We are lucky in this country to have the luxury of space and rich coastal and country environments, all within close proximity. While I live and work in a large town, I am never more than an hour from what in our house is generally referred to as tree time. A little longer for beach time but not much. Tree time is an essential part of well being, especially mine. It is one of the reasons we invested in the pod in the first place, so we could make these quick self sufficient escapes out of town. Just thought it is worth documenting a couple of recent brief escapes.
The southern downs is a treasure for the milder climate it can offer. Even in summer the southern downs with its elevation, Stanthorpe is 811 meters above sea level and the surrounding regions can vary with even higher elevation, the result is a slightly cooler, dryer climate, with much cooler nights making for easier sleeping in the summer. The Stanthorpe region has become one of our go to regular escapes especially in the warmer months and last weekend we opted to do an overnighter at Country Style caravan park at Glen Aplin, a dog friendly campground which offered bush sites and sites right on the river. A weir has been built across the river creating a lake.
The riverside campsites are right at the back of the park, away from the road. They are unpowered grass sites, so if you need power or a larger more accessible site these may not be for you, but for us and the pod, the site was just perfect. The water level was worryingly low, I watched an egret just casually walking across the lake and even though I had originally planned on launching the inflatable kayak, we thought better of that, given the shallow water and the density of branches.
The birds were happy to come to us and it was a relaxing afternoon just sitting on the lovely green bank watching the local bird life; assorted parrots, ducks, swamp hens, egrets, swallows and wrens and the odd turtle popping up its head. We were warned about a resident red belly black snake who keeps the local frogs in check but we did not see it, not that a red belly worries me. Don’t get me wrong I am not cavalier about snakes, I have a totally opposite reaction to eastern browns, but the red belly has always felt a bit special. For non Australian readers they are still poisonous but they do not present the deadly threat the eastern brown does and while they can still kill they are less venomous and less aggressive than the brown. Seeing a red belly in the wild is as satisfying as any other wild life encounter for me. In the afternoon a few kangaroos also wandered through the the grounds.
The only negative if you can really call it that, was that the camp site was a bit of a walk to the camp kitchen and the amenities block and as a bush camp that meant making the late night dash to the bathroom in the dark, not a problem, just a bit more of a walk and I did need a torch. If you want closer access to amenities you can opt for the powered sites at the front of the park or the closer bush sites. We had a lovely weekend, peace, quiet, a nice view, wildlife, dinner cooked on an open fire, it couldn’t have been better really. It was our first time at this park and it won’t be the last.
A couple of weekends ago we also did an overnighter at the bottom of the range in the Lockyer valley at Atkinson’s dam. The dam like many of our catchments is extremely low, despite the summer rain, it is currently at only 3% and while there is still some water and bird life, it is not really suitable for swimming or boating at the present time. Still the weekend at Atkinson dam holiday park was a nice tree change. I would have to say it is without question the friendliest park we have ever stayed in, with the owners and long term residents going out of their way to be friendly and welcoming. People were happy to chat and made not just us but Ada very welcome, it is fair to say it is extremely dog friendly! The park also had a few animals to interest kids; (sheep), and resident koalas. We had the unmistakable rumbling growls of koalas in the night and while the locals informed me they have a resident mum and joey in the trees near where we were camped they also have a male who normally occupies the trees in the centre of the park, despite knowing the koalas were there, I am afraid I failed to see them and get any photos, maybe we will have more luck on the next visit.
While the park was lovely and they thankfully had a pool to cool down in, I think we might wait for cooler weather for our next visit. The weekend we were there it was not just hot but humid in the extreme.
Both parks seemed to be favourites with seasonal workers, the backpackers who normally work their way around the country picking fruit and veg, although right now there is a desperate shortage of seasonal workers. I must confess it is a lifestyle not without its charms although it can be back breaking work, not sure I could meet the physical demands these days, although sometimes I am tempted to try. Currently the ag industry is trying to tempt students into signing up to pick fruit and veg, if I was in young and presented with the opportunity I think I would defer study and spend a seasoning picking. Both the Granite Belt and the Lockyer valley are intensive farming areas. The granite belt for fruit and wine and the valley for stone fruit and vegetables. Fresh produce is also a big part of the charm of the regions, especially on the granite belt.
On the weekend we stopped at Suttons on the way to our campsite for some of their magnificent fresh apple and berry crumble for morning tea, (actually lunch, when you are a grown up, lunch can be anything you want). Suttons is justifiably famous for it’s apple products; fruit, juice and ciders and the apple pies are just amazing.