Old news from Armidale and New England

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New England Tourist District as seen in 1905

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Monday 23 October 1905, The Sydney Morning Herald



If the hotel proprietors and business people of Armidale were to act in conjunction with the municipal council of the city, they could boom their district and reap benefit thereby. If ever there existed a district where a branch of the Tourist Bureau should be formed it is that of Armidale. Apart from the fine town itself — or city as it should be called, for it has its cathedral and bishopric — it is the valley centre of a fertile district. Viewing it even during drought time, one can exclaim with Cowper, “God made the country, and man made the town.” The tourist on sight-seeing bent may pass a day or two away very pleasantly in the city itself — its ecclesiastical buildings, its magnificent public and proprietary schools, its dams, its mammoth store, and its recreation areas, all meriting attention. By climbing the hill on the north, a magnificent view may be obtained, and it may at once be said that the consumptive patient who makes the effort has lasting cause to be glad that he did so. The rare, pure air on the hill-top steadily inhaled through the nostrils quickens every nerve and exhilarates like a new, delicious perfume. No wonder that Armidale has a name for being a natural sanatorium. They say you have to die by accident in the district to die at all, and certainly to look at the rosy cheeks of the children and the general health of the people one can nearly believe that it is the occasional visits to the metropolis that disturb the even condition of their physical well-being.

Sport of nearly all kinds flourishes in or near the city — golf right in it. “Golf,” said one prominent citizen, “has come as a godsend to country towns like Armidale, where we have no fishing close.” The links have attracted this Waltonian, who confesses without a blush that he has knocked all the rings off his fishing rod by poking it up a bad-tempered spout which threatened to flood his study. The golf club has over 80 members, and every day there are plenty of men on it. The only day in the last six months that there was nobody doing the round of 12 holes was when an inch of rain fell, and it was feared that if one walked about much he would stop the rain from getting into the grass. Mr. W. Cyril Higinbotham is one of the golfing pioneers of Armidale, and it is his suggestion that the interstate matches between Queensland and Sydney should be played in Armidale when the full 18-hole course is again available. Visitors to the city regard the links as affording one of the best sporting courses in the world. The Armidale Creek is one natural bunker, and it has taken the conceit out of some Sydney visitors who have tried to drive across it.

One has to go out of the city to get fishing. Trout have been placed in the rivers near for years, but one has to travel over 30 miles to obtain good sport. Mr. G. H. V. Jenkins, of Herbert Park, about 12 miles out, on the pretty Gyra River, has done more than his share of acclimatisation work. Many years ago he imported trout ova from Tasmania and successfully hatched them on his own station. Some salmon trout ova got into the batch by mistake, and these too were hatched out. Some of the fry were freed in Gyra Creek, which certainly looks an ideal trout water. Others were sent to the Beardy, and others to the Macdonald. About five years afterwards Mr. R. Scholes caught a 3½lb trout in the Macdonald, but the Gyra fish have not been seen. Mr. A. E. Bigg, of the picturesque station of Thalgarrah, and Mr. Curtis, on the adjoining property, have also liberated trout fry received from the Fisheries Board, and fish about 9 inches long, said to be of the shape of a mullet, have been seen in the river lately. It is quite likely that these will turn out to be trout; but if they are merely gadopsis or carp, the acclimatisers may still retain hope. It was six or seven years after the Prospect reservoir was stocked before fish were soon in it. Then suddenly Mr. A. F. Jacob persuaded a 5lb rainbow to leave the water per medium of a spinning bait.

The Gyra is a most interesting stream. It flows down the eastern watershed, thrown thither by the Macleay range. It junctions with the stream called Commissioners’ Water, in which rainbow trout fry have also been liberated. The Gyra, although it rises near the town of Guyra, is called “Gaira.” About 15 miles from where the trout were put in there are falls. It is possible that the fish have gone over there, and ultimately made their way into the Macleay. In the bed of the river at one place there are basaltic boulders with curious potholes in them. Many of these are Just large enough to admit a man’s body, but are 10 and 12 foot deep. There are plenty of bars and rapids in the river. This year (1905) Mr. Jenkins has made arrangements to keep the fry until they are yearlings. He liberated in a nursery pond recently two cans of fry. The man who turned them out of the can is used to counting sheep, and he tried to count the fry as they swam out, but without success. “I can count the sheep in that flock,” he said, “but these little beggars beat me.”

Other streams which have been stocked with trout fry near Armidale are Gostwyck Waters, near Uralla, Mihi Creek, Salisbury Creek, and Blue Mountains Creek. These, with the Wollomombi, Chandler, and Brookstead rivers, and Cameron and Baker’s Creeks, are all Macleay feeders. Some flow through remarkably strange country, making falls over precipices on their way. There are more fine falls near Armidale than any large city in the State. Dangar’s Falls, Ebor Falls, Wollomombi Falls, two Gyra Falls, George’s River Falls, Styx Falls, and Baker’s Creek Falls are some of tho best known; but there are many more still to be photographed. Messrs. L. S. Gordon and Scholes and the late W. M. Harris have taken great interest in the stocking of many of the waters thereabout with trout fry, but Mr. Gordon goes for his angling sport to the perch rivers beyond Guy Fawkes country, where he catches plenty of fine fish on the rod. He reports that the miners and others in some parts of the Guy Fawkes country and Upper Macleay use dynamite to kill fish with, and the fish avoid the thunder locality for some time after the operations. Mr. W. Gray, an honorary inspector in the city, is another keen angler. In 1904 he liberated two cans of trout fry in the Styx, a river which runs through remarkably wild country, and has the Ebor Falls upon it. The gorges hereabout are wild and wonderful, and the natural conditions should certainly suit the rainbow trout. Probably within a year or two the fish will have begun to show old Charon that they own the river and will serve perch and catfish with a notice to quit. It Is about 30 miles from Armidale to this centre, and the sportsman must take a tent with him if he intends to make a stay. There is ample sport for the gun.

To the western side of Armidale the streams are on the western watershed of the great divide. All are perennial and suitable for trout and many of them flow through private property. The Rocky River tumbles cascadily down to join the Gwydir, and Boorolay Creek, which rises near Black Mountain, is another trout water. Georges Creek near Llangothlin is clear and perennial and the Moredun is known as a cod stream. Although trout have been plentifully liberated about this district, no catches have been recorded, and perhaps it is well that it is so. As soon as any unfortunate trout are seen in many of these tableland waters there are men after them with set lines, dynamite, or guns, and the fly fisher has no chance. Armidale sportsmen of the latter class know this and they are anxious for a law which will permit the charge of a rod and gun license by acclimatisation societies, the money received being devoted to the improvement of river fishing acclimatisation of animals or birds that will not become pests, the payment of inspectors and the eradication of rabbits hares and foxes. It is not thought that the tay will be oppressive and the revenue being expended in the district in which it is collected will be of great benefit. The protection of quail which are extraordinarily plentiful at times in the district, wild duck, wonga, pheasants, and trout it is believed could by this means be made effective.

Perhaps the greatest attraction to tourists near Armidale is Hillgrove. The country resembles tho land of the gnomes and kohólds In the Talbingo Ranges and the vicinity of Kosciusko, but instead of being of granite it is of basalt. The traveller unused to heights experiences a feeling of dizziness when a turn on the road near Hillgrove gives him a glimpse of a great depth in the gorge. Baker’s Creek washes noisily through the gorge and from the heights it look’s like a narrow band of silver. Baker’s Creek mines have been visited by tourists from all parts of the world. Some have avoided the glorious ride down the incline in the Proprietary Company’s trollies to the valley below, and have thereby missed a treat. No switchback could ever rival the stupendous fall of 1700ft to the mine down that trolly way. Women and children do the trip daily, so there is no danger, only a nearness to it. The beginner at the business looks into a pleasant or an unpleasant hereafter, according to his conscience, on his first ride. Afterwards he drops into nonchalance and merely surrenders to the intoxication of the upward or downward movement. It is something like going in an express lift in a high building from the top to the bottom floor. The great mountains close and fold in on one as he descends. The mines themselves are worth spending some time in. There is a drop of 1300 feet in one of them, and the Scotchman who thinks he needs a little more calf development before taking to the kilts in this country may find a few ladders in some of the mines help his physical culture. By the time he has done 300ft he feels he has as much calf as a good milch cow. Nature has been kind to Hillgrove and Metz, which is the village across the gorge. The giant mountain slopes, which the trolly traverses in a minute, take nearly an hour to climb by zig-zag paths if one likes to tackle the footwork. There is nothing like Hillgrove at Katoomba or Mount Victoria. Hillgrove is unique, and it is glorious when the mountain mists begin to roll up from a valley and shroud the rugged scenery. The wind tears the veil of mist at times and affords momentary glimpses of the great gorge. The scene is entrancing, and the tourist who has “done” and “been done” in New Zealand, has the satisfaction of knowing that his trip to one of the greatest show places in the northern tablelands has cost him but a few shillings. Honestly, it must be reiterated and beaten into the brain case of the people of this State, who rush away to Tasmania and New Zealand for an annual holiday, that they are missing things at home. No tourist’s education is complete until he has seen Hillgrove.

In passing the traveller’s attention should be directed to the public school at Hillgrove. From this school come the champion drill children of the north, and there is no wonder that they have won the shield in the drill competitions open to the northern districts. Mr. Henry Tonkin, the headmaster of this fine school, has an educational establishment of which the tableland folk may be justly proud. There is a fine gymnasium and beautiful garden and a fernery in the school ground, and a museum inside of the utmost value. Mr. Tonkin has done more to advertise Hillgrove, and, with Mr. Crossman, of Armidale, to advertise the Guy Fawkes country, than any hundred of the residents. Armed with camera, he has climbed into dangerous places to photograph scenes of astonishing loveliness and grandeur, and he has turned these into lantern slides for his school work. His work and record will long live at Hillgrove. Every visitor of note who has been to this school and there are some famous names in the visitors’ book — has placed on record his or her appreciation of what he or she has seen.

The tourist and health seeker will turn his back reluctantly upon Armidale.

Written by macalba

March 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm

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