Monday, 23 October 2017

Continuing along Fossickers Way to the Hunter

After leaving Bingara, we continued down the Fossickers Way to Tamworth, and Spotlight – well, they had batting at a half price sale. We had some lunch and then drove a further 54km to Wallabadah First Fleet Memorial Gardens. There were already a few vans there so we couldn't get beside the river. We found a level spot, paid our $10 donation, had a walk around the gardens and was attacked by the local magpie.
We wondered why the memorial was so far away from where the First Fleet landed. Apparently it was the idea of a First Fleet descendant who lives in the area and is supported by donations.
We stayed one night and decided to spend the next two nights in Cessnock, in the heart of the Hunter Valley. We set up in the Cessnock Showgrounds and headed to get some groceries. We stayed here in the showgrounds last January, in hot 40+degree temperatures, and bush fires. This time it was bush fires plaguing the area, and many areas around N.S.W. We did see some smoke in the far distance. 
The following day we headed 30 kms to the historic town of Wollombi. Last January we didn't have time to explore the village, but on this day the aim was a walk around Wollombi and buying some nice Hunter Valley wine for my Auntie's 80th birthday party.
A local winery in the main street of Wollombi had a centenary quilt on display - bonus!
Wollombi has many early sandstone buildings. The towns name is said to be an Aboriginal name meaning meeting place, or meeting of the waters. There are a number of Aboriginal sites in the area, but most are not marked or sign-posted. We only found two markers and both were a general 'indigenous lived in this area'. The development of Wollombi is linked with the construction of the Great North Road from Sydney by convict labour, including my ancestor Isaac Perrett. It was at Wollombi that the road continued on to Patrick's Plains – now Singleton, and branched to the north-east to Maitland and later joined to the Newcastle road. There are many small caves on the sides of the road that were used as shealters to both the local aborigines and the convict workers.
The road was started in 1826 and completed in 1831. There are bridges and walls still remaining from the convict times, but again lack of signage meant that we could not find any. Some of the land was granted before the road was built, but after 1830 many more acres were granted. The village of Wollombi was set aside in 1833 to serve the travelling public along the Great North Road. The first inn in Wollombi was the Governor Gipps in 1840. George Gipps was the Governor of the Colony from 1838-1846.
St Michaels Roman Catholic Church was built in 1840, and was moved to its current site after the 1893 floods.
The police station and courthouse were built about 1866 and today are used as a museum.
We visited a few wineries and a micro-brewery before heading back to the van for the night. A lovely area, the Hunter.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Gem on the Gwydir River

It was hard trying to decide whether to stay another night in Texas as it was so lovely, but we decided to head towards Warialda and the Fossickers Way. I had chosen a few different sites at both Warialda and Bingara, so after filling with petrol, getting some more meat, and getting Peter's coffee fix we headed south. Warialda is about 126km from Texas on the Bruxner Highway to Yetman, then on the Warialda Road to Warialda. We stopped for a photo of the bikini tree just outside of Warialda. In Warialda we headed straight to the information centre, only to find it was closed. By this time we had decided that we would go the extra 35km to Bingara, but drove around to look at the free camps at Warialda. There is one behind a pub which is where we will stay next time, as the town looks lovely with many historic buildings. The other free camp is fairly open, and we stopped there for lunch, which I had prepared earlier.
We drove down the Alan Cunningham Road to just before the town of Bingara to the Bingara Riverside Camping Area. So many vans already there and such a lovely spot. I know, they are all lovely spots, but Australia is beautiful!
We found a lovely spot right on the river banks with lovely neighbours. We had drinks around the campfire and then dinner. There is phone reception but no TV, so the satellite is getting another workout. It was cold overnight, so the heater also got a workout. We decided to stay at least two days.
The following day we drove into town. There is a dump point and water available ($1) to top up the vans. Being Sunday, most shops are shut so we had no trouble getting a parking spot.
While looking at the beautiful architecture of the closed Emporium, a local lady, Brenda, started telling us all about the history of the town. She has lived here all her life and was a wealth of information. Across the road from the Emporium is Peter's Milkbar and the Roxy Theatre, lovely examples of art deco. This is also the location of the information centre. We walked up and down the main street enjoying the different styles of pressed tin awnings, all of which I could make a quilt pattern from. The town has a 'soundtrails' audio tour that one can download which is good. However, not when one wants to do the town tour there and then. We will download the app when we get home and have better wifi coverage. We walked up and down liking what we saw, but didn't know the history. Peter had look at XXXX beer - $53 a carton. He said he will wait for Tamworth.
The Roxy Theatre complex was built in 1936 by three Greek immigrants from Kythera. It operated as a theatre until 1958, and was restored and re-opened in 2004. It now houses the tourist information centre, a Greek heritage in Australia Museum, an old style milkbar as well as the theatre and cinema. One of the back buildings also doubles as a cooking training venue.
There is also a street lined with orange trees and an orange festival is held every July. No one is allowed to pick the oranges until one day in the festival when the school children are allowed to pick all the oranges. We must be here too early in Spring as the trees do not have any buds yet. The trees were planted by the Bingara RSL Sub Branch in 1946.
We drove up to the Batterham Lookout and it is well worth a visit. No caravans as it is a very steep climb. It is named after a local historian who did much to promote Bingara. We also drove to the Living Classroom site. One can see the beginning of this project with greenhouses and bunkhouses erected and some planting have already taken place. It will be a great place to visit in years to come.
There is an old ore stamper battery in a picnic area south of town. It is all that remains of the All Nations Gold Mine, established in 1860, and closed in 1948. The discovery of gold in 1852 bought many settlers to try their luck. This may be where the McDougall's from Texas came to find their fortune. Today there are many places around Bingara that one can fossick for gems.
Bingara was named by the local Aboriginal people who would camp at a shallow point of the river that they called this camp Bingara, meaning creek. The local Aboriginal peoples were the Kamilaroi. Explorer Alan Cunningham also camped in the same spot in 1827 and as this was the largest river he had seen since the Hunter Valley he named the river Gwydir after his benefactor in Wales, Lord Gwydir. The first squatters came in 1834, the first being 'Bingara' property, established by George Hall. By 1840 a township was forming and in 1852 it was officially surveyed. During the 1850's gold was discovered in many place around Eastern Australia, and in 1873 diamonds were found.
Bingara is a lovely heritage town, that we will return to. The Myall Creek Massacre occurred not too far from here. We will visit that memorial next time.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Road Trip 5, 2017.

Our next trip was a short trip via Fossickers Way to Tea Gardens to celebrate a family birthday. We left later than we had planned, but only had to drive about 100km to Heifer Creek at Fordsdale. This is a spot we have often driven past on the way to and from the Darling Downs. There were already a few vans there when we arrived, so we set up beside the creek on the right hand side. There is no phone or normal TV reception so I was glad we had satellite TV. It was a quiet and a place we would go back to.

The next day we decided to drive to Texas, on the Queensland / New South Wales border. We drove via Stanthorpe on a road less travelled, and we are glad we did. Texas is a lovely little town, and almost everyone we passed said hello or smiled. Our first stop was the information centre, and the lady there was very informative. We walked up one side of the street and down the other. The council has placed historic information boards outside the buildings in the main street. I wish all towns would do this as history is so important.
Texas is on the banks of the Dumaresq River, as is our camp, and the town is a RV friendly town. There are toilets and showers in the town, and a lovely area has been set aside for self-contained vehicles. It has no facilities, but is picturesque and is a donation camp. Texas is also the first official motor cycle friendly town in Australia.
The beginnings of Texas lie in the establishment of a station about 1840 by the McDougall Brothers. They left their land in the 1850's to try their luck in the goldfields, and when they returned their land had been taken over by another settler. A legal battle followed and it was some time before they could reclaim their land and the McDougalls named their property Texas after the similar dispute between Texas USA and Mexico (1836).
The original town of Texas was closer to the river, but after the floods of 1890 and 1921, the township was moved further up the bank to where it is now. A few of the original buildings remain on the original site, including the original Texas Station.
The primary industry is sheep and cattle grazing, but breeding and a variety of other industries are growing. Historically, tobacco was a main industry,as was rabbit processing. Although tobacco growing and processing no longer exists in the area, many tobacco drying barns can still be seen in the area. Also in Texas is a historical rabbit works. The factory was established in 1928 and employed many town folk during the depression. Rabbits were in plaque proportions in the early days and the rabbit works would send the dead rabbits to England. After the demand for rabbits declined in England, they were sold around Australia. In 1950's, the rabbit skins were sold to Akubra and other fur markets.
Our campsite was lovely and not too far from the river, so we decided to stay an extra night. We went back into town and had morning tea before going the lookout. As lookouts go, this one is not that good, so we headed back into town to see where the up coming country music festival will be held, and then back to town to get some meat from the local butcher. It was so good and tender, that even I – the non meat eater - enjoyed it, so we went back again the next day to stock up on some more. We were very fortunate to have met a lovely man at the council who told us a lot about the area, and the history. We were looking at the photo display in the art gallery, which is in the same building as the library and council offices, and when looking at the 2011 flood photos we wondered where the race course was and this lovely fellow left his desk and proceeded to show us where things were and tell us more of the history.
A lovely place, Texas. We will be back, and stay longer next time. Meals at the pub were great as was the wonderful meat from the butcher.