, both being of 50% Scots heritage) when it comes to visiting places with entry fees attached, it’s not a case of deep pockets & short arms, rather a case of our perception of value for money. If we can experience something ‘au naturel’ rather than behind a kiosk we simply enjoy it more, but sometimes we make an exception. There were two Chudleigh ‘exceptions‘. The Trowunna Wildlife Park,  situated not far from the village  & the Honey Farm in the middle of the village, almost opposite the only other business in the main street, the small general store.

The ‘Honey Farm’ has an enormous selection of different honey (this shows only a small part of the selection) all subtly different, from areas of different nectars , all of which you can taste pre-purchase, along with a huge range of other honey inspired products. If honey can be added to …they have it for sale!
Most honey is bought from other producers, but they do keep some display/demonstration hives (behind glass). This is one of those new-fangled ‘flow hives’ being ‘tapped. Business is owned & run by grandmother, mother & son.

Our reason for visiting Trowunna was our wish to see some wildlife unique to Tasmania close up, to complement the sightings we have already enjoyed. Tasmanian Devils & Tasmanian Native Hens as well as Spotted Tailed Quolls which we have never seen. There are several places in Tassie which have ‘Devils’ in captivity, but Trowunna was the one recommended to us as they have an active breeding & rehabilitation programme for this maligned but cute little critter which is today an endangered species, the result of historical & ill informed persecution plus the widespread effects of a contagious facial cancer.  It seems that the nature is at some level combating the cancer now, but Devils still need all the help they can get to survive as a species. The enthusiasm plus knowledge gained from a 20 year old breeding programme at Trowunna was obvious. The Devil’s often raucous group feeding style plus their impressive bluff aggression is what dominates their reputation, but close up they are just as cute as baby wombats. Seeing the nocturnal quolls was a challenge as the centre clearly puts animal needs before the wants of visitors, but a quiet request to one of the keepers resulted in him happily fetching out a young male Spotted Tail Quoll just for us to see. The young fella didn’t seem at all perturbed & as he was an animal the centre are hoping might make a good ‘display animal’ it was good training for him. Quolls are generally far more feisty than Devils apparently.

Cute young wombats. Tassie wombats seem to be lighter in colour to those which lived on our farm in Gippsland.
An inquisitive Tassie Devil
A cute Tassie Devil. The keeper’s presentation was excellent – passionate & very knowledgeable
Another cute Devil. This an older one in the Devil ‘retirement home’ for those unable to be reintroduced into the wild. Average lifespan 5 years – this one was 7
Feeding time in the ‘retirement home’. No processed foods here. Wallaby carcass was the days menu.

There were also a number of birds at the centre, some living freely around the place – including ducks, Cape Barren Geese, Tasmanian Native Hens (aka Turbo Chooks) , plus a variety of birds of prey in aviaries. These were birds either there to be rehabilitated after injury, of kept to see out their lives because their injuries were such that they would not survive in the wild. Seeing the likes of large WedgeTailed Eagles at close quarters inside an aviary saddened us, but had they been there only for our benefit that sadness would instead have been anger. Nonetheless we found it confronting to see birds in cages. A large Tasmanian Masked Owl (the worlds largest of the Barn Owl species) refused to look at my camera, & a kookaburra which looked like it couldn’t laugh if it wanted to sat dejectedly on a perch staring into space.

Cape Barren Goose
With it’s almost dayglo pale green nose, black feet & red legs we thought it looked as though it belonged in the ‘punk’ era. Of course it is a species far older!
Spotted Tail Quoll showing it’s feisty nature
Turbo Chook, aka Tasmanian Native Hen. A flightless bird & quite amusing to watch.

Tomorrow we leave Chudleigh’s warm embrace to go south, to the Huon Valley & the town of Cygnet for the annual Folk Music Festival. We have around a week before needing to be there, so intend to take a route via the Great Lake where I hope I might change my fishing luck, and catch a trout or two for dinner.