282. Sunday 18th November 2012. Exploring New England…

Lots of photos this week

Monday 12th November

Woke to a clear sunny morning with birdsong. The howling winds of the last two days was replaced with a gentle freezing breeze.

You might recall in post 280, I mentioned the house was reportedly haunted almost 100 years ago.

Last night as I was sorting text and photos to include in the blog I heard a bit of a thump. Hmmm! It must be Toto the dog so I got up and went in search of her. She was asleep on her favourite cushion.

Hmmm! Toto often growls menacingly at something I cannot see until she goes in search of whatever it was bothering her or she settles down and goes back to doggy sleep.

I settled down to typing once more and there went the sound again. Toto was still asleep. Now let me just set a bit more of the scene. The house is cold. Always. I was suitably dressed in several layers and was not cold so much as reasonably comfortable. The strange noise came again. Hmmm! I locked the two doors to the outside world. Then another strange noise and although I was not thinking ghosts, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end and a tingling cold sensation started at the back of my head and spread across my shoulders down both arms to my fingertips. Then it started in my hips and down my legs to my feet. As well as tingling and cold I felt paralysed and I could no longer type or use the mouse. A strange buzzing commenced in my head (no, it was not the tinnitus I live with 24/7) NOW the thoughts of a haunted house came into my mind along with the thought that locking the doors would only make my exit slower. Thoughts of a cozy doona onboard WWWGO also entered my mind but what to do with Toto the dog? No way was she sharing with me. Eventually the tingling cold numbness subsided and I felt calm.

Calm and umm err rational.

Maybe I was up late and overtired.

Maybe it was the persistent strong winds.

Maybe it was that darned freezer in the sun room. The freezer that cycles on and off 24/7 and sounds like an out of tune unmuffled tractor.

Maybe it was possums or birds or rats or whatever in the roof. After all, the eaves are not sealed and anything could get in there. Even giant Pythons

Maybe it was the house settling.

I published the blog and set about turning off the computer and lights.

The bedroom is cold. Cold 24/7. Tonight it felt colder and maybe, just maybe a little menacing. Toto the dog slept on. OK so if she can sleep, her sixth sense is not bothering her so why should numbing cold and tingling and hair standing on end bother me?

I crawled into bed with the doona pulled up around my ears and as I finally drifted off to sleep my last thought was, I hope Toto does not jump up on the bed during the night!

The above was typed this morning in the near warmth of the sunroom. The sun was shining directly on the windows and onto me but it seemed to have no warmth in it. Toto was asleep in the sunlight and woke growling at something only she can see, hear or sense, her nose twitching, her nostrils flared then she lay down again after a yawn and a stretch.

With the sun in the sky and a nice day offering I decided to visit Captain Thunderbolts Cave.

Even from 200 metres away it is still not easy to see the cave.It is the darker area in the mid right of the photo.

Captain Thunderbolt was a bushranger.   http://www.nedkellysworld.com.au/bushrangers/ward_f.htm

He probably holds the record for the most holdups. He also seems to have been able to find natural hideouts. Once I turned off the highway the track quickly deteriorated to a sort of paved track made from hand sized stones. The walk from the carpark to the cave was down a steep thickly wooded hillside covered on those hand sized stones and a natural walking hazard.

This is /was Captain Thunderbolts Cave. There are places where a man can stand upright. Note the remains of a fire at the back of the cave then see the following photo.

From the rocks above the cave entrance is this natural chimney ideal for getting smoke out of the cave.

I found the cave and thought two, umm err thoughts.

Bushranging was a poorly paid occupation with no holiday pay, no superannuation, no sick leave and terrible conditions. The housing was less than desirable and does not have that location, location, location factor.

The other thought was Captain Thunderbolt must have been a skilled horseman and bushman in order to find the cave and use it for a hideout. One of many actually.

Basically life was pretty tough for the average farmer or even the local townsfolk but bushrangers really had a difficult life.

At the cave I could hear the traffic climbing the New England Highway over the steep range known as Devils Pinch. Perhaps the cobbled track I came in on was the original road through the area. The area is quite isolated and thickly wooded and it amazes me how anybody found it in the first place and then somehow managed to find his way back many times. (I later spoke with a local who has lived here all her life, now in her 70’s, she believes that rough track, which appears to have been an early cobbled road is the original horse and buggy road from Armidale)

Apart from three or four insignificant signs and a rough slippery track, finding the cave is not that easy. There are no interpretive signs, posters or protective fences around the site. There are no toilets, shops or other signs of a national folklore icon (heroic or otherwise). If this was an American outlaw there would be paved carparks, concrete pathways, safety railings, ranger station and hot food outlet and souvenir shop.

Sigh!

On the way back to Guyra I stopped at the cemetery and looked for old headstones. ( no, I was not looking for Captain Thunderbolts grave, he is interred at Uralla to the west of Armidale.) I was only able to find one headstone prior to 1900. What became obvious was the hard life in the early days of 1900 with many children’s graves.

A lonely isolated grave at the Guyra Cemetery.

Tree within the Cemetery with worn down volcanic plug, Tabletop Mountain, in the background.

In the afternoon I did some walking around town to see what caught my eye.

Anglican Church built from local bricks. Many other buildings and churches in the district are also built from this distinctive austere brick.

Guyra has an annual Lamb and Potato Festival in January each year. This statue was erected to commemorate the event. The little football shaped items below the sheeps belly are potatoes.

Tuesday 13th November

Today I took a 160 klm round trip to the village of Ebor and nearby Ebor Falls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebor_Falls

The drive commenced with vistas of rolling hills which are reminiscent of the steep rolling hills of the High Plains Country of the NSW Alps in the Kosciusko National Park near Kiandra. On one side of the road were the hills into the distance and on the other were thickly wooded slopes. On arrival at Ebor I was amazed to find a sheer valley carved out of the rock by the Guy Fawkes River.

Valley carved by the Guy Fawkes River at Ebor.

As well I was not expecting to find any water over the falls despite the heavy rain over the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised.

Ebor Falls including upper and lower falls.

Ebor Lower Falls.

Ebor Upper Falls which themselves are comprised of two falls.

Ebor is located on the western edge of the Ebor Volcano which last erupted 18 million years ago. It also explains why on the drive here I could see what appears to be the remnants of volcanic plugs in the distance.

Lunch was a hamburger (the old fashioned type where you need two hands to hold it while the juices, including beetroot and sauces run down your arms to the elbows) and a chocolate milkshake at the Fusspots Café.

The Fusspots Cafe. Probably the cleanest and most inviting place to eat in Ebor.

While lunching I saw photos of a Kangaroo in the water at the top of Upper Ebor Falls. Have a look here   http://www.seenaustralia.com.au/2012/08/hopping-across-ebor-falls/

Then go to the Gallery then Wildlife section.

It has been a long time since this bowser was used. The price of the last sale was 17.75 cents per litre! Up the road at the only petrol station in town the price is now $1.57.9 cents per litre.

While in Ebor I visited the local cemetery and viewed the assortment of grand and simple graves.

Thick lichen encrusted fence around the cemetery.

Interesting grave. Enlarge the photo to read the inscription but look carefully and you can see a bas relief depiction of a Jackaroo.

During the night while watching a movie I could see flashes of light which at first I thought was somebody with a torch. After the movie the flashes were happening more often. I went outside to look and an almighty thunderclap and lightning bolt shook the ground and set Toto barking incessantly. I checked to ensure TERIOS moonroof and WWWGO hatches were closed. I went to sleep with the sound of thunder but no rain.

Wednesday 14th November

In the morning I went to the doctor and had some sun cancers and a skin tag – all on my face – burned with liquid nitrogen. The skin tag was beside my nose near my eye. I have never squeezed my eyes closed shut so tightly before.

In the arvo I drove out of town looking for the volcanic feature known as Chandlers Peak. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Tablelands

I followed the weathered signs until I came to a farm gate. Although the peak was now within walking distance, access was via private property and on properties out here it is better to have an invitation or advance notice of your arrival. So…I got as close as discretion and valour would allow.

Chandlers Peak. If you enlrge the photo and look carefully at the top you can see a Trig Station.

Could this be an old shepherds hut?

Afterwards I took another walk around Guyra to view parts I have not previously taken any notice of.

I cannot help making comparisons between the New England district and the Illawarra District where we spent a couple of months earlier this year. Both are volcanic in origin and both have the rich volcanic soil. Both have lots of rocks which keep pushing themselves out of the soil and which the farmers harvest. The soil is similar in both districts although the Illawarra has been used mainly for cattle, dairy farming and potato growing while in Guyra the land was used for sheep and potato growing. The Illawarra is prone to more frequent rains whereas the New England suffers from a drier climate and snowfall in winter.  In the Illawarra, especially around Kiama the rocks are used to make dry stone fencing around the hills. Here some farmers have done the same although the fences are not as well made. Most farmers are content to just throw the stones into a heap. Either way they are a haven for snakes.

Local dry stone wall workmanship.

Late in the arvo the black clouds rolled in, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled and several showers passed through.

Hmmm! It seem Guyra has more than its fair share of lightning. Perhaps it’s the height and the volcanic ironstone which is an attractant. I have encountered several places where lightning seems to strike a place more often than neighbouring districts.

Thursday 15th November

Greg T came with me to Armidale when I went to do my weekly shopping expedition. I took the opportunity to stroll along the Armidale main shopping precinct and enjoy the mall.

Armidale open air mall.

Many fine examples of early architecture have been maintained in the town.

Armidale Courthouse.

Armidale Post Office

Armidale Commercial Bank of Australia Limited building.

This is also an Armidale bank building. Not sure which.

A fine example of Federation style cast iron lacework on this old pub.

A more modern pub in the Art Deco style probably built in the 1930’s.

It started out as a warm day and quite hot by midday and then the black clouds rolled in. In the afternoon, back at Guyra the power went out for a couple of minutes. Most likely due to the thunder and lightning in the district.

Friday 16th November.

Another quiet day devoted to cutting the grass (I almost said “lawn” instead of grass but lawn is too tidy a word to describe the grass) and doing a bit of housework. HoHum. A mans work is never done.

Saturday 17th November.

Another day just like yesterday. No plans to go and visit historical and or natural sites. Instead I spent some time cutting the grass – again. Storm clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. The storm began with just the distant rolling of thunder then fat drops of cold rain began. The rain got heavier and the lightning more frequent and closer and thunder shaking the house. Toto got aggressive and ran outside to bark at the thunder. It was a good afternoon to spend time reading or watching a movie. Which I did. After dark Toto changed and suddenly found the lightning flashes with thunder was a little frightening and instead of barking she became my shadow, following me with tail between her legs. The rain continued and when I went to bed after 11pm there was still lightning and thunder.

Sunday 18th November.

Woke at 5.45am and there was still thunder, lightning and rain. By 9am all three had stopped and the same made a brief appearance before midday. While I had sunshine I drove to the village of Ben Lomond about 25 klms north of Guyra.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Lomond,_New_South_Wales

Abandoned house on the Ben Lomond Road.

Astute readers may recollect we were in Ben Lomond early December 2010 but apart from a quick visit with the Taylor Tribe we did not write much about the village. For good reasons too. Apart from a sign on the highway pointing to BL and another sign saying it is an historic village and other signs giving the height above sea level as being 1,350 metres to 1,530 metres, there is not much to see. The only store closed in 2007, the railway shut down 20 years before that and I saw only one person cutting the grass in a front yard. I did see a trig point on Big Brother Mountain  but could not find a road or track to take me to it.

Big Brother Mountain Trig Station.

The imposing Anglican Church stands in a large field surrounded by trees and no access road or pathway. Hmmm!

Overgrown Anglican Church. Note this and the Catholic church are built out of the same brick as was used in Guyra churches.

Ben Lomond Catholic church at the foot of Big Brother Mountain.

The BL Railway Station is in pretty poor condition but nonetheless is still an historical site.

Overgrown Ben Lomond Railway Station.

An interesting letterbox at Ben Lomond.

On my way home I stopped at the Guyra Railway Station which is not in as bad condition as BL but nowhere near the condition of Black Mountain which I visited earlier this week.

Guyra Railway Station.

The sun stayed out all afternoon  and the clouds drifted away. The University of New England has a book, one of only eight in the state, that I very much want to gather information from. That could be a project for next week.

See you then.

I am looking forward to your comment. Any questions.

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