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5 March 2021 – driving to Orange
Today I am setting off with my friend Marlene, to meet up with Sydney friends Jan and Barb, for a week’s stay in Orange. It is many years since I last visited this beautiful city and we are all looking forward to seeing and doing all the things we have planned. Marlene and I live in Newcastle so we had an early start to drive down the M1, then nervously navigating our way through the new 9km North Connex from Hornsby, on to the M7, then M4, and over the Blue Mountains, passing the villages where we had holidays as children, so lots of memories. We planned to meet up with our friends at Lithgow for a coffee and early lunch, found a friendly cafe and enjoyed some nice food, and caught up with our friends.
I had been looking forward to locating the shop and residence in the main street of Lithgow where many, many years ago we regularly visited my grandparents. My grandfather was a barber and hairdresser and he and my grandmother lived above the hairdressing business. I well remember the cold winter days and nights we spent there. As we were making our way out of Lithgow I saw the building, there was a spot opposite to pull in and park the car, so I had an opportunity to take photographs of the front and back of the building. Brought back many happy memories.
Then it was a very pleasant drive through the countryside on a sunny day, arriving in Orange by early afternoon, and checking in to the Visitors Information Centre for lots of maps and brochures. A supermarket was nearby so we stocked up on some basics and headed off to find our accommodation which was about 4.5 kms from the centre of town. We found the cottage without too much trouble, it is a large four bedroom cottage on 5 acres of land so we anticipate it will be very peaceful and quiet. After settling in we had to make a decision about where to go for dinner.
The effects of COVID-19 linger on and it is necessary to book for dinner, our problem was that the minimum number for most restaurants in town was a booking for 6. However on the first night we drove in to town to the well established Canobolas Hotel, built in 1939 on the site of the earlier Club House Hotel built in 1876. In a crowded hotel we were lucky to find a table, ordered two large pizzas that were delicious, great way to start our holiday!
6 March 2021 – visiting Millthorpe and Blayney
Our first visit today will be to the quaint village of Millthorpe, 23km from Orange, to visit the gallery of painter Ada Clark who is now well into her late 80s. Ada has been working successfully as an artist for nearly 60 years. She has traveled the globe inspired, and inspiring, with her art. She has exhibited in Australia, America and Greece. Her home is in the village of Millthorpe and her gallery is open on Saturdays, other times by appointment. Ada provides tea, coffee and a wonderful home made cake for her visitors, and we found her to be the most inspiring and energetic 80+ year old we have known!
We had a wonderful time with Ada, looking at her art, and purchasing some place mats with images of Ada’s artwork of Millthorpe buildings, and memories of her time overseas. She was interested in our stories, as much as we were interested in hers, and we all feel blessed that we were able to meet such a wonderful and inspiring woman. You can find Ada’s website here https://www.adaclark.com
Millthorpe is a picturesque heritage-listed town, a step back to the 1900s with a contemporary edge. With unchanged 19th century buildings, many now housing fine dining restaurants, sophisticated homewares and boutique accommodation, it is a delight to meander along its streets and explore the shops. After a walk along Pym Street, the main street, we made our way to the old Railway Station, now a cafe, passing another old hotel (above left and right), then wandered back to Pym Street to have lunch at the Old Mill Cafe. We decided to sit in the outdoor section, next to a water feature enjoyed by many birds, and enjoyed our lunch The Cafe is renowned for their decadent cakes, so we purchased the biggest lemon meringue pie (single serve!) and took it home to enjoy later. I loved walking along the streets of Millthorpe with their beautiful flower gardens and trees.
Our next town was Blayney, 11 kms from Millthorpe where we found Athol Gardens, an 1875 homestead set on 5 acres with century old trees, lush lawns, intimate walkways, statues and views across the countryside. It was a delight to walk around this beautiful garden in the warm sunshine, and imagine the people in their beautiful 1800 era clothes walking about these gardens in the 1800s and 1900s. Marlene loved the trees (left).
We later found Generation Buzz, a nursery and garden centre specialising in succulents, my favourite plants as they require so little attention. Could not resist buying a few plants that I don’t already have, and enjoyed looking at the other plants in this interesting shop.
Tonight we had the usual problem of not being able to book a table for 4, however an afternoon visit to Birdie’s Noshery revealed that if we arrived early we would probably have a table. We took this advice and were able to find a table, and enjoyed a great meal, again dining al fresco and watching the passing crowd – many of who were waiting in line at the nearby Gelato Shop! We skipped dessert as we had the delicious lemon meringue pie to devour once we got home.
7 March 2021 – Canowindra and Cudal
Canowindra is our destination for today, 60 kms from Orange. This town lies beside the Belubula river in the beautiful red-earth countryside. It is well known for hot air ballooning and fish fossil discoveries, and today is also an arts and tourism hub in the region. The town’s charming main street has an old-world air, with verandah posts lining its unique curved street. 19th century buildings remain, housing a number of boutique homewares stores, galleries, however it has retained the integrity and character of a classic country town.
In 1955 the town became famous when a 360 million year old fossil was found, and today we saw it among other fascinating exhibits at the amazing Age of Fishes Museum, described by broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who has seen the exhibition, as “world class”. We spent an interesting time in the Museum and gained some knowledge of the time long before the dinosaurs, when the mighty rivers of the Central West teemed with bizarre ancient fishes – fish with armour shells, fish with lungs, and huge predators with jaws like crocodiles. Thousands of their fossils were found at Canowindra and give a unique glimpse into the Devonian Period – the “Age of Fishes”.
The village was fairly quiet as it was a Sunday, but some shops were open, in particular Finns Store that is a Central West destination in itself. Providing a modern take on clothing, furniture, jewellery and local artwork, Finns Store is situated in the faithfully restored T J Finn building, a landmark in the heritage listed “bendy” main street of Canowindra. The store is also renowned for serving local wines, regional roasted coffee and bountiful food.
We certainly took advantage of trying their food for our lunch after having a lovely stroll around looking at the assortment of goods.
We had a few detours on the way to Canowindra, and faced another few on the way back but had an opportunity to see Cudal, a short distance away. It is a quiet, historic village with rich wheat and sheep farming heritage and is diverse in industry. The old EW Corden Store building offers a step back in time to experience rural life as it was over 60 years ago. It remains the best example of early 20th century architecture within the town. It is now the home to the community hub known as The Cabonne Food, Wine and Culture Centre and is home to one of the largest single vineyards in Australia.
On our way back to Orange we called in to the Hilltop Harvest shop where we bought some fruit including apples just picked from the tree and they were delicious. It was a lovely balmy evening so we decided to have crackers, dips, fruit, goodies and wine on the back deck – until the mozzies chased us inside! Great end to an eventful day.
8 March 2021 – Cook Park and Orange CBD
This morning we spent some time in the beautiful Cook Park. This 4.5 hectare parkland in the heart of Orange is named after Captain James Cook and was originally laid out in a traditional Victorian design in 1873 with straight paths and rows of trees, and much of the original design is still in place. This National Trust area is also home to duck ponds, an aviary featuring predominantly native birdlife, the peaceful Lattice Fernery, and for the craft lover there is the Cook Park Guildry. This can be found in “Bastick Cottage” a Victorian style heritage building where you will find a wide range of unique handcrafted goods including pottery, knitting, woodwork, homemade jams and freshly baked goods.
After meandering past the James Dalton Fountain and the Bandstand, one of the first places we visited in the Park was the Blowes Conservatory (a glasshouse donated by Mayor A Blowes and built in 1934 to grow Begonias) where from February to April the begonias are in full bloom. Their beauty made us gasp and the cameras were working overtime!
A walk around the Aviary brought us to the Duck Ponds with an interesting metal artwork in the centre (right), the Frank Mulholland Memorial Garden (dedicated in 1938) (below left), the Fernery (below right built in 1937-38 and restored as a bicentennial project in 1988) and back to the entrance.
There were a few items that we wanted to purchase from the Information Centre in the middle of town, so we made our way there, and after our shopping had lunch in the adjoining cafe Groundstone. The Centre and Cafe are part of the Cultural Centre which includes the Museum, Library, Civic Theatre and Art Gallery. Unfortunately the Art Gallery was being refurbished, so we will have to wait until our next trip. We had been given a few maps to follow the historical spots in the city, so we started off. It had become a very warm day and we had walked a distance (me taking my usual photographs of the beautifully restored buildings), so we decided it was time to go back to our cottage. Tonight we were able to make a booking at the Parkview Hotel where we enjoyed a delicious meal among a very noisy and happy crowd.
9 March 2021 – Molong
Molong was to be our destination today, about 30 kms from Orange. The name Molong is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning “place of many rocks” and is nestled between golden poplars and the rolling green hills of the Macquarie Ranges. It is a picturesque town, surrounded by rich agricultural land known for its production of fine wool, wheat, orchards, vineyards and cattle. The town’s charming main street is an excellent example of Austen-European architecture and it was interesting to see Art Deco buildings in the mix. Molong is also home to the Packham Pear, first cultivated there by Sir Charles Packham in 1896.
Explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell’s indigenous tracker, Yuranigh is buried just out of Molong on the Mitchell Highway towards Orange. A man of special honour, an Aboriginal scarred tree trunk marks this significant grave site that reflects European and Aboriginal interaction.
Again it was a lovely warm day, and on arrival at Molong we met up with a friendly elderly man who told us some news about the town, and his working life on the trains. We have found that most of the people we see and meet in the country towns are so friendly and nice, they smile when they pass you by and often stop for a chat.
We walked up one side of the main street (Bank Street) then crossed over to the other side where we found a community garden, adjacent to a pre-school where the children play a part in keeping the garden. There are two straw scarecrows, made by the children, keeping watch.
Further down the street we discovered the Yarn Market, housed in one of the earliest brick buildings in Molong, built by James Bowler in 1860 when he received a Crown Grant including 79 Bank Street. Since those days the cottage has seen many changes, a local Post Office in 1870-1877, a photography studio, dentist surgery, newsagency and a private home. In 1905 it was purchased by the Cole family whose descendants sold it to the Yarn Market Association in 1972. Many men and women helped to restore this lovely little cottage made with the soft-red hand made bricks. The building is now the Yarn Market Cottage Craft shop. It also has a good range of succulents and I purchased a cigar plant (which I had never heard of before) to add to my collection.
The owner of the business has made a wonderful coach and horses that sits in the shop in all its glory!
Adjacent to the craft cottage is the Coach House for the New Royal Hotel which stood on the Village Green in Molong in 1875. This Cobb & Co Hotel was destroyed by fire in the 1940’s leaving only the beautifully restored Coach House and three original local stone walls of the horse stables.
The building houses the magnificent freestanding embroidered screen comprising four sections, each depicting 50 years of European settlement in the Molong District, and lovingly made by the women of the district. This screen was awarded a silver medallion by the Bi-Centennial Committee for the part it played in the 1988 Bi-Centennial year.
Then it was time for coffee and a snack at Limestone cafe in Bank Street, and we sat at a footpath table and enjoyed watching the passers by and the busy main street. Again a friendly gentleman offered to take our photograph as he was passing by, he and his wife told us they had lived in Brisbane, but had recently located to Molong – and loved the lifestyle!
We had heard about “Animals on Bikes”, a 120 km paddock art sculpture trail displaying 111 two metre high structures on the back road from Molong to Cumnock. The sculptures have been created by local farmers, farmers’ wives, men’s sheds, sculptors, preschool kids and playgroup mums – anyone with an artistic flair! So we headed for Cumnock and discovered and photographed some sculptures and enjoyed the scenery on the way.
On our way back to Orange we drove through Borenore and Nashdale to find Norland Fig Orchard where I was able to purchase a punnet of fresh figs and a jar of Fig and Ginger jam – delish! Back in Orange we had to try out the gelato at “Spilt Milk” and it ticked all the boxes!
For tonight there has been a recommendation that we have dinner at Zona, a beautifully refurbished home in Summer Street, Orange. It is now a beautiful restaurant with first class food and service, and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and surroundings.
10 March 2021
Orange and Surrounds
A visit to Orange Botanic Gardens is our choice for today, and the Agrestic Grocer is a stop on the way. Housed in a semi-industrial, semi-agricultural straw-bale/brick building, the Agrestic Grocer wears its locavore ideology proudly on its sleeve. They stock local fresh produce, a great selection of local wine, jams, preserves, cakes and pastries – the list goes on. After wandering around the premises we decided to have a morning tea of coffee and cake! My choice was a slice of cake topped with a fresh fig, very yummy.
A short drive then found us at the Botanic Gardens and we spent a very pleasant time wandering around this beautiful space on a very warm morning. We really enjoyed the lake, the various sculptures scattered around the gardens, and the beautiful trees. The Gardens is a naturally undulating 17 hectare site featuring an impressive native and exotic plant collection. It was officially opened in 1988 for the Australian Bicentenary with plantings ranging from original native and exotic trees to newly developed displays. There is plenty of room for a picnic or a relaxing stroll. There is also a beautiful glass enclosed cafe area, but as we had eaten at Agrestic Grocer we decided to move on.
Next stop was Lake Canobolas, a beautiful area that must be very busy at weekends and holidays, but the day we visited it was quiet and peaceful with only a few people around. There is a cafe where we intended to have lunch, and although we were told they were about to close for the day, the gentleman kindly made tea/coffee and scones/banana bread for us before he had to leave. After lunch we walked across the bridge, noticed some swimmers taking advantage of the warm weather, took some photographs and meandered back to our car to head for home. We have had the best weather the entire time we have been in Orange, and can’t believe our luck in being able to get out and about in these lovely surroundings.
Tonight was a special celebration for Barb’s “delayed” special birthday. Due to COVID-19 Barb and her family were not able to fulfill the plans they had for her birthday, so we tried to make up for that by having a special dinner at the DuntryLeague dining room. The building (above) was originally a magnificent mansion built by James Dalton in 1876. It is over three levels constructed from bricks made on the property. The features are a magnificent stairway and wrought iron lace embellishments and iron lace portico. The property was sold to Orange Golf Club in 1935 and on 7 March 1946 the Club officially took over the running of the mansion for the purpose of establishing a residential country golf club. The Club still owns and operates the site and buildings. Extensive development work has taken place turning the vast property into a championship eighteen hole golf course.
We had dinner in the dining room, and arrived early enough to watch the sun go down over the beautiful property. The meal was delicious, and we kept the birthday cake until we returned to our accommodation so we could sing Happy Birthday and have a slice of the chocolate birthday cake. A happy end to a lovely day.
Berry Farm and Sisters Rock
This morning we visited Huntley Berry Farm that is situated in the basalt plains of Mount Canobolas where you can arm yourself with a bucket and pick your own berry produce with over eleven berry varieties available throughout the berry season (mid November to May). Set in picturesque farm land, Huntley Berry Farm also provides visitors with ample parking, leveled grass areas with complementary BBQs and picnic benches, and an amenities block. Huntley Berry Farm is an OCTEC-owned and operated Australian Disability Enterprise, as well as a significant contributor to Orange’s reputation for high quality locally grown produce. The farm has long been known for its large variety of berries, which visitors can pick themselves between November and May each year. And now the farm has many other experiences to offer following recent development of its facilities.
We enjoyed wandering around the farm and seeing the way it worked, and Barb purchased a large box of fresh eggs and some vegetables which all looked very healthy and fresh.
Today, our last day in Orange, we planned to have lunch at a winery. Being used to the numerous wineries in the Hunter Valley and the choice of restaurants for meals, I was a little surprised to note that very few of the Orange wineries have restaurants. However we managed to find Sisters Rock Restaurant which is part of Borodell Winery and made our booking for lunch today. It has a wonderful setting on a hill overlooking the landscape including the vines, quite a steep winding road to the top. The restaurant itself is beautifully set out, I was intrigued with their wall of logs which looked great! It was a fixed 3-course menu and the meals were delicious. We had seen the clouds gathering during the morning, and while we were having lunch the skies opened and the rain pelted down, not that it worried us as we were warm and dry inside. The rain stopped in time for us to drive down the steep road and back to Pinnacle Cottage.
Tonight we decided to stay at home and finish off the tasty crackers, dips, fruit etc that we still had, with a glass of wine. Then time to do some packing as we head home tomorrow, and say goodbye to our very comfortable accommodation in Pinnacle Cottage.
12 March 2021
We were up and ready to go by 9.30am and decided to drive into Orange for breakfast at the popular Byng Street Store. The rain had started again, and the cafe was busy, but we managed to find a table and order breakfast, which was very tasty and just what we needed for the long drive home. We said our goodbyes as we will now be going in different directions, and Marlene and I decided to take the alternate road home to Newcastle via Mudgee.
We experienced a fair bit of rain in parts of the drive, but finally arrived in Mudgee where it was reasonably dry, and we walked along the main street to find the Butcher Shop Cafe where we stopped for lunch. On our last leg we went through some heavy rain from time to time, and by the time we reached Singleton we struck the never-ending line of traffic that is usual at that time of the evening, and which I had forgotten. However we managed to get on to the overpass then a trouble free drive to home.
We all agreed that we had a great time in beautiful Orange and the quaint historic surrounding villages, we may not have seen and done everything we wanted to, but isn’t that a great reason for returning to Orange at another time? A scene from the Botanic Gardens (below left) and a roundabout at Byng Street (below right).