Before leaving Merriwa this morning, we made a quick visit to the painted silo near the old railway station. It depicts a flock of sheep in a canola field with the leading sheep wearing red socks. These silos were painted relatively recently in 2019. The reason for the sheep wearing red socks is because of the ‘Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces’. In a parade through tne main street of the town called ‘Running of the Sheep’, the sheep wear red socks. The origins of this strange event comes from the time when one sponsor gave the committee a pair of red socks rather than a cash donation and the committee decided to put the socks on the sheep.
For most of the day, our travels today took us through some fine grazing country. We had a pleasant drive as we meandered through the countryside.
The first major town that we came across was the town of Scone. It is an important rural centre on the New England Highway. It is known as ‘The Horse Capital of Australia’ and claims to be the second-largest horse breeding area in the world, after Kentucky in the United States. The town and the district have a large number of significant historic buildings and we found it very interesting to drive through the district and admire the huge horse studs. There are many millions of dollars invested in horse flesh (let alone the outstanding properties) in Scone and its surrounding towns.
We were excited to come across a small coffee trailer on the road into Scone. Even though we had packed a thermos flask, a cup of real coffee was irresistible. We had a good conversation with the man who was running it and complemented him on his coffee and its presentation. His car was exceptionaly clean and looked just as if it come out of the showroom. It turned out that he had only picked it up yesterday afternoon from being repaired.
Driving on to Tamworth, we passed through more intersrting country, leapfroging large transports as we stopped to take photos and they passed us again.
Tamworth was another major town / city along the way. Over the past four decades Tamworth has become synonymous with country music. It is now known as ‘The Country Music Capital of Australia’ and the combination of a Big Guitar, the huge Country Music Festival (reputedly the second largest in the world and the Country Music Hall of Fame has ensured that the city can offer days, even weeks, of country music-flavoured activities.
We stopped to have a look at the Tamworth Railway Station which was built in 1881-82. This station is significance because it is in close to its original condition with just the addition of a landscaped forecourt area. The station building is an excellent example of a 19th century station. It has three classical gables projecting from the main platform wing. Between each was a cast iron veranda, now in-filled with masonry construction except for the central bay which retains its original veranda.
To not visit the Country and Western Hall of Fame would be like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. This intersting museum type facility contains stage clothing from famous Australian country artists as well as the instruments they played, posters and photographs relating to their careers. The musicians featured range from early country stars like Buddy Williams and Smoky Dawson through to Troy Cassar-Daley, Beccy Cole and Adam Harvey. I’m not into country music in a big way although I do enjoy some short occasional bursts of this musical genre. I know most of the old singers and musicians much more than the contemporary artists.
Nearby, on the New England Highway is the tourist information centre that includes a Wax Museum and a Collectors Museum.
On the final hundred kilometres, or so, to Armidale we were slowed down by a series of roadworks where the highway was being rebuilt. The sceneray along the Macdonald River at Bemberdee was very enticing. We stopped there for a cuppa before completing our day’s drive, arriving in Armidale in the New England Region for an overnight stop.