In Northern Tasmania there are quite a few “dales”.
I found Scottsdale, North Scottsdale, West Scottsdale, Lillydale (and North Lillydale) … and … Evandale. Just for interest in the same area we find Retreat (no going ahead here), Tunnel (splendid narrow visions of the North), Tomahawk (beware of scalp hunters) and Boobyalla … for which nothing polite comes readily to mind.
“Dale” simply means a valley and in Northern Tasmania there are lots of little valleys and hills although there is also Ben Lomond, about 1500 metres high, snow-covered in winter and accessible by slowly driving up Lacob’s Ladder.
I had a little time to spare before my flight out of Launceston, so I decided to revisit Evandale, (www.evandaletasmania.com) just a few kilometres east from the airport. It is a pretty little village, dating from the early 1800s and thus quite an ancient settlement by Australian historical standards.
A Georgian Village
The township is a National Trust classified Georgian village where historic churches, pubs, old shops and family homes are clustered in a few blocks on two small streets – easy strolling distance for travellers.
Slightly further afield is the lovely Clarendon House, built in 1838 by a wealthy sheep grazier named James Cox from Wiltshire in the UK. Today Clarendon House is owned by the National Trust and is (usually) open to visitors who want to enjoy its lovely grounds and the stately Italianate façade. It was closed when I was there, but local farmers were busily harvesting hay or Lucerne or chaff or leprechauns and rolling it (or them) into mighty plastic-covered sugar cubes.
I strolled past the twelve-metre-tall 1896 water tower designed by Robert Gould, and a couple of the local churches – both, for some reason, dedicated to St Andrew: St Andrew’s Anglican Church (see featured image LEFT) and St Andrew’s Uniting Church.
When the original St Andrew’s church building – the Anglican one – was demolished, its bricks were re-used to build the current Gothic Revival 1871 structure with a huge spire donated by wealthy grazier John Whitehead. At the time it was considered an extravagant waste of money and became known as Whitehead’s Folly.
I am sure that over the years there have been some disasters as a result of these two churches with the same names.
- But I told you I would meet you at St Andrew’s
- Yes – I waited at the altar for three hours, but you did not show up
- Oh … you mean THAT St Andrew’s …
- Millington’s Funeral Services wish to advise friends of the family that the cortege will depart from St Andrew’s at 3.30 pm
- Visitors to St Andrews are requested to refrain from throwing confetti at the happy couple
Some sources suggest that Saint Andrew, who is patron saint of Greece and Russia, is also the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens … and of gout and sore throats. He was reputedly executed on an “X” shaped cross – a death that is featured in the British flag and especially the flag of Scotland. Andrew was a fisherman before becoming one of Jesus Christ’s Apostles … but fishing is just as unlikely an occupation to find in inland Evandale as is a maiden with gout and a sore throat.
A musical village
However, the now-annual Evandale Verandah Music Festival – held every year in late November – may pay tribute to St Andrew’s patronage of singers.
The festival is a by-product of COVID and the dreaded lockdowns the virus brought the world. While we were prevented from going to concert venues and from gathering in large numbers, a couple of enterprising local families shared their music with passers-by by performing on their front verandahs … and so not only were some stars born … but so was a great new festival.
I was too early to enjoy this year’s concert, but it gives me another reason to return to this charming little town.
As I strolled down High Street, travelling slowly past the 1885 Subscription Library (now a private house, I think), I heard some music being played – a bit of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutti. I figured that it was unlikely to be a part of the soon-to-be presented Verandah Festival and strolled down the driveway of the 1890s Craigieburn (*) House peeping through the shrubs and trees in the garden, trying to locate the source of the music.
I found an old man, sitting alone in a chair on the verandah, with a battered transistor radio on his lap, enjoying a moment of fine music on a sunny afternoon … before an unbidden intruder suddenly appeared before him. I apologised for interrupting his reverie but was invited to come and join him for a chat.
Allan (*), eighty-nine years of age, is now a single man. There was a photograph of a beautiful younger woman on the wall beside him and I asked him if it was his wife.
- Yes, but she left me
I felt such a fool for having put my foot so firmly into my mouth, but he seemed to have come to terms with things and to have moved on. He was a fascinating chap to talk to and was formerly a lecturer at the London School of Economics and other UK and USA universities. He asked about my university (University of Queensland) and was quite excited to learn that I was also a graduate from Trinity College London.
As I shook hands to say goodbye – a very firm handshake indeed from this old guy – I noticed blood on his fingers and wrist, and offered to find a tissue or something to help him clean his hand, but he told me that at his age minor scrapes often happened as his sight was not so good …
Allan was a lovely fellow to meet and when I left Craigieburn House, I wondered what would become of him. Perhaps the answer is sadly all too obvious.
Turning left at the pretty little Post Office, travellers find themselves in Russell Street with antique shops, a wonderfully cornucopiac village general store, several cottages for sale (for those with deep pockets) and several pretty gardens. One garden, over the road from the 1847 Clarendon Arms pub, has a bronze statue celebrating the old penny farthing bicycle.
Every February – world pandemics permitting – Evandale is host to the National Penny Farthing Championship. I visited this festival some years ago and enjoyed the fun of people dressed in period costumes, of some rather gruff looking Morris dancers (why DO they get their hankies in a twist …?) and a young lad wheeling his tuppeny bicycle away from the big boys on their penny farthings.
- I wonder – is a two-wheel tuppeny cycle worth more than a mere penny farthing cycle?
There are only two pubs to serve Evandale’s residents (about a thousand of them) and the thousands of visitors who come to watch bicycle races, listen to folk music on verandahs or performers in the annual Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival in October (St Andrew at work again! Maidens – beware!), but for me the better of the two pubs was the 1847 Clarendon Arms.
Many of the original rooms have been subjected to the wrecker’s hammer and walls have been knocked down, staircases rebuilt, wattle and daub walls re-plastered and floorboards re-polished. The results are sensational. Carefully selected period pieces and wall papers are cleverly mixed with screamingly modern fabrics or prints, and there seems to be a bit of a deer antler theme muscling its way through the renovations. The old upstairs bedrooms are now wonderful little individual dining rooms, ideal for small or medium groups ready to jump into the spirit of the age and the tastes of today.
There is a large garden at the rear of the hotel with tables and chairs and umbrellas and – I wish I could say there were also strutting and barking peacocks, but they must have all taken flight just before my arrival for a delicious ploughman’s lunch.
Further down Russell Street – at No 63 – there is another library.
Well – a sort of library. I enjoy reading and it is a treat to find a free library in any town I visit. At No 63 Russell Street is an old refrigerator that has been painted white and offers travellers a free “Bring a Book, Take a Book” service. The ‘fridge library also offers free garden seeds. As I did not have a book to bring I just took a book … and am awaiting the literary gods to descend upon me to insist that I give the No 63 library a couple of used books … or to plant some seeds to regenerate some trees so more books can be printed.
A bit of history
Tasmania is one of Australia’s oldest European settlements with British settlers arriving in 1803, just fifteen years after the “First Fleet” arrived in Sydney … and only 30,000 years after the original First Nation inhabitants arrived.
Villages such as Richmond, Bothwell and Evandale are among the prettiest and most traditional places in the State, where great efforts have been made to preserve the early colonial history and architecture. Visitors (cross-eyed, myopic or slightly demented visitors) might almost believe they are visiting an old UK Cotswolds village – Upper or Lower Slaughter, perhaps.
- … and they say that Australian place names are weird …!
- … but Tasmania does have a village just twenty kilometres from Hobart called Upper Dromedary … and I am not sure if in a game of poker Upper Dromedary trumps or is beaten by Lower Slaughter …
If you have an hour or two before your flight out of Launceston, or if you are travelling around Tasmania, Evandale is a great place to visit for a taste of local history, and a bite of smoky ham, pork pies, pickled onions, cheese and sourdough bread at the Clarendon Arms, washed down with a glass or two of local wine or beer.
Churches, books, bicycles and tales of times gone by – Evandale values its past and celebrates its future.
* Names changed to preserve anonymity
Journeys 2008, 2022
Text and photographs © Christopher Hall January 2023
Clarendon House photograph from the Internet
In my blogs I try to present a snapshot of the places I have discovered during a brief visit. I am not trying to present a detailed picture of the whole city or the whole region or the whole country.
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If a man ascended into heaven and gazed upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself. And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight.
- Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero – On Friendship