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The Ten Dollar Town

Kevtoberfest #6 Gulgong

When decimal currency was introduced in Australia in 1966, the newly minted bank notes featured images of notable Australians and scenes connected with their lives. The town of Gulgong, in central New South Wales, was depicted on the original ten dollar note. What was it about Gulgong that distinguished it from countless other small country towns?

After gold was discovered in 1870 Gulgong flourished and the population rose to more than 20,000, although today it’s closer to 2,500. The narrow streets are lined with distinctive 19th century buildings, whose wide, shady verandas and ornate wrought iron lacework are heritage listed.

Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba once performed at Gulgong’s Prince of Wales Opera House. Built in 1871, it’s the oldest performing arts building still in use in the southern hemisphere.

While the colonial architecture of Gulgong is historically significant, it was the town’s connection with one of Australia’s best known writers which led to its inclusion on our currency. Henry Lawson – poet, story teller and bush balladeer, was born on the gold fields of Grenfell. In 1873, he moved with his family to the Gulgong district, following his father’s relentless search for riches. Henry went to school at nearby Eurunderee and spent his childhood in the area before moving to Sydney with his mother in 1883. His experiences of country life influenced his writing and Henry often referred in his work to the people and places he knew so well.

Gulgong celebrates its connection with Henry Lawson with an annual festival in June and a small but comprehensive museum. At The Henry Lawson Centre, once the Salvation Army Hall, a collection of documents, photographs and copies of his works tells the narrative of his life, from his birth to his sad decline into alcoholism and poverty.

Best known for poems like The Ballad of the Drover and Andy’s Gone With Cattle,  Henry Lawson remains forever remembered, along with the town of Gulgong, on Australia’s first ten dollar note.

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Showing Its Age

Kevtoberfest #5 Cassilis

After leaving Tamworth later than we planned, our scheduled stop at Mudgee was out of reach. Instead of pushing on in darkness, we stopped for the night at a small campground outside the village of Cassilis. Across the road was a field of canola, its golden glow almost iridescent in the late afternoon light.

Next to the campground stood a small country church. It may have only been little more than 100 years old but, having withstood the harsh seasonal extremes of central New South Wales for more than a century, the church was showing its age. From the rusted iron gates to the weather-worn sign, the Anglican Church of St Columba of Iona looked as if it had been there for much longer.

Some of the older headstones in the churchyard had seen better days, while more recent ones showed signs of loving attention.

As afternoon became evening, the fading light accentuated the weathered stone of this sacred building.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Weathered

One Bushranger, Four Beers and Lots of Dust

Kevtoberfest #4 Uralla

Our first visit to Uralla, in 2009, coincided with a giant dust storm which blanketed more than 500,000 square kilometres of eastern Australia in a thick brown haze. Blown across from the inland deserts of New South Wales and South Australia, the cloud of dust spread until it measured 3,450 kilometres in length.

We were following the exploits of the notorious bushranger Fred Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt. He roamed the district in the 1860s, holding up travellers and robbing homesteads, hotels and inns until, in 1870, he was shot and killed by a local policeman.

South of Uralla on the New England Highway is a large cluster of granite boulders known as Thunderbolt’s Rock. From this vantage point he would ambush passing stagecoaches, although if the dust storm had happened in his time he wouldn’t have seen them coming.

In the spirit of Kevtoberfest, the theme of our second, dust-free visit to Uralla was beer, not bushrangers. The New England Brewing Company, located in a converted woolstore on the main street, has been brewing preservative free, unfiltered beers since 2013.

The first time we stopped in Uralla a cold wind was blowing, and this time it wasn’t much warmer. Inside the brewery, the glowing fire in the fireplace was a welcome sight. On Glen’s tasting paddle were the four main brews of the New England brand.

His verdict – a tasty selection, ranging from light and refreshing to smooth and dark. One bottle of each was added to the Kevtoberfest stash, a more pleasant souvenir of Uralla than the film of dust we acquired last time.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 2/Craft shops 1

Read more about the Eastern Australian dust storm of 2009 here

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

First Stop – Stanthorpe

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #2

With a brewery and a distillery, wineries and gourmet food shops, Stanthorpe was always going to be the first stop on our journey to Victoria. We didn’t have to go far; the small town at the centre of Queensland’s Granite Belt region is just 144 kilometres south on the New England Highway. We’ve been to Stanthorpe before, so there was no sightseeing on our itinerary. This time we were on a mission.

Our first destination was Vincenzo’s at the Big Apple, filled to the rafters with gourmet delights both local and international in origin. We stocked up on our favourite fresh cheeses and sourdough baguettes still warm from the oven.

At Castle Glen Australia, the shelves are lined with delicious liqueurs in specially crafted bottles. Musk Stick, Dark Choc Mint and Dark Choc Musk liqueurs found their way to the caravan.

The Granite Belt Brewery serves more than just beer. Using locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant chef creates delectable dishes to complement the craft beers on tap. We shared an entrée of duck and pork spring rolls before our main meals of twice-cooked pork belly slow braised in Stanthorpe apple ale, roasted Brussel sprouts, apple compote and ale jus. I enjoyed a refreshing apple ale while Glen sampled four beers on a tasting paddle. To begin the Kevtoberfest collection, Glen bought a bottle each of Granite Pils, Irish Red Ale and Pozieres Porter. They were carefully packed away to be shared later with Kevin.

We even did some practice for Kevtoberfest!

With the pantry stocked and the beer collection started, we continued south into New South Wales.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 1/Craft shops 0

Setting the Scene

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #1

When Mr ET aka Glen began his Prep Year at school in 1963, he met Kevin. Glen and Kevin had a lot in common: they both had seven sisters and one younger brother, they lived not far from each other and they were fervent supporters of Essendon Football Club. It wasn’t long before they were best friends. When they grew older, the boys spent their weekends and holidays exploring far and wide on their bikes, only returning home at the end of the day for dinner.

Glen and Kevin at a family wedding, 1975

As adults, Glen and Kevin developed a mutual passion for beer. For many years, they’ve made their own home brews and they enjoy visiting craft breweries in Australia and overseas. In 2011, we holidayed with Kevin and his wife Mary Lou in Munich for a week, where we spent much of our time at the Hofbrauhaus and other beer-related establishments. Even though they live in different states, Glen and Kevin are often in touch and regularly discuss their latest home brewing experiments.

Hofbrauhaus, 2011

P&O Cruise, 2016

It’s not always about the beer – strudel and coffee in Munich, 2011

When Kevin announced his plans for a beer-themed party to celebrate his 60th birthday in October this year, it was a given we would be there. This wasn’t to be a one night event; it would start on Friday night and continue all weekend, before finishing up on Sunday afternoon. It would incorporate the telecast of the Australian Rules Football League (AFL) Grand Final on Saturday afternoon and a fancy dress party on Saturday night – Kevtoberfest was born!

Instead of a quick fly/drive journey, we decided to do a three week caravan trek to Kevin’s home near Bairnsdale in Victoria. The return journey of 3,500 kilometres would cover inland and coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It wasn’t by coincidence that the route Glen planned included several towns with craft breweries and, knowing my love of quilting and crochet, he made sure to include some craft shops as well. The itinerary was a winner for both of us!

To be continued…

Roaming in Roma

Close to home #14 Roma

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The western Queensland town of Roma is located more than 500 kilometres from the ocean and the landscape is often parched from lack of rain. But at Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams there are gentle walkways with water views and, after good spring rainfall, the area is beautifully green. In both locations, it’s all about the trees.

A huge bottle tree marks the start of the Adungadoo Pathway, which follows the course of Bungil Creek. Said to be the largest in the district, the tree measures more than nine metres around the trunk and is thought to be at least 100 years old.

Even older are the river red gums on the creek bank. Some have been dated to 400 years and, along with tall coolabah trees, provide shade for walkers and cyclists. In spring, birds are attracted to the golden flowers of the silky oaks.

There are places to rest along the pathway, but there’s also the chance to be more active.  The frisbee course, similar to a golf course, has baskets instead of holes and a par for each round. A gym circuit has exercise equipment suitable for all abilities.

In the past, there was also a lot of activity at the Railway Dams. Originally built in the 19th century to supply water for passing steam trains, the dams are now surrounded by the Roma Bush Gardens. Eleven distinct areas are planted with native trees and flowering plants found in the surrounding Maranoa region.

A circular walkway passes through all the gardens, past more river red gums and coolabah, brigalow and belah trees. Bottlebrush shrubs laden with red blossoms grow at the water’s edge.

Walkers aren’t the only ones attracted to Bungil Creek and the Bush Garden. Rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras perch high in the river red gums and blue-faced honeyeaters dart around the flowering bushes. Pacific black ducks and swamp hens forage at water level.

 Even on the hottest and driest of days in Roma, the walking paths beside Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams are cool and shaded.
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