December 08, 2020

Visiting Cowangie and Kow Plains Homestead

DSCN3335  

Cowangie is located just off the highway approximately 19 km to the east of Murrayville and it is this area which is known as Kow Plains. 

November 28, 2020

Queensland's dramatic Carnarvon Gorge


(c) Tourism Queensland

The blockbuster scenery of Queensland's Carnarvon Gorge draws visitors from all over the country. Len and Phensri Rutledge find a serene undertone to the dramatic vistas.

My wife loves the Australian bush. The smell of the gum trees, the quietness, the feeling of solitude and the opportunity to be with nature appeals to her mind and soul. She likes nothing better than walking a track through the bush and experiencing the sights and sounds of Australia.

November 26, 2020

See Australia's largest display of military vehicles

The historic shed that currently houses Australia's largest display of military vehicles at Bandiana, near Wodonga VIC (DSCF2736)



It’s the largest display of military vehicles anywhere in Australia. Sure, that’s a big call, but the Army Museum at Bandiana, near Wodonga, houses more than 150 military vehicles ranging from motorcycles to massive main battle tanks.

October 17, 2020

The Natural and man-made attractions at Chillagoe Queensland

Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park (Tourism Queensland)


A place that has ancient aboriginal rock paintings, historic mining relics, amazing limestone caves and a unique vehicle museum would attract many people, writes Len Rutledge 

Our anticipation was high as we headed 140 kilometres west of Mareeba along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe, North Queensland and a day later we agreed that our expectations had been surpassed.

Chillagoe was once an ancient coral reef which has been transformed into spectacular limestone bluffs with a network of more than 500 caves. It is one of the most interesting and unusual places in the whole of northern Queensland.

October 11, 2020

Follow the Goulburn Heritage Trail

If you said the one thing you remember about Goulburn was the Big Merino, then you’d be in good company. The massive concrete beast, dubbed ‘Rambo’ by good-natured locals, celebrates the region’s wool and sheep industry which catapulted Goulburn along the road to economic success almost 200 years ago.

Goulburn - Main Street - 1913

October 05, 2020

The Australian Outback is a bonanza for 'pickers' and 'junkers'

DSCN9711 The vast Australian outback yields wonder for 'pickers' and scrapyard junkies. The dry desert air preserves many relics that would otherwise disintegrate in warmer, wetter regions, leaving a veritable museum of history scattered over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres.

September 10, 2020

South Australia's Mallee: a road trip through history

Over 100 years ago, just before the First World War, South Australia (SA) began a concerted effort to open up the Mallee region to agriculture, mainly wheat and sheep. 

The central hub of the district was Karoonda, established in 1913, growing quickly to become a major rural and commercial centre and rail yard with loading facilities for the vast quantities of grain harvested from the surrounding district, now largely cleared of the slow-growing, stubby eucalypt trees that once dominated the semiarid landscape to the Victorian border and beyond.  

The rural silo art project like this example in Karoonda
has helped bring tourists back to remote towns in SA (R Eime 2020)

August 14, 2020

Australians love Vancouver, Canada



With its mountain backdrop, interesting museums, urban beaches and wonderful Stanley Park, beautiful Vancouver is one of my favourite cities in the world. Len Rutledge recalls his time in the city.

The city will appeal to all ages and budget levels with its accommodation, restaurant, shopping and theatre/museum offerings. Unfortunately, it appears that it will be many months yet before we can visit again.

It was four years since I last visited so when I was there earlier this year, I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with many of the things that make the city so appealing to many Australians. Amazingly, most were free.

August 12, 2020

The chequered history of Ravenswood, Queensland


Thorps Building Ravenswood (Phensri Rutledge)


Booming gold and silver mines, a railway that came and went, a population that rose to 5000 and fell to 100, 50 pubs, and a recent resurgence in mining: Ravenswood has seen it all. Len Rutledge tells the story.

Mining and tourism are now taking this fascinating town to new prosperity despite COVID-19 and the current poor economic conditions. It seems that the future is bright. Ravenswood is certainly worth exploring for its old mining relics, its fascinating buildings, and its outstanding history.

See Ice at Altitude: Scenic Flights to Antarctica



There's history and grandeur aplenty way above Antarctica. Roderick Eime, takes to the wing for a rare perspective of the southernmost continent.


“The panorama was magnificent – the jagged mountains of black and green rock and glittering snow slopes of Trinity (peninsula) towering besides, above us the clear sky, below us blue-black water and icebergs – everything frozen and still, black and blue-black and black-green and glittering white” – Captain Sir George Hubert Wilkins, Australian polar aviation pioneer


These words could have been uttered by any modern airborne explorer of the Antarctic, flying low over the frozen wilderness of the great southern land.

July 27, 2020

History on the Harbour: Before BridgeClimb there were Sydney's 'social climbers'.

Often when I’m chatting with visitors to Sydney or even just having a brag down at the pub, people ask me if I’ve ever climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My answer is “three times, twice legally”.

The first dawn climb, December 2002. My first legal climb (Roderick Eime)

Everyone knows the famous - ‘iconic’ even - Sydney attraction known as ‘BridgeClimb’ launched in 1998. It was a big deal because the founder, Paul Cave, had taken 10 years to overcome a wall of bureaucracy to make it happen and at the time, it was the first such attraction on a bridge anywhere in the world.

July 26, 2020

Are you a collector or a hoarder? Here are some interesting assortments.

John-Paul Drake and his 700+ Hot Wheels collection (The Advertiser)

Look on any of the online auction or sale sites and you’ll quickly see that people collect anything and everything. From antique farm machinery, Barbie Dolls and matchboxes through to airline sick bags (unused I hope!) and even entire aircraft.

July 24, 2020

Weird Museums: A message in a bottle. Clunes VIC



You have to be suspicious about any town with a bottle museum. Surely it would take a population of dipsomaniacs to produce a sufficient quantity of empties to fill a museum, or in some cases, to build a
house or public chamber from discarded beer bottles.

July 11, 2020

History in the Hunter: A mosey round Morpeth

View of main street from William Arnott Hotel (RE)


Something we found out straight away was that one day is not enough time to visit Morpeth in NSW's Lower Hunter Valley. It may be a small and ornate historic town with a compact village atmosphere, but it has a heart that beats as vitally as ever. It comes alive on weekends when day-trippers throng the main street, scrutinising the curiosity shops, tea rooms and bakeries.

July 05, 2020

History on the Hume: Snapshots of tarmac past



It's been a fascinating few weeks retracing portions of the old Hume Highway as well as the even older Great Southern Route.

July 03, 2020

Port Adelaide's historic Dockside Tavern demolition rumours appear to be false


As Britannia Tavern in the 1970s. (DL Eime)
Established in 1850 and rebuilt in 1898, the former Britannia Hotel was entered into the South Australian Heritage Register in 1980.

June 30, 2020

Fiona McIntosh rejoices in winter

And the world around me has finally turned green and misty....perfect! Can't believe the lavender is showing off either.

Fiona McIntosh
Well, the rules are beginning to relax as I write this and we are all feeling a sense of optimism for salvaging our 2020 and using the time to prepare for a better, happier, safer 2021 that may even have a Covid19 vaccine in it.  If I'm honest I haven't felt nearly as isolated as a lot of other people I know but that's because I have hermit-like tendencies anyway plus living rurally and a few kms from the nearest town means we live in relative isolation anyway. What I have missed is seeing my family and meeting my friends so the reunions for all of us are going to be wonderful and I hope you'll start experiencing that joy as well soon wherever you are.

I don't like blitzing you with newsletters and in fact made a promise I'd only ever send out three per year but there may be four this year, mostly due to it being a weird year where a lot of folk are welcoming the distraction and interaction but also because I'm under some pressure to share my recipes for apples that have won some attention and I don't want you to miss out on new season apples for your baking. I've included French apple jelly, Tarte Normande and a magnificent German apple cake. You will not regret any of them although I can't tell you which apples to use - I am harvesting from a tree we've inherited at the farm. They look like Jonathans and have a marvellous perfume along with a brilliant acidic crunch for baking. And I have Ian to thank for keeping that tree going these last few years.

June 29, 2020

Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro



Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro is supposed to have strong roots back to Europe with the festival of lent often being represented as the origin of Carnival, leaving the influence of Africa forgotten.

The Portuguese ‘conquestadores’ claiming Brazil, brought with them slave trading, increasing in the 17th, 18th and 19th century until 1888 when it was banned. By the early 19th century, over six million slaves had been brought to the Caribbean and South Africa. Enough to make their impact on brazil carnival culture and Rio de Janeiro Carnival history!

The Legend of El Dorado



‘He went about all covered with powdered gold, as casually as if it were powdered salt. For it seemed to him that to wear any other finery was less beautiful, and that to put on ornaments or arms made of gold worked by hammering, stamping, or by other means, was a vulgar and common thing.’ - Gonzalo Fern├índez de Oviedo, Spanish Historian, 1478-1557

For centuries the legend of “the gilded man” persisted in the Spanish conquered ‘New World’ territories of Peru and Colombia. But was the legend a true account of unimaginable riches as the Conquistadors believed, or a ruse by the enslaved Incas to lead the Spanish on treacherous expeditions into the dense Amazon jungles – and almost certain death?

June 24, 2020

Fred Rasmussen (1898-1963) Trainspotter and accidental historian.


A longtime friend of mine rang me one rainy Sunday and told me excitedly she had found a large cache of her grandfather's photographs and after some time I finally managed to get around to see them myself.

In a large biscuit tin were piles of BW prints and boxes of slides, all neatly filed. Some were inscribed with locations, but few had dates. We were able to ascertain that most of the late Frederick A Rasmussen's images were taken between 1958 and 1962, the last few years of his life.

June 22, 2020

Victoria: West is best



Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge

Travel restrictions still apply to several states but Victoria is generally open for visitors. Our trip was completed before COVID-19 appeared but it should be possible to visit everywhere we did by the end of June, although booking ahead for the wineries and Sovereign Hill may be required. Start planning now because it is a great experience.

A Victorian holiday is always interesting so my wife and I were keen to make the most of our time. Exploring the airline timetables, we discovered an effective way of gaining an extra day. There are evening flights into Melbourne so you can leave after work and begin the holiday that day.

Our flight arrived at Melbourne airport a little after 9pm and by using the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport hotel we could have been eating at the restaurant, drinking at the bar, swimming in the indoor heated pool or exercising in the gym by 9.30. Instead we went to bed!

The Parkroyal proved to be an excellent hotel. Staff were friendly, our room was luxurious, facilities were well maintained and the breakfast buffet was a feast. After checking out we took the elevator downstairs and rented a car for a week from a selection of six operators.

The drive to Ballarat was easy but unexciting. This grand old city was built on gold more than 150 years ago and many dignified buildings still exist from those times. After walking the main street and visiting the outstanding Art Gallery, we drove to Sovereign Hill.

This is probably Australia’s best historical park and it has grown even more impressive since our last visit. We watched the redcoats march and fire their muskets. We photographed the coach ride, the candle making and the metal spinning.

The Red Hill Mine Tour proved to be better than expected and the gold pour showed us what a $150,000 ingot looks like. A short visit to the theatre and a chance to bowl in a 140-year-old manually operated alley saw us looking for somewhere to relax. The Hope Bakery proved to be the perfect place.
Gold panning at Sovereign Hill 

No visit to Sovereign Hill would be complete without trying our luck gold panning. After 30 minutes my wife had collected gold worth about $5 from the creek.

Next day we reluctantly left Ballarat after spending the morning in the Botanical Gardens by Lake Wendouree. The gardens were established in 1858 and contain a remarkable collection of mature trees and statuaries.

Other highlights are the Prime Ministers Avenue, the Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage, the ex-POW memorial and the remarkable begonia conservatory. We should have allocated more time here.

Literally dozens of historic and boutique wineries are scattered across undulating western Victoria. Our desire was to visit some of them so we started in Avoca. Here the Blue Pyrenees Winery provided a chance to sample some spicy cabernet sauvignon and other classics before indulging in an excellent lunch.

Then it was on to the historic wine village of Great Western, known as the birthplace of Australian sparkling wine. The iconic Seppelt and Best’s wineries are here using grapes from vineyards that date back to the mid-1800s. Both offer tastings and we didn’t hold back. After selecting a few bottles to take with us, it was off to Stawell.

This historic gold mining town is world famous for its Easter Stawell Gift which was first run in 1878. We viewed the Hall of Fame and did a quick jog on the track which has created so many champions.

For thousands of years the dramatic Grampians mountain ranges have inspired wonder. Now largely covered by the Grampians National Park, the rugged peaks with their rich cultural heritage and breathtaking views are one of Victoria’s most popular destinations.

The area is suitable for everyone. There are hundreds of kilometres of bush walking tracks, excellent paved roads to waterfalls and spectacular lookouts, adventure tours offering kayaking, rock climbing and horse riding, farm gate providores and farmers’ markets, and comfortable accommodation.

We stayed in Halls Gap in a rental house. The cute tourist village is surrounded by remarkable mountain escarpments, forest and wildlife. Kangaroos graze on the football ground and birds are everywhere. There are numerous small cafes and restaurants and a general store and hotel.

We learned about the regions’ Aboriginal culture and history at Brambuk – the National Park and Cultural Centre just outside town. The extraordinary building has a bush food cafe and retail outlet as well as an information centre. A quick trip by car took us to one of five rock art sites that are open to the public.

www.LenRutledge.com

Photographs: Phensri Rutledge

Further Info:

Parkroyal Melbourne Hotel - http://www.parkroyalhotels.com/en/hotels/australia/melbourne/parkroyal/

Sovereign Hill – www.sovereignhill.com.au

Halls Gap Visitor Centre – www.grampianstravel.com

Brambuk – www.brambuk.com.au

June 21, 2020

History on the Harbour: barnfind of old photographs



Some years ago, a friend’s mother turned up a box full of her late father’s photographs.

Big deal? Well perhaps at the time the photographs of the late Frederick Rasmussen were just mundane snaps of uninteresting street scenes, but given enough time, such images become fundamental to history.

June 20, 2020

History on the Hume: Heritage-laden Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands






Historic Berrima once rumbled all night long to the sound of heavy vehicles on their way to and from Melbourne and NSW's south. As one of many small towns and villages along the Old Hume Highway, Berrima was eventually bypassed in 1989, relieving the old roads and buildings of the constant, thundering traffic.

Before 1989, heavy traffic passed through Berrima day and night. (BDH&FHS)

The country around the Southern Highlands is the traditional home of the Dharawal (also Tharawal) people who were progressively displaced by the encroach of settlers. Give or take a year, Berrima became a town in 1830 and its first civic buildings sprung up soon after, the first of which being the large gaol in 1839. It operated on and off until 2011 and even served as a POW facility during WWI. It reopened as an operational low-security facility in 2016.

c.1900 – View from Church Hill, Post Office, Surveyor General Inn (1834), prison governor’s residence – right. Berrima Gaol (1835-1845) top left.




The abundance of excellent building stone and clean water discovered by explorers and surveyors under instruction from Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell accelerated the town's development. The 1834 hotel, the Surveyor General Inn, claims to be Australia's oldest continuously licensed inn.

The 1838 Court House in Wilshire Street was designed by Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis and is classified by the National Trust. It was the scene of Australia’s first trial by jury, that of gentleman bushranger William ‘Jacky Jacky’ Westwood in April 1841.

The railway reached the region in 1869 but did not service Berrima, instead favouring the more recent settlements of Moss Vale and Bowral. Many historians contend that this omission served to help preserve Berrima in its delightful historic state and why we have a list of heritage-listed buildings throughout the town.

Staying in Berrima

Jellore Cottage (RE)

One of our surprising discoveries was that of Jellore Cottage (aka Mundays Cottage) recommended to us by the Southern Highlands visitors' bureau. It's in places like this that the old cliche 'a step back in time' becomes reality. Jellore Cottage is a heritage-listed B'n'B that is offered as a fully self-contained accommodation able to sleep four people (1x double bed, 2x singles) in two bedrooms.

Every room is tastefully decorated in antique furniture and ornaments yet still offers all the modern conveniences like microwave oven, electric heating, fridge etc. 

At the rear, beyond the flower and vegetable garden which throngs with birds, is the Settler's Hut which offers another three beds (1x double, 1x single) The single is by way of a detached single room 'studio'.

Settler's Hut offers seclusion and authentic heritage accommodation. (RE)

"The hut was actually found on a property out west of Crookwell," our host, Paul, tells us as he delivers our fresh eggs and milk, "It was in a bit of a state, but it was dismantled and rebuilt here about 25 years ago."


Again the hut authentically recreates a time when pioneer pastoralists and their labourers first opened up the Australian bush to agriculture. 

Of all the options available to visitors to the Southern Highlands, Berrima is perhaps one of the most original in terms of architecture and heritage, a fact that is obvious on most weekends when the town comes alive with daytrippers seeking respite from the confines of the city. 

Getting Around Berrima

Schmokin' Cafe is the new bikers' hang in Berrima (RE)

Hire an ultra-cool Vallkree electric bike from Schmokin' Cafe right on the old highway, near the museum.

More Reading:
MORE: History on the Hume series

June 14, 2020

Fiji History: Momi Bay Battery Historical Park



When Japan’s Imperial Army stormed through SE Asia and headed into the Pacific, it seemed every island was a target. So in May 1941, two 6-inch Mark VII naval guns became operational at Momi Bay on the westernmost point of Viti Levu.



The two long-range guns could fire a 45kg shell more than 12 kilometres and did so only once in possible anger in late 1943 when something suspicious popped up on the radar screen. The site was closed in 1944 when Japanese forces were on the retreat and Fiji was no longer under threat of invasion.

In 2017 the whole emplacement was restored and is now a museum. The site is remarkable in that the original guns are still in place. Many were dismantled and sold for scrap after WWII.

(visited Sept 2010)

History on the Hume: Lennox's Masterpiece at Landsdowne

Driving north along the dual carriageway section of the Hume Highway at Carramar past what was once the last Sizzler restaurant in Australia, you could be forgiven for failing to notice the significance of the bridge you just crossed.

Painting by Conrad Martens created around the time of the bridge's opening.  (SLNSW)

Until the mid-1950s, the two-lane sandstone arch bridge at Carramar was the sole thoroughfare on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Liverpool.

Two hundred years ago, there had previously been a bridge, Bowlers Bridge, crossing Prospect Creek, but it was poorly constructed and was swept away by the first decent flood. In 1832, Surveyor-General Major Thomas Mitchell was faced with an unworkable road network in the burgeoning colony and began a concentrated review of the roads and bridges around Sydney. For much of this work, he chose a skilled artisan who impressed him while working on a relatively simple wall in front of the government building in Macquarie Street.

The Scottish-born master stonemason and engineer, David Lennox, was commissioned for the sum of 1000 pounds to build a single-span 33.5-metre stone arch bridge (total length 58m) which was erected by convict labour over a period of two years between 1834-36. The required stone was quarried 11 kilometres downstream on the right bank of the Georges River near the current M5 motorway crossing and delivered to the bridge site by punt.

Stone laid at the opening in 1836. (Roderick Eime)

The foundation stone was laid by the Governor, Major General Richard Bourke, on 1 January 1834 and the Landsdowne Bridge was opened on 26 January 1836. A particularly fine structure also known as Lennox Bridge, it remains the most intact example of all the Scotsman’s bridges and was heritage-listed in 2000. It has the largest span of any surviving masonry bridge in the country and was Lennox’s second such project, many say his masterpiece, the first being at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains in 1833.

Lennox went on to build another bridge that bears his name in Parramatta, completed in 1839 and, thanks to a public outcry, was narrowly saved from demolition in the 1990s.

Drone view of both Lennox Bridge and the 1957 concrete arch duplication (Lachlan Hyde) 

In 1957, a relatively austere two-lane concrete arch bridge was erected to duplicate the crossing of Prospect Creek and it now carries the Hume’s southbound traffic stream numbering around 30,000 vehicles per day. Built by the Department of Main Roads (DMR) by contract by Messrs. Hornibrook, McKenzie Clark Pty. Ltd, it cost approximately £50,000 at the time ($1.6m today).

When I visited in June 2020, major conservation work was well-progressed.

Restoration work on the Landsdowne Bridge is expected to continue through 2020 (Roderick Eime)

“The bridge hasn’t needed a complete maintenance upgrade since 1966 but it’s now time to ensure we protect its structural integrity, heritage values and character into the future. Work includes replacing sandstone blocks, cleaning the stone and repairing the drainage system to help reduce the pace of corrosion,” said Transport for NSW Sydney Maintenance Director, David Fishburn.



The multi-million dollar restoration work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.

MORE: History on the Hume series

June 11, 2020

History on the Hume: Gundagai's heritage bridges



The historic bridges of Gundagai are a fascination for all visitors. Whether they are history or architecture buffs doesn’t matter, the gnarly contortions of the vast timber truss viaducts capture the imagination of photographers and viewers just the same.

May 26, 2020

History on the Hume: The Herald Road Guide 1950

Hume Highway: On the Way

Albury to Gundagai



The old highway through Bowna has been closed and the new route runs through Table Top. Fingerboards in Albury make the way clear.

Holbrook, situated on Ten-Mile Creek, is the centre of rich cattle, sheep, and wheat country, and has a population of 4000.

In places, the hills, skirted by the main road, are remarkable formations, while volcanic rock outcrops are frequently visible.

The land surrounding Gundagai is devoted to grazing, wheat, maize, lucerne, dairying, and fruit growing. It is estimated that more than a million sheep and 60,000 cattle are kept in the district, and the industries in the town include a cheese factory and freezing works.

Extensive changes were being made to this section of the highway when this Guide was revised in 1938. A new road was being constructed from the Adelong turn-off at Tumblong right through to Tarcutta. When this has been completed, the route will be shorter and the difficulties of this section eliminated.

Meanwhile, 23 miles of rough gravel surface, with steep grades and sharp turns, must be traversed.
The Monaro Highway enters the Hume Highway near Hillas Creek. It begins at Bega, crosses the Brown Mountain to Cooma, and passes through Kiandra and Tumut.

The Sturt Highway begins at Lower Tarcutta and runs through to Mildura.
the esegi ve Denis




Goulburn has a population of 15,000 people, and is one of the most important towns in New South Wales. It is noted for its granite and slate deposits, and its other industries include woollen mills, soapmaking, brick-making and lime burning.

Leaving Goulburn, the route first runs parallel to the cliffs of the surrounding hills, on an eminence of which is the Goulburn War Memorial.

It then passes through forests to Marulan, then deviates (at Paddy's River) from the old highway through beautiful Mossvale.

Many tourists still take the Mossvale route. The road is good and more picturesque than the new highway. At Mossvale a road to the right leads to the beautiful Kangaroo Valley and Cambewarra look-ut, from which one of the finest views in Australia is obtained. It joins the Prince's Highway at Nowra.

The new highway runs through Berrima to the Wombeyan Caves Road, then bears right into Mittagong. From there a wonderful road leads to historic Picton, The Razor-back is next climbed and the route then takes the tourist through the oldest settled districts of Australia via Camden and Narellan

From Camden the new road, built on the historic Cowpastures Road to Liverpool, cuts out the old highway and Campbelltown.

Extract from Herald Road Guide kindly supplied by Mr Hoss Bolenski



MORE: History on the Hume series

May 25, 2020

The abandoned Sofitel Heiva resort in Tahiti


Despite the resorts dilapidated look, locals continue to maintain the grounds.

Ideally located on a secluded spit of land on the French Polynesian island of Huahine, the over-water bungalows still appear alluring and the botanic garden-like grounds are meticulously maintained by locals.
Floors are swept and polished.

A closer inspection reveals a totally derelict property, battered by the elements, stripped of all fittings with gaping holes in the roofs and in danger of collapse.
Once the site of good times, the resort now lies in a pitiful state

It’s been a decade since the last guest checked out and the former Sofitel stands as a sombre monument to the change of fortunes in many parts of this onetime holiday paradise.

All images (c) Roderick Eime

[Visited in 2012]

Visiting NSW Central West (1990)



Text source: Gregory's Touring Australia 1990. Included for historical purposes only
Photographs: Roderick Eime

It was not until 1813 that the early settlers were able to cross the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Great Dividing Range and open up the Central West's rich farming and grazing lands.

The 1850s gold rush attracted thousands of people and today towns like Hill End and Gulgong still bear testimony to this significant chapter in the history of New South Wales

Hill End 

Hill End 1993 (Roderick Eime)

Formerly known as Hawkins Hill, now under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was settled from 1851 and, by 1872, when Beaufoy Merlin took most of his photographs, had a population of 8000, more than a kilometre of shops and twenty-seven hotels.

It was at Hill End in 1872 that the famous Holtermann's Nugget, the largest gold specimen ever discovered in Australia, was unearthed. It was 1.5 metres tall, weighed nearly 300 kilograms, contained 93 kilograms of gold and was worth £12 000.

Most of the surviving buildings in the town date from 1872 and many - including the district hospital that is now a visitor centre and museum, the Royal Hotel and some of the shops - have been restored in recent years. Even those buildings that have not survived are not forgotten - plaques with copies of Beaufoy Merlin photographs stand on many of the vacant sites in the town, showing what used to occupy the site.

Storekeeper, June Durie, Sofala. 1993

Visitors can inspect underground mine workings at Bald Hill, and explore Hawkins Hill, where Holtermann's Nugget was found. They can also fossick for gold at Tambaroora, about 3 kilometres from Hill End, and slightly further afield at the villages of Sofala, Hargraves and Windeyer. Fossickers are sometimes rewarded with small amounts of gold.

Gulgong

Gold was found at Gulgong in 1870, and by December 1872 the population of the town and the surrounding villages was more than 20 000. Among people who flocked to Gulgong were the parents of poet and writer Henry Lawson, who was four when he went to live in Gulgong in 1871. He immortalised the town and some of the people he met on the goldfields in many of his best-loved works.

Today Gulgong is known to many people as the town on the $10 note - the old paper note (not the new plastic one which is universally hated in the town) which townspeople petitioned to save.

Mary of Gulgong's buildings have survived from the gold rush days and are still in use - 170 properties, mostly dating from 1870 to 1910, are classified by the National Trust as being of historic significance.

But Gulgong greatest asset is its Pioneer Museum, which is said by many to house the finest collection of Australiana in the country. Displays tell of the gold rush, the development of transport and agriculture, the war years and the changing way of life of Gulgong's residents. There is even a collection of faithfully restored local buildings at the rear of the museum, including the Reedy Creek Inn, which was first licensed in 1851, an 1871 blacksmith's, a cottage dating from 1891 and a late nineteenth-century schoolroom. Among recent additions is an audiovisual room where a series of presentations documents the lives of the towns pioneer women using the recorded memories of their descendants.

Gulgong's other major attraction is the Henry Lawson Centre, which boasts the largest collection of Lawsonia outside the Mitchell Library. The centre has a number of early editions of Lawson's work, photographs and newspaper cutting detailing his life, and paintings depicting some of the scenes so colourfully described in his poems and stories.

As gold became harder to find in the Central West in the mid-1870s, agriculture again became the dominant activity in the region. Today the rolling hills and flat plains of the area support cattle, sheep, wheat and fruit.

Mudgee 

Historic Mudgee Railway Station (Roderick Eime 2017)

This pleasant town is becoming famous for it's thriving wineries, which produce wines to rival some of Australia's best. There are about twenty wineries in the area and although some are owned and run by large Australian wine companies, many are small, independent concerns. Most welcome visitors and offer wine tastings as well as cellar door sales. Quite often visitors will be greeted by the winemaker himself, and be shown some of the wine-making operations. Botobolar winery is particularly interesting because it grows its grapes organically, without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. At certain times of the year, sheep graze among the vines to keep down the weeds, and a sign in the car park warns that "trespassers will be composted". The town is also noted for its honey and at the Mudgee Honey Company, staff will explain how honey is produced, then offer tastings of more than twenty different varieties.

Orange 

Further west, Orange - paradoxically best known for the apples grown in the region - and Dubbo are modern cities serving their predominantly farming communities, as well as tourists.

Orange, the birthplace and home of poet Banjo Paterson, is on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano that is now a popular reserve. Walking trails lead to the summit, where visitors are rewarded with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside.

Dubbo

Rhino at Western Plains 1993 (Roderick Eime)

Home of the Central West's principal tourist attraction, Western Plains Zoo, where the animals are displayed according to their geographic origins. The clever use of moats and inconspicuous barriers means there are no bars between the animals and the public - a bonus for everyone, particularly photographers. An 8- kilometre drive or cycle ride (bicycles can be hired) will take the visitor through Africa, Eurasia, North America, Australia and South America, enabling them to view a number of endangered species as well as more common creatures.

The zoo is near another of Dubbo's attractions, the National Trust-owned Dundullimal, claimed to be the most sophisticated slab homestead in Australia. Dating from the 1840s, it boasted such refinements as plastered internal walls, glazed french doors and cedar windows, and even a bell-pull system for summoning the servants.

In the city centre, Old Dubbo Gaol, dating from 1848, has been brought alive by the introduction of a number of lifelike, animated models that tell their story at the touch of a button.

Wellington

Wellington Nearby is Wellington, noted for its limestone caves with their dramatic formations of stalagmites, and Burrendong Dam, which offers an abundance of watersports.

Bathurst 

Start of the 1997 Bathurst 1000 (Roderick Eime)

The oldest city in the Central West is Bathurst, which was settled in 1815 and is perhaps best known to Australians as the home of the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit. It was the birthplace and home of Ben Chifley, Australia's prime minister from 1945 to 1949, and his humble cottage in Busby Street is among attractions in the city.

Other attractions include Abercrombie House, a grand mansion built in the 1870s, and Miss Traill's House, an 1845-built colonial cottage with fascinating displays charting the growth of the city.

The Warrumbungles 

Located just west of Coonabarabran is one of the state's most spectacular National Parks - the Warrumbungles. Discovered in 1818 by explorer John Oxley, the Warrumbungles offer good bushwalking and rock climbing opportunities. The name Warrumbungles is believed to be Aboriginal for "little or broken mountains" – something of an understatement because the rocky spires and forested ridges of the range rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. A well-signposted network of walking tracks enables visitors to view some of the most stunning scenery and to spot some of the diverse wildlife found within the 21 000-hectare Park. Kangaroos and wallabies abound, while emus, possums and numerous colourful parrots can be seen. Eagle-eyed visitors may even spot that shyest of Australian marsupials, the koala.

Just outside the Park is Siding Spring Observatory, home of the Anglo-Australian telescope, one of the most advanced in the world. The observatory is open to visitors during the day but not at night when its astronomers are at work.

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