Xmas in July, part 1

Took the family to Sovereign Hill for their Xmas in July that Sovereign Hill runs each year, and had an excellent time.  Not only what they have done for the occasion, but more broadly because I really like the whole Sovereign Hill experience.

Sovereign Hill, for those that don’t know, is an open-air museum and historical park, situated in an early gold diggings area in the Ballarat region.  It covers the time around 1850 (with some of the equipment being closer to 1880s/1890s as the industrial revolution found Australia).


These are just the outside of some of the buildings, but what is inside is the real treasure.  Being the mid 1800’s, wood and steel are the main materials of fabrication, mixed with a huge amount of ingenuity.  Not to mention, nothing was made with a designed life expectancy – a tool was made as well as was possible, and that means many of the tools are still very functional today.  There are mines to explore, gold to pan for, 9 pin wooden bowling etc etc.

We stayed in the attached accommodation, so had our own access pass through one of the buildings into the site, which was a very nice feature.  Being able to take in the place in as big or as small a bite as you wanted, being able to return for a rest before the next assault made for a really enjoyable experience.

The Xmas in July was well done too, and the weather in Ballarat lived up to its reputation – cold!  Which was very appropriate for a winter-wonderland based Christmas experience (complete with simulated snow (of the soap/foam variety), which was very much for look than tactile experience!)

At night, the buildings were illuminated by the same company that does other building illumination projects, including the Sydney Opera House, and White Nights in Melbourne.

We attended both the Xmas-type functions (such as the building illumination, and their Xmas dinner), as well as the standard offerings, such as the exceptionally well done “Blood on the Southern Cross”.

I was expecting the latter to have a real bias, but found it was approached really well, and came away from the 90 minute sound and light show (including multiple locations) really impressed with how it was depicted.

From a shed-dweller’s perspective, there is so much of interest at Sovereign Hill.  From the construction of the buildings and fences, through to the metal and woodworking (both manual, and steam-powered) that you get to observe first-hand, but more on that in future posts.

Really got me wondering if I had been born about 150 years too late – the combination of wood, metal and steam, and how they were worked really resonates with me.

If you take a modern wood or metal worker, they would be pretty at home in the workshops from that era, and take an artisan from that period and drop them in one of our workshops, and they would hardly notice a difference, other than the absence of line drives, belts and steam – all replaced with electric motors.  The machines themselves – not much has changed, other than perhaps the addition of shielding!!

I haven’t even touched on the topics I will get into in upcoming posts, that deserve their own dedicated attention. Not to mention that the two full days we spent there (Wed afternoon to Fri morning) still didn’t leave enough time to do everything that was available to do or see!

Bottom line, if you have an opportunity to go to Sovereign Hill (and haven’t already), it is a real experience.


Step back in time

There are many small townships dotted around the state: I’m sure I have only seen a smattering of them, but even so, Clunes stood out as one just a little more unique than many.

Unlike those that appear to be managing as a tourist destination, preserved to appear frozen in time, Clunes seems to be one that isn’t frozen, but is genuinely old.

20120410-004822.jpg (From the Clunes.org website)

The drive in has some really pretty scenes, old bridges, historic buildings, mature trees, scenic river, but it is the main street that really catches the eye.

When was the last time you saw a street this wide?


There are a fair few second-hand bookshops in the main drag- probably a good thing seeing as the entire town is going to become “Booktown” for an annual event! Tens of thousands of second hand books will be available. Lots of guest speakers and events. Guess it is a good thing the street is so wide!!

There are lots of other shop fronts as well, many seemingly surviving on a wing and a prayer, or less (but perhaps not too…)





It is also a “Safer Place” for bushfires, but check out the Vic Gov(?) disclaimer


Some woodworking-related aspects: there is a small woodworking outlet in the main street, and some antiques/old goods stores.




In the local photographer’s shop (an ex-photojournalist for the Age), a really old TV (sadly sans screen) caught my eye


You do have to wonder about the expected rainfall with gutters so wide and deep, you need a bridge to get across them!


Perhaps something to do with the vehicles of choice from the goldrush era




Wish I’d had more time in the end, there are so many photographs waiting to be discovered there. And I wouldn’t have minded more of a forage through some of the artifacts of the gold rush era, particularly the woodworking ones.

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