XMS in JULY in Armidale

08 August 2021 / Jillian McDonnell


Friday 9th to 11th July 2021


    On a cool overcast Friday morning Peter & Jill in their pretend MX5 (Kia Seltos) led the group of Allen and Pam, Jane and Greg, Murray and Margaret (in real MX5’s) as they left the “Donut” in Port Macquarie at 7.00am to head up the freeway to Kempsey. From drizzle to rain we picked up Wayne and Cathy and drove through the rain to The Old Butter Factory at Bellingen for morning tea meeting up with Robert and Rhonda.

   Out of Bellingen and into the foggy hills and green countryside towards Dorrigo. Driving through some heavy fog slowed us down but cleared up by the Armidale turn off. We visited the Wollomombi Falls looking spectacular after the recent falls of good rains and then on to the Wollomombi General Store where we met Kevin and Jen for a pre ordered lunch around the “furnace”. Wollomombi’s population was 112 in the 2016 Census.  The village of Wollomombi comprises the general store, several houses, sports a ground and a community hall. St John's Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1926 is an original timber building, and still stands in the village.

  We then took the 15 minute drive to the old mining town of Hillgrove to the Hillgrove Museum. Hillgrove was one of the major gold fields in New South Wales, with a recorded production of over 15,000 kg of gold. The town of Hillgrove was established in 1884 and grew rapidly during the 1880s and 1890s due to the expanding production of the mining companies. At its peak in about 1898, the town's population was close to 3,000. It now has a population of about 95.  The museum is in the old three-roomed schoolhouse containing mining and agricultural equipment, old domestic items which are reminders of past domestic life. Old photographs, memorabilia, newspaper stories and art works kept us absorbed for some time.

  Then it was off to Peterson’s Guest House. This historic homestead, originally named 'Palmerston' was built in 1911 and it has been lovingly restored in line with its traditional architecture. Architecturally, the guest house is a rare, intact example of the old regional country homestead vernacular and was originally designed by Castleden Architects of Newcastle. Time to check in, relax and then meet for pre-dinner drinks by the warm and inviting fireplaces. Dinner at 6pm was delicious, the company was convivial, and the wine was superb. Much chat around the table about the day’s happenings. Then off to bed with several disprin to ward of the headache in the morning.

  On a chilly Saturday morning with heaters on full we headed off to Uralla.  The word "Uralla" was taken by the local squatters from the language of the local Aniwan people’s which describes a "meeting place", or more especially "a ceremonial meeting place and look-out on a hill". We visited the local old wares market to look for some bargains and then off to “The Alternate Root” coffee shop to try and warm up with coffee and cake. Then we headed back to Peterson’s for lunch and wine tasting in the Peterson’s wine cellar, not actually a cellar but cold enough until the heater was available to warm us up. Lunch was all you could eat Anti-pasto and Peterson’s wine tasting and sampling.

  In the afternoon some of us relaxed at the homestead while the rest of the brave ones went for a run to the Oxley Wild Rivers National park historic Gara River Dam site, constructed at a large natural pool called the Blue Hole. The river continues to run fast over rapids passing picnic areas well patronised by the Armidale locals. The Gara river Hydro scheme was the first hydro station in NSW which supplied power to the Hillgrove mine site and town. Kevin provided a great history commentary on the area and the construction methods used to deliver the water to the turbine.

  Another cool run home to the Guest House for the open fires and a fine red. Then the piece de resistance Christmas in July Dinner. The dining room was suitably decked out with the required decorated tree and other decorations. We shared the inevitable crackers with their paper hats, miniscule tokens and sad, pithy jokes. Then dinner, which was absolutely delicious. A fine Christmas in July evening was had by all.

   Next morning after another great breakfast, we packed up the cars, listened to Robert playing us a tune or two on his bagpipes and headed back to Wollomombi for morning tea in the little wooden shelter at the playground by the sports field. With coffees purchased at the general store we shared slices of Christmas cake together. Then we headed off back down through the hills and the green countryside to our favourite Old Butter Factory for lunch. So much eating and drinking, so much wonderful company. Time to head home.   

Scribe    Jillian McDonnell

Photos   Wayne Lang