When I was in late primary school, there was a kids’ TV show on each afternoon that quickly became one of my favourites – Simon Townsend’s Wonder World. In each episode, reporters would seek out amazing and entertaining aspects of the world – it was a true infotainment show -and it was fronted by host Simon Townsend and his dog Woodrow.
One piece which particularly stuck in my 11 year old mind, was an item on Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum and historical park, located in an early gold diggings area at Ballarat. Living, as we did, an entire continent away, Sovereign Hill seemed impossibly exotic.
I’ve since learned that a trip to Sovereign Hill is practically a rite of passage for Victorian children. Queenie’s class stopped there for a few hours on the way to camp this year, and she was eager to pay another visit.
So, Week 2 of the school holidays, and a day trip to Sovereign Hill was in order. We took Kingsley from TeamSAK along with us.
Sovereign Hill is a recreated 1850s goldfields township set over 25 hectares on an actual alluvial goldfield site. The houses, shops, mine workings and mine settlements have been faithfully reconstructed.
It was a chilly day when we got there (7 degrees, but felt like 3 according to the Bureau)…and it rained on and off, confirming my long-held prejudicial belief that Ballarat is truly the coldest place on earth. Every time I have been to Ballarat I have shivered (even in warmer months).
Although I bet she felt the conditions more than I did!
However, the Sovereign Hill management have turned that icy shortcoming into an attribute this school holidays by putting on a “Snow Magic: Winter Carnival.” This meant real man-made snow (or brown slush, as it was) along the edge of the main street, a 21m snow slide (more about this later) and a indoor snow playground. Plus…the big attraction, snowfalls on the main-street at appointed times!
The girls were a little miffed to discover the “snow” was in fact a foamy bubble substance. The effect was great though (not really evident in this pic…).
There is a gold panning creek.
Where the two big girls and The Poolboy enthusiastically panned for hours, while I attempted to stop The Impossible Princess from falling into the creek while crossing the slippery rocks across the falls.
Several specks were found, and were duly put into small glass bottles ($1 at the goldfields store) to take home.
Then we watched how (a lot of) those specks would be turned into a gold bar. The smelter poured liquid gold into a mould, which seconds later turned into in a solid gold bar worth $100,000 on today’s gold prices.
Remember I mentioned the snow slide?
And then there was just time to hit the stores in the main street for a little retail therapy 1850s style.
The shops are truly excellent, no ‘Made in China’ souvenir trash… just a variety of stores stocked with authentic little items which meant that each of the girls (with $10 each to spend, thanks to the generous fairy-godmother, S) was able to select a few bits and pieces (jars of lollies, lead pencils, wooden bird-flutes, nibpen and ink). And I managed to get some Reckitt’s Blue in the grocery store which I’ll test out on our white (ish) sheets to see if it really does make your whites whiter.
It was a great day out. The girls had an absolute blast, and driving home along the Western Freeway I recalled the words that Simon Townsend used to finish every show:
“And remember, the world really is wonderful!”