The aircraft from Melbourne landed about two hours late due to bad weather, but the hire car was waiting for us as pre-planned from England and we drove the nine miles to Launceston to find our hotel, the Penny Royal. The one way system in the city was a little confusing but we eventually found the hotel, parked the car and were soon escorted to our room.
The hotel had originally been a corn mill and a windmill stood in the grounds to prove it. With a little exploring we found, confusingly, not one but two old water mills. It was obvious that they had not been working for a long time but they made an interesting feature to the outside of the building.
A short distance from the hotel was a row of holiday apartments which made up the rest of the ‘Penny World’. These were followed by what looked to be a small, narrow gauge railway station with a large signboard reading ‘Gunpowder’ and a tram stood in a closed shed behind.
The Penny Royal was originally built by a Yorkshireman who arrived from England in 1823 with his wife and seven children, and had travelled to Tasmania on a ship named ‘Berwick’ with £1,214 9s 2d in his pocket, a tidy sum for the age! In 1825, together with his sons, he built a substantial flour mill, but later in the century the area was taken over by the military who built a gunpowder mill with underground storage facilities on the site, hence the name of the station.
A short walk from the hotel was the Cataract Gorge which, we were told, had been a favourite walk of the local people in Victorian times so, in the morning, we determined to walk the gorge ourselves, albeit in the pouring rain. The walkway was well made as a shelf on the edge of the steep rocky sides, which gave good views of the river meandering below us. After about half a mile we came to a large clearing with a small lake and a flimsy looking suspension bridge spanning the gorge opposite, its delicate tracery reflected in the lake below. A cable car also traversed the gorge besides the bridge. This area was made as a playground for the Victorians and had been renovated in fairly recent times. Here were beautiful multi-hued flowering rhododendrons with, browsing beneath them, small Tasmanian kangaroos, unfazed by our attention.
The cable car was not yet open as we passed through the boarding gate so wended our way to the delicate looking bridge. A sign at the end of the bridge warned that there was to be no jumping on the bridge and the sway was noticeable as we walked across it, but there was a fine view of the Victorian playground from the centre.
We would have liked to explore Launceston a little more but the next stage of our odyssey was the 93 miles drive to Cradle Mountain.
by Terry Took © 2014
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at email@example.com.