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Don’t cage me in
Mainland citizens, friends, relatives and others are slightly envious of our comparitive freedoms in Tasmania, but not all of us are enjoying the wider ramifications of the Covid lockdown.
Recently, in the outdoor freedom of the Huonville Dog Exercise Park, a woman who is quite well known to me complained that she felt like she was in a cage.
“I feel like I am in prison.”
Unfortunately, this (young-ish) woman was feeling desperate. With no end in sight, she, and many others, are experiencing the mental effects of lockdown. Mental health support is available if we know what to look for, but it is a task best left to medical professionals. Seeking help is important, although I have heard some people don’t wish to add further strain to an already overstretched system.
“Get help” is easy to say, but when we are used to being self-reliant, strong and capable, even admitting we may be feeling mentally poorly is a difficult barrier to overcome.
After some jokes and time spent watching the dogs enjoy themselves, I think my acquaintance was feeling better. Saying, “Take care” seemed trite and tame, as does the advice, “Take a break away”, and “Get a change of scenery”. I hope she found the help she needed and doesn’t feel caged in anymore.
Getting away from it all
In Tasmania, we can at least escape, a little, in our lovely, moat-like island. Taking the opportunity to change our regular routine, we decided to spend some time in the north, or rather the middle, of the state. Two nights in Launceston was a pleasant break, with some time spent doing the tourism thing in the Tamar Valley and at Beaconsfield. A decent circuit-breaker.
Two incidents put the feeling of being in a cage into perspective.
Travelling along the Tamar River to Beaconsfield is a pleasant experience, especially on a sunny day. Gold was first discovered in there in 1847. However, it was not until 1877, when brothers William and David Dally discovered the cap of a payable gold reef on the eastern slope of Cabbage Tree Hill, that the intensive mining of the area really began. This reef later became known as the famous Tasmania Reef.
By October 1877 the Dally brothers had sold their claim on the Reef to Messrs William D Grubb and William Hart for
15,000 pounds.
When in a town with such
a singular focus, a visit to the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre is a must. An attractive, solid building of red brick, the centre is located in the heart of Beaconsfield. Its remaining facade has mellowed to
a soft red-ochre colour and is
a standing testimony to the efforts of endeavour, hard work and hardship.
Originally called the Grubb Shaft Gold and Heritage Museum, it was formed in 1972 after discussions were held on forming
a district museum. Construction of
the centre began, and it was finally opened in 1984.
At peak tourism times, the centre attracted 40,000 visitors per year from all over the world.
The mine and town of Beaconsfield have continued to make their presence felt in Tasmania, economically, socially and historically. An event in late April 2006 brought the district to worldwide attention. A collapse of a section of the mine sadly caused the death of Larry Knight and the entrapment, in a small cage deep underground, of miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
The world watched on in May 2006 as Webb and Russell were freed from their underground cage after spending two weeks trapped underground. Television news coverage of their emergence from the mine is still
a stunning and joyful sight, and a major focus of the museum’s display is a recreation of their plight, a poignant reminder of the intense effort to free them.
It brought tears to my eyes.
A different type of cage
Back in Launceston, a trip to the Monkey Park in City Park brought back pleasant memories of times spent with children, enjoying the antics of the 20 plus monkeys in the Japanese macaque monkey enclosure. Time has passed, and the original inhabitants have been replaced by several generations of creatures.
The monkeys are effectively caged by the glass wall and small moat. I wonder how they feel, being caged in? Cages can be real or imagined, legal or imposed by health imperatives. We could even get philosophical and say we create our own cages.
But don’t forget – we are not as badly off as some.
Merlene Abbott

Don’t forget the sunnies
It seemed strange to read that  Hydro Tasmania provided sunglasses for the schoolchildren in Strathgordon – this is a place where it rains for 250 days a year. This nugget of information was provided by the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Pedder. It seems that, when the sun finally came out, it reflected so brightly on the white quartzite gravel, sunglasses were a must. We saw this for ourselves, with the quartzite at first seeming like highly polished silver.
Taking advantage of a recent promotion, we decided to explore the Lake Pedder area, which I last visited in 1985.
Because we could, we spread the journey over several days to explore places along the way. So, coffee in New Norfolk before lunch at Russell Falls. It was good to have time to stretch our legs and do the round trip to the falls. The signage says the walk takes 25 minutes, but that is obviously for those who do not stop continuously to take photos. It took us an hour.
We then continued to Maydena, where we stopped for a night. There is more to explore there on another trip, including the Railtrack Riders, which looked great fun, and the Junee Caves.
The next day we journeyed on to Strathgordon on a very wild, windy day. Driving around one of the numerous bends, we were faced with a large tree down across the whole road. Already someone who had been travelling the other way was chainsawing the logs and moving them to the side of the road.
“Do you always travel with a chaisaw?” we asked. It transpired the owner was a landscape gardener who, although on holiday, still had his saw.
When we arrived at the lodge, we were shown to a very comfortable two-bedroom unit with a kitchen and even a laundry, which would be useful for bushwalkers.
At breakfast the next morning,
we had wonderful views across the lake, and watched the sun shining on the distant mountain ranges. Magic. Later we ventured out to the Gordon Dam. What an engineering masterpiece.
Lake Pedder, named after Sir John Pedder, the then chief magistrate of Tasmania, has become known as the lake that was flooded despite widespread opposition. The ‘new’ Lake Pedder is very beautiful, but one can only wonder at what would have been had it not
been flooded.
The next day was one of the 250, with very heavy rain, wind, and even a thunderstorm. That gave us a chance to relax in the very comfortable surroundings of the lodge. Some were doing jigsaw puzzles, others reading, and yet others chatting to fellow tourists. This was also a chance to catch up on the documents telling the stories of the early explorers, contractors, and the families who moved into the various Hydro Tasmania villages.
Strathgordon was the first school in Australia to have a heated undercover playground and a heated swimming pool, which tourists now enjoy. I could just imagine the parents back in the 1960s trying to make a life for the family in what is still a very isolated place. To start with, before the recreational hall was built, there were no organised activities, no lake for boating, few walking tracks and no sports ground. And three metres of rain a year. The tourist information said the rain was so loud on the tin roofs that you could not have
a conversation or watch the limited TV when it rained.
The next day, we started for home, calling in at Russell Falls again for lunch. After the rain of the previous day we could not resist revisiting the walk. The falls were even more magnificent, with the water almost lapping the viewing platform.
The noise was thunderous, and it was very wet from the spray, but as Billy Connolly is reported to have said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Fortunately, we did have the
right clothing.
Then it was back to New Norfolk and an overnight stop at delightful accommodation which was originally built for the Boyer workers.
It was there we learnt about a Saturday market which made for an interesting diversion before ending a pleasant break away.
Hopefully we helped the local economy whilst seeing more of our own wonderful state.
Marian Hearn

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