On the weekend we again visited Stanthorpe. Driving south we could see the massive smoke haze and the sinister orange tinge to the horizon from the fires further south at Glen Innes. The countryside has taken on an apocalyptic feel what with fires and the on going drought, our weekend in Stanthorpe, however was one of indulgence and enjoyment. The Stanthorpe region survived its own catastrophic fire event earlier in the season, now despite on going drought the region is showing signs of recovery. Having had some rain, no where near enough to break the drought, but it has been sufficient to add a green tinge to the ground, to allow trees to sprout new growth and wild flowers to bring forth bursts of colour.
It was also Ada’s first camping weekend and there is nothing like a dog to teach us joie de vivre. I have worried that Ada lacks confidence in new situations but she had no hesitation in throwing herself into the pure joy of camping and experiencing a new environment. She has a habit of just leaping into the air with absolute abandon, with a complete trust that the ground or the water will catch her. Fascinated by the ducks at the park in Stanthorpe, to my surprise she took a flying leap off the rocks into the pond, I had her on the lead and was lucky I didn’t end up going for an unintended swim with her. Her pure pleasure was obvious and she threw herself into the weekend with abandon.
Just one of the lovely things about Stanthorpe is the always cooler climate, so while much of Queensland and New South Wales is sweltering in summer heat and humidity Stanthorpe and surrounds remain comfortable due to the highland position. Our usual campground at Sommerville Valley is inclined to be a bit windy and I suspected the tent flapping about in the wind might unnerve Ada, I could not have been more wrong. she thought putting up the tent was a great game and obligingly sat on it while we pegged things down. She also thought the abundant rabbit poop at the campground was an absolute gift, eating what she could when we weren’t looking and rolling in the rest whenever she could. Dogs enjoy the simple things in life and they really know how to enjoy them to the fullest.
Travelling with a dog can be a challenge in Australia, for such a rural, outdoors country we are surprisingly not dog friendly. Dogs are absolutely banned from national parks for good reason, but we also have a bit of an anti-dog tendency in urban areas as well, something which is slowly changing with more and more cafes creating dog friendly out door areas. We discovered that Stanthorpe is one location that is great to travel to with a dog. Sommerville Valley is a campground that welcomes, “well behaved” pets and it was a great environment to introduce Ada to the joys of camping.
This was another Granite Belt, produce shopping weekend, this time I had shopping lists from colleagues at work, which was a bonus for me as I had all the fun of shopping while spending other people’s money, mind you I did mange to buy a fair bit myself.
First stop was Jamworks some of the best jams, relishes, pastes and sauces you will ever try. I had quite a shopping list from work for Jamworks, people wanting to stock up on favourites. Not only can you stock up on great produce, but Jamworks has an excellent cafe, with the big bonus of having a special secure dog area. So you can leave your fur family safely while you shop, a dog bed and water is provided and you can choose to grab a coffee or a bite to eat while keeping your canine company. I can highly recommend Jamworks for a meal, the food was wonderful and was accompanied by their own relishes and sauces, a great way to sample the product. We stopped for lunch on Saturday, sampling the salt and pepper calamari, which was excellent. We liked Jamworks so much we had breakfast there on Sunday morning as well, which was also great. I have added Jamworks tomato relish, mediterranean chutney and their absolutely awesome plum and chilli paste to the pod kitchen.
Jamworks is an awesome place to stop, not just for the great range of products but for a meal on the road and with the secure dog area it is a perfect location to stop if you are travelling with a canine. Located right on the highway at Glen Aplin, Jamworks is a great stopping point if you are travelling north or south on the New England highway.
We made a visit to Mt Stirling Olives another producer for whom I had an extensive shopping list and supplier of the best olives and olive oil in QLD. Mt Stirling olive oil is a permanent fixture in the pod kitchen, as is the spaghetti sprinkle. Robert Channon Wines were also on the itinerary with their wines amongst my personal favourites in the region. The great thing about the day was that we were able to visit so many locations with Ada. She was welcomed at Robert Channon wines by their resident receptionist JS Bark and got to have a chat with the resident dog and another visiting canine, which was all good experience for Ada.
This trip also included a visit to the excellent liqueur maker and winery Castle Glen. A lovely vineyard to visit and the collection of liqueurs is pretty spectacular. Castle Glen is noteworthy for its organic production, chemical and preservative free and for their efforts towards environmental best practice, boasting they are a solar powered castle, taking great pride in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact while producing a natural product to be proud of. G bought a couple of liqueurs, a mint and chocolate one and a really lovely blueberry liqueur. A while ago on our travels I discovered a Finnish champagne cocktail involving fresh blueberries, a blueberry liqueur and champagne, so we will be using the liqueur to recreate that one at Christmas, might even try making it with the Robert Channon Verdehlo bubbles. Castle Glen also brew a range of beers and ciders and we purchased their ginger brew and a cherry cider.
Our final stop on the weekend was at Ashbern Farm to pick up some fresh strawberries, the last item on my weekend shopping list. Despite the heat and the drought the strawberries were excellent. I sometimes think the flavour of some fruits, strawberries and watermelon are a case in point, seem to be better, more intense during drought conditions.
The drought continues and the Granite belt is still in the line of fire for bushfires, but we can continue to support rural communities when and where we can. The effects of climate change are writ large on the Australian landscape at the moment, maybe now our government will begin to take it seriously. In the adversity that climate change brings there is also opportunity, creative solutions to preserve what we have and adapt to the changing environment are always possible, we just have to be willing to move with the demands of this new age.
This was probably out last visit to Stanthorpe for this year but we will be back in 2020. Stanthorpe is one of my favourite places for a quick getaway, the hospitality, the food and wine are amazing. The climate is glorious, well if you like it a little cool and I love it. It is also a great place to visit with a dog, now a consideration that Ada has joined us. I always ask if it is okay to allow her out of the car and we do take care to ensure her behaviour is impeccable but it is lovely that so many places are welcoming. The Granite belt really is one of my favourite places in QLD.
Stay tuned I am planning on posting a giveaway featuring some of the products from the Granite belt adventure.
Oh and the photo below, the area depends on a lot of backpackers as farm labour but they often come from countries where you drive on the right, hence the road signs reminding people to drive on the left. I gather they were put up to reduce accidents and I can think of some other areas that perhaps should consider doing the same.