Month January

  • Baudin’s names in Australia

    One of the most familiar impacts of the voyages of Flindes and Baudin around Australia is the names that they gave to places. While many of Flinders names are still in use today, Baudin left very few place names in his wake. Jean Fornasiero, Peter Monteath and John West-Sooby explain why in Encountering Terra Australis.

    Encountering Terra Australis

    Detail of Laurie & Whittle’s New map of the World showing Terra Australis as known in November 1800, State
    Library of New South Wales

    One of the most distinctive and recognisable symbols of any nation is the outline of the country its citizens inhabit. Determining the shape of Terra Australis was a process in which mariners over many centuries played a role. Even after Flinders and Baudin, who in the end were unable to fulfil their respective goals, the map was not entirely complete – parts of the coastline had still been filled in with only a tremulous hand. But it was thanks to the joint efforts of Flinders and Baudin in 1802 that the one large piece then missing from the Australian puzzle was finally added – namely, the stretch of coastline that corresponds roughly to the coast of present-day South Australia. It was not merely a matter of filling in the details of an unknown stretch of coast; it was also a matter of confirming once and for all that they were dealing with a single, massive continent. Baudin and Flinders were among those who had speculated that there might be a strait running from the unknown coast in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, separating New Holland from New South Wales. Together, on 8 April 1802, they established from each other’s experience that no such strait was to be found.

    Encountering Terra Australis

    General chart of Terra Australis or Australia, Matthew Flinders, A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814)

    Baudin seemed well placed to emerge the winner of the race to finish the map, having been the first to set out on his mission. But we now know only too well that his advantage was soon lost and that his lasting contribution to the definitive map was relatively small. Moreover, the tragic end to his life and the eventual settlement of Australia by the English ensured that he would not have the opportunity to compete with Flinders when it came to naming the continent whose shape he had helped to define. There have been so few opportunities in history to name a new land that Baudin and the French might be considered to have lost heavily on that score. Baudin’s death also cost him naming rights for the geographical features that he identified in the rough charts made during the voyage.

    Many French names still survive in parts of Australia that the Baudin expedition charted. However, in most cases these are the names used by Péron and Louis Freycinet on the maps published in the official account of the voyage, and not those originally given by the commander himself. To make matters worse, Péron and Freycinet themselves featured prominently in the resulting nomenclature, while Baudin’s own name was as pointedly omitted from the map as it was from the written record of the voyage. Admittedly, Baudin might well have adopted a similar approach, had he been given the chance. There was little in the way of flattery or homage to his officers in his  original nomenclature; one can therefore imagine that Baudin’s faithful companions, such as Riédlé or Maugé, would have received more recognition from him than the likes of Péron and Freycinet.

    Be that as it may, circumstances would probably have forced Baudin, like Péron, to revise his nomenclature to account for other considerations than personal point-scoring. The same bureaucratic and political factors that influenced Péron’s choices would certainly have weighed heavily on the commander in his review of the names in his drafts. After all, the official cartographers at the Ministry of Marine would have had some say in the matter. It is also a constant fact of life that Ministers change and that the new incumbents require some form of flattery to ensure that funds continue to flow. Baudin did not have to face that particular dilemma; it was Péron, and later Freycinet after Péron’s death in 1810, who had to deal with the political obstacles that impeded publication of the voyage’s map and official account.

    One of Péron’s strategies was to name a relatively large number of features after prominent political figures of Napoleon’s regime. Some of these were the cause of a certain amount of embarrassment even before the Freycinet map of Terra Australis appeared – particularly the twin gulfs of what is now South Australia, which were named after Napoleon and his by then repudiated spouse, Josephine. However, since it was Flinders who had first charted and named the two gulfs, he had every reason to object, as he later did, to the ill-inspired nomenclature of Péron and Freycinet.

    Baudin was, of course, long gone before controversy erupted over the political ramifications of the French nomenclature. Péron had not just chosen to name the French expedition’s discoveries after political figures, but he had also assigned politically inspired names to Flinders’ section of the unknown coast. As if this were not bad enough, of these names Napoleon’s was the one that was guaranteed to cause the deepest offence to the English. When the first volume of Péron’s account appeared in 1807, the English reacted most angrily to the naming (and implied claiming) of the entire unknown south coast as Terre Napoléon.

    It is hard to imagine that Baudin would have been party to this, even under pressure. From the conversations and exchanges of information between Flinders and Baudin, we know that both captains were scrupulous about noting what the other had done – and that this was to serve as the basis for their final maps. Flinders found it hard to believe that this etiquette had been breached and that his own discoveries on the south coast had deliberately been ignored by Péron, whom he would have known well from the stay in Port Jackson. The case against Péron was, in fact, so damning that Freycinet felt the need to remedy the situation in the second edition of the Voyage de découvertes aux Terres Australes, published in 1824 – although he took care to distance himself from the controversy, attributing the original nomenclature to Péron alone. In defence of his deceased colleague, however, Freycinet stated that Péron had not intended to claim as discoveries the features he wrongfully named; he had simply not known the names Flinders had given, since the English map was published much later, in 1814. Once Flinders’ names were known, the French accepted them without question.

    … It is thus unlikely that the two captains [Flinders and Baudin] would have fallen into disagreement over the delicate issue of prior rights. In fact, in naming generally, they adopted similar practices. Their charts bore homage to celebrities, often maritime figures, as in the case of Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, named by Baudin after the eighteenth-century French naval officer and mathematician. The French expedition’s major discoveries were also commemorated in other ways. The captain’s ship, for instance, provided the inspiration for the naming of Geographe Bay in Western Australia. To prominent landmarks Baudin often gave names that corresponded to their physical appearance. This was also a conventional category, in that it signalled recognisable features to future explorers – a practice illustrated by Baudin’s ‘Ile du dragon’ (Dragon Island) off the Victorian coast, now known more prosaically as Lawrence Rock.

    Baudin’s names sometimes went a little further than mere appearance. The steep columns he saw at Cape Hauy in Tasmania led him to adopt the name ‘Cap des Organistes’ (Organists’ Cape) in an attempt to describe the grandiose nature of the spectacle, with its tall columns reminiscent of organ pipes, rather than just evoke the sheerness of the cliffs. In another category, Baudin also conformed to conventional usage by conferring names that reflected incidents on board ship. Of course, he could not refrain from adding the occasional dash of his characteristic humour and sarcasm – though, not surprisingly, the humorous names disappeared entirely from the list of Péron’s names, which overwhelmingly favoured the use of clusters of philosophers and scientists. While the commemoration of such celebrated figures is an interesting heritage that reminds us of the scientific nature of the Baudin expedition, it does not entirely compensate for the loss of such colourful names as those that Baudin gave to parts of Geographe Bay: ‘Anse des Maladroits’ (Cove of the Clumsy – today Wonnerup Inlet – where Baudin’s longboat was grounded) or ‘Cap des Mécontents’ (Cape of Discontent – now Cape Naturaliste – where Baudin reprimanded Sub-Lieutenant Picquet for his failure to land).

    While there is no definitive record of place-names comparing the names conferred by Baudin with those that finally appeared on Freycinet’s charts, it is clear that both lists draw to a similar extent on the conventional categories. The differences are to be found in the relative frequencies of certain categories, but these can be telling. Péron and Freycinet used more proper names, whereas Baudin’s nomenclature reflects a more evenly balanced use of the various naming principles. On the other hand, his use of descriptive names was no more conventional than the man himself. This fact alone may have caused him later problems with the official cartographers, had he lived to supervise his map.

    Click here to read more about the fascinating voyages of Flinders and Baudin, and the legacy they left behind.

    Encountering Terra Australis cover

  • And the winner is…

    We had so many wonderful entries for our January newsletter’s Summer Rose Giveaway, thank you all for taking the time to send us your beautiful roses.

    We all agreed, however, that the $250 Wakefield Press voucher should go to Ray Tyndale who sent in this lyrical, floral poem:

    Ray Tyndale's lovely summer rose

    Maud

    scant apologies to Tennyson!

     

    Come my poppy

    Fling open your flaming petals

    Give to me your black heart.

    Come my pansy

    Toss back your knowing head

    Share with me your secret thoughts.

    Come my rose

    Fill the air with your pungency

    I will swim in your scented sea.

    Come into the garden

    My poppy, my pansy, my darling rose
    Entwine with me.

    The sun shall succour your black heart

    The moon will keep your secret thoughts

    And I will drown.

     

    If you would like to keep up to date with Wakefield Press on goings and win prizes, why not subscribe to our email newsletter? Sign up here today!

     

  • Five fascinating facts about the Adelaide Park Lands

    Think you know all there is to know about the Adelaide Park Lands? Think again! Here are five fun facts from The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling.

    The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling

    1. The Elder Rotunda comes from Scotland – Patricia says: While the Torrens Lake was fringed with promenades and walkways, there were few grassy places to have picnics, listen to bands or linger and chat. Sir Thomas Elder, sojourning in Scotland, read about the forthcoming opening of the lake in his most recent batch of Adelaide newspapers and noted that the corporation intended to beautify the banks of the river by laying out several acres of ground for a place of recreation and a promenade. He saw it as an opportunity to donate something worthy for the site and informed them of a ‘trifling gift’ of a rotunda bandstand, which he had shipped to Adelaide. The rotunda duly arrived from MacFarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow and was erected; its columns were painted in bronze, with the remainder picked out in grey and blue. The rotunda was officially opened on 28 November 1882, more than a year after the lake. A piece of music, the ‘Rotunda March’, composed for the event, was played by the Adelaide City Council Brass Band.The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling
    2. Botanic Park had its own Speakers’ Corner –  Patricia says: Speakers’ Corner in Botanic Park became one of Adelaide’s most popular attractions, particularly for the ‘sensation loving public’ on Sunday afternoons. The only rule was to abstain from making personal attacks. In February 1895 a variety of speakers were on offer. Three or four individuals who had ‘the call’ took it in turns to promote the scriptures, while regulars were ‘for the most part gathered around the soldiers of the Salvation Army, who worked with unflagging energy despite the heat’. The Army was conspicuous for ‘blaring trumpets and the thumping of the drum’. Nearby speakers Stewart and Osborn ‘fired off’ slanderous statements about employers and capitalists. By 1912, Barney, a celebrated veteran preacher, had braved winter rain and summer heat for nearly 30 years to convert in a ‘divine sense’, mostly ‘young men and maidens’. Sometimes he was dressed in a long sheet decorated with antediluvian drawings.The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling
    3. The Park Lands had their own morality police (well, in a sense) –Patricia says: During the First World War the police force appointed its first two policewomen, Kate Cocks and Annie Ross, who began work on 1 December 1915 in time for the forthcoming summer. Kate Cocks was famous for her vigilance on the Park Lands, using her cane to separate lovers, who were often unaware of her approach. Finding lovers locked together she used her catchphrase ‘Three feet apart!’ In March 1916 courting couples came under the spotlight of the Advertiser again: ‘During the last few years it has become the fashion among people to do their courting lying down. It is now the practice for them to lie down so closely together as to appear immodest but many of them are respectable.’ Kate Cocks was not amused, commenting that the ‘police were powerless to advise couples to sit up’.
    4. The Park Lands had their own air raid shelters during World War II – Patricia says: It is not generally known that several miles of pipe were laid and trench air raid shelters built in the city’s squares, in children’s playgrounds and on the fringes of the Park Lands and along North Terrace during the Second World War. Generally not used for the purposes for which they were intended, they existed from January 1942 to around August 1944, when they were filled in by a bulldozer from the Highways Department. The Hume cement pipes, which had been used for shelters, had a second life in drainage works and in the children’s playgrounds.The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling
    5. Large sections of the Park Lands were for many years ‘Cows Only’! – Patricia says: One of the most enduring images of the Park Lands until the end of the 1960s was that of the signs dotted around bearing the words ‘Cows Only’. In 1963 there were well over a thousand livestock grazing on the Park Lands. However, in 1972 the last two dozen cows in Park 27B, next to the North Adelaide Railway Station, were banished, while 60 odd horses still grazing in several parks were brought together in Park 6 off Lefevre Terrace in North Adelaide. Today the long tradition of horse agistment, begun in the 1850s, continues, creating a delightful rural character in a capital city.

     

    To learn more about the Park Landsclick here and take a look at Patricia’s well-loved history of this area.

    The Adelaide Park Lands by Patricia Sumerling

  • Streakers and the Opening of an Adelaide Icon

    Robert Dickson remembers the opening of the Little Theatre at Adelaide University in Addicted to Architecture. It was obviously a ‘suitably anarchic’ affair involving a hefty number of streakers …

    Addicted to Architecture, Robert Dickson

    The Little Theatre

    The Little Theatre was the great gain. It was a 120-seat thrust-stage theatre with sophisticated control facilities and a small theatre bar. Students and other University users could use the theatre and operate all the sound and lighting equipment without any paid staff being there. The theatre consultant was none other than its promoter and the Union redevelopment client representative, Ralph Middenway.

    It is difficult to recall now which of us designed which part. The Little Bar, fitted in partly under the main western staircase, was nicely intimate, a tiny version of the Union Hall Cellar. With 120 patrons, it was a bit crowded, but they could always spill out into the Cloisters. The Little Theatre was to be finished early for the 1974 Adelaide Festival, twelve months before completion of the remainder of the complex.

    The opening by the Vice-Chancellor was a suitably anarchic theatrical occasion. ‘Streakers’ punctuated his opening address. But the Vice-Chancellor took it in his stride. Cued by audience reaction as each bare figure raced across the stage behind his back, he paused a little, awaiting audience response to fade, then continued, as though the interruptions were scheduled to accentuate his message. It was an appropriately professional performance.

    A newspaper review of Adelaide theatres by Shirley Stott Despoja featured a photograph of the Little Theatre, with the comments, ‘Only the Elder Hall lower level, and the Little Theatre combine a naturally comfortable seating position with excellent visibility and acoustics wherever you may sit’.

    Read more about the Little Theatre and Dickson’s other famous buildings here.

    GA09-2830 Dust Jacket.indd

  • The history of cycling in Adelaide

    There’s been a lot of talk about cycling in Adelaide recently. The Tour Down Under opens tomorrow, and recently the City Council has devoted a lot of time to installing and ripping up bike pathways all over the city! But it’s not like this is a new thing for us. Adelaidians have been mad-keen cyclists for yonks, as Denis Molyneux investigates in Time for Play, his history of recreation and leisure in SA. Check out the pics —

     

    The bicycle evolved through three phases – the Velocipede, the high wheel Ordinary and finally, the Safety bicycle. The velocipede, or ‘boneshaker’, accommodated a rider sitting astride two wheels, who propelled the machine first with one foot and then the other. The later versions of the machine had pedals on the front wheel. There do not appear to have been many owners of the velocipede in South Australia, although there were enthusiasts riding the machine in the Kapunda area in the early 1870s.

    Time for Play by Denis Molyneux

    Velocipede [SLSA B7964]

    The heavy and cumbersome velocipede was replaced in the late 1870s by the high wheel, or ordinary. Its design, with the big wheel standing 52–54 inches (130–135 cm) high and pedalled from a central position immediately above the wheel, was a challenge to the strength, balance and athleticism of a male rider. For those who met these requirements and could afford the cost of the machines, the ordinary became a vehicle for racing or touring, but of limited use in daily transportation, not least because of its size. Its cost meant that owners were drawn predominantly from the middle classes.

    The touring side of cycling clubs carried a strong middle class social element. ‘Handle Bar’, the cycling correspondent of the Register, writing in his weekly column – Wheelmarks – in May 1892 observed:

    Six to thirteen miles generally constitute the distance of Club runs on Saturday afternoons in this colony, and within that area some very pretty places can be visited. What is more enjoyable than a spin before tea to Tea Tree Gully, Thorndon Park, or Belair? Should hill climbing be objected to, Glenelg or Brighton are pleasant places to visit on the wheel. Not only is the exercise healthful and enjoyable, but the scenery is beautiful, and an appetite is generally secured which only cyclists can boast of possessing. I advise all unattached wheelmen to accompany the clubs to some of their favourite rendezvous, and it need scarcely be added an advantageous afternoon will result.

    Time for Play by Denis Molyneux

    A ladies cycle race at Mount Gambier, c. 1900.
    The gentlemen are present to help the ladies. [SLSA B46443]

    Reports of individual club runs generally included some reference to the state of the road surfaces for the benefit of other cyclists, although as one columnist observed:

    when the pneumatic tire [sic] comes into general use, and it is rapidly replacing others, rough roads will have little effect …

    The year’s runs for the South Australian and North Adelaide Clubs reporting in 1892 were for the former, 37 excursions totalling 688 miles and the latter, 34 at 802 miles.

    The Clubs that emerged in the late 1870s and through the 1880s, with their emphasis on touring rides, where members often wore uniforms, and gathered to socialise in club rooms, would have proved exclusive to those few working class cyclists who were able to purchase the ordinary machine.

    Time for Play by Denis Molyneux

    Uniformed Club Riders on ‘Ordinary’ bicycles, 1880. [SLSA B7805]

    The bicycle continued to evolve through the 1880s, with experimentation in mechanical design, culminating in the Safety version. The safety model included several innovative features, notably a diamond shaped tubular steel frame linking two similar size wheels, the ball bearing, a chain driving the rear wheel and tangentially-spoked wheels. All added safety for the rider – hence the name; moreover, it was lighter in weight and proved to be strong, durable, reliable and capable of operating with minimum maintenance.

    The invention of the pneumatic tyre proved to be a further significant milestone. Patented in Britain in 1888, the inflated tyre, after initial suspicion among many hardened cyclists, was the major feature that led to the safety bicycle developing a market that swept the world, including the Australian colonies. The safety bicycle, equipped with pneumatic tyres, was particularly well-suited to Australian conditions ‘where the terrain and long distances and climate seemed to be waiting for the Dunlop invention.’ It was faster, more comfortable and easier to propel. In addition:

    Australian men were more likely to buy a bicycle, partly because they earned higher wages. Furthermore, they could ride a bicycle the whole year round in most climatic regions of their land.

    The Safety bicycle’s potential was soon noted in South Australia. The cyclist on the energy efficient machine proved to be two or three times as fast as a pedestrian or horse or camel. One did not have to be young and athletic to ride the safety bicycle; the model was attractive to young and old riders alike. With the arrival of the ‘step through’ version, the safety model rapidly became popular with women and softened some of the criticism directed against their cycling. It was to prove highly significant in women’s social liberation in the closing years of the century.

    Time for Play by Denis Molyneux

    The well patronised North Adelaide Ladies Cycling Club, c. 1900. [SLSA B9188]

    To read more of this fascinating history, please click here.

  • What to do if your baby won’t stop crying

    Sarah Blunden and Angie Willcocks’s The Sensible Sleep Solution is a refreshing take on helping mum and bub through those first few months. Blunden and Willcocks’s tips for getting a restless baby to sleep are moderate, tested and easy to put in place. Here, they give some advice on what to do if your baby won’t stop crying – and stress the importance of taking care of yourself as a parent, too! Also, ever wondered what colic actually is? Read on …

    Sensible Sleep Solution how to help crying babies

    If your baby’s crying persists for days or weeks and there seems to be nothing you can do to soothe her, try the following:

    + Organise for your baby to be checked (again?) by a health professional with an interest in children, such as a GP, paediatrician, early childhood nurse, or allied health professional. If you don’t agree with something someone says or something does not seem right for you and your family you may want to get another opinion.

    + Speak with other parents about what might be going on.

    + Ask for some support from family, friends or professionals (or all three). Tell them, ‘My baby cries a lot for no apparent reason, no matter what I do, and I could use some help at the moment.’

    + Get some help with household chores. (See Part 3, Taking care of yourself.)

    + Take a break from your baby by organising someone to look after her for a while.

    + Think ahead – this baby will not always be a crying baby. Before long she will be starting school!

    It is important to note that, while all parents are likely to find a constantly crying baby difficult, those with certain temperaments will find a crying baby especially difficult to cope with. Those:

    + who are used to pleasing others and making others happy, who hate upsetting people or ‘letting people down’

    + who have difficulties putting up with strong or negative feelings (in themselves or other people)

    + who like to be organised and are used to having a fair degree of control over their lives (who now find that they can’t control this situation no matter how hard they try).

    If any – or all – of these sorts of personalities sound like you, and you have a baby who cries a lot, it is especially important that you find supportive people to help you through this challenging time, either with practical help, or by listening to you talk about the difficulties you are facing.

    Why would your baby cry a lot?

    + Temperament (see more about this on p. 25).

    + Persistent hunger (not getting enough milk for example). If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough milk and may be hungry please consult your doctor or early childhood nurse for advice.

    + Illness, pain, or discomfort.

    + Colic (see below for more information).

    What is colic?

    Colic sounds like a medical diagnosis that may explain what is wrong with a baby, but in fact it is a descriptive term referring to any baby who cries excessively for no apparent reason. Excessive crying is defined by the 3-rule: crying for at least three hours per day, three days a week for a period of longer than three weeks.

    Colic usually starts around six weeks of age and stops at about three to four months (although it can continue for longer in some babies) and occurs in about one in five babies. All babies seem to grow out of colic by the six-month mark.

    There are many theories around why babies are ‘colicky’: gas or wind in the bowel, discomfort due to particular foods the breastfeeding mother has eaten, food allergies or intolerances, and/or pain and discomfort from other sources. There are a number of products available based on these theories, including special dummies and bottles which claim to minimise the intake of air and medicines that claim to relieve the discomfort of trapped wind. Some midwives stress the importance of getting rid of wind after a feed in ‘colicky babies’ and others are of the opinion that excess feeding (as in short, frequent feeds) may contribute to tummy pains and an unsettled baby. If you have been trying frequent feeds as a way to calm your baby and it doesn’t seem to be working you may want to wait at least two and a half hours between feeds by using other calming techniques in between.

    Talk to your GP or early childhood nurse if you would like more information.

    To read more, you can find out about The Sensible Sleep Solution here. Please note, this title is also available as an ebook here.

    The Sensible Sleep Solution by Sarah Blunden and Angie Willcocks

  • The beginnings of an apple orchard

    Sally van Gent’s Clay Gully is one of those rare books: a delightful read that transports without exaggerating. In these first few pages, she describes the process of finding the house and their decision to grow an apple orchard. All accompanied by Sally’s lovely illustrations. The perfect book to read for anyone planning a big life change in 2017 …

    After several months of fruitless searching around Bendigo in central Victoria, the agent calls to tell us he has found our perfect home. Apparently the house is in the middle of ten acres of bush and farmland. Right away I know we can’t afford a property like that. The agent insists I at least drive past the place.

    He tells me, ‘If you wait a bit the price will come down. I’ve heard the owners are about to go bankrupt.’

    How would you like to pay this man to sell your house, I wonder.

    Out of curiosity I drive down the winding dirt road. To the left are green paddocks where a horse is grazing. On the other side there is forest, all the way down the hill. At the bottom, where there is a wide curve in the road, I spot the house through the gum trees. It stands in the centre of a lightly treed paddock and to the side is open bush land. The agent persuades us to have a look  inside. The house, though adequate, is unimpressive. It has a dingy seventies-style kitchen and worse, there is ghastly brown and cream shag-pile carpet almost everywhere. I look at the view through the living-room window and I don’t care.

    It’s been a wet spring and water cascades over the paddocks, draining from the bush higher up the hill. The agent sends us off to walk around the property unaccompanied as he doesn’t want to get his feet soaked. Above the house the gum trees lean out over two dams. Up here the rich soil of the paddocks gives way to stony ground, and a patchwork of wildflowers grows between the grey, lichen-coated boulders.

    Three months later we receive another call from the agent. ‘The owners have gone broke, are you still interested in the house?’

    Yes, definitely.

    I walk into the back garden the first morning after we have moved in and confront a scene straight from the classic Hitchcock horror movie, The Birds. Along the top of the fence a row of strange, black birds with hooked beaks stare down at me through glowing red eyes. They don’t attempt to fly away when I move towards them. Instead they begin to rock back and forth in unison, all the time letting out weird, breathy whistles. When they finally fly off I see they have white wing feathers.

    Birds from Clay Gully

    Beside the house there’s a large shed with an earth floor where the previous owners conducted their business of making concrete garden ornaments. A giraffe with a broken neck sits near the side gate and on the back verandah there’s a whole farmyard of concrete chickens, ducks and small animals. My mother, who lives in a nearby retirement village, suggests the elderly people there might like them. Soon the animals have all found new homes and one old man, who’s been a farmer all his life, is absolutely delighted to have chickens and ducks in his backyard again.

    At night a dozen large spiders with red-striped legs construct huge webs across the verandah. They catch a multitude of tiny moths, attracted by the kitchen light. These same moths provide a welcome dinner for two small frogs lying in wait on the window. The front of the property is divided by a broad irrigation channel, used to flood the paddocks in the days when they were part of a dairy farm. Contemplating the grassy, treeless area farthest from the house, we discuss its possible uses.

    In this, our first year at Clay Gully, our dams fill with water in the spring and thunderstorms replenish them in the summer. Good rains are predicted for next year offering us the opportunity to establish an agricultural enterprise. I think of goats and chickens but my husband, Nick, vetoes all my suggestions. He knows only too well that I can’t kill anything and is already anticipating the vet bills involved in keeping alive aging hens, well past their egg-laying days.

    A lover of good wine, his thoughts turn naturally to planting a vineyard, but I can see problems with this suggestion. Not having the necessary knowledge or equipment to process the grapes ourselves, we would be dependent on large wineries to take our fruit and set the price. Instead I think of the beautiful apples my grandfather grew in England – Bramley’s Seedling, Lord Lambourne and Red Astrachan. There must be a market for these delicious, forgotten varieties. My grandfather grew them without artificial fertilisers or pesticides. We decide to follow the long path leading to full organic certification of the orchard.

    Clay Gully by Sally van Gent

    It’s necessary to have a third dam dug in front of the house and to purchase additional rural water. The contractor isn’t pleased with me when I insist on having an island in the middle of the dam. It makes his job more difficult but I know it’ll look beautiful and will be a refuge for water birds.

    Then we discover Badgers Keep, a wonderful heritage apple nursery with over 500 different cultivars. With so many to choose from, I spend many hours poring over their descriptions. One apple we should definitely grow is the Bramley’s Seedling. The population of the UK eats millions of Bramleys every year and I’m convinced that once Australians try them they will love them too. The variety has stood the test of time. The original tree, growing in a garden in Nottinghamshire, is still bearing fruit after 200 years.

    Next I select Autumn Pearmain, striped and perfumed, and grown since the late 1500s. Then there is the Orleans Reinette, yellow, sweet and nutty, and the soft and juicy Beauty of Bath. My husband Nick, being Dutch, has his own favourite apple much loved on the continent. This is the Belle de Boskoop, sometimes known as Goudreinet. It has a strong flavour making it excellent for cooking. If left longer on the tree it turns into a fragrant, soft-pink dessert apple. We order the Bramley’s Seedling and Belle de Boskoop and by the time we’ve selected enough cultivars for their pollination, we have twenty-four different varieties. In all there will be 300 trees.

    Click here to read more, and keep an eye out for Sally’s next book, The Navy-blue Suitcase.

    Clay Gully by Sally van Gent