Hills of Gold

Kevtoberfest #3 Nundle

Like many Australian country towns Nundle, in northern New South Wales, has a rich history. Gold was discovered in 1852 and remnants of the past survive both in town and the surrounding area, where the remains of gold rush settlements and diggings lie hidden in the bush.

A good place to begin a day in Nundle is the Visitor Information Centre where the Gil Bennet Rocks, Gems and Minerals Collection is displayed. Crystals, gems and polished stones collected by Gil over more than 20 years sparkle in their glass cases. Many of the stones were found locally, and fossickers today follow Gil’s lead in the hope of finding hidden treasures in the hills around Nundle.

Many leave Nundle and head up a steep and winding mountain road to the abandoned goldfields of Hanging Rock. Perched high on the edge of a sheer rock face, Hanging Rock lookout reveals an expansive view of Nundle Valley and beyond to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

At the site of the original Hanging Rock village, where several thousand people lived at the height of the gold rush, the homes, schools and churches are long gone. All that’s left of the pub is the information sign telling of its existence.

The only visible evidence that people once lived here is at the Hanging Rock Historic Cemetery, where many miners and their families were buried. Most notable of the graves is that of Mary Ashton aged 19, who died after childbirth in 1852. She was the wife of James Henry Ashton, founder of Australia’s famous Ashton’s Circus.

At Sheba Dams, the still waters tell another story of the gold rush era. Built in 1888 by Chinese labourers, the dams provided water for the surrounding gold mines. Today, the mines are overgrown by thick bush and the miners have been replaced by picnickers and fishermen.

Back in Nundle, the wealth gold brought to the area can be seen in the 19th century architecture of the historic buildings. Dating from 1860, the Peel Inn has provided food, beverages and accommodation for travellers for more than 150 years. Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores has been selling household goods since 1891. Feather dusters, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling still compete for attention with enamel bakeware, handmade soaps and wooden utensils.

Other buildings have been repurposed to serve new functions as income from tourism has replaced that of gold. What was once a service station now houses the Nundle Art Gallery and Volcania Art Glass, filled with works created by local artisans. The Primitive Methodist Church, built in 1882, is now a boutique.

The Nundle Woollen Mill only opened in 2001, but the yarn made from Australian merino wool is spun on vintage machines sourced from other defunct mills and lovingly restored to working order.

The Mount Misery Gold Mine Museum gives visitors a taste of life on the goldfields around Nundle. A 150 metre mine tunnel displays artefacts and mining tools, and the walls are lined with newspaper articles and photos of the families who lived and worked in the area.

The gold miners and their settlements may be gone but their memory lives on in the little town of Nundle.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 1/Craft shops 1

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72 thoughts on “Hills of Gold

  1. I was commiserating with Glen at the lack of a pub, but then you took me to that wonderful village restoration, Carol. What a project! 🙂 🙂 The views out over the hills suggest the immensity of the place. You’ll never run out of territory to explore. Wishing you and the family a healthy, happy year ahead, and sending express hugs.

  2. This must have been really interesting to visit. I read Eleanor Catton’s novel The Luminaries about the gold rush in New Zealand, and I imagine it must have been very similar. (I found the book too long and complicated to enjoy, but the background history was fascinating.)

  3. Hard to imagine what these places were like at the heart of industry. Noisy, dirty, busy. But I’d love a time machine to be able to just have a glimpse at those times. I’d enjoy a wander around Nundle.

  4. It’s so admirable that this historic site has been saved for future generations.

    My fingers itched when I saw that colourful wool.

    Happy New Year, dear et.

    • It’s such a pretty little town and the residents have done a great job of preserving their history. I have to admit I bought some wool and am in the process of making a beautiful shawl with it. I fixed your typo. It did my heart good to see mine isn’t the only phone which insists on making up words. It’s so annoying. 🙂

  5. Visiting such old mining sites I often am struck at the imagining of the noise and activity that would have been at the time. A fascinating spot and wonderful to see the restorations.

    • I’d say when the mines became uneconomical the small settlements were abandoned. Being at the bottom of the mountain, Nundle would have been much easier to get to, and it would have been the centre of the agricultural activities as well.

  6. Great post, and photos! I just have to think how dusty and dirty it must have been to live and work there years ago. I found a woolen mill in Ireland, but didn’t go inside…after this post, now I wish I had gone inside.

  7. Nundle looks so cute. What a fascinating township. We have a hanging rock in Victoria, but it’s completely different. So many great places to to visit here, we’re spoilt aren’t we?

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  9. What an interesting town – so much history. I imagine it was a bit annoying (when on a beer tour) to come to a sign telling you where a pub USED to be – not much help if you were hoping to be sampling some beers now. 😉 The wool looks so inviting – I think I would have been leaving with a few purchases myself. 🙂

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