Page 9 - Sport and Mount Wellington

The favorite drive from Hobart is to Brown's River. For 10 miles one follows the west bank of the Derwent in a southerly direction. The suburb of Sandy Bay, 3 miles out, can he reached by tram. I have the great advantage of going to a meet of the hounds at Kingston, the township of Brown's River. We go down in style. Mr. William Ikin drives tandem, horses and cart equal to anything to be seen in England. Our companions are the artist and Mr. Charles Herbert Campbell, a globetrotter from Gaspe. This gentleman is of Scotch descent, but otherwise is a French Canadian. He would he an interesting study for my friend, Mr. Gilbert Parker. It is a magnificent day — a regular hunting afternoon — for these Saturday meets within a few miles of Hobart are arranged for the convenience of people who have business during the mornings. A keen air is blowing from Mount Wellington, but there are suggestions of spring in the foliage.

The bush is whispering in her pent-up glee,
As myriad roots bestir them to be free.

The golden wattle in bursting into bloom "mid shaded green and shaded light." Of course I think of Lindsay Gordon. This time last year I was in Echuca Park meditating on the flower the bushman loves. Now through the subtle sympathy which is so often met between two men sitting side by side behind two good horses, Mr Ikin says, "Did you know Lindsay Gordon ?" I confess to my sorrow that I did not. "Ah !" says my Jehu, "he understood hunting. You remember, the lines -

Then the measured stroke on the elastic sward
Of the steed three parts extended,
Hard held, the breath of his nostrils broad
With the golden ether blended.

The the leap, the rise from the springy turf,
The rush through the bouyant air,
And the light shock landing - the veriest serf
Is an emperor then and there.

I was thinking of the poet in connection with the wattle and spring time. In Mr. Ikin's thoughts, Gordon was the poet of the chase, yet like Shakespeare, fitted into both our moods.

Seven miles from Hobart we pass the Shot Tower, which, is an elegant land mark. All the way the scenery changes with every mile. On one hand, the-mountains, on the other, the shining river, beyond this mountains and foot hills, the open ocean ahead, from which the savor of the salt of the sea reaches our nostrils. When from the highest point of the road we drive down to and across Brown's River we are in a little valley. The slopes are cleared and, cultivated, and the soil appears most productive. In old days the yields from the potato crops, here were enormous. When the Australian diggings broke out, the Browns River farmers made handsome incomes in exporting the tuber. Those days have passed, ,but the people, I should imagine, are still well off. Kingston itself is an ordinary looking village. I The beauty spot of attraction is at the beach, where the tide laves a lovely shore. Here is the hostelry of. Mr. W. J. Fisher, which resembles an American seaside hotel. Mr. Fisher proudly calls his place the "Australasian,'' " going one better " than the proprietors of the Australia Hotel in Sydney. He boasts that not only, Tasmanian Governors, but leading citizens from all the colonies, come and stay at his house. Certainly Brown's Bay has many attractions. It has a lovely climate, mild and sheltered in winter. The visitors at Fisher's can bathe on the beach, gather shells, explore the caves and thee Blowhole, climb cliffs in search of rare plants ; and sail and fish. As regards the latter sport bream, mullet and perch can he pulled up by the hundred. Crayfish, too, are wonderfully plentiful. A place for honeymoon couples this. By day they will have the delights above enumerated. By night they can wander on the shore and watch the Southern Cross and think of the time when the first Northern Mariners sailed to Southern Seas. The poet writes : —

And now their hearts grow light when southward blazed
Fire stars in blessed shape — the Cross ! Whose flame
Seemed shining welcome as the wanderers came.

Those heroic wanderers— Dutch, French or British— have we done them sufficient justice ? To those who discovered our dear fair southern land all hail !

The meet at Brown's River cannot truth fully be compared to those in the Shires or in the North Warwickshire country or, in the Vale of Belvoir. Perhaps the prettiest sight' witnessed by Australian visitors in 1886 was on the visit to Belvoir Castle. As we drove through the park the hounds were sent across country before us. On the authority of Lord Hopetoun I record that the Belvoir pack has the best strain in England. I think of the old hunting days as the beagles are grouped in the road outside the Kingston Hotel. Poor creatures, they are going to be photographed and they don't like it. I sympathise with them, but the members of the hunt and the sight seekers here who have come to witness the throw off are very content to range themselves within the focus of the camera. Here is Mr. Claud Clerk, who sports pink and looks a thorough English swell fox hunter, although he was bred and born in Tasmania. One must he careful in this country as to how you spell proper names. There are Clarks with the " e," and Clarks without. Mr. Claud Clerk is particular to impress you that he is of quite a distinct family. His father is the veteran Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Assembly. Parliamentary proceedings are very orderly here, and they do not require athletes like Mr. Upward and Mr. Harnett to keep order. It is true that whilst I am in Hobart there was a little "storm in a teacup," or rather about a teapot, in the House. But this, which looked portentous in newspaper telegrams, was, in fact, a mere squabble fit for a nursery. Mr. Claud Clerk's grandfather, he tells me, kept one of the first packs of hounds in Australia, so he is by heradity a follower of the fox.

It is very familiar to hear such names as "Joybells," "Grasper," "Gypsy" and " Fairy" called out to the hounds by Mr. J. Austin, the master, who, like many others here, is in well worn pink. Mr. W. Ikin is perhaps the most English looking sportsman in his breeches and tops and stained pink coat. We used to think that unsoiled hunting coats were as bad form as new gloves on a lady and new dress clothes on a man. There are all conditions of Hobart society present at the meet to-day. Here is Mr. Neal Lewis, the late Attorney-General and present leader of the Opposition, who is an Oxford graduate, but has little of the English Johnnie about him. Here is Mr. Webster, who is as energetic in the hunting field, as in his office on the wharf. Here is a popular medice driving a pair of fine horses. There are waggonettes and drags filled with members of both sexes. Here are pony carriages and dog carts, driven by young ladies whose tailor, made gowns would do credit to England. Miss Butler looks happy, but Miss Reardon has an expression as if she were sorry she were not following. We, too, are sorry that she is not in the saddle to complete the group. The eye of authority is cast over us all by the sergeant of police. Tho only thing which seems incongruous at this meet is that a number of lads are smoking, which in England we should have thought a bad beginning for a hard run. The photographs being taken, women and men, horses and dogs are happy. The hounds are laid on to the drag, and the cavalcade of vehicles drive along the road skirting the valley from which we shall obtain a view of the hunt. There is the advantage of hunting with a drag that it can be taken over a country which will afford spectators as much enjoyment as if watching a steeplechase at Flemington. There is another advantage that cultivated paddocks are avoided. Hunting a drag has this disadvantage, however, that the old hounds get tired of a fruitless quest. They want something to run down and to worry and to kill. But kangaroo and deer are not hunted in the neighborhood of Hobart. The Brown's River farmers would not stand the invasion of a hunting field on to their crops such as the tenant yeoman of England have to submit to.

The Summerleas-road, along which we drive, will he visited by many tourists from Australia. It is like one of the green lanes of old England, lined as it is by Hawthorn hedges, which in summer will he all abloom scenting the atmosphere. The road is skirted by ploughed fields, the rich loam of which gives promise of abundant harvest. The country is dotted with little homesteads. Snow capped Mount Wellington is ahead. The hill known as the Bonnet is between us and Hobart. The river winds through the narrow valley, part of which has reverted
from agricultural into grazing country. The hounds are in full cry underneath the Bonnet. Occasionally one gets a glimpse of pink as a horseman is poised for a moment between earth and sky. Those with keen eyes can recognise individuals. " There's father," says Harry Ikin triumphantly. Ladies also mention the names of their acquaintances in the saddle. The line of vehicles drives slowly along the road watching the hunt in the distance to a spot where some one knows that the drag will cross. We form a line on each side of the road here. On come the hounds. On come the master and the whip, both very light weights. Then comes Mr. Claud Clerk. Then the man from Canada and Mr. Ikin, who, as he clears post and rail, fulfils Lindsay Gordon's lines —

I remember one thrust he gave to his hat
And two to the flanks of the brown.

When the tail of the hunt reaches the fence the top rails have to be pulled down to allow them to be negotiated. The lads, clear the obstruction, some after many baulks, cheered and barracked by a party of young civil servants who are out, in a drag. Up the hill goes the hunt, but one of the hounds is thrown out. "Grasper" has had enough of this chasing an aniseed bait and follows the line of carriages which are on the road to his kennels. By the time we get to Kingston Inn, hounds and horsemen overtake us and "Grasper" joins the pack as if he had gone on to the check. Afternoon tea for the ladies, whisky and soda for the men and then homewards in the tandem. Few people who follow me to Brown's River and Summerleas-road may have the advantage of viewing a hunt, but in the coming summer they will obtain greater enjoyment in the fullness of the leaf and flower, in the willow and the wattle and the hawthorn.

Most Visitors to Hobart are possessed with vain longing to scale Mount Wellington. It is not a very difficult task, There are many, however, who like myself, will think Mount Wellington looks its, best from below. One has different inclinations at different ages, and especially in the matter of mountaineering. The easiest way to ascend Mount Wellington is to drive by the Huon coach or Ikins's buggies some 5 miles to the Fern Tree Inn on the Huon-road. Close at hand is the Fern Tree Bower. Two miles off is St. Crispin's Well, to be reached by a good track through charming bush scenery. In the Old World such a lovely spot would be credited as being the haunt of fairies. Here in prosaic Australasia, no poetic traditions are current of forest, bower or stream. The practical, however, is sought after, as evidenced by the tables and seats in this Fern Tree Bower for the use of picnic parties. Many people will not care to go any further than this. From the Fern Tree there is a good track towards the springs, 2872 feet above sea level. Here is the accommodation house and cottage of Mr. Charles Gadd, a native of New Norfolk, who has been 17 years guide and care-taker of the water reserve on Mount Wellington. Stop and listen to Mr. Gadd's tales of lost parties on the mount, of bridal couples passing two whole nights in the open, existing on love and a sandwich apiece, and of the ship's surgeon, who, in 1858, lost his way in a fog and died of exposure, a monument being erected to his memory on the spot where the body was found. Listening to these " creepy " tales, you may conclude to go no further, but be satisfied with the magnificent panoramic view from this height. I was so satisfied a few years ago, and at the present day control my impulses to venture even so far. If one wants pure, health giving air, you get it at the Springs. If you want to see the beauty of hill and valley, and city and plain, and forest and stream, it all lies below you. Ascend higher and you will get a larger focus, but the objects will he minimised. I was perfectly satisfied with the view from the Springs. But others, no doubt, will push upward and onward, halting to rest every now and then, surrounded by the charm one feels on mountain heights of -

Luminous streams of delight in the silent immensity flowing
Journeying surgelessly on through impalpable ether of space

The journey from the Springs to the summit of Mount Wellington is now made comparatively easy, as good tracks have been constructed and guide posts erected by the Government. What is known as the " Ploughed Field " is a plot of several acres of huge rocks piled together like the clods in a newly turned arable paddock. This place has been a source of much lying. I have heard tourists declare how they have ridden over the Ploughed Field on Mount Wellington, they thinking it to be merely one of the adjuncts of a "fair hunting country." The Organ Pipes form a sheer precipice 600 feet deep. These " pipes" are enormous columns of rounded basalt. The Pinnacle on the table land forming the summit of Mount Wellington is 4166 feet high, and the site of the old trigonometrical station. You climb up the logs and, like Moses from Mount Nebo, behold the goodness of the land. 'Neath the summers sun one's impressions here are glorious. The sleeping earth and still atmosphere, the perfect calm of body and soul — all this has been described to me by the mountaineers of Wellington. But when the clouds distil in ghostly veil their blessing" the calm of body and mind gets broken up. One, too, must be a regular Mark Tapley to enjoy climbing Mount Wellington during the season of snow. My readers may be pretty sure that I would do no such thing. But I have a record of an expedition taken to the snowy summit of Wellington whilst l am in Hobart. The members of the party were Mr. Holdsworth, of the Union Steamship Co., Mr. Nat. Oldham and other members of the Amateur Photographic Society and " Our Artist." Mr. Oldham is the historian. Describing the journey from the Springs, he says —

"At this place the track becomes very steep and rough, and as the snow had commenced to thaw, the road was nothing less than an exceedingly stony creek. A little further on the real deep soft snow was reached and the artist was the first to fall and half bury himself in the snow. The walking was now very heavy, the snow being knee deep, with a stream of water running beneath. Eleven o'clock found us on top of the mountain, and it was a sight to be remembered ; looking north, there lay stretched out an immense desert of snow, broken here and there by a few stunted trees, and innumerable immense volcanic rocks. As the deep crevices were filled with snow, we often sank up to our shoulders in the soft, glittering mass. Away to the south we could see the rambling peninsula of South Arm, also Bruni Island, Adventure Bay, Fluted Cape, the South West Passage, and still further west the glorious valley of the Huon. In an easterly direction a stupendous panorama presented itself ; and those who knew the country, could point out Cape Raoul, Point Arthur, the Sorell Causeway, Clarence and Sandford. Almost at our feet nestled the sunny little city of Hobart. Although the city was some 7 or 8 miles away, it seemed almost possible to jump straight down among the houses. Turning to the north-east, the splendid River Derwent, with its lovely inlets and lake like bays, could be traced for upwards of 30 miles, and the townships of Newtown, Glenorchy, Bridgewater and New Norfolk picked out. As the weather now became wet and cold, a fire was at last started between two rocks, and five blue nosed, shivering, hungry wretches soon emptied the provision baskets. It now blew so violently that difficulty was experienced in keeping a footing, more especially as our feet were numbed by wet and cold. One angry gust caught up about 2 lb. of good solid currant duff and deposited it in a deep crevice some distance away, while a little later the hot tea was blown clean out of a cup just being raised to the mouth of the expectant, but disappointed, Holdsworth. Once more plunging through the snow, often sinking up to our middles, we scrambled on towards the Organ Pipes, where the broad and deep snowdrifts made a fine snowballing ground ; and of course a pitched battle at once took place. Beautiful Snow is all very well in poetry, when one is warm and comfortable, but when your eyes and ears are bunged up and you are being buried by four yelling fiends, one forgets all about the beauty of the thing for a while. And now, as dense heavy mists came rolling in from the westward, we hurry towards the guide posts which alone mark the homeward way. Stumbling over hidden rocks, slipping into deep holes, often falling flat upon the snow, five wet and tired plodders made their way down the mountain. It was well for them before the daylight died out of the sky that the cheering tea table at the Springs invited them to a well earned repast. Half an hour's walk to the Fingerpost, half an hour's drive, and then Hobart, warmth and rest."

As the heavenly twins said to Father Ricardo, Mr. Oldham " does it very well indeed." In ordinary circumstance the ascent of Mount Wellington can he easily made from the Fern Tree to the Pinnacle and back in about 6 hours. But stout limbed men can do it in 4 ½ hours. I would, however, advise everyone to take a day on Mount Wellington. There is no use in rushing an expedition of this sort. One wants to have sufficient time to examine the mysteries of the mount itself, as well as the view there from. The Ploughed Field and the Organ Pipes should not he dismissed in a hurry. Then there is the " Rocking Stone." This stone is about 6 feet high, 22 feet round, and carries a top stone of great weight. Some years ago a gentle push would cause the top stone to sway with a steady motion, hut later on a mischievous party tried to upset it by wedging stones into a cleft of the base stone. This altered the balance, and the stone is now fixed. Tasmania appears to have been cursed with fools of the Vandal order. If you allow yourself plenty of time to " do " the mount, you can descend via the Wellington Falls, a picturesque cataract over 200 feet high, and take your afternoon tea under the fern trees which cloister overhead. If you are young and the liver in good order, you may be soothed to slumber by the falling waters and dream that this is the best of all possible worlds. The waters sing -

For nature beats in perfect tune
And rounds with rhyme her every rune.