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Tasmanian Travels Part Four: The Battle of the Midlands

March 28, 2012

The inhabitants of Tasmania’s midlands seem to be a competitive bunch. All the settlements which line the “Historic Highway”, which runs from Launceston to Hobart, boast numerous historic buildings and beautiful views, but few tourists will stop and spend their dollars at every town and village on the route. Thus there is fierce competition amongst the settlements to convince the visitors that their town is the one to visit, or even better, the one at which to stay overnight. They each vie to be seen as the best in the region – the oldest, the prettiest, the most interesting, and the best situated…

Campbell Town, for example, makes much of the fact that it is one of the oldest towns in Tasmania, settled in 1821. The tourist brochures I picked up in Campbell Town sounded rather bitter as they pointed out their relative seniority compared to the much more popular towns of Ross and Richmond. We had a quick look around Campbell Town, but unfortunately while it may be the oldest town in the area, and has a few nice old buildings and some interesting history, it suffers from too many alterations and modern additions – and from the great big highway running down the middle. For all its history, Campbell Town completely lacks the overall charm of its rivals.

Oatlands, on the other hand, is oozing with charm, boasting both an almost unspoilt Georgian street-scape and a working windmill. I think Oatlands wins my vote for prettiest and most interesting settlement (that we visited) of the midlands – but then I’m a sucker for Georgian buildings which I particularly love for their simple symmetry and perfectly balanced proportions. To me, Georgian houses and cottages seem like children’s drawings of houses made real.

Buildings on the main road through Oatlands

At the heart of the village of Oatlands is the windmill, which was vital to the wheat-growing farmers of the region in Colonial times – and which since being restored in 2010 is milling flour from locally grown grain again.

The Callington Mill, built in 1837

Oatlands also features my personal favourite building material – lovely warm coloured sandstone.

A stone cottage in Oatlands

A much grander sandstone building in Oatlands

Of course beautiful sandstone is used in buildings throughout Tassie, particularly in the midlands. Possibly the most famous examples are the convict-built sandstone bridges of Ross and Richmond.

Richmond boasts that its bridge is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia…

The Richmond bridge, built 1825

But in the town of Ross they swear that their bridge, (still the third oldest Aussie bridge still in use), is much prettier.

The bridge in Ross, built 1836

Personally, I thought the two bridges were equally compelling and attractive, but overall I preferred sleepy, relaxed Ross to the much busier Richmond.

More sandstone buildings, this time in Ross

Pretty Post Office building, Ross

Sheep on a block of land at the very heart of the main street of Ross

Evening in Ross

Richmond has plenty of lovely old historic buildings, (such as the church below), but as we were leaving (at about 10.30 on a Monday morning) it was already becoming over-run with tourists everywhere. I suppose Richmond is benefiting from proximity to Hobart, but I preferred the relative quiet of Oatlands and Ross.

Beautiful church in Richmond

I will however award the town of Richmond my “Most Photogenic Ducks” award…

A duck in front of Richmond bridge

Two ducks in front of Richmond Bridge

Beating the ducks of both Oatlands and Ross…

Ducks enjoying the wetlands at Oatlands

Ducks by Ross Bridge

Ross, on the other hand, wins my award for best situation. The hills surrounding Ross offer lovely vistas, and the rural setting is quiet but characterful…

Fields just outside of Ross

Plus, being pretty much halfway along the “Historic Highway” makes Ross the perfect resting point on the way from “Lonnie” to Hobart…

Sign to Hobart, carved into the Ross bridge

See you next time, for a post about old “Hobart Town”.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susanne permalink
    March 28, 2012 2:28 pm

    Hey Julia, looks like a great trip! I love Tasmania, although it always seems really cold when I visit, even if I go in Summer! 🙂

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      March 28, 2012 2:38 pm

      Looks like you’ve been having a great time in Japan too. Strangely enough I was just looking at your blog this morning, and I love some of the artworks you’ve put on there, particularly the papercut pictures. Hope you’re still having a fun and fulfilling time.

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