Tag Archives: cows

Walking across farmland – posting 2 of 2

The land was parched and massive equipment used water pumped from the Derwent River to spray irrigate crops and keep the red earth moist.

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The day was exceptionally hot so, when I approached the expansive circulating spray of water on one farm, I was strongly tempted to stand and be drenched. However I decided not to drown my precious tablet that I use to take photos.  Instead I continued onwards – hot and bothered.

Before long, I entered through a side fence into a large paddock with a herd of cattle grazing in a far distance corner. They looked up. They watched me.  Curious.  I headed back down the fence line towards the water’s edge.  When I checked behind me I noted some were now beginning to amble in my direction.

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From experience I find there are two types of cattle – those who know people and associate people with extra food, and those who roam comparatively wildly and seldom see people.  The former want to check you out and the latter run away even when they see you 100 metres or more away.  I prefer the cattle who head off elsewhere to find their food. A large herd of cattle coming for me gives me no comfort even though I love the look of their soft eyes and noses and lips. I know they will not deliberately hurt me but I have images of their tonnes of weight accidentally standing on my feet, and I don’t like the foreseeable consequences.

I continued walking, reached the River and kept moving forward along the edge.  I noted that all the cows were coming now and closing the distance. I could not see the ‘protection’ of the ends of the paddock and its fences.  I was hot and getting hotter despite keeping up the fluids.  As I approached a point offering wonderfully easy access to the River, I thought about jumping in or at least loading my hat with water to cool down.

Where the cattle drink

But I looked around, realised the cattle were so close that I could eyeball the advance party, and knew I had to keep walking.  When I looked down at the ground I could see every vintage of cow pats all around.  It came to me. This was the cows drinking point.  With luck they would be thirsty and forget about me.

I continued on, and true to my expectations, most headed down to the River for a drink. Other stood and looked at me uncertain whether to follow or refresh themselves.  The few that followed slowed their progress to nibble on grass – that long walk had sapped their energy!

Watch out! Cows crossing

After Rayners Corner, I walked back along Glenora Road because I could not access the property separating me from the Derwent River. The tall dry teasels made a barrier on the left of the road.

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When I registered the sound of a motor cycle and a quad bike on the hill, I watched two farmers sweeping down as they herded cattle towards the fence next to the road.

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Within moments the bike was on the road ready to halt traffic.

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And then the cows were out.  Their job was simply to walk from one paddock to another across the road.

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But along the road barrelled a speeding car which skittered the cattle so they began to run towards Bushy Park.  The car stopped short. The farmers glared. I stood still knowing if I kept walking in that direction the cows would be spooked further.

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Eventually the cattle found their paddock.

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I continued walking along. Then I turned and talked with Mrs farmer while Mr farmer locked gates.  When he joined the conversation he assured me that while the cattle had a mind of their own, sheep were the particular challenge he particularly did not like when it was time to take them over a busy road.  His sheep could never be trusted to know they should not run off.

On the road and from the road

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Refer to the photos below – I loved the open rainwater tanks, on their side in the shed, which now houses stacks of wood. And I loved the contrast between solar power technology, mechanical equipment and a small wooden house with its own cottage garden.

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These cows ran away from me.  My explanation is that the pack on my back makes me looked like a deformed and rare human and, as such, I am to be much feared.

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Meanwhile the Derwent River raced along.

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Leaving Ivanhoe’s cows behind

Day 2 and the vista looked splendid.  Despite my fingers seeming to freeze as I released the tent and repacked my backpack, the sun shone and the landscape sparkled after the evening’s shower of rain – any dust in the air was long gone.

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I hadn’t been walking for long when I could see the next railway bridge down the line. This time the bridge was taking a long haul over the Derwent River.  Again, I wasn’t prepared to play with my life and try to cross it. Instead, I detoured after finding a gate with an easy slip fastener and walked up a soft vehicle track. I saw rich green paddocks everywhere.

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Before long I had walked over the hilltop and could see a couple of houses.

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And then I was following a curving track across the property expecting eventually to return to Glenora Road.

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Not far along, I passed a gigantic pivot irrigation structure.

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The morning was truly marvellous.  The location was magnificent.

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I felt all the happier when a couple of the property owners drove past and waved cheerily. At the time I thought it strange they didn’t stop to talk which is something country people normally do (and, after all, I was on their private land), but when I reached the road I realised they had been having a laugh at my expense.  The gate was padlocked and unclimbable. One fence was electrified and the other barbed.  Fortunately, I was able to make my own way around this obstacle and get to the main road. It was then I could see I had been on the property named Ivanhoe.

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You can see my red gloves on top of the stone fence; by the time I was on the outside of Ivanhoe, I had warmed up and no longer needed them.

The Ivanhoe property is for sale if this interests you and you have over $3.6 million in loose change hanging around.

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I think I can, I think I can

As I left Cluan and continued on, I recalled the child’s story of The Little Engine that Could. I was the little train on the old rotting tracks. Walking on the sleepers. Walking between the sleepers. That was my routine for the rest of the day.  I thought I could keep going. I know I can I know I can I know I can – was the regular thought that powered me over the irregular surfaces which required total vigilance to prevent a twisted or broken ankle.

In the photos below, the Derwent River is located over the paddocks near the row of trees, and inaccessible.

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Gradually, as the line took me higher and higher, my views of the Derwent River were clearer.

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The sun came out and I watched worried cows racing away from me. Beautiful healthy black cattle in contrast to lush lime-green grass.

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With a rainstorm approaching, finding a suitable camping spot suddenly became very important.

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Obviously my dream to camp near the river could not happen. So I settled near a couple of wattle trees, next to the railway line across from the paddock with the cows.  Surprisingly, the ground was soft dust. I cannot explain in this wet green landscape why the soil where I was pitching my tent would be almost bone dry but I am grateful because the tent pegs slipped in easily and strangely stayed firm.  Magic in the Derwent Valley.

As I opened my backpack, drops of rain were being winded my way with force. Blog followers may remember my tent weighs only a few grams over 1 kilogram.  Trust me; its lightness was not a benefit in that atmosphere. Firstly, I laid the tent out and weighted it to the ground. The next process was to unfold the structural rods and insert them into the tent to create the shape.  But the wind twisted and threw me and the rods at all angles. The cows talked. I said some choice words.

Exasperated and flustered the pieces eventually fitted and stayed together. I withdrew the fly from its sack and out it flew like a large lime green cape.  Into the wattle trees.  Out of the wattle trees. Attached to the tent at one corner. Over me. Off me. Start again. Onto the railway line. More choice words from all the animals. Once the fly was attached to two points, while it was a scramble to attach it at the third point, I was winning. And then the tent and fly were up, taut, holding their own against the wind.  No wine to celebrate. Now there was an oversight!

Thanks to the tent vestibule I was able to cook my dinner with wind protection. Then I settled back, read a little, before dozing and sleeping all night.  Loved it when a toilet break was required under the stars. I smiled to see the velvety black silhouettes of the cows lined up along the fence line, no longer afraid of me.  It was quite wonderful being out in the fresh clean country air and I was immensely pleased that I had persevered through the day and arrived at this magical spot.

Thwarted by barriers

I am deeply dispirited. I have some sad news. My impulsive project to walk from the mouth to the source of the Derwent River will be thwarted by greed and other human characteristics of a negative nature. Despite this situation, I am working on a new plan to reach the source of the Derwent River at Lake St Clair Lagoon in a physical and meaningful way and, once I have fleshed out the details, a future post will offer an explanation.  Meanwhile, after you read the following, your suggestions will be most welcome.

During stages 1-14, from time to time I recorded how access to the actual river edge was sometimes denied me because properties were fenced and gated.  I bemoaned the fact that across Tasmania, in many instances the law provides that property owners own land and water to half way across rivers. While a ‘grace and favour access’ or by ‘a permission granted approval’ process exists in some places, much of our river edges cannot be walked freely.  Yet in so many European countries ‘right of way’ paths and walking trails across the land have been taken for granted for centuries so there is much more freedom to simply enjoy being outdoors.  Non-indigenous settlement is too recent in Tasmania so a criss-cross of ‘ancient’ walking paths has not been established, and the pathways of the inhabitants prior to settlement, the aborigines, either have been obliterated or knowledge of their location is not easily available to the non-indigenous population.

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Photo of the Derwent River taken through a house block on the western edge of the town of New Norfolk.

The damage is done and to repeal laws and ‘take away’ land from owners would be political suicide, and cries of unfairness and for expensive compensation would abound. I can imagine the legislation arose partly from consideration of the practicality as to who or which organisation would maintain the thousands of kilometres of river edges across Tasmania and keep them clear from bracken, blackberry brambles and exotic weeds.

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Can you spot the River through these profusely growing weeds?

While walking for leisure purposes has a history in Tasmania since the beginning of European settlement, our early legislators did not have a crystal ball to see that the 21st century is one in which many people want a healthy lifestyle that involves exploring and accessing our natural environment without barriers.

Unfortunately, a damaging minority of people are greedy, thoughtless, and cannot be trusted to meet their promises.  The consequence is what I found during Stage 15 and what I can foresee for Stage 16.  I soon realised that almost no free/public access to the River exists between New Norfolk and Gretna, and it seems this will also be true for any future inland push along the River.

After leaving New Norfolk on the westward proceeding Glenora Road on the southern/western side of the Derwent River, I soon registered paddocks and more paddocks had been recently re-fenced with fresh spiky barbed-wire.

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Note second fence line inside and parallel to the barbed wire fence line.

This year, the Australian Federal Government budget made a concession for small business owners and granted an immediate full tax deduction for expenses up to $20,000.  My conclusion was that farmers in the Derwent Valley grabbed this opportunity and used it to protect the limits of their properties.

As a child my father showed me how to pass through barbed wire fences. The process is best with two people but one can do it. You put your shoed foot on a lower strand of wire to hold it down, then pull the next one up and slip through the enlarged space hoping not to be spiked by the barbs.  But today’s farmers in the Derwent Valley know this trick. Since they don’t want people on their land, the wires are now extremely taut and the spacing between many lines of wire is only about 10-15cm.  If an adult expects to pass through the barbed wire fences of Derwent Valley farmers then Dad’s technique cannot work.

Barbed wire fences were not my only barrier to accessing the Derwent River.  Gates presented insurmountable challenges.  Almost all gates that I arrived at were padlocked. That hasn’t always stopped people accessing a property because the use of strong square wires or other metals in gate construction usually helps you with a footing to lift up and over the top.  Not so with many Derwent Valley farmers’ gates.  The new gates either are ringed in barbed wire or are wrought iron with high straight verticals which provide no place for feet.  For me these were unclimbable.

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Very occasionally I came across older fencing that had minimal or no barbed wire and seemed very climbable. But alas. These fences had an additional strand attached; an electrified line. Intended to keep the cattle in and from trampling fence lines, these electric fences were an absolute barrier for walkers like me.

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In places, farmers had cleverly left overgrown tangles of thorny blackberry canes that extended down paddocks and into the river, as an impossible barrier near their fence lines.

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I came across signs such as ‘Private Property’ and on one occasion the sign warned that ‘Trespassers would be prosecuted’.

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Even access was limited to the very open Sports Ground at Bushy Park, one which contains almost no infrastructure. This Sports Ground edges the Styx River as it flows into the Derwent River.

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The sign pictured below was particularly annoying because it was suggesting that permission might be given if a request was made. However, I couldn’t get access to ask for permission to walk across the land.  Once on the spot, there was no way to discover who the landowner was and then to somehow connect with them using technology.

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On a particularly wonderful luscious green hill that wound around the Derwent heading for Gretna, one where walking close to the river would have been a great pleasure, the sign ‘Trespassers will be shot’ was a strong deterrent.

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During my walk I had decided that perhaps anglers had not respected the limited access they were given to the River at key points, via styles over fences. I mused that perhaps fishermen had strayed further than permitted, wrecked fences and generally not left the land as they found it.

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Blog follower Jo told me a story of how a few men had prearranged with a landowner to come and fish in his dam. After their weekend of fishing they emailed the landowner with thanks for the opportunity to take home 50kgs of fish. Needless to say, this greed was rewarded by the owner telling the fishing party never again to ask for permission to enter his land.

Later at the Gretna Green Hotel where I waited for the bus back to Hobart after completing the Stage 15 walk, I talked with a local about the reason for the impenetrable barriers to properties.  Apparently wood lifting, and cattle and sheep rustling used to be rife in the Derwent Valley until farmers closed their borders.  Not only would people drive onto properties to chop down trees and collect sufficient fire wood for their own personal needs, they would bring trucks in and take loads away to sell.  All without the permission of the land owner.  Similarly, whole cows and sheep would disappear in their droves overnight.  Regularly.  Modern day farmers’ costs are high, their income comparatively low for the hard work they put in, and so they were unprepared to subsidise the living of others. Their fences and gates have become good barriers – not perfect, because occasionally some unscrupulous wanderers bring bolt and fence cutters.  Nevertheless, as a walker with no intent to leave my mark on the land, I cannot proceed.

In my last steps walking into Gretna, I passed the two paddocks through which I envisaged Stage 16 would start. But both had impassable fences and gates with padlocks.  For the next stage, which was expected to cover the area from Gretna to Hamilton via the river, there are at least 4 property owners and who knows how many padlocked gates, bramble congested river edges, barbed wire and electric fences. It is not realistic to ask owners to come and unlock the padlocks and then relock them after I pass through.

While it is true, and you will read details in future posts, that I did access the river from time to time during Stage 15 and experienced some wonderful locations, for most of the walk I was deeply depressed about the limitations under which my project is being placed. I am pleased that writing this post has helped purge some of that anger and frustration. Now that the situation has been recorded, I feel much more ready to be positive again and determine a new way  to reach my goal.  The goal remains the same, but the process must be modified.

On a camel, then on two different sailing boats, followed by a 900 mile walk

Here is a little light relief with a piece of history which has nothing to do with my walk along the Derwent River. Blog follower Jo alerted me to the story of Zarafa. Have you heard the story of Zarafa?

In the early 1800s exotic animals from Africa and beyond were still sensational to the inhabitants of Europe so, over time, various animals were transported thousands of miles from their home territory to amaze strangers and for political purposes.

The giraffe Zarafa, when gifted to King Charles X of France in 1826 in 1826, became an international sensation in consequence of the challenges faced in her travels.  Zarafa’s journey started in the country of the Masai when she was loaded onto the back of a camel. On reaching the Nile River, she boarded a sailing vessel and travelled northwards to Alexandria. From here she was moved onto a larger boat, with a hole cut in the deck so her head could lift up and out, and sailed for 32 days across the Mediterranean to France. Finally she led by a man in a long walk from Marseilles to Paris over 41 days, and by all accounts she became healthier and more robust with each step.  Fed with the milk of three accompanying cows, Zarafa was considerably taller at the end of her journey.

You can read more at:

Apparently, Zarafa’s stuffed remains can be viewed in France at the La Rochelle museum. I would be interested to hear comments from any blog follower or other reader who has visited this museum and the remains of this giraffe.

Fashion progressed (or suffered) as a result of Zarafa’s arrival.  Apparently Parisienne woman piled their hair so high they needed to sit on the floor of their carriages, and men wore elongated hats and ties as the new trend of ‘a la girafe’ emerged.