And On the Story Goes…

My new year’s resolution for 2020 – other than the usual ‘join-the-gym-lose-twenty-kilos-eat-better’ resolutions that we all know will fall by the wayside – is to keep up to date with blog posts. It has occurred to me through various comments made by people as well as some of the emails and messages I receive, that people actually read them and – astonishingly – expect them to be a little more regular. Who knew?

As writing is at the top of my list of favourite things to do, one would assume this to be an easy task; not so. Consistency and I are not friends, and it is never long before I am distracted by a long list of jobs, some tempting and perpetually unfinished painting or just some dogs; but I digress once more from the point of this post (which isn’t to promise more posts).

Clifton is now in the hands of new owners and as the accommodation business was not for sale, Matilda’s as we know it has closed once more.

It is a new and exciting time in our lives, and the life of the house. A different family, infused energy, new plans, evolving activity, and renewed purposes. The story of the next chapter will need to be told by those who write it, but suffice to say things will be different once more. A new chapter for a grand old house that has an ever evolving story.

And as with all things, I find there is still much to say. As a defining period in our lives, the twelve or so years we spent at Clifton will remain with us always. I am currently working on new projects that will encompass some of that. I endeavour to keep it all up to date, which means my two sadly neglected blogs have merged into what will hopefully be a more efficient way of posting my ramblings. Our blog and website relating only to the property is here: https://www.matildasofranelagh.com/blog-1 and earlier posts can be found on this page, as well as the original Secret Cottage Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/secretcottagebooks/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

 

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of well wishes – and thank you to all who have supported, followed, stayed, called, written, spoke, promoted, criticised (yes, even you!), attended events, ate and loved our food, drank, came for afternoon tea, explored, and engaged with us in some way. The last twelve years have been made up of all of those moments, including all of you.

I hope you will stay in touch – I will too.

Warmest wishes from us xx

A Touch of Spring Fever never goes Astray

Well, it is Spring.

Not really of course – it’s still winter according to both the calendar and my toes. The early mornings are far beyond crisp, the chill in the air as I take the dogs out reminding me that extreme cold can actually hurt you. We have had rain reminiscent of the days of Noah, winds fit to blow a dog off a lead and frost so thick at first glance I was convinced it had snowed. But in the last few days, around 10am, the frost melts and the sun rises higher in the sky and – behold – the gardens become visible in all their glorious splendour.

Daffodils are everywhere – scattered around the gardens and paddocks like dabs of paint. The Dutch iris have also made their appearance, as have the forgot me nots, populating the garden borders with their unique shade of periwinkle blue. And the blossom this year – it seems thicker, more abundant. The splashes of white to be seen around the grounds right now look delightful – even more so when the breeze pushes some of the petals to the ground, making the paths look as though they have been sprinkled with icing sugar. In the middle of the day, the humming of bees is a comforting reminder that the weather is warming up, ever so slightly and at that time of day in the full sun you could be fooled into thinking it was already way further into the season than it actually is.

Here at Matilda’s we are on hiatus. A temporary break from hosting guests means attention can be paid elsewhere. We’ve spent a good deal of time out of the state and also the country, with children now scattered to (what seems like) all corners of the globe. Suddenly, we need to plan our year around extended visits and travel so our guest booking window will be slightly shorter than in previous years.

The best thing about Spring is this fit of slightly deranged energy I seem to get. Suddenly I feel like redecorating, painting more ivy vines over window frames and recovering chairs. Trying to stay focused on one project at a time is a challenge – else I would be in danger of starting half a dozen things and finishing none of them. In any case, I wish you all a lovely day and a touch of your own Spring fever.

The Only Constant is Change

Well, posting consistent and regular blog entries was never our strong point.

Hospitality is something that should come naturally, but from a business point of view it seems to encompass so many other things these days. One must be social media savvy, post regular updates, inform guests – both existing and potential – of all manner of details regarding the business and market relentlessly. Listing on third party booking sites has become the norm rather than direct contact, and ensuring they have your best deals is part of the requirements. It rather detracts from the business of providing a welcoming haven for travellers, and in my more reflective moments I am conscious that we have lost something in all of this so called efficiency.

Less people are now looking for the sort of service a traditional Bed and Breakfast offers. In this age of Air B&B lowering the bar and homogenising the industry across the board, the travelling public now have less discernment and have accepted that a lower price and a quicker booking method can replace personal service. For those of us to whom personal service is key, it presents a unique set of challenges but also many opportunities.

Many of us are starting to rethink how we offer our rooms and under what circumstances. At Matilda’s we are now finding popularity among those who prefer a lower room rate rather than having breakfast included, for example. As we evolve and adapt to the changing mindset, it seems possible that one day Matilda’s may be a guest house that doesn’t serve breakfast – unheard of a decade ago! Some things will always remain as they are – we continue to prefer direct contact over third party booking sites and hold that a personal relationship with our guests is not only preferred but necessary to hosting them in our home. It is highly possible that one day a more business minded person will live here and do a better job of exploiting the vast potential than we have, but our sentimental connection to the property means that it won’t be us. Clifton will always be the home we have made, the place our children grew up in, the place that holds a thousand memories, and the place where guests return to us, year after year.

Change is a good thing, but our underlying commitment will remain steadfast.

Spring in the Valley

There are few things lovelier than Spring. Despite my professed love for the colder seasons, nothing provides as much hope and optimism as the first flush of daffodils and the profusion of cherry blossom. It makes us a promise, that flowers have not disappeared, they are resting and will return soon enough to decorate our garden beds with a brilliant display of colour. That the tree’s will not be bare forever, they will soon bear fruit that will ripen into sweet and succulent treats for summer baking and early autumn jam. That sunshine is just around the corner, made all the happier because of the gloomy winter days. And that soon, it will be abuzz in the Valley, humming with the activity of bee’s, birds and of course, people.

Tourists will arrive in droves, families will come for day trips from the city, dogs will be walked in the evening and the local food businesses will extend their opening hours. Produce will be plentiful and varied and the pickers from interstate and overseas will come, adding to the diversity of the area. Picnics will be planned, tours of our enviable food outlets will abound and plans for the upcoming festive season will go into overdrive.

Here at Matilda’s, we are content. It has been a gloriously wintery winter with lit fires and snoring dogs, glistening hedges and rushing rivers, crisp days and snow capped mountains. We now watch the blossom make it’s appearance tentatively at first, then with more confidence – in direct opposition to the daffodils, whose emergence on the scene is nothing short of unabashed and bold. The snowdrops are more elegant and understated, and the irises are patient – preferring to hold back a while longer until the danger of frost has fully passed. It is a time of discovery – the daily reminder of the beauty that has been hidden beneath winter’s covering and is only a distant memory, which is what makes it more delightful.

We have been blessed as usual, with the nicest guests and have made several friends. We are reminded that we have the best job in the world as we prepare for the season to get busier.

Welcome Spring, and thank you for your optimism and joy.

Autumn is Here

Here at Matilda’s in the Huon Valley, we are well aware that there are several things we do rather well; regular blog posts is not one of them. Here we are yet again and it has been months – really, you would think we were busy or something!

In truth, it has been a busier season than we had initially anticipated. With the usual tasks associated with the house and property, add a good stream of both return and new guests coming through the place and this first part of the year feels a bit of a whirlwind. The Huon Valley is enjoying an ever increasing popularity with visitors and folks are coming from all over the world to stay here – having made several friends and received offers of returned hospitality from all corners, we are ever grateful for their custom and referrals. We really do have the best job.

The gardens are slowing and even the ever present Barry is being given a rest, having not been needed for some weeks now as the leaves fall, mulching the deep beds and setting the quiet scene for the winter stillness. It never ceases to amaze me, the way old gardens continue to take care of themselves – growing, blooming, dying off and repeat. The same cycle year in, year out and the beauty of it never fades.

Autumn is therefore, probably our favourite season – not just for it’s restful feeling, but for it’s glorious colours, it’s misty mornings and it’s abundant generosity. The quince tree is groaning, the apples are everywhere and the bright leaves on the trees provide a daily delight. It is just beautiful.

As the guest numbers slow, we have time to catch our breath. Daily walks with the corgi’s are prettier and no longer rushed or sweaty – although they do involve a lot of leaf rolling. The light is muted and so the paints will likely come out again for my next picture, although I continue to lament my lack of wall space for more such projects. Perhaps we will just light the fire and curl up with a good book.

Before we know it, July will be here and the busy weekends already full of guests visiting the state for the various winter activities happening – not least of all the Huon Valley Winterfest – will arrive. But for now, we will enjoy the slower pace as Autumn deepens and the cold weather sets in.

I issue a warm welcome to any winter visitors that we will see at Matilda’s, and you may rest assured that on the days in between, we are perfectly content.

The Garden Variety

Gardens are time consuming, involved and demanding things. They are also stunningly beautiful and productive if handled properly and a joy to behold when in the glory of their blossoming time.

Gardens at properties like this one were planted more for pleasure than anything else, and usually safe in the knowledge that there would me many hands to work the flower beds, prune the bushes, water the tree’s and generally tend the plants.

The garden at Matilda’s has a variety of ‘pockets’ – little areas where one can be invisible to the others. The ornamental tree’s are gorgeous and the sweeping beds, abundant roses and climbing vines all present a beautiful picture – when all goes well, that is.

When the garden has been neglected for a time however, the whole thing takes on a life of it’s own and becomes something of a monster, threatening to overrun all of civilisation if not properly contained. We were almost confronted with such a situation upon reopening last year, but were saved in time by the good grace of Steve – who worked here for several years on and off in varying capacities, and not to be confused with the Steve who lives here. He pitched in to help and with his assistance we have almost managed to stay only a little behind nature’s persistent onslaught. Just.

Steve however, was not to remain gardening for the term of his natural life and announced he would be retiring at the end of the year from all of his local jobs – the year that recently ended, that is. Oh, horror. After realising that refusing to accept his resignation was not going to work, we sought to find some more help, with the added conviction that we need to get serious if this mammoth plant paradise is to be kept under control.

Enter Barry.

Barry is the father of a friend, and with a history in hard work, sound plant knowledge and excellent energy levels he agreed (after much coaxing, cajoling and well….begging) to come and have a look at the place for us to assess what might be done. He wasn’t promising anything. He may not be interested. It might not be the sort of thing he wants. He’s not sure. So Barry came, he looked and he started – then and there. That was a week ago and I am struggling to think of a single minute in any of those days that Barry hasn’t been here. What he has achieved already has been phenomenal. Each time I glance out of one of the windows, there he is – masses of growth being flung out behind him with every movement of his arms. I admit to some reservation when I saw the size of the branches being pruned from the roses, but my cowardice in pruning has not thus far achieved a tidy garden so I remain silent.

We’re impressed, and more importantly the garden is starting to appear again as something with a little structure and form.

The great thing about old English cottage style gardens is that their rambling nature means that they still look beautiful even when they are untidy. But when they are cosseted and coaxed a bit, attended to by someone who knows what they are up to and is game for the challenge, they shine.

While we will continue to claim that we ‘like a rambling garden’ (we have our story and we are sticking to it), it will certainly be nice to see it come back to order under Barry’s expert hand.

Christmas is Coming…

And so it is every year; December is here and it is time to panic. How did that happen? How did the year fly by so quickly? How will I possibly get through the mad consortium of commitments through December and still be ready for Christmas day?

Well. regardless of how ready we are (or are not) Christmas is happening. The stores have launched their sales and decorations, the cafe’s are selling fruit mince pies and the supermarkets are literally covered in paraphernalia.

Living in Australia means that Christmas comes at the most productive and busy time of the year – the fruit tree’s are starting to load up, jam is being made, the grass is growing at the speed of light and the summer days mean more social activity.

Here at Matilda’s, we like to slow the pace down a little. Traditionally for us, December is quiet on the accommodation front the closer it get’s to Christmas Day. There is a distinct lull in travellers from about the end of the first week until Boxing Day, when all hell breaks loose with the Sydney to Hobart race that brings in the hoards of visitors who have not yet booked anywhere to stay.

We love to spend these weeks making the place beautiful. Of course, the roses are abundant and the garden smells like a perfume shop. But inside, it is a wonderland of fairy lights, red berries and Victorian decorations. We currently have three smaller tree’s up and decorated, with the main tree going up in the Drawing Room over the next few days.

We hope that you are having a lovely time preparing for your Christmas celebrations and that all is Merry and Bright in your world. Here’s to Christmas!

Huon Valley – What do We Have?

Planning your visit to Tasmania’s lovely Huon Valley? Well, the time couldn’t be better, as the seasonal changes take place and every day brings more visitors to this area.

A conversation during a phone call yesterday has led me to thinking about what we offer here. The lady who was making a booking to stay with us at the end of the month had never been to Tasmania, and her questions was “So, what are we doing when we stay with you?”

Obviously, it is my job to know the answer. This leads me to really reflecting on what this remarkable part of the country does have for people visiting.

Scenery; this goes without saying. Mountains, rivers, forests, gardens, buildings, farmland, orchards, channel and waterways, vista’s that stretch forever and a constant sense of surprise.

Adventure; forest walks, sailing, bush tracks, mountain climbing, jet boat rides, cycling routes, island cruises, bush cabins, hang gliding, steam railway journeys, cave tours and thermal bathing.

Gastronomy; vineyards, cafe’s, restaurants, farm gate sales, pick-your-own produce, chocolatier, fruit stands, cider houses, demonstrations, honey tasting, cooking courses – noteworthy among these many delicious offerings are the local cider from Willie Smith’s and the worlds best Vege Burger at DS Coffee House.

Wellbeing; yoga classes, health and wellness outlets, peaceful beaches, eco cruises, quite rural places that soothe the soul and nurture the spirit.

Inspiration; a haven for photographers, painters, writers, food bloggers, poets, nature watchers and searchers – the region offers fodder for all manner of projects and works. The endless pictures, the quirky people, the lovely buildings are sure to contribute to your next creative venture.

Heritage; Old houses, churches, barns, shed’s, Oast houses, farms, tree’s, gardens, boat building, forests, caves, natural springs, orchards – so many of these date back to the first families and the history of the valley is woven through all of it. This Heritage is a vital part of our continuing story.

Celebration; Winterfest, Harvest Taste Festival, Salmon and Apple Race, Christmas pageants, Car Displays, Twilight Feast, Blossom Ball, Garden Openings, Local Markets – there is something to celebrate at all times of the year, in true rural community tradition.

There is more, I am sure. For some specific ideas, please consult our “Thirty Reasons” brochure located on the website. This is updated periodically and changed when necessary. Suffice to say, a visit to the Huon Valley at any season is a good idea. We look forward to seeing you.

 

Daffodils and Markets – Huon Valley

We now approach the end of winter and the Valley lies in the wake of the much touted and awesome third annual Winterfest, held at Willie Smiths Apple Shed and Cider House in late July. As the season comes to a close and the promise of Spring looms, you may be wondering what is happening in the area other than the (not inconsiderable) array of usual delights

So, what do we do? Our answer is, daffodils and markets.

Being the dawn of Spring the sidewalks, paddocks, gardens, flower stands and even the supermarkets are sporting the splashes of yellow and orange we know to be the star of the Spring season; daffodils. They are everywhere, and each time we wander outside they seem to have doubled in population. Here at Matilda’s they sprout in abundance – through the flower borders, in the grassy areas, down near the river, providing a welcome dose of sunshine in what has felt like a long and cold winter. We have them in yellow, frilled, double petals, orange, creamy white and miniature – in rings around temporarily leafless tree’s, in patches under freshly pruned roses and in clumps pretty much everywhere else. The flower vases have been brought out of their winter storage and are now filled with this gloriously bright and generous bounty.

And another place you may find daffodils, is at the markets – another Huon Valley constant that happens to be particularly good at this time of the year.

Everywhere there are markets popping up in the Huon Valley and surrounds, packed with bargains, surprises and delights for the senses. No crowds, no blazing heat and no hangover from Christmas overspending means that these can be enjoyed at leisure in your chosen area – why not try a few?

The first and third Sundays of the month will see Huonville markets in full swing at the Town Hall between 10am and 2pm. Just across the river at the lovely township of Cygnet, the Mary Street market takes place on the first and third Sundays. On the last Sunday of the month, the Palais Theatre at Franklin holds their monthly market, and the Judbury Market appears on the second Sunday, in the Community Centre, Judbury. Lastly, the increasingly popular Kingston Beach Handmade Market is to be found in the Kingston Beach Hall on Beach Road from 10am.

Daffodils and markets in the Huon Valley in early Spring – life doesn’t get much better.

#huonvalley #markets #daffodils #Matildas #HuonValleyAccommodation

And We’re (almost) Away

This ‘new beginning’ has been some time coming, to say the least. There we were, sitting in a café in North Hobart and making the split decision to once again open our doors to accommodation guests – it all seemed so simple. Well, simple it was but easy is another thing altogether. That was before we thought about new carpet. And paint. And drapes. And bedspreads. And gardens. And fences. And driveways. And upholstery. And appliances. And coffee pots.

And so on.

It has almost been a year from that day to this and here we are – ready to go.

The new entrance has proved an excellent idea, and the finishing touches are being put on the front garden and car park. The mushroom compost is laid, the English Box planted and the picket fence looking as cute as a button – we simply await more sunny weather to dry the timber out enough to finish it with some cream paint.

Bookings are now being taken from early September onward, and there is every chance that we may even open the doors before that.

Just as a large hedge is started with a tiny plant, a very big adventure is started with a small idea.

Exciting times indeed.