Thursday, 10 April 2008

Van Diemens Land


Woolnorth property, once known as Van Diemens Land Company is 50,000 acres, (22,000 hectares) and is situated in the north west tip of Tasmania.

When you stand on the cliffs and breathe in the cool crisp air of Cape Grim at Woolnorth, you are breathing the cleanest air in the world. Cape Grim is one of 24 world-wide air monitoring stations, where air quality is tested at on-site high-tech labs.

The Van Diemen's Land Company was formed in 1824, under charter from King George IV, and is believed to be the last remaining Royal Charter Company still operating. The property, Woolnorth, covers the northwest tip of the island.

Tasmania's native animals abound on Woolnorth. Wallaby, wombat, echidna, bandicoot, platypus, sugar gliders, quolls, Tasmanian devils and others. The last four Tasmanian tigers ever captured were caught at Woolnorth and sent to Domain Zoo (Hobart).

Today, the only way to explore the farm is by guided tour. There are various guided tours of the 22,000 hectare property, including the old farm buildings, the wind farm and Cape Grim Pollution Station.
Originally, the property was started as a sheep farm with high hopes of producing fine wool for export. The initial grant was for 250,000 acres, and at that time included the land on which Stanley now stands and the historic homestead Highfield House was the company's headquarters and director's residence.
Over the years new managers tried various innovative ideas, and in 1873 the company established a pure-bred Hereford herd and distant descendants of the original stock still graze today at Woolnorth in Australia's oldest Hereford herd.
By 1954 Woolnorth was the company's major asset, operating the property for the production of wool and beef. Later on a tourist operation was established to meet the growing market of visitors wishing to see Tasmania's most historic and on-going farming venture.A big earner here the cattle, 10,000 bulls at Woolnorth, all destined for the US lean meat market.

The remote pastoral settlements of the Van Diemen's Land Co. became the scenes of bitter and bloody battles from the 1820s to 1840s. Officially the company's policy was to 'civilise' and placate the Aborigines whilst taking possession of their lands. Curr sanctioned the use of force if necessary, claiming that 'the surest way to prevent bloodshed is to always be prepared to repel and punish aggression'.
Some of the company's shepherds and assigned convicts were, at times, brutal in their approach. This was especially the case in remote regions when there was no-one to witness their cruelty. Early in 1828 four shepherds massacred thirty Aborigines on the company's Woolnorth property. The bodies were hurled over the high sea cliff. George Robinson on a visit to the scene in 1830 wrote that he 'saw several human bones, some of which I brought with me, and a piece of the bloody cliff'. The incident was the culmination of a series of violent clashes between the pastoral workers and the Aborigines.
The homestead of the property has several buildings from the convict days, 'Mason's Cottage' where as kids, we would often joke about seeing Mason's ghost. The original 'Cookhouse" where contract shearers and workers were fed in an adjacent building, the actual cookhouse was where the station cook resided and at one stage my birth person was the cook for the property. I still remember the wood grain on the ceiling in that cottage and at night delighted in telling my sister it was a pair of eyes looking at her. She believed me and yet she is older.

Over the years new managers tried various innovative ideas, and in 1873 the company established a pure-bred Hereford herd and distant descendants of the original stock still graze today at Woolnorth in Australia's oldest Hereford herd.

By 1954 Woolnorth was the company's major asset, operating the property for the production of wool and beef. Later on a tourist operation was established to meet the growing market of visitors wishing to see Tasmania's most historic and on-going farming venture.

I never appreciated where I spent most of my childhood. It was normal for us to ride our bikes down to the cattle yards, hoping to stay within the tyre marks of knee deep cow poo, to lay in the grass and stare up at the stars, listening to the sounds of nothing but nature. Heading off to the mushroom paddock to gather mushrooms, jumping in back of the truck to go rescue fly-blown sheep was all normal and fun things for us. Picking wild daffodils in the cow paddock, to feeding our pet pig, and one thing I shall never forget is the bitch bit me on the stomach one day as i offered her a bucket of scraps. Wouldn't do it now but used to fish and eat eels from the Welcome River that runs through Woolnorth. All us kids of the property workers, we would hide in the pine trees next to the shearing shed, wait til they went for lunch and in like flynn we would go, nicking their cigarettes. Of course when we got asked we always blamed Mandy's older sister who smoked. Cubby houses in the gorse bushes was a favourite place to hide. Our forts were boy proof and ready to bombard them should they attempt to enter. At 'Crystal Rock' we would try and outdo each other to see who could find the biggest crystals, not worrying about the possibility of snakes. The beach was private and many times shell collecting and beach combing was the agenda of the day. From sea urchins, star fish, sea horses and buoys washed up was akin to finding a pirates treasure. At night we would sneak into the stables , hide from the adults, thinking we was smart sticking our fingers in the molasses.... one night I made a mistake and put said finger in a drum of fuel, straight into the mouth, hence molasses tasting at night ended then.
Now I am a parent, I yearn to bring my children up on a place like Woolnorth. We had no playstations, x-boxes or videos. Television watching was a privlege. We made our own fun, yes we got into mischeif but nothing compared to what kids do these days. We were children and we lived and played as all children should. All during school days, I envied the kids living in Smithton, the closest town. Now I see I was the lucky one.
Woolnorth

2 comments:

CherryPie said...

Sounds like a wonderful place to grow up in, such adventures :-)

Semaj Mahgih said...

It sounds like the place to be for bringing up a family but a closed shop to the ordinary person, of course.

This was the case at Point Nepean, Victoria - shut off from the public except for tours in latter days and yet a fabulous place.

Tasmania is looming larger in my mind and thanks so much for this account of your chilhood, molasses and all.