We were getting ready to move on over closer to Tamworth which was our original plan.
We want to catch up with Ian and Leslie when they visit Tamworth in 2 weeks time for the Country Music Festival.
Since the city and the surrounding towns get very busy during the festival we decided to find a freecamping spot early and stay in the vacinity till after the festival. We’ve been told of many good spots around the area and so decided to check a few out as well as do some sight seeing around this part of New South Wales.
We drove out through the now familiar rolling green hills of the New England district passing through Uralla and down to Bendemer. There’s a lovely freecamping spot on the banks of the MacDonald river and after checking it out we moved on to Moonbi with spectacular views over the surrounding ranges and valleys as the New England Highway reached 1000 metres above sea level.
Veering off the highway at Nemingha we travelled on the Tamworth-Nundle Road out to Dungowan where Ian and Leslie will be staying.
From there we drove to Woolomin where there is another superb free camping site and from there on to the Chaffey Dam.
The Chaffey Dam is a pretty spot with a huge lake and rolling hills coming down gently to the lake shores. There are good facilities and already there were quite a few caravans set up. It costs $4.00 per night for two people and is well worth it.
Stopping at Nundle we checked out the Woolen Mill which is one of only two working mills left in Australia and is open to the public. It’s a fascinating place with machinery in still perfect condition after 100 years of work. The mill has a retail shop and it was refreshing to see an Australian business whose products were mostly Australian made, with most being produced on site at the mill.
Nundle has two other fascinating shops. The Jenkins Street Antiques & Fine China shop is home to one of the largest Fine China Collections in Australia and is packed with items from the near and distant past. We saw a children’s game for sale exactly the same as one we’d sold in the garage sale at Blackwood Street for 20 cents. The asking price was $49.00!
The Odgers & McClelland Exchange Store is housed in the original general store dating back to pre-Federation.
After an enjoyable experience at Nundle we made our way up the steep road to Hanging Rock and the lookout which gives a stunning view of the surrounding valleys and hills and then on to Wallabadah where there is a really good free camping area behind the First Fleet Memorial Park.
The First Fleet is the name given to the first group of eleven ships that carried convicts from England to Australia in 1788. Beginning in 1787 the ships departed with about 759 convicts (586 men, 192 women), provisions and agricultural implements. Seventeen convicts died and two were pardoned before departure. Another nine died before reaching Santa Cruz plus another 14 who died before arrival at Port Jackson, during the eight month trip.
In 2005, the First Fleet Garden, a memorial to the First Fleet immigrants was created on the banks of Quirindi Creek at Wallabadah by Stonemason, Ray Collins who researched and then carved the names of all those who came out to Australia on the eleven ships in 1788 on stone tablets. There’s a circular garden bed for each ship and each garden has a central tablet containing a painting of the ship the garden is dedicated to. The tablets containing the names of all the immigrants from that ship are then arrange around garden. The stories of those who arrived on the ships, their life, and first encounters with the Australian country are presented throughout the garden on boards.
Ray Colin’s personal story and how he came to create the Memorial Gardens is as fascinating as that of the fleet as he’s a decedent of a convict from the fleet. His colourful past and subsequent vision to both categorise and memorialise those early inhabitants of Australia is inspirational.
We headed on to Tamworth and stopped at the Big Guitar for the obligatory photo and a browse through the Tamworth Tourist Centre which disappointingly, in contrast to the Mill at Nundle, was packed with the usual crappy chinese made souvineers at extortionate prices.
The free camping spots we were told about were all lovely and if we were on the move we’d be happy to stay in any of them, however we decided that we would rather stay at Dumaresq Dam and drive into Tamworth two or three times to see Ian and experience the festival.
We have a great little community at the dam and we’re comfortable with leaving the van for a day knowing plenty of people will keep an eye on it for us. The others have urged us to stay for Australia Day as they have a day of festivities planned so we may stay here till after the Music Festival and maybe even till Australia Day.