From Brisbane, we head inland to Gatton where we stop for lunch before crossing the fertile vegetable-growing plains of the Lockyer Valley. Our goal is the garden city of Toowoomba, situated in the Darling Downs region of southern Queensland on Australia’s Great Dividing Range.
The gradient is steep and it’s a slow climb up the mountain before we crest the plateau and turn left to Picnic Point lookout. It’s a traditional spot for travellers to stretch their legs and take in the magnificent views which seem to stretch forever into a blue-grey smudge.
After checking into our boutique hotel, we take a short walk into town, passing old homes with steep corrugated iron roofs and interesting turrets and chimneys.
A charming old building in Margaret Street, once a grand home with circular driveway, is available for business lease.
In the city centre, shops and offices are still housed in quaint older-style buildings which seem to go on forever when you are inside.
The Book Tree bookshop is an Aladdin’s cave of books and accessories and a friendly salesperson. The haberdashery store Lincraft is on three levels, basement, middle and top (with creaky wooden floorboards) crammed full of craft-creating supplies and good customer service.
Friendly staff seem to be the theme throughout Toowoomba including the upmarket shopping precinct Grand Central which contains everything the modern shopper has come to expect—plus a book swap library.
The seminar, the reason for our visit, isn’t until next day so we decide to walk through Queens Park Botanic Gardens, bypassing an old steamroller, to visit Cobb & Co Museum. Originally a coach museum in honour of Cobb & Co horse-drawn coaches which ran the length and breadth of Queensland in ye olde days, the museum has been rehoused and now contains a myriad of local and culturally significant items.
We are lucky enough to get a personal guided tour—thank you, Sharon—and learn the ins and outs of the exhibits from coaches to goat carts, blacksmith forge to wooden clothing (photos below) and local Indigenous heritage.
The museum interior meanders like an old country trail with something different around every bend.
I discover that even though male passengers paid full fare, in the olden days they were expected to assist with river crossings, fallen logs, opening and closing stock gates, and to ‘lighten the load’ by walking up hills. What a hardy bunch! We need survivor TV shows to see that level of guts and determination today.
Images below show Chris Mills-Kelly’s delicately carved wooden bonnet, dress and shoes for the Artisans Challenge 2012. It is both fascinating and moving; these small articles represent the clothing Indigenous children were made to wear for photo opportunities, adoption interviews and to impress important visitors, in contrast to their natural birthright.
After a delicious museum lunch with a huge lamington for dessert (below) we wind our way back to the hotel through misty rain.
My brochure reads “Although the famous coaches and tenacious horse teams and drivers are now long gone, Cobb & Co continues to live on in Australian history as the country’s greatest coaching company.”
The Cobb & Co Museum conducts workshops and various events and activities throughout the year. Our museum guide told us the workshops book out quickly. The specialist trades of yesteryear are back in fashion, wheelwright, silversmith, leadlighting, etc. One day I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at kangaroo leather plaiting. It’s a three-day course to make a belt or a whip, so watch this space. Yippee aye yay!
We walked by this gracious old residence, Harris House, every day. At leisure, I explored parks, galleries and cafes. Everybody was ready for a chat. Of course, I checked out the fashion clothing stores. Toowoomba is colder in winter than Brisbane so I ended up buying several long sleeved t-shirts which I wore in layers under my jacket.
So nice to have a change of scene and a change of season.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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