Welcome to Day 17 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.
My sincere apologies for waking us up before the birds again this morning. There’s coffees all round and then we’re off.
We have another long drive today. We’ll be driving 270 km from Queenstown and heading East to Ross Bridge on the Macquarie River where we’ll be having Scallop Pie for lunch. Then, we’ll be driving South to the Richmond Bridge, 25 kilometres North of Hobart where we’ll be sleeping tonight. As we’ve already been to the Red Bridge in Campbell Town, I won’t confuse you by taking you to three historic bridges in one day. That is, as much as I love squeezing the carpe out of the diem.
Preparing this post has highlighted a swag of difficulties confronting the travel writer. Not that I’m a travel writer per se. However, I travel, I write and probably more importantly, I produce quality photos, using a digital SLR and not a frigging phone!
Although I haven’t considered this before, perhaps the problems with travel writing are inherent from the start. As a traveller, you lack that local knowledge and could easily get all sorts of facts wrong. Or, produce an account no more interesting than a shopping list you’re ticking off before you move onto the next place. Ideally, if you’re covering a place as large and yet as small as Tasmania, you can also draw on multiple visits to expand your scope. I’ve certainly been doing that on our Alphabetical Tour of Tasmania. Another difficulty I’ve faced as a travel photographer, is trying to capture the landscape at its peak when you haven’t got time to lie in wait for the perfect weather, lighting, timing, composition, angle. You can bump up your chances, but you get what you get and just hope to bump up the second rate stuff when you get home. That said, dramatic storm clouds and rain, can create incredible moods. The landscape doesn’t have to be all sun and blue sky.
Finally, that brings me to my difficulties putting together this piece on the Ross and Richmond bridges. Although they’re both convict-built, sandstone bridges, they actually do look quite different to each other and you certainly couldn’t pass one off as the other anywhere except in my memory.
Back in November, 2005 we visited the Ross and Richmond River bridges on the same day when we were driving from Bridport to Hobart. I clearly remember buying a famed Scallop Pie and eating it in from what I thought was the Ross Bridge and yet there we are in front of the Richmond Bridge and the Ross Bridge and I’m so confused! Of course, given that was 12 years ago and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, I’d be forgiven for forgetting the detail. That is, if I wasn’t setting myself up as some kind of quasi expert on the place simply by posting a few photos and text to the World Wide Web. Put the wrong name on the wrong bridge, and I might as well jump off it then and there. All cred is gone. Well, perhaps that is an excessive response, but you get my drift.
In addition to memory mix-ups like that, there’s also memory gaps, which no amount of prompting can dare I say: “bridge”.
While I was researching Ross Bridge tonight, I found references to numerous stone carvings on the bridge and wondered how I’d missed them. As a photographer, I have an eye, especially for something unique and exceptional like that. Hey, I find interest in simple reflections in a myriad of surfaces. How could I miss that? What was I thinking?
Truth is, that when I looked through my photos, sure enough I’d zoomed in on those carvings and they were there as large as life. My eye was good. My brain’s just been overloaded. Humph! What did I say about too much water under the bridge? Indeed, the bridge has well and truly been washed away.
This is why I’m so thankful that after the holiday’s over, I can go home and do my research. Go through the historic newspapers online, read other accounts and really ramp up those often sketchy travel notes.
I would also like to mention that by returning to our 2005 visit to Ross and Richmond, I was blessed to dig up a string of beautiful photos of our family as it was back then. Indeed, I felt like I’d jumping into a time machine and even if I couldn’t touch and feel our Little Man, I could sense him with all my being and so much love. That was a remarkable experience as he’s 13 and racing towards becoming a man.
Starting off with Ross Bridge.
The Ross Bridge, which crosses the Macquarie River, was completed in July 1836. This sandstone bridge was constructed by convict labour, and is the third oldest bridge still in use in Australia. Commissioned by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, it was designed by architect John Lee Archer, with the convict work team including two stonemasons, James Colbeck and Daniel Herbert. Although Herbert was credited with producing the intricate carvings which run along both sides of the bridge, so much still remains unknown about them and they’ve become something of an enigma.
As an aside, I thought you might enjoy this newspaper snippet about the town of Ross written in 1909. As much as we might enjoy these gorgeous, time-capsules of days gone by, they could also been perceived as “dying towns”. Or, places which have gone to sleep:
“Ross is a midland town, founded in the early days of Tasmanian settlement, and has been associated with her changeful history through many long years, but for very obvious reasons has not kept pace with the general progress of the State. Indeed, the present condition of Ross shows more of retrogression than progression.”
It goes on to mention Ross Bridge:
“Ross Bridge which is constructed of material taken from local quarries, is a fine, structure, and when first completed, with its stone pillared approaches and steps to the water’s edge, must certainly have presented a pleasing and artistic aspect. ‘Elaborate chiselling in leaf pattern has been executed round the edging of the double arches spanning the Macquarie River. The parapets are solid and massive. The centre block on the outer sides contains the following inscription: ‘ ‘Colonel George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor, 1836 while the end. blocks of the parapet show the words ‘Captain Wm. Turner. 50th, or’ Queen’s Own, Regiment, superintendent.’ An inscription’ on the inner side shows this bridge to be 69 miles distant from Hobart and 48 From Launceston.
Richmond Bridge is Australia’s oldest bridge. Crossing the Coal River 27 km North of Hobart, the foundation stone was laid on 11 December 1823 and construction continued using convict labour until completion in 1825. A painting of the bridge in it’s original condition was commissioned, which may be viewed here: http://bonniewilliam.com/honours/architects-and-masons/
Not to be outdone by the Ross Bridge with its impressive carvings, the Richmond Bridge has intrigues of its own, including murder and intrigue.
In 1832, George Grover, a much hated convict overseer, was walking home after the Harvest Festival, and fell asleep drunk on the Richmond Bridge. Seizing the opportunity, he was thrown from the bridge on to the rocks, seven metres below. He was found alive by a police constable early the next morning, and named the four men responsible before dying of internal bleeding. However, no one was ever convicted for his murder, reputedly as Grover was so widely despised.
Grover had been transported from England for burglary in 1826. “By 1829 he was the javelin man and flagellator at Richmond Gaol. Apparently, he was employed to ride atop the man carts carrying stone quarried from nearby Butcher’s Hill, violently whipping the prisoners as they pushed the load. Grover relished his role as overseer and abused his power. He gained a reputation for cruelty. He whipped and beat men he perceived weren’t working hard enough.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
Grover’s ghost is reputedly haunting Richmond Bridge, along with another ghost known as “Grover’s Dog”. He is described as a dark silhouette without discernible facial features, which sometimes stalks people as they cross the bridge as he paces the length of the bridge in death as he did in life. In more dramatic accounts of this haunting, his ghost has been seen in the trees west of the bridge watching people as they crossed the bridge. At other times, people have sensed his anger, he evidently is still disturbed by the way he died.
Another ghost seen on the Richmond Bridge is a large, black or white ghost dog. This apparition is known as “Grover’s Dog.” This ghost is seen only after dark. Lone females and children who have crossed the bridge at night claim they have seen this dog and it’s friendly. Several women have said they were accompanied across the bridge by this ghost dog only to have it disappear once they reached the other side.
I’m not quite sure what to make of these ghosts, but I love a good story.
Before we call it a day, we’ll be hopping back in our cars and heading to Hobart for the night. My apologies, especially as so many of you aren’t used to driving such distances. However, that’s what you sign up with on the A-Z Challenge… 26 day gallop through whatever it is your pursuing with only Sundays off to curl up under the doona (duvet).
Yet, I hope you like me, are finding the journey is worth it. Now, I’m itching to go back to Tasmania to appreciate all my research in the flesh.
Have you done much travel writing? Or, do you enjoy reading about travel? What are some of the pitfalls you’ve experienced with travel writing? Please share.