J Ward for the family – life sentence

J Ward for the family – life sentence
Ararat, Australia

Ararat, Australia

On the way home from Halls Gap we stopped off at J Ward for the Criminally Insane. It closed in the early 1990s but it feels like a relic of the 1950s. Beautiful blue stone walls, but it is only a step up from Pentridge. Cramped jail cells, desolate shower blocks and a grim exercise yard.

It was a psych ward and jail before becoming a jail for the criminally insane. Inmates were in for a variety of reasons – killing a man for smoking in a cafe being one of the more mad ones.

Josefa didn’t enjoy it, even though we’d been here before! She feels too much empathy for those who were in the cells. Aidan thought the guided tour a bit long. But Rosa seemed interested in the stories behind the prisoners, the escape plots, the hangings and the exercise yard engravings.

Ararat is one of the better large country towns. Next time we’ll have to take a look at the Chinese Heritage Centre.

We also dropped in to see a friend from Year 12 who is now a Senior Detective in the region. He gave us a tour of the police station, so it was a real contrast and also a day of crime and punishment.

Reaching the Pinnacle(s)

Reaching the Pinnacle(s)
Halls Gap, Australia

Halls Gap, Australia

The Grampians National Park is probably the best national park in the state. There’s at least three breathtaking walks involving boulder scrambling, soaring canyons and views that let you almost see to Melbourne that start at your doorstep if you stay in Halls Gap. So it’s almost a crime that it has taken eight – nine years for us to get back there. After all, it’s less than three hours from home.

The problem is there’s not a lot to do in the Grampians and the main town of Halls Gap if you don’t really, really like bushwalking. And once Rosa was old enough to manage the walks on her own, along came Aidan and that was the end of bush walking for another few years.

But I was pretty determined to get to the Grampians for the first term holidays, so I rushed into renting a house that turned out to be a little too much like cheap beach accommodation (second hand furniture, front door that fell of its hinges, 1970s art on the wall). I didn’t realise 90 per cent of Halls Gap properties are actually for rent. I think we could have wranged a bargain too, as the closure of half the park after the January bushfires meant numbers were down.

It was terrific to get into the bush walking again. We managed to do at least an hour or more every day, culiminating in a four hour walk up to the Pinnacle. Everybody who stays in the Grampians for a week does the Pinnacles. It was busy! But such a good walk. Steep climbs, rock pools, scrambles and an eagle eye view of the park to finish it off. Aidan did very well, as did Jo, but I ended up having to piggyback him back down several times. Rosa got a bit frustrated having to wait for us so often. Still, it was a triumphant return home after spending so much of the day in the Autumn air in beautiful surroundings.

I did put Rosa through her paces later in the week with a fast scramble up Chatauqua Peak.

The entire northern Grampians walk was off limits after the January bushfires, but there’s enough major walks in the Wonderland area not to worry about journeying too far away.

We also went to the surprisingly engaging Halls Gap Zoo. The pens were larger than the Melbourne zoo and I certainly didn’t expect to see bison, alligators and exotic species of Asian long haired goats alongside the Australian animals.

I’d be happy to get back to the Grampians this year. In some ways it is more enjoyable than a beach holiday, mainly with the bush walking and the high mountain air. I’d just make sure I book better accommodation next time.