Charming Little Franklin: Apples, Boats and a Whole Lot of History
by Stephanie Williams
I nearly called my son Franklin. It was high up on my names list. I’ve always like the look of the word. The way it sounds. And while he ended up Francis (he’s Frankie for short), Franklin is still on my mind.
On a recent weekend, with my visiting Mum in tow, we decided it was a good day for a drive. She hadn’t seen the Huon Valley before and was curious to see where all the good apples come from. Franklin was our destination.
After a quick 40 minute drive south from Hobart, we rolled into Franklin and parked near the oval. Having done zero research prior, we were really pleased to find that the Market at the Palais Theatre was on, so we started our outing there. The Palais Theatre was opened as the Town Hall in 1912 by the Governor of Tasmania Sir Harry Barron. The first film was shown there that same year, then in the years since it’s been a bit of a multi-use space for the town – theatre, ball room, event space, market, a basketball practice court, even a boxing club! Nowadays, the market is held here on the last Sunday of each month, alongside regular performances and film showings.
The market is full of goodies. Mum starts at the cake stall and nabs handmade biscuits and jam (for the kids she insists!), while I peel off and find solace with a jar of bath salts. The kids are at perfect ‘stall touching’ height, but they manage to respectfully walk through each stand, and have a chat with a few of the friendly folk sharing their handiwork. Outside we buy freshly dug potatoes, garlic, greens, herbs and vegetables which we turn into an epic roast at home that night. The kids convince my Mum that they “neeeeeeeed” the two mini monster trucks they spy at the bric-a-brac stall (they win) and I get caught up talking to the dim sim man about his absolutely delicious dimmies. He tells me the recipe was handed down through generations of Australian- Chinese people in Ballarat and through a business partner, he has managed to take it over and now produces the dim sims using local meat and vegetables. So good.
After a quick kick of the soccer ball at the oval, we walk along the waterfront to the Wooden Boat Centre. The Wooden Boat Centre is the only wooden boatbuilding school still operating in Australia. You can pop your head in for a peek into the workshop and pick up something with that incredible timber smell in the giftshop, or join a tour to really delve into the workshop. We have little kids with us, so decide not to tour, but it’s recommended to book ahead. All tours the day we were there were full. If you’re really into it, you can join a course to develop traditional craft skills – from short courses to a one Year ‘Shipwright Level 1 Course’. You can sign up to make wooden oars, traditional rowing and sailing dinghies, do a heritage restoration or learn modern sustainable boatbuilding techniques.
Lunch is calling and Frank’s Cider answers. How could we not, with a kid called Frank. The café and cidery is in a beautiful old church across the road from the Wooden Boat Centre. The cider here is made from apples from 160 year old trees, planted in the oldest heritage orchards in Australia. John Clark established the orchards back in 1836, and Frank came into the picture as the third generation of the family to farm here. Nowadays, the apples are harvested by 5th and 6th generation Clark family members. You can buy their cider through Dan Murphy’s and other bottle shops, but there’s nothing better than trying it at the source.
With full tummies, it’s a short walk (and another soccer ball kick around) back to the car. On our way home, we call into one of the many honesty stalls on the side of the highway to pick up a couple of kilos of local apples, a bargain at $4.