This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

2011 Travels July 18

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As we’d been able to stay hitched up over night, we were able to have a leisurely start to the day.

Walked Couey on the lake path before breakfast, then again after, to take some of the energy out of her.

The day was still cool, but clearing.

Continued west on the Princes Highway.

As we came into the outskirts of Warrnambool, the former Fletcher Jones factory was a landmark and we decided impulsively to go have a look at its current incarnation. Were able to park the rig in the street on one side of the establishment, and walk in towards the factory building through the impressive gardens. These, in themselves, made a worthwhile visit.

For many years, Fletcher Jones and Warrnambool were synonymous. In 1941, David Fletcher Jones set up there to manufacture good quality men’s trousers, adding women’s skirts a few years later. Being in the Western District, itself the home of fine merino wool, was an obvious fit for the venture. FJ’s became unique for a couple of reasons: not long after establishment, he turned the venture into a co-op with his staff, something that encouraged a strong work ethic and reinforced his emphasis on quality. To foster the latter came an insistence that all trousers bought from FJ’s were personally fitted for the purchaser.

Gardens at Fletcher Jones

The extensive, beautifully maintained gardens surrounding the factory were a tangible expression of the business ethos and the idea that the factory was a place for all the townspeople to be proud of.

Eventually, there grew to be 55 FJ’s stores, around Australia. But Sir David died in 1977 and the demand for good quality clothes  declined in the face of cheap imports from Asia. The company was sold out of the family in 1998, and the Warrnambool factory closed for good in 2005, an end that was common to a lot of once strong Australian manufacturing. However, the brand continued being made elsewhere.

The FJ gardens were Heritage Listed, which limited what could be done with the valuable highway frontage site. Eventually, the factory was made into a market, housing a variety of shops.

We wandered around, looked in some of the shops in the old factory building. There was an FJ outlet shop in the factory and John tried on some trousers, but decided he couldn’t find any that he really liked.

A second stop in Warrnambool was to buy a Subway lunch.

Not far out of the town, we crested a rise and the sea was visible on our left. Then to our right was the large crater lake that marks the Tower Hill volcano.

Since leaving the outskirts of Geelong, yesterday, we had been driving through the volcanic plains of the Western District, occasionally seeing in the distance volcanic peaks, like Mt Noorat. This volcanic region extends across into the southern part of SA, being particularly evident at Mt Gambier. It is, in geological history terms, an area of very recent volcanic eruptions, some “only” 5000-7000 years ago.

Volcanoes and lava plains of Western Victoria

Legends of the local aboriginal peoples tell of times of volcanic eruptions; it is certain that the people were well established in these parts in those times.

Unlike volcanic activity such as those in Japan, NZ or Iceland, that occurs where the earth’s tectonic plates are colliding, the reasons for these “new” volcanoes of the Western District seem more mysterious. They mostly seem to have been explosive eruptions due to hot molten lava meeting cold ground water – but I have not yet found an account of why that came about. Once such explosions created breaches in the surface crust, more normal eruptions of lava followed. Thus Tower Hill, formed by an explosion, then had little lava cones form inside the crater.

Rather scarily, modern science regards the whole area as dormant, or inactive, not extinct. Scientists are increasingly certain there will be more volcanic eruptions through the zone, possibly with very little advance warning. Somewhere, I read that – had modern instrumentation and monitoring existed back when the Mt Gambier eruption that formed the Blue Lake occurred – there would only have been warning signs two days ahead of the explosion. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know that during the years I lived in Hamilton – definitely in the volcanic zone.

As we drove past Tower Hill, I amused John by telling him of the time I brought my then young children for an outing to Tower Hill. We lived in Hamilton at the time, so this area was local. I left the kids in my Mini, with the front windows down to keep the car cool, while I went to get a walking map. The sounds of screaming children brought me back in a hurry. One of the emus that wander the place had decided to investigate, presumably thinking there might be food. A long emu neck stretches a long way in a small car and I had two terrified kids cowering down behind the front seats, trying to dodge out of the way of the beak. That tale entered the family folk lore, along with the time daughter was attacked by a pelican at the zoo…….but that’s another story.

I’d selected The Gardens Caravan Park at Port Fairy as a dog accepting park, away from the highway noise, located on a kind of peninsula between the Moyne River and the ocean. We liked the look of it and booked in for two nights, at $32.40 a night, after seniors discount. This was on the expensive side for an ordinary powered site, but the place was pleasant enough. At this time of year there were not many sites occupied, so the space around us was pleasant. It was not too far to walk to the amenity block. There were areas where we could give the dog a run off lead and a ball chase.

Plenty of room around us at Port Fairy

After setting up we went for a long walk to explore the large park and adjacent gardens. Then it was just the usual preparation of tea, followed by some TV. Could just hear the ocean at night.

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