RoadTrip2021: Gold rush towns - Wattle Flat, Sofala and Hill End
There are a number of drives which you can take in the Region that will enhance your stay in Lithgow. For further details visit their websites or contact the Lithgow Visitor Information Centre. It describes some of the nature-based trails to explore around Lithgow which have also been described in brief in this guide: Greater Blue Mountains Drive The Greater Blue Mountains Drive is a network of touring routes along the roads and highways of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Lithgow is centrally located in the heart of the Drive with roads leading from the south from Oberon and Goulburn, north from Rylstone and Muswellbook and east from Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Maps and a book are available from Visitor Centres. The book also outlines Discovery Trails around the Lithgow area. The heritage village of Mt Victoria is worth a stop with tea rooms, a picture theatre and hotels. On the other side of the highway, a drive along the Shipley Plateau reveals further lookouts.
The road down into the Megalong Valley goes through the rainforests of Blackheath Glen before opening up under the escarpments. Wind your way through rural pasturelands, native and pine forests and down a scenic mountain to Jenolan Caves, one of the oldest cave systems in the world. There are walking tracks in external caves and along the river and you can choose from any number of cave tours.
From Jenolan take the road towards Oberon and turn off to the Kanangra-Boyd National Park to view an metre deep gorge with towering cliffs and rolling blue ridges 40km unsealed road. The town of Oberon is the highest town in the Blue Mountains Region and provides a restful place to stop. Wind your way back to Lithgow after a busy day. If you want more time to explore, why not stay over and make sure that you see everything there is to see.
Spend another day and make the journey past Mount Werong to the old silver-lead-zinc mining village of Yerranderie km unsealed road total. Check road conditions with Oberon Visitor Centre. Take the turn off to Blue Mtns Drive 5 just west of Katoomba and travel around the escarpments of the Jamieson Valley stopping at lookouts along the way. This road takes you to the Three Sisters and then on to Leura and Wentworth Falls where you find more lookouts.
Bushwalks and waterfalls are a feature, so take your time. Katoomba, Leura and Wentworth Falls are full of cafes and restaurants, along with speciality shops. You can spend the whole day exploring nature or, if you prefer, spend a relaxing day in the shops and cafes.
Hunter Valley to Bathurst – 2nd March
The first town was Wattle Flat, but it can hardly be called a town now. By , the population had fallen to around I spent about an hour sketching here. This is rather an eclectic page but it was fun to do. Generally I prefer a raw sienna colour as it creates grey when mixed with blue rather than green, but at the moment I want a more yellowish earth colour.
It is a gorgeous little town with narrow streets and lots of heritage buildings! Before planning this trip I had not heard of Sofala before, but these paintings by Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend were familiar. The top photo is roughly the same view… but when I was on location I was facing the other direction when trying to find the view. There was a lot to sketch but as the road was narrow and cars coming and going I found it hard to find a spot to sit and sketch.
Here is my almost finished spread. Since taking this photo I extended my notes down the full column as a background to the rusty bushranger and it looks much better.
When I used these books in big Europe trip I found that I often filled double page spreads with a single sketch. I seem to be generally working smaller so far this trip. Hill End Final stop for the day was Hill End. However I did meet a fellow sketcher! This day was my first solo sketching day since Chris left, so it was super fun to meet Errol from QLD and sketch with him. Small world! The next morning I got up early and guess who was already sketching at the spot I had decided on? This cottage is a favourite to photograph due to its fence!
When I got up after I finished my sketch what did I see behind me… First kangaroo of the trip! I did a quick drive around the town and the afternoon before I had gone through the visitor centre but I made the decision not to do too much in Hill End. I want to keep it for another visit! And finally here is my finished spread from a short sketching session in the morning. Visiting these three gold rush towns was a lovely way to start the solo sketching part of my trip.
No expense has been spared in this tasteful development. The day is crisp, but dry with a cloudless, incredibly vibrant blue sky. After a light breakfast we drove into Mudgee, thirty kilometres back down the road. Mudgee is popular for weekends away. It has re-invented itself as a food and wine destination.
We wanted to look a bit deeper, so we were armed with a map from the historical society which suggested two city walks and gave the background of the buildings we were seeing.
One of the first buildings was the court house, with a number of people milling around. It turned out that the magistrate was having her morning tea break and everyone had been sent outside while she had ten minutes to herself. I have put it on my bucket list to go sit in the local courthouse and eavesdrop on what happens just so long as I am not the one having to answer probing questions. It was manned by one of the researchers from the Mudgee Family History Society, so if we had ancestral connections with this area, she would have been very happy to help us with some advice.
It is nice to know in case we ever go to another country area of relevance. Bill had a female convict ancestor who arrived on the Lady Juliana, a ship remarkable for having a full complement of women prisoners — around of them. She was convicted of stealing a gown, 5 caps and other items of clothing.
Technically, the Lady Juliana was not part of the second fleet, but it took so long getting here, that it was overtaken en route. Why did it take so long?
Accom. Update & How To Get To Mudgee – Directions & Travel Times From Sydney And The Central West
Well, there was a book written about the journey, and the title is: The Floating Brothel. We took particular note that there was no graffiti on any part of our walks. The second walk led us around the city centre. It seems that Mudgee is based around two main streets in a cross, with lesser streets criss-crossing them in a grid.
The roads are very straight, wide and neat, not at all like Gulgong, which twists and turns and is incredibly narrow. There are some fine, solid buildings in Mudgee with one Art Deco in the mix and two churches in the centre of town on opposite corners, one Anglican and the other Catholic. Both are very impressive buildings, almost like small cathedrals.
Mooching around Mudgee, Hill End and Sofala
When we went inside the Anglican church to see their stained glass windows, it was a thrill to discover that the organist was practising, and so we were honoured with a private concert. In the middle of the cross-road there is a monument with a clock tower at the top that serves as the war memorial.
Standing here and looking east-west or north-south, one gets a good view of the commercial length of Mudgee, and it is striking to notice that the township is surrounded by green-brown hills on all sides. It is a little oasis of stability cut from an expanse of scrub and bush. We sloped off to one of the fine restaurants in town, for a slap up bistro lunch.
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There were many to choose from. Mudgee is extremely cosmopolitan now. Much transformed from my forty year old memories. Lunch must have left us rather mellow, because on an impulse afterwards, Bill offered that we could drive out to Hill End. Hill End is yet another town that had its heyday during the gold rush. It is also possible that it was chosen by someone dreaming of great wealth because some sources identify Sofala as the home of the Queen of Sheba and as an unidentified place associated with Ophir which, in the Bible's Old Testament, was a place famous for its fine gold.
The highlights of the walking tour include: Historical Walking Tour It is a single sheet guide to the village which is available from shops around town and from the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre. Royal Hotel Built in although some sources insist it was opened in - more accurately the first Royal Hotel in Sofala opened on 7 Octoberthe Royal Hotel is a typical goldfields hotel.
It still offers accommodation. Tel: 02 General Store With its interesting lacework and its weatherboard construction the General Store in Denison Street is one of the town's most notable buildings. It was built in the s to meet the needs of the local miners.
Oddfellows Hall Typical of many villages at the time, Sofala had a strong Oddfellows Friendly Society which encouraged locals to join in social events.
The simple timber building dates from Weatherboard Cottage Located in Denison Street next to the Oddfellows Hall is a low-lying early cottage with a veranda reaching into the street. It is very typical of the cottages built during the gold boom in and around the town. Post Office Building Now a combination of cafe, general store and private residence, the Post Office was built in and continued operating until It is a gracious two-storey brick building.
Police Station The town's old police station, on the corner of Barkly Street and Davis Street, has been a private house since the s. Catholic Convent Across on the hillside beyond Davis Street can be seen an elegant two storey building which started life as a Catholic Convent and became the town's Presbytery in It is now a private residence.
Gas Hotel This hotel, in Bowen Street, dates from late and, because the foundations are timber stumps which have sunk over time, the building looks as though it was knocked together by a very drunk carpenter. Gold Commissioners Residence The Gold Commissioners Residence is the handsome two storey timber building between Bowen and Denison Streets, there are front and rear verandas and balconies and inside it has a large, open fire place designed to heat the whole house.
Court House This building has changed function three times. It was built in as a court house. By it had become the local hospital and in the early s it became the Community Health Centre. It is a distinctive building standing at the end of Denison Street and dominating the streetscape. Cafe Sofala Dating back to the age of the goldrush this building, now a cafe, has had a chequered career. It started as a blacksmith's shop and evolved into a service station.