5 October 2016
Our plan today is to visit the quaint town of Narromine, and on our return to Dubbo to call in to the National Trust property, Dundullimal Homestead. We set out under a clear and cloudless day, sun shining, and we really enjoyed the drive. Of course once we arrived in Narromine, our first stop was for a coffee (and cake) at the local bakery.
Narromine is located near the Macquarie River at the eastern edge of the vast western plains of NSW. It is 39 km west of Dubbo and 458 km north-west of Sydney, at the junction of the Mitchell and Newell Highways, 235 metres above sea-level. The Narromine silo, owned by the New South Wales Grain Corporation, dominates the town. Wheat, citrus, fruit, vegetables, fat lambs, wool and especially cotton are the economic focus of the shire. Narromine promotes itself as the ‘Town of Champions’ due to the fact that a number of well-known sportspersons were born here, including sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, cricketer Glenn McGrath (above) and footballer David Gillespie.
After our coffee stop we made our way to the Narromine aerodrome a short drive out of town. Gliding and flying attract large numbers of people to the area every year. The local aerodrome houses the nation’s oldest country aero club. The club, which has played host to personalities as diverse as Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Chuck Yeager and Nancy Bird Walton was established shortly after World War I. Over 2000 pilots were trained here during World War II when the aerodrome was commandeered by the Department of Defence.
Pete especially enjoyed going through the museum, seeing the collection of aeroplanes, and reading the history of the aerodrome and the part it played in training pilots during World War II. After a pleasant hour of browsing around the museum, we headed back to Narromine township to explore the park with the statue of Glenn McGrath, and the war memorial, opposite the old Court House Hotel (built 1899) (below left) and the Imperial Hotel (built 1830) (below right), before making our way south to the Iris Farm.
4 km south of Narromine, on Parkes Rd, is the delightful Narromine Iris Farm with over 700 different tall bearded iris, as well as Louisiana and Spuria iris, daylilies, cannas and geraniums. There is a pleasant shaded picnic area and visitors are welcome to bring a packed lunch and enjoy a free cuppa. The flowering season is from mid-September to November.
The owner of the farm gave us a private tour of the gardens, first of all a large shed where she housed her collection of just about anything you can imagine, together with a collection that belonged to her mother. The walk around the garden was a real joy, the flowers are exquisite and the colours blew my mind, I could have stayed there for ages.
However time waits for no man, and we headed back toward Dubbo in the late afternoon to visit the National Trust property of Dundullimal Homestead. Believed to be the oldest sophisticated slab house in Australia, Dundullimal and its sandstone stables, timber church, and shed are a living illustration of rural life on an isolated property. Its story is one of amazing endeavour and vision, evidenced in the creation of a finely-crafted vintage home. The homestead has survived in near original condition from a time when the land was beyond the limits of settlement in the Wellington valley.
Built in the early 1840s as the head station of a 6,500 hectare (26,000 acres) squatting run, the homestead is Dubbo’s oldest building that is open to the public. Its interior is remarkably sophisticated for its genre, with louvres and multiple-pane glazed openings onto the verandah. The imposing sitting room is noted for its ‘tent’ shaped plaster ceiling and wallpaper, reproduced from an 1850 patent. The master bedroom is complete with an iron bed and a campaign chest.
The house is an interesting contrast to the traditional sandstone stables complex. The ‘working’ areas include the blacksmith’s forge, coach room, sunken cool room, stores and stables. This building reflects the practical yet essential elements of rural life on a large, isolated property during the nineteenth century.
The 1870’s timber church replaces a church originally on the site and was consecrated in 1872 in the nearby township of Timbrebongie and moved around the district to end up at Dundullimal in 2013. We had made time for a late afternoon devonshire tea that was a special treat.
This evening we visited a lovely Thai restaurant that was a short walk from the motel. Delicious meal, plus dessert of apple pie and cream – how decadent (and delicious)!