Day 4 French Farm 11kms
The early morning pitter patter on the tent had us unzipping the sleeping bags and reluctantly slipping out of our cocoon of warmth. Hastily Ian began packing up the tent whilst I organised breakfast, believe me there is nothing worse than packing up in the rain. Regardless of weather we were looking forward to venturing down to the south of the island for a few days where more adventures awaited us. With boots laced up, packs slung over our back and a spring in our step we headed off along the coastal track in the direction of French Farm.
With the persistent precipitation not many people were out and about, only the die hards! Passing by Painted Rocks high tide had rolled in covering the rock platform and lapping at the base of the rocks. Following the bay we crossed a few creeks that flowed from inland into the bay. The track soon lead us into dense forest where the tall timbers towered overhead.
The dark clouds started to roll on by and with the rain ceasing the sun popped in and out of the clouds. No people, no wallabies, no wombats and no geese made for a very quiet meander as the track led us further inland. Eventually arriving at the junction of the coastal track and Mt Maria inland track we perched on a large fallen tree trunk for a breather and pondered the simplicity and beauty of this island.
A couple of walkers strolled towards us on their way back to Darlington. They reassured us we would have a great few days exploring the south. Within moments the sighting of a tin roof through the trees alerted us that we had arrived at French Farm. Walking down the track to the farm the first thing we noticed was wombats roaming about. If we thought Darlington was well populated with wombats then French Farm was a wombat metropolis.
A dilapidated shearing shed still stood with rusty machinery scattered about and the 1930 farm cottage. With the island now being a national park a water tank and pit toilet have been installed for those wishing to explore the area. Stepping into the farm cottage we discovered a couple of very old beds, a fireplace and kitchen furniture. Sleeping in the cottage and lighting a fire in the fireplace are not permitted.
Having set up the tent and eaten lunch we pulled out the wet weather gear as the rain wasn’t finished for the day and with the wind picking up the air was brisk coming off the bay. Skirting around Chinaman Bay we made our way to Encampment Cove which was an easy 2kms down the track.
Arriving at the campsite a few campers were set up nestled in amongst the scrubby vegetation. The area featured an emergency shelter, water tank and toilet.
Leaving all that behind we followed along the convict track across exposed land where the gusty wind howling off the bay buffeted us as we continued on. Piles of bricks where randomly scattered around, obviously from old buildings of yesteryear.
In the distance we sighted the ruins of the solitary cells and views of Point Lesueur being the most westerly point on the entire island. Down at the cells Ian enjoyed reading the displayed history whereas I was more interested wondering if the convicts might have atleast had a window to view the bay. The cells where small, narrow and certainly no room to swing a cat. Sensing the eerie presence of convicts I wouldn’t have been surprised if a convict appeared to conduct a guided tour.
Wandering down further towards the bay we came across brick rubble being the remains of the officers quarters and in later years was occupied by the Dunbabin family who operated a farm in area for many years. Broken pieces of crockery gathered from the rubble were scattered about.
In the distance kangaroos unperturbed by our presence occasionally lifted their heads from grazing to eyeball us and unsurprisingly wombats roamed freely. The looming clouds draped over the mountain range creating a lovely backdrop.
Leaving this nostalgic place behind we headed along the muddy track back to French Farm. A few cyclists had braved the weather and cycled down to have a look around.
Wandering over to the shearing shed had me take a step back into my own history. Being a farmer’s daughter I remembered the days of a busy shearing shed. Stepping inside I identified the shearing bays, sheep holding pens, and where the fleece table would have stood.
In an instant I was back their, the Colvin boys skilfully wielding the clippers over the sheep removing the wool, Dougie gathering up the fleece and with a graceful throw had it spread out over the fleece table for inspection before bagging, Dad penning the next lot of sheep for shearing and Jack, the self professed supervisor wandering around with his half smoked ‘Craven A’ drooping from the corner of his mouth. The best part of shearing days was the banquet of food and what the shearers didn’t eat us kids certainly demolished.
This derelict shearing shed was alive and in full swing until a loud hissing, spitting and growling noise came from under the split floorboards making me jump with fright and snapping me back into 2019. Ian suggested we had disturbed a Tasmanian Devil from his slumber. Not wanting to meet this angry nocturnal animal we scurried out of the shearing shed onto safe ground.
After the days rain the evening was much cooler as we wandered around the open spaces where livestock would have roamed and crops cultivated. Farm machinery lay about with the rust indicating it no longer served any purpose. What a great day we had enjoyed, walking around exploring the history of this place.
Rolling into the tent and zipping up the flap for the night we had much to chat about before drifting off to sleep, listening to the wombats gnawing on the grass!!!
Until next yarn, happy hiking from Bernadette and Ian