By Conal Healy
(AKA Mick In the Middle)
IN the main street of Warwick they were nailing a witch to a tree. A few metres away a handful of dwarves had been strung up. Next to them, a collection of pixie heads had been glued to a branch. Up the street an octopus was wrapped around a palm tree. And over there was woman hammering tacks into a bird, luckily it was dead and stuffed.
This was the scene in Warwick, Queensland, to greet early visitors to the annual Jumpers and Jazz in July festival. On a cold winter’s afternoon the main streets of this Granite Belt city was buzzing with activity as artisans eagerly decorated trees on the main streets.
In the fading light, a stiff breeze was already biting at exposed fingers – hats were pulled down over reddening ears, scarves were adjusted around necks and hands were slipped into trusty, warm gloves. Meanwhile, the art work continued on the trees – some bore coats of tinfoil, others had knitted coats, others were adorned with dolls, birds and plastic mouldings.
A helpful brochure explained Warwick’s “quirky” festival allowed visitors to “touch, feel, imagine, listen, and laugh as they take in the ambience of colour, creativity, vibrancy and melody”.
For the festival, artists abandon their canvases, weavers leave their looms and knitters think beyond the cardigans to create artworks for the deciduous trees of Warwick.
Why? Well, and to borrow from the brochure, “trees are dressed up with bright and cheerful textile sculptures (jumpers) to keep them warm”. Yes, Warwick people are concerned their trees will get cold.
It should be added the arboreal-jersey wearing is restricted to the town centre, and the trees that live in the city’s many park remain (dare I say it) naked, exposed to the elements throughout the year.
In the fading light, teenage schoolchildren – stopping to admire these living canvases – would suddenly squeal with delight as they recognised the artist and would snap phone-photographs, forwarding the image to their network of friends.
Eventually the remaining artworkers finished their timber-tinkering and finished for the day, taking a final look at the darkening sky. With a forecast of sleet, maybe even snow, most knew another cold night lay ahead.
IN the state, Queensland, that proudly proclaims itself as the Sunshine State, spending millions of dollars promoting its tropical destination, the Warwick region has successfully carved out a niche market by selling cold weather. The colder it is, the better, seems to be marketing strategy.
Naturally this image is bolstered by regular TV weather reports forecasts of “a chance of snow on the Granite Belt”. For the local tourism industry, the drop in temperature is a godsend. Residents of Warwick (and it colder country cousin Stanthorpe) know just how elusive a fall of snow is, but recognise its siren call to coast-living tourists.
Like a lot of other locations in Queensland, the temperature in Warwick does drop below freezing point. The nearby town of Stanthorpe holds the record lowest temperature record in Queensland at -11 degrees in July 1895.
The cooler weather, for tourists, means evenings spent in front of roaring fires (are there any other kind?), a steady diet of comfort foods, a chance to show off winterwear, pick up some local wines (and cider) and stock up on just-picked apples or cherries (when in season).
A “must” for any visitor to Warwick is a snapshot of the city’s first statesman – Thomas Joseph Byrnes (MLA for Warwick, 1896-68) adorned in winterwear. Returning home, tourists can show just how chilly Warwick is, “Cold? Mate, even the statues wore a beanie and scarf!”.
In July, a Warwick tourist body said it was happy with the winter visitors numbers and it is now searching for an equivalent summer festival to the Jumpers and Jazz in July program of events to attract tourists to the region.
The Warwick egg that made history
IT’S hard to imagine that a humble Warwick egg was responsible for changing Australia. The date was November 19, 1917. The place: Warwick. The egg: Presumably from a local hen.
At the time Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes was touring the country (by train) in an attempt to bolster support for his controversial wartime conscription policy. As Billy Hughes addressed the crowd at Warwick railway station an anti-conscription supporter threw the (now-famous) egg at the PM, dislodging his hat.
Immediately Hughes ordered the Queensland Police to arrest the egg-thrower, but the officers on duty declined. It was a matter of jurisdiction, they said. The now-incensed Prime Minister stormed away and eight days later appointed the first commissioner for the Commonwealth Police which led eventually to the foundation of the Australian Commonwealth Police (the forerunner of the Australian Federal Police).
So the AFP came from an egg. (It was not reported it the egg survived the assault on the PM.)
IN the first half of the 20th Century, Warwick was a vital part of the Queensland rail network, at one stage 70 trains a day passed through the city. For decades the air in Warwick rang with the sounds of steam trains and whistles.
Then things changed, first came the move to diesel train engines, then a decision to move operations up the line to Toowoomba. The Warwick depot was shut down (the workers were relocated to Toowoomba) and the buildings demolished.
All that remained of Warwick’s proud rail history was a train turntable, which sat in glorious isolation surrounded by an industrial wasteland. And so it lay, until workers from the Toowoomba rail depot started to retire (in 1991) and realised that part of Warwick’s heritage was sinking into the ground.
In their retirement the workers formed a committee, determined to restore some the glory days of steam in Warwick. And so was born the Southern Downs Steam Railway (SDSR). In 1995, thanks to Government funding, work on the Warwick Locomotive Depot began.
In 2000 the railway obtained a steam engine, a diesel engine, passenger carriages and other rolling stock. In January 2009, after a lot of hard work and many man hours, the first passenger services started. The first destination was to nearby Clifton, these days the railway has regular runs to Stanthorpe and Wallangarra (on the NSW state border).
Located at the Warwick Railway Precinct, on the corner Hamilton and Fitzroy Streets, the workshop is “must” for any steam train lover and is staffed by very proud, knowledgeable, (mainly retired) train workers and enthusiasts. Entry is by donation. Be aware the precinct is a industrial area, not a museum and that trip over a train line, or stand on a splinter … it will be your own fault.
(Visit the website: www.southerndownssteamrailway.com.au)
The Dreamtime frog who drank all the water
ON the banks of the Conadmine River in Warwick is the statue of Tiddalik. According to Dreamtime legend Tiddalick was the largest frog ever know.
One morning he woke up thirsty and drank all the fresh water in the world. The rest of the animals begged Tiddalik to give the water back, but he refused. Following the advice of a wise old wombat, the animals tried to make the frog laugh, but without success.
It took the wriggling dance of a eel (or a snake) to make Tiddalik burst out laughing. As he laughed the water gushed out and replenished the lakes, swamps and rivers again.
WARWICK : Did you know?
- The Warwick area boasts some of Queensland’s finest historical sandstone buildings, which were made from local sandstone.
- Known as the Rose and Rodeo City, Warwick hosts one of Australia’s oldest and most famous rodeos each year in October.
- During the spring months, Warwick showcases its wonderful roses throughout its parks and gardens. The red City of Warwick or Arafuto Rose was developed especially for the town.
- The Southern Downs is noted for its mild summers and chilly winters with elevating ranging from 450-900 metres.
- The first European settlement (in 1847) was to be called Cannington, but the name Warwick was eventually picked. Land sales started in 1850, the telegraph to Brisbane in 1861, the railway in 1871, a brewery in 1873, a flour mill in 1874 and a brick works in 1874.
- Other attractions include the Historical Museum, Regional Art Gallery, and an 18 hole golf course. Leslie Dam is located 13 kilometres west of Warwick and provides for fishing, swimming, and boating (when there isn’t a dought), and also has picnic areas for day visitors and camping areas for longer stays.
Like what you see? Visit:
Getting there: Brisbane to Warwick is 160kms by road, about two hour driving. There are coaches and train options too (the trains can be problematic)
Shops: There is a Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, IGA, Foodworks, there is also: Big W, Target, and Harvey Norman.
Food: All the usual fast food chains are there. Warwick also has some very fine restaurants.
Just the facts:
Population – In the 2016 Census, there were 12,222 people in Warwick (Qld). Of these 47.8% were male and 52.2% were female. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people made up 6.4% of the population.
The median age of people in Warwick was 41 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 20.3% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 22.4% of the population.
The most common ancestries in Warwick were Australian 31.1%, English 30.9%, Irish 10.9%, Scottish 7.7% and German 5.5%.
In Warwick , 85.3% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 2.1%, New Zealand 1.5%, Philippines 0.9%, South Africa 0.4% and Germany 0.3%.
Religion: The most common responses for religion were Catholic 23.8%, No Religion, so described 22.8%, Anglican 22.4%, Not stated 8.2% and Uniting Church 6.6%.
Things to do in Warwick, Qld.
Where is Warwick, Queensland, Australia?