Today is Anzac day so it is fitting to observe that nearly every town (past or present) has a war memorial dating from World War 1 when so many of the youth of this land lost their lives in battle. No town seems to have gone untouched by this carnage.
Burraga, our town of today, is no exception. The war memorial stands in the local park along with displays recording the other important history to this place, the copper mining era.
Frost, now that is something seen a lot more in country towns than in the coastal city areas and out Oberon way the winters are especially chilly.
This post, chosen for a Tuesday to participate in Taphophile Tragics, was taken on a frosty morning in Oberon a few years ago. At the time I was surprised to find headstones looming over the hill but was keen to get on my way so didn't investigate further until I chose to include it in this series. I think it is the Old Methodist Cemetery dating from 1859 and still in use today.
Whenever we take city guests on a drive to explore the towns and country west of the mountains they always warm to places like Oberon, Mudgee and Rylstone and pretty much ignore the run down places I adore. The attraction of these towns are the tidy streets, buzz of activity and cafes. I am not altogether sure the cafes matter that much to the locals but from my observation they are essential to attracting out of town dollars.
The Monkey Bean Cafe is in Oberon, quite a big town (population 2,700 in the town and 5,500 in the district). Oberon is set in the middle of in sumptuous rolling rural acres, huge spreads of pine forest and nearby Blue Mountains wilderness areas. A perfect location for a weekend getaway.
At this time of year they promote mushroom picking in the pine forest but with those people dying in Canberra earlier in the year from misidentified wild mushrooms perhaps it won't be so popular this year.
I don't have a new series to run but have a plethora of towns that have not yet been posted over at 100 towns. So thought I would work my way through these at the same time as mulling over life in the bush.
Now this sign at the school of Rockley amused me. Why would a school in a town of with a population of less than 200 people and with just 16 students need to advertise so stridently. Surely every kid within cooee of the town goes there as a matter of course and their Mum and Dad know when it's time to enrol the kids.
This made me dig in a little further. According the myschools website they have 1 teacher and 2 non-teaching staff (1.2 Full time equivalent). Enrollment has grown from 9 in 2009 to 16 in 2011. That is 78% growth - enough to make any marketing manager proud. They are big into marketing at this school, the fence boasted other signs about them being sun smart and into healthy food. The neat and tidy website talks of other amenities such as iPads, an electro…
I could not find any evidence of a town at Browns Creek but it was the location of an open cut and underground gold mine in the not too distant past. It was closed in 1999 when the mine flooded. At the same time farmers reported that a section of Browns Creek dried up. The old mining site is now used by a landscaping company.
We were looking for Beneree not Tallwood. As it happens there is nothing to to show at Beneree and I couldn't pass this old church at Tallwood by. Back in the old days there were churches on rural properties to serve the rural workers, perhaps this was one of them.
I have added Beneree as a locality at 100 Towns. Tallwood was not on my list.
From the road across a paddock you can see a church and this building that looks like and old shop. I would say that as some point in its history this was the centre of Forest Reefs. Today a little further down the road this is an operating pub and not much housing to suggest there was once a village here.
Next we moved onto the town of Spring Hill. By the old railway station there we disused shops and an operating pub. However, the area seemed quite prosperous with new homes and neat gardens. It is very close to the city of Orange but not yet swallowed by it.
After a night at our camp in Blayney we set out in the rain the next morning to discover some of names on the map to the North of Blayney.
The first town we passed through was Millthorpe. This is a great little historic town, with good eating and the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. As the rain was drissling down we didn't stop to take photos because I have photographed the town before.
When we were here last time we were talking to a shop keeper who said townspeople were employed at the gold mine and that it was also popular with Blue Mountains residents who were seeking the small town life that the mountain villages used to deliver before they became more populated. Millthorpe also benefits from lots of tourists being close to both Bathurst and Orange and is an easy enough weekend drive from Sydney.
There is something about the slope of the land and the trees near the Abercrombie Caves camping area that always reminds me of the Tom Roberts painting Bailed Up.
This is something I have not mentioned yet. With so much gold around it is not surprising that bushrangers (highwaymen, armed robbers) were out and about robbing the stage coaches on the move between the towns or entering the towns to make armed hold-ups of the banks and shops.
Most of the town histories list the names and exploits of the bushrangers. In the early 1830s Abercrombie Caves were the hangout of the Ribbon Gang a bushranging gang lead by an ex-convict. With the discovery of gold in the 1850s the caves were once again the hiding hole for bushrangers, they are said to have been used by Ben Hall and his gang.
Ten or twelve kilometres down the road from Trunkey Creek and down a winding track is Abercrombie Caves. This is extension of the limestone cave system taking in Jenolan Caves, Abercrombie Caves and Wombeyan Caves.
Being a bit caved out from taking many visitors to Jenolan Caves over the years we have never visited these caves but we have camped at the grassy spots beside this rocky creek. On this day is was getting late and the local wildlife were making their way down to water.
For me the most interesting find on this trip was Trunkey Creek. After the welcome sign announcing it as the "Home of Judging the Australian Champion Fleece" you see this wonderful old general store down the slope of the hill. This was enticing enough, but there was more -- the neat as a pin church, the Black Stump hotel, ramshakle old cottages, very old trucks parked by the roadside, the memorial wall singing the praises of the couple that drove the school bus for 40 years and a workshop that reminded me of my old dad. And the town's name has that larrikin element that reminds me of my dad too. They say Trunkey was old timer who had a very large nose.
That leads me to mention something else about country towns. People are often known by nicknames. The kind of names that emanate from the schoolyard, because that is where they have come from. The people go to school together, grow up together and get old together. Imagine the kids from your grade 1 class being y…
There are two cemeteries in Hobbys Yards. This one beside the road at the Uniting Church and a public cemetery somewhere else. However there is not much of a town left. It's pretty much a cluster of houses, as is Barry a little further up the road.
I thought Hobbys Yards was an interesting name so investigated. It's named after Lieutenant Thomas Hobby of the NSW Corps (1797 - 1808) who was second in charge to Cox for building the road over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst, then he took up farming.
Flocks of birds by the roadside are a common sight in the west. We are really only on the cusp of the wheat country here were the birds gather in big numbers.
These were taken outside the small town of Neville, a neat unassuming place with a pub but the general store which was operating last time I visited is up for sale and looks like it is closed. It has tourist accommodation called the Neville Siding with railway carriages and railway memorabilia. The funny thing is that unlike nearly every town we have visited this one was never on a railway line!
A prosperous town needs a modern outlook. It can trade on its history but needs a clear eye on today's world. Outside Blayney near Carcoar is a wind farm catering to the green energy industry.
I read on the web that they are looking to reopen silver mines near Trunkey Creek and Neville (small towns outside Blayney). Silver is an essential component in solar panels that other modern energy solution.
A prosperous town attracts tourists and nothing seems to do this better than picturesque countryside, quaint country villages and vineyards. Blayney has got it all.
After Easter I will put up Carcoar on 100 towns. I have covered it in this blog previously so not posting here again. And meanwhile I will take you on to Neville, Trunkey Creek and a couple of other localities which are set to change if that silver mine arrives.
And not all railway lines are dead. At Blayney there is a major rail/road container terminal.
The town's website also lists a other industries such as a Nestle pet food factory, Western White Linen laundry service, cold storage warehousing, honey exporting and steel fabrication. It takes industry, marketing and good planning for a town to prosper.
I snapped these workers arriving at the Newcrest mining village which is near the caravan park were we camped for the weekend.
You see, gold is not all in the past. Around Blayney there are active gold mines and they happily allowed a fly-in fly-out mining village to be established in the town. Itinerant workers may not be the traditional good citizen for a country town but they bring life and patronage to the shopping centre.
So it takes good fortune, diversification and a willingness to welcome strangers for a town to prosper.
We are on our way into Blayney, a busy town of some 3000 people. It's only a half hour drive from the cities of Bathurst and Orange.
This is a town that doesn't depend entirely on the rural community with its drought/flood cycle of miseries, though it's located in gorgeous and fertile country. Nor does it depend on age and decay to attract tourists to gawk at its past, though it's an 1850s gold town.
Over the next few days I will use Blayney to explore the things that can make a country town prosper.
Newbridge has the air of a town that just about made it as an historic tourist destination but has once again fallen on hard times. So to me its not untouched enough to delight nor smart enough to entice.
This town came into existence with the arrival of the railway in 1876.
Not very much further along the road, after a passing a modern brick real estate development spreading over the hillside we come to Georges Plains, a little community clustered around a disused railway station.
Old towns are a delight to junk lovers like me, there is always something to see. Mind you I only like to collect photographs, my junk collecting days are over now my house has as many antiques as I care to gather.
Being just 12 kms outside Bathurst, Perthville seems almost a suburb but retains the characteristics of a country town with a pub, general store and school. Even the railway line is active with freight trains. I guess it's also close enough to the big smoke to draw some of its prosperity from it.
It was originally gazetted as Perth but after federation had its name changed to Perthville to avoid confusion with the Western Australian capital city. This town seems to be a rare case of not being a gold mining town. It was a stopping off point for bullockies and coach travellers. But don't worry there are more gold towns coming up on this trip.