Over the fence, in Harrisville

Over the fence, in Harrisville

By Susan Prior

One lazy Sunday afternoon, the Bloke and I headed south-west from Brisbane for a drive. Our journey took us, more by luck than design, to Harrisville, a tiny community of about 400 people just 65 km from the CBD and less than a 50-minute drive. This town boasts two pretty useful pubs – The Royal Hotel and The Commercial Hotel – and a sprinkling of shops, including an art gallery called the Gardener Art Studio, housed in a private home that was formerly the Royal Bank, belonging to artist Colleen Gardener. More on her in a minute.

Robert Dixon - University of Tasmania, Public Domain

One of Harrisville’s main claims to fame is its proximity to Robert Dixon’s Normanby Plains Trigonometric Baseline. In 1839, Robert Dixon was employed by the government to survey the Moreton Bay area, in preparation for the free settlement. He established a baseline of three miles in length (4.8 km) through the area then known as Normanby Plains (now Harrisville, south of Ipswich), and it was this baseline that was used to accurately map the region.

He seems to be something of a trouble maker because that same year he was suspended from duty, although charges were later dropped. Then, in 1841, much to the ire of Governor Sir George Gipps, and without permission, he published his own map of the area (below).

There is a memorial cairn to Robert Dixon, erected by the Institute of Surveyors, on the Warrill View–Peak Crossing Road, near the intersection with Trelawney Lane.

Map by Robert Dixon (1800–1858) - Public Domain

Another noteworthy feature in the district, also on the Warrill View–Peak Crossing Road is the water pump, known as the Peak Crossing Well. It was part of a series of wells along the old Warwick Road used by teamsters and other travellers. The pump is still in place and working, although the water is not potable.

But back to the art gallery.

Many Brisbane people will be unaware of the vibrant arts community in the Scenic Rim. Throughout the month of May there will be open studio trails happening, with heaps of fascinating artists putting their work on display at various venues. You can find more about it on the Live at the Centre website.

When we made our Sunday afternoon journey to Harrisville, we found Colleen in her art studio and gallery at the rear of the old bank. The gallery was, I admit, a most unexpected and delightful find. Her art, much of which is created en plein air has, as she says, a realistic impressionist quality. Her floral works are beautiful, and her landscapes captivating.

Colleen used to be a ceramicist renowned for her salt glazes before she moved from Western Australia to Harrisville in 2003 and took up painting. We had a lovely chat with her as we admired her work.

From 20 May to 2 June (9 am to 5 pm) she will be holding an exhibition of her art at the studio. Called ‘Another Leg of my Journey’, it will feature new works of landscapes, still life and florals, and is timed to coincide with the Boonah District Open Studio Trail, which is being held on the 27 and 28 May. Visitors to the studio that weekend can work in collaboration with Colleen on a still life painting, with everything supplied. Even better, anyone who has participated in the collaboration will go in a draw with the painting going to one lucky person to take home.

After you’ve visited Colleen, take some time to discover the leadlight studio across the road, and, of course, stop for a bite to eat at tone of the pubs, or at Lizzy’s Kitchen in the main street. It will make a great day out, and it is right on our doorstep.

You can follow Colleen on Facebook.

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