Tonight, we are in tne Upper Hunter Valley town of Merriwa. We arrived here late this afternoon as the shadows were getting longer after a very comfortable day’s touring through interesting farming country along the meandering Castlereagh Highway from Lithgow.
Our first stop was at the Hartley Historic Village, 20 km from Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. This is a 19th century village on the western edge of the Blue Mountains. It’s located in a small tributary valley of the River Lett and consists of 17 buildings of historic significance. The most impressive is the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse.
Other buildings include. a Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery and the timber and iron Corneys Garage built in 1945.
The village is set among pastures, orchards, native vegetation and the remnants of 19th and 20th century cottage gardens. It was reserved as a historic site for the protection of a substantial and well-preserved remnant of one of the first rural settlements west of the Blue Mountains – one that played a significant role in the development of inland Australia. The National Parks Service office is located in the old Royal Hotel.
This was a false start for us as I realised that I had left my phone back at the motel in which we had stayed. We had an unplanned return to collect it we lost a little over half an hour of travellimg time.
The first major town that we came across was Lithgow, noted for its major power stations and coal mines. The power stations are scheduled to close over the next ten years because of the rush to become environmentally conscious and stop burning coal. The town itself is quite industrilal witnh nothing very interesting in the main straeet other than the the temporary random breath testing station at which a police sergant pulled me over for a random alcohol breath test. Eleven o’clock in the morning is far too early for me to be drinking alcohol!
In the main. street is a sculpture that depicts Marjorie Jackson in full stride. Any Australian of my age will recgnise her as an olympic athlete. She was known as the ‘The Lithgow Flash. ‘She won two Olympic Gold Medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. With those victories she became the first Australian woman to win a gold medal for track and field and the first Australian since 1896 to win an Olympic Gold Medal on the running track.
Much of our route today was lined with Wattle trees in full bloom. I don’t think we have ever seen as many of these bright yellow flowered trees as we have on ths trip. We have also seen dozens of road killed wombats. There is no fear of these marsupials overwhelming the country – they are all lying upside down with their legs in the air after being hit by cars.
In the middle of nowhere, we came across the Ben Bullen railway station. It was built in 1882 and is an example of a small standard roadside station building. It is located away from settlement in an area of farming and mining and is now in isolation at a level crossing site. It must have been staffed in its early days as it has three rooms with the central one complete with fireplace.
At Capertee, we came across a very impressive public toilet. The fiirst impressive thing about it is that it has a stunning mural on the end wall depicting a pair of Regent Honeyeater’s – local birds that are now endangered.
However, the most impressive thing was that in each cubicle, the call of this bird is being played over a speaker. In Japan there are often tinkling tunes played in toilets to conceal bodily noises, but to twinklle to the call of a Regent Honeyeater is something else all together!
By early afternoon, we had reached Mudgee. It is an attractive and sophisticated country town of fine old buildings, located in the broad, picturesque and fertile Cudgegong River Valley. I have always known it as a wine producing area with good oldfashioned heavy red wines known as ‘Mudgee Mud’. It is apparently the third largest wine producimng area in New South Wales.
The remainder of our drive to Merriwa was through broad farming country but it was not quite as scenic as the intersting road from Lithgow. Merriwa is a local Wiradjuri word which is thought to mean ‘grass seeds’ or ‘flour made from grass seeds’.