winter road trip

My dad and I drove over to South Australia on Monday, mostly to pass on some photos and stories collected last year in Scotland; his family had emigrated to Australia from Perthshire in the 1850s and he’d never been there, so when I headed over for Knitcamp last August, he decided it was time for a visit. We did some wandering around their old stomping ground, not anything as serious as genealogy but just getting a feel for the place and for what they would have been leaving behind.

Ruthven barracks, Kingussie, Scotland

Anne McArthur of Wrattonbully, SA, has been researching and writing a book on this branch of the Robertson family (Scottish sheep farmers who came out and settled in SA, made lots of cash running sheep and then drank it all away!) and so was interested to hear about our time there. We were lucky enough to see her property in full glory, as her kitchen window looks out over a massive swamp, which had been dry for so many years because of drought, but is now full of water and life. Sadly, no photos- but it was magnificent and very like this!

On our way back, we spent a night at the Royal Mail in Dunkeld- a lovely splurge. I’ve not spent much time in hotels but this is a lovely one; great design, sensitive layout and incredible food and, I think, especially interesting for travellers because it is directly connected to the surrounding landscape of the Grampians ranges…

Frosty morning; Mt Sturgeon, Grampian Ranges

Rooms with mountain views

The hotel is the kick-off point for big or small walks through the area…

Boardwalk; ancient Redgum walk

But I have to admit that I didn’t get much further than the gardens surrounding the hotel- local and Australian flora everwhere! I was especially excited to see so many different banksias flowering…

A new Grampians Banksia flower; Banksia saxicola

New flower on furry prostrate stem; Banksia blechnifolia

Wonderful new flower; Bankia prionotes

Totally 1970's; Banksia prionotes

And yesterday morning, we woke up to a very heavy frost, something I don’t see very often so I was pretty excited! Dad’s car was blue with ice.

Ice on car roof

What looked like this the night before:

Hoary Sunray going to seed; Leucochrysum albicans

was now tucked up protecting itself…

Hoary indeed; Leucochrysum albicans

And my dad got some good use out of the scarf I made him- doesn’t he look dapper?!

Dad wearing circles and rods scarf; Royal Mail

Blues and rust-reds

We took a longer route home so that we could stop at Tarndwarncoort to visit Wendy Dennis and her woolroom. The Dennis family developed the Polwarth breed of sheep at Tarndwarncoort in the nineteenth century and the family continues to run a flock of over a thousand Polwarths today, providing reliably beautiful coloured and white Polwarth fleece, tops and yarn for handcrafters. I’ve knitted her 4-ply silk/ wool yarn before and loved it so was really keen to learn more about what she is doing and also to try running the yarn through my knitting machine…

Coloured and white fleece

Premium Polwarth fleeces; Tarndwarncoort

It was inspiring to talk with Wendy, an wonderfully committed, generous and resourceful woman who is visibly knowledgeable and passionate about what she is doing. She spoke about the beauty of the Polwarth- its lovely softness, bounce and long staple (a good introduction to spinning fine wools because of the fibre length)- and the joys and challenges of her operation, the major challenge being the dwindling number of local scours and mills able to produce a high quality product for a relatively small operator. This situation means that, despite being so close to Geelong, a town built on wool and its processing, Wendy now has her yarn spun in New Zealand, which is reflective of the way so many industries operate these days. Crazy!

8- and 4-ply silk/ wool yarns

The woolroom is housed in an old garage and cider house and is full of atmosphere, a great place for the workshops and regular craft meets that happen here… I also discovered a spectacular collection of books on knitting and other woolcrafts!

Woolroom; Tarndwarncoort

Craft room; Tarndwarncoort

This place is so worth a visit- you won’t be able to resist the softness of the Polwarth and the enthusiasm of its owner! As well as Polwarth yarn and fibre, on sale are the full range of Landscape dyes, Majacraft spinning wheels, spindles and other spinning paraphernalia, handspun yarns, soap made from Polwarth milk and lots more… In the depths of winter, it is best to make an appointment to visit but during the warmer months the woolroom is open from Friday to Sunday.

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One Response to winter road trip

  1. yay tarndwarncoort! run by a friend of mine’s family – I have got wool from there but never visited – this makes me think I should definitely plan a visit some time 🙂 lovely pics and a beautiful scarf!

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