Now our kids are getting older and have the stamina for some longer walks, we have started spending more time exploring the bush again. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed it, as we haven’t had much opportunity for longer day walks in recent years. Although now it’s not as peaceful with a 6 and 8 year old in tow, we are still having a lot of fun. Recently we got wind of ‘Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary’.
Now, I’ve lived in Tasmania for nearly 40 years and never heard of it, so I thought we’d better check it out. Located just near the little township of Bagdad, you’ll find Chauncy Vale on the Midlands Highway about 25 minutes out of Hobart.
The 350 odd hectares is one of Tassie’s oldest private conservation areas and was bequeathed to the local council in 1988 by the owner Anton Chauncy. Now, if you’re into all things literary you may have heard of his wife Nan Chauncy.
Nan was born in England and emigrated to Tasmania with her parents in 1912 at the age of 12 years. The families rural property became inspiration for her writing and also her long involvement with the Australian Girl Guides.
Nan was widely known for her children’s books, winning the Children’s Book of the Year three times. Two of her novels were also adapted for the cinema. Her first novel They Found a Cave was made into a feature film starring a full Tasmanian cast. It was very successful in its day and even won Best Children’s Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1962. Nan was also the first Australian to win a Hans Christian Andersen Award.
They Found a Cave and many of her other novels featured the landscape of the property. Do any of these ring a bell – World’s End was Home, Tiger in the Bush or Devil’s Hill?
We went on a guided walk to explore many of the caves on the property. Having just re-read They Found a Cave it was easy to see where Nan drew her inspiration from! The story could have easily been played out there today. In our group were about a dozen kids, all having the time of their lives playing in the caves and squeezing themselves through tiny (but safe!) tunnels.
The walk up to the caves is a short but quite steep incline through dry sclerophyll forest. It was beautifully peaceful with only a slight rustle of the wind in the highest gumtrees, and great views across the valley below. On approach to the caves its gets rocky but none of the small children in our group had any trouble scrambling around. Above the first cave we spotted a perching site for the Peregrine Falcon which is arguably the world’s fastest animal. It spot was marked with the telltale signs of white guano spilling down the side of the cliff.
The descent down the other side of the hill was somewhat steeper and would be tricky with children if it was wet. It led us to a creek which served as the perfect lunch stop. ‘Eve’s Bath’ as it is known on the property marks the site where the Chancy’s governess used to bring the children to bathe them. Our kids eventually put their feet in and squealed with the cold.
Bushrangers also roamed these parts and apparently lived in the caves – mention of them is also made in many of Nan’s stories. The property would have been far enough from old Hobart town for hiding but close enough to raid businesses and surrounding farms.
In more recent times, Nan and Antons daughter, Heather bequeathed gift of the house and surrounding paddocks to the sanctuary. ‘Day Dawn’ cottage dates back to 1916 and stands today as it was in the 1950’s. The caretaker opened it for us and there is still much of the original furniture in tact, even clothing hanging in the bedrooms. A display of old Women’s Weekly magazines adorns the table in the kitchen.
Nan’s typewriter – who is affectionately referred to as ‘George’ still sits in the same position at a window overlooking the paddocks. You can imagine her sitting their by the light of the hurricane lamp working well into the night on her latest tale of Tasmanian adventure. You can purchase Nan’s books here and even a DVD of They Found a Cave. The $20 cost (which includes both the book and DVD) is minimal and goes towards the preservation of Day Dawn cottage.
The garden still exists in a somewhat rundown form. Apparently spring is magic as thousands of bulbs burst from the lawn in the front garden. This would be the best time to visit. Old fruit trees are evident as is a lone pine tree which was planted to mark the end of World War 1. The old fencing and stone walls reminded me of my great grandparents’ garden.
Today there are a number of tracks visitors can enjoy on the property and interpretative maps spell out all the options. There is also a great BBQ site which I’m told makes for the perfect birthday party location – great idea!
For further details visit http://www.chauncyvale.com.au/