Cowaramup (Cowtown)

With less than a week to go now until we resume our ‘life of Riley on wheels’, we thought we’d take a final visit to our favourite little, local town – Cowaramup, or Cowtown as it’s known colloquially.

I’ve mentioned the town briefly before, but thought I’d provide a few more facts, and a few more photos.

The town was gazetted in 1925, and origianally supported the local timber and dairy industries.

Contrary to popular belief, the name of the town is derived from an Aboriginal word, Cowara, meaning purple-crowned lorikeet.

The town centre consists of a local store providing basic produce, a post office, a bakery, a sweet shop, a couple of cafes, a real estate office, and a few specialty stores selling everything from gourmet produce and candles, to all manner of arts and crafts. There’s no supermarkets, and definitely no MacDonalds anywhere in sight (or even out of sight on the back streets) – joy!!! Oh, but if you fancy a good pie – one of the local little cafe sells some beauties.

In 2012, to enhance the town’s growing ‘cow’ identity, 42 fibreglass sculptures of friesian cows and calves were commissioned. As the town is very small town, there’s  literally cows almost every few metres. They adorn the shopfronts, parks, footpaths, and are on almost every street corner.

One of my favourites is the Cowtown’s cheeky answer to Laurence Winery’s 23-carat gold plated, ‘free as a bird’, aka – ‘Chick on a stick’ (more on that later). Centred in the local park is Cowaramup’s, ‘Rump on a stump’ or, ‘Roast on a post’. Cowtown – or should it be quaint-town, whatever it’s called, if you’re planning a visit to WA’s southwest don’t drive though without stopping for at least a walk around.

‘Rump on a Stump’

And now a bit about the ‘Free as a Bird’ sculpture at Laurence Winery. Early in the 21st century concerns were raised when the sculpture took up residence in the dam fronting Caves Road. The Busselton council took umbrage (some say at the instigation of the neighbouring wineries), and sought to have the sculpture removed. They said the 17.5 metre high erection contravened local and state planning policies, and impacted negatively on the area’s natural and rural outlook.

The iconic ‘Chick on a Stick’, that caused a raucous in 2007.

I’m pleased to say that in October 2007 the State Administrative Tribunal ruled against the shire by granting retrospective planning approval. The ‘chick on a stick’ with all it’s controversy, and the Cowaramup’s humorous take-off, the ‘rump on a stump’ are both here to stay (for a long, long time I hope).


Bountiful Guavas

A friend has recently given me surplus guavas from her backyard. Her trees are laden, and Linda hasn’t been finding many takers for them. Apparently, people aren’t enamoured with the fruit because of the seeds, which can be a little too crunchy for some people’s taste.

I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially fresh, home grown produce. Having a good quantity in the fridge, I decided to do a little research as to the health benefits of guavas. What a surprise – they’re a little power-pack of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidents, with some pretty good anti-cancer properties as well.

Firstly, they grow in tropical or sub-tropical climates.  Busselton seems to be perfect for them. I gather they’re easy to cultivate with few pests, and are prolific fruiters. I think the small, red fruits from Linda’s trees are an Hawaiian variety.

I read that there’s four times the amount of vitamin C than in  oranges, with just one small fruit holding twice the daily vitamin C requirement. They have more lycopene than tomatoes – so guys, they’re excellent for the prevention of prostate (and other) cancers.

They’ve been shown to  improve sodium/potassium balance, thereby regulating blood pressure. They’re beneficial by increasing HDLs (good cholesterol), and lowering LDLs (bad cholesterol). Additionally, they contain B3 and B6 (good for brain function), and magnesium to help relax muscles.

The seeds – firstly rest assured they are edible, and in fact are a particularly good source of fibre, so even more anti-cancer properties. However, they are a tad too crunchy for some people’s taste. I personally don’t mind the crunch of the seeds, but if you find them too crunchy, then flicking them out with a small knife (or your finger nail) isn’t too difficult. The smaller seeds aren’t as hard as the larger ones, so you may find the smaller ones palatable enough to leave in. Fortunately, Paul and I don’t object to the seeds, whether large or small.

We’ve eaten a good quantity of the fresh berry like fruits. Today I decided to see what they were liked cooked. Using my mum’s apple sponge recipe, I substituted guavas for the apples – here’s the result:

GUAVA FRUIT SPONGE (serves 6 – 8)

My mum’s fruit sponge recipe – this time topping guavas.

You’ll need:

A good quantity of guavas (I used 750gms of whole fruit)
2 tablespoons of sugar

For the sponge:

150 gms of butter
75gms of sugar
1 egg
1 cup of self raising flour
2 tablespoons of milk

Desiccated coconut or icing sugar for garnish (optional)

How to prepare:

Pre-heat oven to 175°C

Prepare the guavas by slicing off the belly button at the top of the fruit. Cut the larger ones in half. Remove any seeds that are too large for your liking. (I left all the seeds in mine).

Prepared guavas

Place into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook over a gentle heat until heated through. Don’t let them over cook or they’ll loose their shape. Tip the hot fruit into a greased oven-proof dish (approximately 1 1/2 litres in capacity)

Keep fruit warm while preparing sponge.

Now make the sponge:

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour and milk. Spoon over the warm fruit.

Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when gently pushed.

Removed from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of coconut, or icing sugar (if using) and serve with cream, ice-cream or custard. Yum – A pleasurable way to eat your vitamins!


Amelia Park Lodge

For those of you who have traversed the Busselton/Dunsborough/Margaret River area, you will no doubt be familiar with the heritage listed, farm homestead that used to be one of the family homes of the Bussell family (circa 1851). Located close to the roundabout on Caves Road, almost halfway between Busselton and Dunsborough, the single storey, brick and limestone building with it’s gabled iron roof, encircling verandah and grassy surrounds, is a standout, iconic building in the area.

Heritage listed old Bussell farm homestead.

There’s cosy indoor dining areas, an alfresco area, and a recently added,purpose built outdoor glassed private room.

A cosy inside dining room.

In the 19th century the main building served as the Bussell family home, and the local post office.  Mrs Bussell being a midwife, also used it as a ‘lying in house’ for the local expectant mothers. From there, I found the history became sketchy until late in the 20th century when it became Newtown House Restaurant. Newtown House offered fine dining, and from past experience I can vouch that it was indeed ‘fine dining’.

The restaurant recently changed hands and has been closed for sometime as refurbishment took place. Anxiously, the locals have awaited it’s opening. Approximately a month ago the long awaited, upgraded restaurant opened it’s doors again under the new name of, Amelia Park Lodge.

It was with some trepidation that the girls (and one token guy) from my heart foundation walking group chose to try it out for our monthly lunch-date. I say with trepidation, as a local restaurant reviewer, Rob Broadfield, gave it very mixed reviews recently. Rob had a few good comments to make, but some comments were so scathing that we thought long and hard as to whether or not we were willing to give it a go.

There were quite a few of us so we were seated at two tables in the private, airy, outdoor addition.  Not being part of the original farm building, what it lacked in heritage quaintness it made up for with it’s large windows on all sides. It had an open air feel, but still had the warmth of glass surrounds, had it suddenly turned cool.

Some of the ladies (myself included)

more ladies seated in the light, airy dining room

and our one token gentleman.

Several people chose the lamb shanks, which came on a bed of potato mash with seasonal greens, and served with  glass of Newtown Shiraz ($29). All, without exception, pronounced the dish superb.($29.00)

Three people chose the beetroot risotto, charred greens, macadamia salsa, with aged parmesan. ($26.00). No complaints there either.

I had difficulty choosing, but finally settled on the baby kale caesar with poached chicken, serrano, white anchovies, aged parmesan and crisp brioche. ($20.00). I’ve only once before had the pleasure of eating white anchovies and that was in a little village in Saddleworth, UK. They swayed my choice, and were just as delectable this time as I remember them being. An added surprise with the dish were some soft boiled, quail egg halves. Delightful!

A few other dishes were chosen, including one person who braved the Barramundi, reviewed infamously in Rob’s recent review – the one that caused us so much trepidation about trialling the  restaurant – no complaints this time round.

In fact, not a murmer of complaint from anyone in relation to only of their chosen meals. Plenty of murmers of appreciation though. The desserts, wines, and coffee also superb. But I suppose I’d better be fair and report the negative along with the positive. One person said one of her petite fours was a bit bland, and one lady said her coffee could have been hotter……

They have a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, an afternoon menu (reduced lunch menu), a dinner menu, and they also serve High Tea on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. So, whatever time of day you chose to call by, there will something to tempt your tastebuds. And if you’re in the area, I do recommend you put Amelia Park Lodge on your dining list. We all agreed, it’s definitely on our ‘return to soon’ list. In fact, I think I heard some of the ladies making enquiries for the High Tea, and at only $18 per person, why not. I’m tempted myself.

I wonder did Rob get it wrong, or was it just a day with some problems. Certainly none of us could relate to any of the negatives in his review. But then again, sometimes I’ve chosen  restaurants because of some restauranteur’s brilliant review, only to be extremely disappointed. Perhaps they’re a tad more pedantic than the average person.

So, that’s my findings on Amelia Park Lodge and it’s new fine dining menu – very enjoyable.

If you can provide any updates on the building’s history, please feel free to enlighten myself and any future readers with your comments below. I’d love to know more of it’s history between the running of the farm, the selling of stamps, the birthing of babies, and the late 20th century restaurant of Newtown House.

The crazy gardener’s been at it again.

We’re only two weeks away from leaving, so the dilemma of what to do with the front garden before we left arose. Although we know it’s not the ideal time to prune roses, we also know any pruning is better than none at all. We had decided to prune prematurely sometime over the next two weeks. Frosts are rare here so they should be okay with the earlier hair cut.

That then left the dilemma of what to do about the seaside daisies that are popping up everywhere and look like returning with a vengence. If you remember, last year when we took possession of the house, the roses were completely buried alive under the daisies. I didn’t want to return to the same thing again.

Remember this!

We’re reducing the size of the rose bed next spring anyway, and are planning to increase the paved, parking area. We’d worked out how best to to accommodate the existing roses, minus all the pretty blue salvia which have been planted to fill up the gaps, and provide a united colour scheme.  We were going to leave the transplanting until spring.

One thing led to another, and hey presto – they’ve all been transplanted. We’ve found a spot for the red roses around the back. All the pink and creamy coloured ones have been transplanted to what will be a much smaller, colour co-ordinated, semi-circular garden bed, once the pavings finished in spring. All the annuals have been removed, and the garden now looks like a big plot of bare dirt. The seaside daisies were predominantly at the front of the garden bed where the paving is going to be, and it looks like that’s mainly where they’re hell bent on popping up again. So, any that come up while we’re away can grow to their hearts content until we get back – all the roses are safely transplanted out of their way.

From this

to this in a day

Transplanted roses now looking like twigs

It won’t be looking as pretty when we leave as it would have been looking had we stuck to our original plan. It won’t be looking pretty at all!  It will, however, look a lot better in spring when we return than if we’d stuck to our original plan (I think). And, most of the hard work is behind us. The rest is now up to the brick paver. Of course, the neighbours won’t know the reasoning behind the garden demolition – they’ll no doubt be thinking i’ve lost my marbles. It was looking pretty….

Cape to Cape walk

We’re fortunate enough to have the 135 km Cape to Cape walk located only a short drive from home. The spectacular coastal track winds itself along the Leeuwin/Naturaliste ridge, taking in a fascinating geology of cliffs, caves, headlands and rock formations.

Stunning cliffs.

Starting in the north approximately 13kms from Dunsborough at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, the track takes between five to eight days to complete. It finishes at the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. Sections of the track incorporate some soft sandy beach parts, as well as some steeper rocky climbs and descents. Some sections are easier than others, so the degree of difficulty depends on your fitness level.

Rock Cairns

Amazing coastline.

Our friend and neighbour Brian, has been completing the track section by section on day walks when time allows. Yesterday, Paul, along with another friend of Brian’s, Sharon, tackled the 17km section from Moses Rock to Gracetown.

Towering rocks.

Kay took them to their starting point, leaving home at around 6.30am. I stayed tucked up snugly in bed….. They expected to complete the walk around 11. Kay picked me up around 10.30am with the plan to meet them at the conclusion at the Gracetown general store. However, we had just left when Kay received a call from Brian advising they would take an hour longer than anticipated, a good excuse for Kay and I to enjoy a coffee at Cape Lavender tea rooms.

We arrived to pick them up in good time, passing them with only about 50 metres to go. They were ecstatic, in awe of the scenery they had encountered, and showed no visible signs of exhaustion. Apparently, they followed the coast virtually the whole way. The swells were enormous, Brian reported the biggest he’d seen. Surfers where clearly taking advantage of the the giant waves and whenever they passed good breaks, they were entertained by young (and some not so young) men and women taking their lives in their hands doing what surfers do. Some were apparently doing their best to paddle out to meet the gigantic swells, while others made use of jet skis to tow them out to the swells, and then to pick them up when they either finished their ride, or came to grief, getting pummelled by the following waves. Certainly not for the faint hearted!

Sitting outside the Gracetown general store whilst the walkers relaxed with a well deserved coffee, Kay and I had a chance to also be entertained by the dozens of surfers opposite taking advantage of the spectacular surf conditions. Not so long ago I would have been joining them on the walk. Perhaps one day I will again, but I won’t risk inflaming an old ankle injury until after I’ve done the Gibb River. I was content enjoy the view at the end.

Enjoying a well deserved coffee

Surfers entertaining us.

Sun sparkling like diamonds on the water.

And today – Paul reports slightly sore muscles but nothing that would prevent him tackling the next section. He loved it. Living close enough to be able to complete such an amazing walk a day at a time – what a pleasure!

Website tidy up

Finally I’ve touched base with grandson Tim and picked his very clever technical brain for some tips on tidying up this website. As a result, the clean-up has begun.

I’ve started quite a few new classifications and have re-classified most old posts – previously most posts were lumped together in ‘unclassified’. I really am very technically challenged! but I’m working on it.

It’s by no means up to the standard of organisation I see in some of the wonderful blogs I follow, but it is organised better today than it was yesterday.

I’ve created categories for Tasmania, The East Coast, Northern Territory, South West WA, and WA The Kimberleys. I imagine the Kimberleys will shortly expand considerably when we’ve completed the Gibb River – wow, we’re only two weeks from setting off for this years trip north. It’s scary how quickly the time has flown by. I think that will be the most exciting to date.

There’s now also categories for family, friends, and our places (our homes in both WA and Tassie), as well as categories for England and other travel. And there’s categories related to ‘Our Rig’ detailing how it’s evolved over the years including repairs and alterations.

So now if you’re reading a post and want to read more related to the same topic, you’ll be able to click on the hyperlink at the conclusion of the post.

I’ve still to work out how to get a proper menu listing of categories at the top of the home page. I’ll be catching up with a Tim again when we pass through Perth in two weeks time, so I’ll pick his brains again then. Watch this space for an even organised web site….