Upper Hunter Small Schools’ Swimming Carnival, NSW, Australia

Scone Memorial Swimming Pool

I love attending our grandchildren’s school functions, so I was delighted when Katelyn was involved in her school’s swimming carnival while I was here in Australia. It was held at the Scone Memorial Swimming Pool, originally built to commemorate those who died in service, or were killed in action in World Wars One and Two. I was very impressed by the 50 metre pool. It looked well cared for, and it is such a great amenity for a small town like Scone.

Suzi was there to support Katelyn, too.

Katelyn’s school is tiny, having only 21 children over all, and belongs to the Upper Hunter Small Schools’ Association. The swimming gala, or swimming carnival in Australian speak, was a competition between 5 country schools in the Upper Hunter. Only children aged 8 and over are allowed to swim, so this reduced Ellerston’s numbers even more, they were down to only 12 contestants.

Some of Ellerston’s swimmers before the carnival.

Suzi put zinc on Katelyn’s cheeks to protect them from the sun

Katelyn’s Headmaster was the starter for each race

Katelyn ready for her first race

Katelyn swimming the 25 metre freestyle race

Katelyn came third in her race

After her race, Katelyn needed some refreshment…

…which turned her tongue blue.

Katelyn also swam in the 25 metre noodle race

Parents turned out to help as timekeepers

The day was very hot, but fortunately each school had their own tent

Ellerston’s relay team with their awards

This was a fun day, and Ellerston Public School did really well, despite their small size. They won the most races in relation to the size of their school, although a much larger school, with far more pupils competing won over all. Well done Ellerston.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Two Rivers Hunter Valley Wines, NSW, Australia

Entrance to Two Rivers Wine Estate

We recently spent a fun weekend with our daughter, Jane, when we visited the Two Rivers Hunter Valley Wines vineyard. Here they offer wine tasting, and a cheese and antipasto platter of local produce which you can savour with the wine of your choice.

We so enjoyed the first wine that we tasted, we didn’t want to taste any more, so ordered a bottle of their Rocky Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon, together with the platter, and settled down to enjoy ourselves.

The view from the patio was amazing…

Everything was so beautifully manicured

The vineyard was named Two Rivers after its unique location on the banks of the Hunter River, near its confluence with the Goulburn River, the Hunter’s largest tributary.

We decided to test the wine before our food arrived. Cheers!

This was our cheese and antipasto platter

Here is another view

This was such a relaxing day, enjoying the food and wine while looking out over the vineyards with the  rolling hills in the background.

I went to inspect one of the vineyards

Here, in Australia, we are still in summer,
so there were no grapes to be seen

What a wonderful experience we had, and there was more. On the way home, we stopped off at the Pukara Estate, well known for its extra virgin olive oil and vinegars. There we enjoyed a coffee, before buying some of their olive oil, and caramelised balsamic vinegar.

The Hunter Valley is an amazing place to visit, we have only covered a very tiny part of what there is on offer here, and we are looking forward to more experiences like this.

Thank you, Jane, that was awesome.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Life in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia

Suzi and Neil’s house in the Upper Hunter Valley

This is where I am staying at the moment. We are in the upper reaches of a valley, in the Upper Hunter, NSW, Australia. We are 80km away from our nearest supermarket, but enjoying our splendid isolation.

Although, strictly speaking, we are not alone. In the immediate vicinity we have chickens, horses, dogs and cats – as well as a variety of wildlife, some welcome, and some not so much – especially the wild pigs, dingoes and snakes.

There are also lots of cattle and sheep roaming around the paddocks.

It’s not often that human visitor treks all the way up the 7 km drive from the road, but we are often blessed by other types of visitors…

…like this echidna, who the children named Fred.

Fred can be seen most days, ferreting for ants, his staple diet. He uses his long snout to burrow into their nests, and fends off any predators with his prickly spines.

This blue tongued skink also visits…

…he really does have a blue tongue

Of course, we also have the indigenous beasts like kangaroos, and goannas, plus an amazing variety of birds.

Ready to run! (Me, not the kangaroo)

These goannas can grow quite large.

Unfortunately, in country Australia, it is not uncommon to see dead animals on the roadside. They tend to just appear, and  hop, or run, straight in front of cars.

Although we live in splendid isolation, life is never boring, as there is so much to do. Chickens, dogs and horses need to be fed, then there is grooming, riding, and training dogs, and horses. Life in the country is full on.

Katelyn has her horse, Finale, to look after, and ride..

 …and she is also training her puppy, Jingle,
Who will eventually become a working dog herding cattle

Brandyn likes to help his Mummy with the chores…

…and he also chases the chickens out of the garden

Yes, country life is never boring, and everyone has their jobs to do. What a wonderful life!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Bilgola Beach, Sydney, Australia.

The view of Bilgola Beach from our Airbnb.

I joined our niece, Lauren, together with two of my daughters and four grandchildren, in Bilgola Beach, a suburb in northern Sydney, Australia. Lauren was enjoying a respite, during the school holidays, from the freezing winter in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where she is currently living.

Our party numbered 13 in all. Lauren, her two boys and stepdaughter; we seven, plus a friend of my granddaughter, Shannon; and Gail, an old friend of Lauren’s, with her daughter, Mia. Lauren had booked us all in to a three-story Airbnb, so we could catch up and enjoy some beach time. Fortunately, the house was big enough to accommodate all.

Bilgola Beach is in a bay between two cliffs

Our first day at the beach

Australian beaches are generally safe as long as you only swim between the flags, where there are lifeguards on duty. But, just to be safe, Tatum (pictured centre in the sea) was with the children, while the other adults relaxed on the beach under Jainy’s tent.

Casey and Jordy playing cards

One day a violent storm came through, but the children managed to amuse themselves by playing games and watching television.

Finley watching TV

One morning, Jordy was up early, and was fascinated by the birds that came to perch on the balcony.

Here is his favourite photo of a Kookaburra

All the other kids thought that his photos were cool, so they started looking out for the birds, too. Sarah has a cockatiel at home, so when she saw a cockatoo, she wanted to feed it.

Sarah and Jordy feeding the birds

Two rainbow lorikeets being fed by Mia.

Even though these were wild birds, it seemed as though they had adapted to city life, and were happy to accept gifts from the children. It certainly kept everyone amused.

Thank you very much! Yummy!

We were constantly amused by the cockatoos

Each day more and more birds turned up. Lauren posted a video on Facebook after we left, showing, at least, 9 cockatoos, and numerous rainbow lorikeets, making a racket and demanding food. Probably a good thing they were all leaving the next day!

The storm passed, and everyone was able to enjoy the sea again.

Lauren and a freezing Finley, coming back onto the beach

Sarah and Shannon enjoyed the beach so much, they didn’t want to leave

Casey found another use for his surf board.

A photo to remember, when they all look back on their youth

We all had a wonderful time at Bilgola Beach. Many thanks to Lauren for organizing our few days together. It is a memory we shall all cherish in the years to come. Perhaps we can have another one next year? Just a thought!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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