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‘My Country’: A Literary & Artistic Journey through New England and the Hunter Valley 2021

Status: waitlist

7 Feb – 19 Feb 2021

Overview

‘My Country’: A Literary & Artistic Journey through New England and the Hunter Valley 2021
Tour Highlights

…I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror-
The wide brown land for me!…

Dorothea Mackellar, My Country

Join literary expert Susannah Fullerton, President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, and award-winning artist David Henderson on a journey through New England and the Hunter Valley, to explore how the Australian landscape has exerted a powerful influence on Australian literature and painting.

  • At the Art Gallery of New South Wales view the Streeton Exhibition described as ‘the most significant retrospective of Australian impressionist artist Arthur Streeton ever held’.
  • Explore the work of the Heidelberg School and the development of Australian landscape painting with visits to the New England Regional Art Museum, the Newcastle Art Gallery, and the vibrant Maitland Regional Art Gallery.
  • In Inverell a local historian will guide us to locations of Tom Roberts’ famous works: ‘Bailed up’ and ‘A Corner of the MacIntyre’we also visit the private Lilburn Station where we meet with Tim Hughes whose great-grandparents knew Tom Roberts well.
  • At the University of New England’s Dickson Library view selected works from the George Atkinson Collection including letters from such famous literary figures as Thomas Hardy, W B Yeats, George Moore, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Rupert Brooke, and A E George Russell. We also visit the University of Newcastle’s Auchmuty Library which includes rare books printed from William Morris’ Kelmscott Press, and by special invitation, we view the private library of Mr Robert Cameron, OA, at his historic home, Bolwarra House.
  • In Tenterfield visit St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church where Banjo Paterson married Alice Walker, and Tenterfield Station Homestead where they first met. We also tour the award-winning country gardens of Glenrock designed by Carolyn Robinson.
  • Explore the life and work of Sir William Dobell, renowned Australian portrait and landscape artist. We view his work at the Art Gallery of NSW and Newcastle Art Gallery, and tour his home and studio on the shores of Lake Macquarie.
  • Dorothea Mackellar was inspired by the harsh beauty of the family-owned country properties she visited in the Gunnedah area and the Paterson Valley. We explore the inspiration for her poem My Country, with a visit to The Mackellar Centre in Gunnedah, and a talk by Val Anderson, co-author of The Dorothea Mackellar My Country Paterson Valley Connection.
  • Visit sites associated with poet, Judith Wright, including Thalgarrah Station where she was born, and Point Lookout in the New England National Park, where she camped with her father.
  • View the work of renowned architect, John Horbury Hunt, at Ollera’s St Bartholomew’s Church, and at Booloominbah, former home of Patrick White’s great uncle, Frederick White. We also tour the magnificent, historic homestead of Saumarez, owned by the White family.
  • Attend the Glen Innes Show, considered one of the best Agricultural Shows in New South Wales.
  • Join author Richard Anderson for a talk on crime and history in the bush. Richard, a second-generation farmer, is author of three rural crime novels: Retribution, Boxed and Small Mercies.
  • Visit the private studio of James Drinkwater, a Newcastle-based abstract painter who won the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2014.
  • Spend 2 nights at Goonoo Goonoo Station, a working cattle station offering luxury accommodation in historic buildings dating from the 1830s. Sample the local produce at their restaurant while enjoying the incredible views over the rolling hills and distant Liverpool Range.
  • Enjoy a farewell meal at Bistro Molines where we are joined by crime novelist Barry Maitland, author of the acclaimed Brock and Kolla series, Bright Air and the Belltree Trilogy. Barry will give us a pre-dinner talk which explores the role of landscape in fiction.
13-day Literary Tour of New England and the Hunter Valley

Overnight Windsor (1 night) • Goonoo Goonoo Station (2 nights) • Glen Innes (4 nights) • Armidale (3 nights) • Pokolbin (2 nights)

Itinerary

Itinerary

The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. At the time of publication (August 2020) most visits had been confirmed. While several are accessible to the public, others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2021.

The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

Windsor – 1 night

Day 1: Sunday 7 February, Sydney – Freeman’s Reach – Windsor
  • Art Gallery NSW: Curator-led tour of the Australian Art Collection
  • Art Gallery NSW: Streeton Exhibition
  • Streeton Lookout & In the Steps of the Masters Trail, Freeman’s Reach
  • Welcome Dinner

We begin with a curator led tour of the gallery’s Australian Art Collection to explore how the Australian landscape has exerted a powerful influence on Australian painting. Dating from the early 1800s, the collection includes iconic paintings by Eugene von Guérard, Bertram Mackennal, WC Piguenit, Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder, along with 20th-century artists such as Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Lloyd Rees, Jeffrey Smart, John Olsen, Robert Klippel, James Gleeson, Fred Williams, John Brack and Brett Whiteley.

Throughout this tour we discuss some of the relationships that existed between key writers and artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Patrick White dedicated his first novel Happy Valley to De Maistre and acknowledged his influence on his writing. White collected many of De Maistre’s paintings which he later donated to the Art Gallery of NSW. He was also a friend of Sidney Nolan, whom he sent to Stockholm in 1973 to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature on his behalf.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the museum’s café we view the Streeton Exhibition described as ‘the most significant retrospective of Australian impressionist artist Arthur Streeton ever held’.  The exhibition, features over 150 works from private and public collections, including works not exhibited for over 100 years. In addition to works he completed overseas, we will view sun-drenched impressionist landscapes from the 1880s including depictions of Sydney Harbour in the 1890s, and pastoral paintings from the 1920s and 30s.

In the late afternoon we depart for the historic town of Windsor, set on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. English author, Anthony Trollope, who arrived in Sydney in August 1871, spent 2 days on the Hawkesbury. He compared this river to the Rhine and the Mississippi, and decided that it was “more enchanting” than either of them. He found the “river scenery as lovely as any which I ever beheld”. Several members of the much-loved Heidelberg School painted here, including Charles Conder who spent two weeks in Richmond and North Richmond in August, 1888.

Before arriving in Windsor we follow the ‘In the Steps of the Masters Trail’, which includes the Streeton Lookout at Freeman’s Reach. Streeton’s world famous painting The purple noon’s transparent might (the title comes from a poem by Shelley) was painted off the park on Terrace Road near this lookout in 1896 – the view is much the same today as it was when he painted it.  The painting is displayed in the National Gallery of Victoria which quotes Streeton’s recollections of painting it:

“The glory of the river and plain spread before me. Far below were the tops of river-oaks, and water like the blue of a black opal. The brightness of noon, the power of deep blue, the flies, and the temperature now 108 degrees, wrought me to a pitch of excitement. The atmosphere, 10 degrees higher than my own temperature, crept round my face like a flame; and it seemed like working in a fiery trance. I paused and found that in two hours, two thirds of my canvas was covered with paint. I had stamped my big impression upon it; I had made my picture.”

As we follow the trail we can compare copies of other masters’ paintings with the views of the Hawkesbury River and the Blue Mountains in the distance.

We then drive on to Windsor, “a quaint little place, inhabited by old settlers who came to this district as being singularly fertile” and where “the inhabitants must surely be web-footed”. Today Windsor is one of the most historic towns of NSW. We will enjoy our first meal together at the hotel’s restaurant which specialises in contemporary Australian cuisine. (Overnight Windsor) D

Goonoo Goonoo Station – 2 nights

Day 2: Monday 8 February, Windsor – Ebenezer – Muswellbrook – Scone – Goonoo Goonoo
  • Church and the Schoolmaster’s House, Ebenezer
  • Lunch at the Hunter Belle Cheese Café, Muswellbrook
  • Rural town of Scone

This morning we begin with a visit to the historic village of Ebenezer and explore the church, built in 1809 and the oldest church still standing in Australia. We will also visit the schoolmaster’s house erected in 1817, now displaying photographs and memorabilia of the area, and the cemetery which was the first Presbyterian cemetery in the country.

Mid-morning we continue north to the Upper Hunter famous for its olive oils, mouth-watering handmade cheeses and thoroughbred horses. Many fine writers have lived and worked in this area. Australia’s Nobel Laureate, Patrick White, spent much of his childhood at Belltrees, a grand Federation country house near Grundy. Poet Judith Wright, and Barbara Baynton (known for her short stories about life in the bush), lived for a time at Murrurundi. The charming colonial town of Muswellbrook, is where Donald Horne, author of The Lucky Country was raised; his father was a teacher at the local school. His early life was recounted in the first volume of his memoirs The Education of Young Donald (1967) in which he describes growing up in a society where the big landholders, including the Whites and Patrick White’s cousins, were on top. Next door to him lived a boy and girl, ‘the Cheese family’, with whom he used to play.

We will sample Muswellbrook’s famous cheese during lunch at the Hunter Belle Cheese Café before continuing north to the rural town of Scone. Mark Twain visited Scone on December 19, 1895 as part of his world lecture tour and recited his new Australian poem A Sweltering Day in Australia at the School of Arts there.

We spend 2 nights at the historic Goonoo Goonoo Station (pronounced gunny gun-oo), a working cattle station located in the fertile Peel Valley, which was the headquarters of the Australian Agricultural Company from 1833 until 1985.  The station homestead includes a historical pastoral village comprising the original 1830s chapel, post office and store which have been converted into luxury accommodation. The station also features a restaurant focused on using local produce – its floor to ceiling windows offer incredible views over rolling hills and the distant Liverpool Range. (Overnight Goonoo Goonoo Station) BLD

Day 3: Tuesday 9 February, Goonoo Goonoo – Gunnedah – Goonoo Goonoo
  • The Mackellar Centre & the Jean Isherwood water colour collection, Gunnedah
  • Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Statue & Poets Drive
  • Author Richard Anderson: ‘Crime and History in the Bush’
  • Poetry reading by Robyn Christmas

Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar (better known as Dorothea Mackellar), OBE, was born on 1 July 1885, at her family’s home ‘Dunara’, in Point Piper, Sydney. She loved to visit family-owned, country properties in the Gunnedah area including “Kurrumbede” and “The Rampadells” located 25km north west of the town. Her poem My Country was written at the age of 19 while homesick in the United Kingdom. ‘Kurrembede’, her brother’s property, was where she had witnessed the breaking of a severe drought, and may have found inspiration for her poem.

A bronze, life-sized memorial statue of Dorothea Mackellar is located in Gunnedah at Anzac Park where she is shown sitting side-saddle on her horse facing the direction of her family properties. Opposite the memorial is the Mackellar Centre, home to the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and administrative body of the National Poetry Awards. We will visit the centre, view the Jean Isherwood Water Colour Collection which depicts verses of My Country, and follow ‘Poets Drive’ which includes 17 poems mounted on plaques at various locations around town.

We return to Goonoo Goonoo for lunch where we will be joined by author, Richard Anderson, to learn about his latest book and for a discussion on ‘Crime and History in the Bush’. Richard has been running a beef-cattle farm for 25 years on a family farm west of Quirrindi. In the 1980s he studied and worked as a journalist in Sydney but his love of the land led to his return to the country. He’s the author of three rural crime novels Retribution, Boxed, and his latest book Small Mercies (published in March 2020). His novels reflect a deep understanding of rural Australia, and the people who live and work there. We will also enjoy a poetry reading by Robyn Christmas, winner of the ‘Man from Snowy River Festival’, a major Bush Poetry competition.

Following our discussion and poetry reading, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the facilities of the station. (Overnight Goonoo Goonoo Station) BLD

Glen Innes – 4 nights

Day 4: Wednesday 10 February, Goonoo Goonoo – Glen Innes
  • Lilburn Station: Private gardens of Sue Molesworth & Tim Hughes, Glen Innes
  • Brandon Station: Private gardens of Fiona and Andrew McIntosh, Glen Innes

This morning we depart Goonoo Goonoo Station and travel north to the charming town of Glen Innes located on the Northern Tablelands. The town is the birthplace of D’Arcy Francis Niland, novelist and short story writer. In 1955 he wrote The Shiraleee, depicting a swagman and his four-year old daughter, which was made into a film starring Peter Finch (1957), and a TV mini-series starring Bryan Brown (1987). Margaret Fulton, Australia’s first real-food cookbook author was also born here. Glen Innes is also well known for its beautiful private gardens, two of which we visit this afternoon.

The first of these is ‘Lilburn’, a country property owned by Sue Molesworth and Tim Hughes. Tim’s family have lived here for several generations and his great-grandparents knew Tom Roberts well. We will learn more about Tom Roberts’ travels to New England and enjoy a tour of the property’s fine gardens.

We finish the day with a visit to the beautiful country garden belonging to Fiona and Andrew McIntosh. Known as ‘Brandon’, this 8 ha. cattle station includes about 1.5 ha of gardens surrounding the historic homestead which was built in 1870. The garden has an ‘English manor’ feel, featuring clipped hedging creating walkways, passages, garden rooms and amphitheatres, as well as a magnificent wisteria walk. (Overnight Glen Innes) BL

Day 5: Thursday 11 February, Glen Innes – Inverell – Glen Innes
  • Inverell Visitor Information Centre
  • Inverell Art Gallery
  • Short tour of Inverell’s heritage buildings incl. Augustine’s Anglican Church
  • Locations of Tom Robert’s famous work: ‘Bailed up’

Thomas (Tom) William Roberts (1856-1931) was one of the first painters to recognise the special character of the Australian landscape. He was a key member of the Heidelberg School which also included Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Charles Conder and Frederick McCubbin. From 1889, Roberts began to investigate possibilities of painting historical subjects, and recording agricultural and pastoral methods which were fast disappearing. In the early 1890s he made several visits to Newstead Station, the property of his friend, Duncan Anderson, near Inverell. During these visits he produced a total of 13 works including ‘Shearing at Newstead: The Golden Fleece’ and ‘Bailed up’. Roberts was a great reader and had a particular love of English Romantic poems which provided titles for some of his paintings. Born in Dorset, as a child he had had an association with Thomas Hardy – Far from the Madding Crowd was his favourite book. At his Pitt Street studio Roberts was in close touch with many writers and journalists, including Banjo Paterson. His portraits of literary, artistic and political figures are as important as his landscape and subject pictures.

Today we travel the short distance to Inverell, a historic town by the MacIntyre River where, in the company of local historian, Ann Hodgens, OAM, we explore the locations of ‘Bailed up’. This work, on display at the Art Gallery of NSW, was painted partly in the Oxford Hall, Inverell, using one of their coaches as a model. We begin with an introduction to Tom Roberts at the Inverell Visitor Information Centre which also provides a small display of items relating to Robert’s time spent here. Following morning tea we walk to the Inverell Art Gallery to view the photographic replicas of both ‘The Golden Fleece’ and ‘Bailed up’. During our gallery visit Anne will give us a talk about the paintings and the people who modelled for Roberts. The AGNSW website states “Roberts modelled the figures on Inverell townspeople, including stagecoach driver ‘Silent Bob Bates’ who had been held up by local bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ three decades earlier.” A light lunch will be served at the gallery.

Before departing Inverell we take a short tour of the town to view some of its historic buildings including St Augustine’s Anglican Church. Constructed in 1877-78 by the great architect, Horbury Hunt (whose work we also view at Ollera and in Armidale), this Gothic-style church features fine decorative brick work. We also view The Byron Arcade designed by J B Spencer (Strand Arcade, Sydney) and a building designed by Colin Madigan, architect for the National Gallery and National Library in Canberra.

From Inverell we journey past Elmore Station, former home of the Hughes family, where Roberts stayed during a visit in 1900. The village of Elsmore developed in the vicinity of valuable tin fields discovered c. 1870. There are also several viewing points from the road which provide good vision of the landscape, woolshed, old church ruins, cemetery and the Anderson’s home where Roberts stayed on several occasions. Before returning to Inverell we travel to Paradise Creek where Roberts stayed, and visit the site where he painted. The area is also associated with Robert’s painting ‘In a Corner of the McIntyre’, held at the National Gallery of Australia, which depicts Thunderbolt in an encounter with police at Paradise Creek. (Overnight Glen Innes) BL

Day 6: Friday 12 February, Glen Innes – Tenterfield – Glen Innes
  • Tenterfield Station Homestead
  • Glenrock Gardens, Tenterfield: Guided tour & light lunch
  • Tenterfield: Tenterfield Saddler, Royal Hotel & St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church
  • Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield

Banjo Patterson was born Andrew Barton Paterson in 1864 near Orange, NSW. His connection to Tenterfield stems back to the 1890s, when he met Alice Walker who would become his wife. Alice was the daughter of WH Walker who managed Tenterfield Station. Banjo visited the station regularly and went hunting with the Walker sons. Banjo also visited other friends in the region including the Hurtz family who lived at Boonoo Boonoo. He was fond of their young daughter Matilda (born 1887) who would sit on his knee and play waltzes for him, and in 1894 he wrote his most famous ballad with her name in it, Waltzing Matilda. In the early 1900s Banjo fell in love with Alice and proposed to her at the Boonoo Boonoo Falls Lookout. They were married at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church on the 8 April, 1903. While residing in Tenterfield, Banjo was also a regular visitor to the Tenterfield saddlery, made famous in Peter Allen’s song, Tenterfield Saddler.

This morning we begin with a guided tour of Tenterfield Station Homestead.  We then continue to the award-winning country gardens of Glenrock. Established in 1985, these spectacular gardens designed by Carolyn Robinson, have been developed on land that was originally part of the Tenterfield Station. Following our guided tour of the gardens we will enjoy a light lunch in the grounds.

In the afternoon we return to Tenterfield to visit the Tenterfield Saddler, historic Royal Hotel, St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church and the School of Arts, where Sir Henry Parkes famously made his Federation speech on 4 October, 1889. (Overnight Glen Innes) BL

Day 7: Saturday 13 February, Glen Innes – Guyra – Glen Innes
  • Ollera Station, Guyra
  • The Glen Innes Show

This morning we depart Glen Innes for Ollera Station, located on the Northern Tablelands, 20km northwest of Guyra. In 1838 John and George Everett took up the Ollera run and today the property continues to be managed by the family who pioneered it. Ollera became essentially a semi-autonomous village with its own bakery, post office, store, bank, school (1862), and church. We will take a guided tour of this ‘living museum’ which retains its historic outbuildings. Of special interest is St Bartholomew’s Church. Built in 1876-77, it was designed by the Canadian-born Australian architect John Horbury Hunt, and features stained-glass windows commemorating the pioneers of Ollera. The church and Ollera Station are listed on the Register of the National Estate.

Some great writers have worked as farmers – Robert Burns, Robert Frost, E.B. White and Barbara Kingsolver are just some examples. This afternoon we will honour the importance of farming by visiting the Glen Innes Show, considered one of, if not, the best, agricultural shows in NSW. Founded in 1869, the show is an important part of the calendar for rural communities. There’ll be time to explore stalls showcasing the best of the region’s food and wine, and view the Grand Parade scheduled for 4pm. Dinner will be at leisure before returning on foot to our hotel. (Overnight Glen Innes) BL

Armidale – 3 nights

Day 8: Sunday 14 February, Glen Innes – Thalgarrah – Waterfall Way – Armidale
  • Thalgarrah Station
  • Point Lookout, New England National Park
  • Wollomombi Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

Judith Wright was born at her mother’s family property, Thalgarrah, in 1915, and was raised on the family’s nearby sheep station, Wallamumbi. First child of Phillip and Ethel Wright, she was educated at home and the first part of her life revolved around station life and the multiple homes belonging to her family. Thalgarrah was her favourite! Her family was a wealthy agricultural family, so from a young age Judith gained a strong working environmental knowledge. It was at school, while she was enrolled at New England Girls’ School, that she developed a greater understanding of poetry. Although she spent her formative years in Brisbane and Sydney, and later in Braidwood near Canberra, her family’s connection to the New England region was fundamental to her writing, and she described it in her poem Train Journey as the “country that built my heart”.

Today we will hopefully be joined by poet, Catherine Wright, the niece of Judith Wright, who grew up at Wallamumbi Station. We depart Glen Innes early this morning for a special visit to Thalgarrah where owners, John and Geraldine Robertson, who are passionate about the property’s history, will give us a tour of their homestead’s gardens.

In the afternoon we take a circular loop that includes part of the Waterfall Way to Armidale. Our route takes us through landscapes Judith regularly saw. We begin with a visit to Point Lookout. Perched on the edge of the Great Escarpment, this lookout offers panoramic views across the World Heritage rainforest to the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Judith Wright came here often as a child, and camped at the lookout with her father. She was mesmerised by the splendour of the cliffs, and the forested valley below “the great blue sweep of the view from the Point to the sea.”

Wollomombi Falls, in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, drops a total of 424m, its highest single drop being 260m. The poet’s childhood home, Wallamumbi Station, is nearby. Philip Arundell Wright, Judith’s father, was born at Wongwibinda a little to the north, on the edge of the escarpment, and Wallamumbi was his headquarters. Wallamumbi and Jeogla Stations had been in the family hands since 1900 and 1901 respectively, and ‘PA’, as he was always known around Armidale, loved this wild gorge country so much that he led a successful campaign to have 14,000 ha of State Forest gazetted as the New England National Park in 1934.

In the late afternoon we arrive in Armidale, dubbed the Cathedral City, of the New England High Country. (Overnight Armidale) BL

Day 9: Monday 15 February, Armidale – Uralla – Armidale
  • University New England: Dickson Library, Geoffrey Atkinson Collection
  • Booloominbah Historic House
  • Saumarez Homestead & Gardens
  • McCrossin’s Mill Museum: Thunderbolt Exhibition, Phillip Pomroy’s ‘Death of Thunderbolt Painting Series’ & Devonshire Afternoon Tea, Uralla
  • Grave of Captain Thunderbolt, Pioneer Cemetery, Uralla

In addition to being a grazier, Phillip Arundell Wright was also second Chancellor of the University of New England from 1960-1970. Wright College was named in his honour and the College crest contains the coat of arms of the family.

We begin this morning with a visit to the University of New England’s Dixon Library where an archivist will show us selected works from the George Atkinson Collection. According to Lewis Carroll, “the proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters.” The Atkinson collection includes letters from famous literary figures, including Thomas Hardy, W B Yeats, George Moore, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Rupert Brooke, and A E George Russell. The letters (either handwritten originals or photocopies) are arranged in folders named by writer.

Australia’s Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, Patrick White (1912-1990), published 12 novels, 3 short-story collections and 8 plays. He was born in Knightsbridge, London to Australian parents, Victor White and Ruth Withycombe. His great-grandfather James White (1801-1842) emigrated to New South Wales in 1826, as a flockmaster, and received a grant of crown land in the Upper Hunter. In his biography Patrick White states: “Almost all the Whites remained wedded to the land, and there was something peculiar, even shocking, about any member of the family who left it. To become any kind of artist would have been unthinkable. Like everybody else I was intended for the land, though, vaguely, I knew this was not to be.”

Today we visit two historical properties associated with the White Family – Booloominbah and Saumarez. Booloominbah is one of the nation’s most magnificent country houses. Now listed by the National Trust, the house was designed by renowned architect John Horbury Hunt in the Federation Arts and Crafts style, for Patrick White’s great uncle, Frederick White (1835-1903), fifth child of James and Sarah White. It was conceived as a ‘gentleman’s house’ “that would reflect White’s status as a community leader and successful pastoralist”. We will tour the house, which includes many panels of stained-glass including portraits of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott which adorn the windows of the library, and stained-glass illustrations of children’s books in the nursery.

The sons of Frederick White’s eldest brother bought and divided the family estates. The eldest, Francis (1854-1934) went to Saumarez which had been purchased by his father in 1874; the second, James (1855-1927) stayed on at the family headquarters, Edinglassie, near Muswellbrook; while Henry (1860-1927), and the remaining three younger brothers William, Arthur and Victor, purchased Belltrees, located just west of Scone.

The pastoral property of Saumarez was originally 3000 ha. and the White family worked the property until the land was sub-divided, with 10 ha. including the historic homestead, donated to the National Trust in 1984. The two-storey Victorian-Edwardian mansion, designed by John Wiltshire Pender, was built between 1888 and 1906. We’ll take a guided tour of this magnificent, fully-furnished, 30-room mansion. The property features over 15 outbuildings including a store building, stables, poultry yard and slaughter house. We also tour the 2 ha. of gardens which include Mary White’s cottage garden, the vegetable garden and the heritage rose garden.

In the late afternoon we continue to the town of Uralla which features over 50 colonial gold rush heritage buildings from the 1860s. It’s also associated with the ‘gentleman bushranger’, Captain Thunderbolt, who ruled the highways and byways of New England High country and beyond throughout the 1860s. He was shot and killed at Kentucky Creek, near Uralla in 1870 and is buried in the Uralla Pioneer Cemetery. At the McCrossin’s Mill Museum we may view a series of paintings by Phillip Pomroy entitled ‘Death of Thunderbolt’. The artist was inspired by the work of Tom Roberts, in particular ‘Bailed up’.

Many books, bush ballads, and Australian folk songs have been written about Thunderbolt. This includes Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady: the true tale of Bushrangers Frederick Ward and Mary Ann Bugg, published in 2011. The most well-known ballad was supposedly made up by Fred Ward himself:

My name is Frederick Ward ,
I am a native of this Isle;
I have surveyed Australia,
For many a thousand mile.

I ride a chestnut colt,
And the Bobbies after me,
And call me Thunderbolt.”

Following our visit to the museum and a Devonshire afternoon tea, we view Thunderbolt’s statue and his grave at the Pioneer Cemetery. (Overnight Armidale) BL

Day 10: Tuesday 16 February, Armidale – Invergowrie – Armidale
  • Meeting with author Sophie Masson at her home and writers studio, Invergowrie
  • Armidale Heritage Walk
  • University of New England and Regional Archives (UNERA): Special Collections
  • New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM): The Howard Hinton Collection
  • Museum of Printing & the Black Gully Printmakers (BGP) & printmaker Lizzie Horne
  • Dinner at Petersons Guesthouse & Winery

We begin this morning with a visit to the private home and studio of Sophie Masson, prolific and award-winning author of more than 50 novels for children, young adults and adults, many of which have been published internationally. Her most recent novels are the YA fairy-tale novels Moonlight and Ashes (2012), Scarlet in the Snow (2013) and The Crystal Heart (2014). She has also written under the pen-names Isabelle Merlin and Jenna Austen. Sophie is Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, Chair of the New England Writers’ Centre, President of the New England and North West sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and has served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council and the Book Industry Collaborative Council. This special visit will allow us to see where Sophie works, view her shelves full of editions of her books, and learn more about what inspires her, including the house itself, which was the subject of one of her very recent picture books, House of Mud.

From Invergowrie we return to Armidale for a short guided historical tour of the city which is graced with two magnificent cathedrals and other heritage buildings dating from the 1860s.

Within the city’s Heritage Centre lie the University of New England and Regional Archives (UNERA). Here we may view selected items from the Special Collections department which includes records, diaries and photos of the Wright Family.

On the eastern shore of Sydney Harbour lies Little Sirius Cove, the site of Curlew Camp where several artists such as Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Sidney Long used to work in the late 1800s. A regular visitor to the camp was Howard Hinton. His purchases from the Curlew Camp artists made him one of the most important art patrons of the era. These works are now displayed in the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM). We will tour the ‘Howard Hinton Collection’ to admire works by Arthur Streeton, Margaret Preston, Elioth Gruner, Tom Roberts, Adrian Feint, Norman Lindsay and Nora Heysen.

Within NERAM lies the Museum of Printing which represents the history of printing in Australia from 1850 to the early 1900s. During our guided tour we will see important printing presses, a linotype machine, guillotines and book binding equipment. The museum is also home to the Black Gully Printmakers, a community of artists and print enthusiasts who, in 2019, created diverse works for the exhibition ‘Between the Lines’ which aimed to illustrate the words of Judith Wright and the landscapes that influenced her so profoundly. We hope to meet with award-winning printmaker, Lizzie Horne, who is also a published poet and children’s writer.

Tonight we dine at the historic Peterson’s Guesthouse & Winery to sample the best produce New England has to offer including its award-winning cool climate wines. (Overnight Armidale) BD

Pokolbin – 2 nights

Day 11: Wednesday 17 February, Armidale – Thunderbolt Way – Gloucester – Dungog – Paterson – Bolwarra – Pokolbin
  • Thunderbolt’s Way & Carson’s Pioneer Lookout
  • Dungog & the Paterson Valley: exploring the landscape with Dr Cameron Archer AM
  • Paterson Court House Museum: “The Dorothea Mackellar My Country Paterson Valley Connection” with curator Val Anderson
  • Bolwarra House: private home of Mr Robert Cameron OA & Mrs Paula Cameron: rare book collection

This morning we depart Armidale and travel south along Thunderbolt Way to the Hunter Valley. This scenic route takes us from New England’s Northern Tablelands, and weaves over the Great Dividing Range to the verdant rolling farmland around Gloucester. We will be travelling through the wild New England Ranges and the foothills of the Barrington Tops, the one-time territory of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. Carson’s Lookout will show this landscape which has been the hideout of other fugitives and has claimed a number of aircraft over the years. Graziers have pressed into the accessible areas but much remains wild and inhospitable to all but the hardiest bushwalker. Named in honour of Captain Thunderbolt, our journey along the ‘Way’ is best described in the lyrics of Slim Dusty’s Captain Thunderbolt:

West of Uralla in wild mountain ranges,
Where frost devils swaddle the landscape in white
Where long grasses wilt in the cold autumn changes,
And woodfires at evening in homesteads burn bright

Where sunrise breaks red like a wound that is bleeding,
The hills of New England lie misty and dim
By the highway where modern day vehicles are speeding,
Thunderbolts Lookout rears rugged and grim

From Gloucester we continue south to the Shire of Dungog in the Hunter Region, renowned for its forests, mountains and picturesque river villages. The area was recognised for its scenic beauty in a poem by Henry Kendall entitled Dungog, published in 1863 in the Sydney Morning Herald:

…And far beyond these office walls
My thoughts shall even stray,
And watch the wilful waterfalls,
Two hundred miles away

For, if I know not of they deeds.
And darling Kentish downs,
I’ve seen the deep, wild Dungog fells,
And hate the heart of Towns!…

Other authors associated with this area include Arthur Ferres (pen name John William Kevin), who took a particular interest in the school library movement in the 1890s, and wrote a collection of short stories for boys entitled His First Kangaroo. Ruby Doyle, whose grandfather was a pastoralist in the Dungog district, wrote several short stories and novels including The Mystery of the Hills, published in 1919.

Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country was inspired by the harsh beauty of the NSW properties on which she spent much of her youth. They included both ‘Kurrumbede’, near Gunnedah and ‘Torryburn’ just north of Paterson. Gunnedah and Paterson are rivals – they both believe it was their own district which provided the inspiration for Dorothea’s famous poem. It is believed that the undulating fields and low, rolling hills of the Paterson River Valley provided the scene she described.

In Dungog we will be joined by Dr Cameron Archer AM, who is President of the Paterson Historical Society. Cameron, who completed a PhD in environmental history, is author of the book The Magic Valley – The Paterson Valley – Then and Now. Together we will tour the Paterson Valley travelling over Bingleburra to Gresford and then down to Torryburn. Along the way Cameron will discuss the history of the region, its agriculture, and the intimate relationship that exists between humans and their environment.

At the heritage-listed Paterson Court House Museum we will view a number of exhibits relating to Dorothea and her time spent at Torryburn, and enjoy a talk by the museum’s former and long time curator, Val Anderson, who is lead author of the book The Dorothea Mackellar My Country Paterson Valley Connection. Mrs Anderson is a well-known Hunter Valley artist and her artwork adorns many exhibits in the Paterson Court House Museum and publications. After leaving Paterson we will pause for a moment in the road layby to view the magnificent Tocal Homestead, its landscape and the nearby Sulman and Blacket Award winning CB Alexander Campus of Tocal College.

In nearby Bolwarra we will be kindly hosted by Mr Robert Cameron AO and Mrs Paula Cameron at their historic home which was designed by J W Pender, the same architect who designed Saumarez Homestead. Here we will have the opportunity to view Bob’s fine collection of rare books. One of the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, ended up living at Bolwarra, and we will see where he lived and hear his story during our visit.

From Bolwarra we continue to Pokolbin, located in the heart of the Hunter Valley. (Overnight Pokolbin) BLD

Day 12: Thursday 18 February, Pokolbin – Newcastle – Mount View – Pokolbin
  • Auchmuty Library: University Archives, Rare Books & Special Collections
  • James Drinkwater: Visit to private studio
  • Newcastle Art Gallery: Painting Collection
  • Talk with author Barry Maitland: ‘The Landscape of Mystery’
  • Farewell Dinner at Bistro Molines, Mount View

This morning we visit Newcastle, situated on the east coast with a breathtaking coastline and beautiful working harbour. Mark Twain visited Newcastle in December 1895. He was travelling by train, through Newcastle to Scone, where he was to read his new poem about Australia. In the second half of the 20th century there were three notable novels set in Newcastle: Dymphna Cusack’s Southern Steel (1953), Elizabeth Harrower’s The Long Prospect (1958), and Marion Halligan’s Lovers’ Knots: A Hundred Year Novel (1992). Julian Croft, who was born in Newcastle, is a poet and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of New England. His novel, Out of Print, is also based in the city.

We begin with a visit to the University of Newcastle’s Auchmuty Library where we view selected items from the University Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections. Highlights include 19th-century Australian poetry, James Joyce and Australia’s only first edition of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and rare books printed from private presses including examples from William Morris’s Kelmscott Press.

Next we visit the private studio of James Drinkwater, a Newcastle-based abstract painter who won the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2014. His work is held in major public and private collections including the Newcastle Art Gallery. James has explained his aims as a painter: “What I love about the Australian landscape is that it’s disorderly, it’s prickly and tough. In my paintings I want to capture that landscape from multiple perspectives. I want a sense of vitality and energy – that strong gesture.”

In the afternoon we tour the Newcastle Art Gallery which holds one of the most significant painting collections in regional Australia. Key artists represented include Joseph Lycett who captured Newcastle as a penal colony, and works by the impressionists including Arthur Streeton, Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner, Sydney Long and Lloyd Rees. The collection also includes significant works by Fred Williams as well as works by Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, and the great Newcastle born painters of the 20th century – John Molvig, John Olsen and the portrait painter Sir William Dobell. The Gallery has also acquired a number of works by Emily Kngwarreye and other important Aboriginal artists.

For our final evening we are delighted to confirm that author Barry Maitland and his wife have agreed to join us for dinner. Born in Scotland and brought up in London, Barry then studied architecture at Cambridge, and practised and taught in the UK before moving to Australia in 1984 to become Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle. Since his retirement, he has pursued a writing career and is author of the acclaimed Brock and Kolla series of crime mystery novels set in London, as well as the Australian mystery thriller Bright Air and the Belltree TrilogyAsh Island, published in 2015, is the second novel of the Belltree Trilogy where Detective Sergeant Harry Belltree is posted away from Sydney to the quiet life in Newcastle. Barry Maitland will be giving us a pre-dinner talk entitled ‘The Landscape of Mystery’. All his novels have been inspired by particular places, and the character of a particular setting is a vital element in his work. Barry will talk about the role of landscape in his fiction, with a special emphasis on the landscape of the Hunter region.

Tonight we will dine at Bistro Molines which was awarded the SMH Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat nine straight years in a row 2009-2018. (Overnight Pokolbin, Hunter Valley) BD

Day 13: Friday 19 February, Pokolbin – Maitland – Wangi Wangi – Sydney
  • Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG)
  • Dobell House: Home and Studio of the late Sir William Dobell, Wangi Wangi – Lake Macquarie

This morning we take a curator-led tour of the Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG), one of the most vibrant regional galleries in NSW, having won multiple awards for its exhibitions, design and architecture. The collection includes works by Margaret Olley, John Olsen, Fiona Hall, Judy Watson, Gloria Petyarre, Nell, Shaun Gladwell, Dr Christian Thompson, William Kentridge and Destiny Deacon. Following our tour there will be free time to further explore the collection, and have lunch at the gallery’s café.

After lunch we depart the Hunter Valley and commence our journey back to Sydney. Along the way we visit Dobell House, home and studio of the late Sir William Dobell OBE. Born in 1899, in Cooks Hill, a suburb of Newcastle, Dobell was a renowned 20th-century Australian portrait and landscape artist – he won the Archibald Prize for portraiture three times. The Dobell Prize is named in his honour. On arrival we will be given a presentation about Dobell, his life, his art and the history of the house. We will then tour his house and studio at leisure.

From Lake Macquarie we complete the final leg of our journey, arriving back into Sydney at approximately 5.30pm where our tour will end. B

Accommodation

Accommodation

All hotels and motels provide rooms with private facilities. A hotel list will be given to all participants prior to departure, in the meantime a summary is given below:

  • Windsor (1 night): 4-star Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury Valley – a modern hotel set in 8 hectares of  landscaped gardens overlooking the Hawkesbury River. www.cphawkesburyvalley.com.au
  • Goonoo Goonoo (2 nights): Goonoo Goonoo Station – a working cattle station located in the fertile Peel Valley. The station homestead includes a historical pastoral village comprising the original 1830s chapel, post office and store which have been converted into luxury accommodation. The station also features a restaurant focused on using local produce; its floor to ceiling windows offer incredible views over the rolling hills and distant Liverpool Range. www.goonoogoonoostation.com
  • Glen Innes (4 nights): 4-star New England Motor Lodge – extensively renovated in 2018, this modern motel with an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and bar, is located 1 kilometre from the town centre. Please note porterage is NOT available at this motel. www.newenglandmotorlodge.com
  • Armidale (3 nights): 4-star Tattersalls Hotel – established in 1854, the charing hotel has recently undergone an extensive renovation and now offers comfortable modern rooms in the heart of the town. www.tattersallsarmidale.com.au
  • Pokolbin (2 nights): 5-star Spicers Guesthouse – this recently renovated retreat, located in the heart of the Hunter Valley, features a restaurant offering modern Italian cuisine. www.spicersretreats.com

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a single room throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book

Making a Tentative Reservation before the tour price has been published

ASA INTENTION TO TRAVEL APPLICATION FORM

Some ASA tours fill almost immediately. Don’t miss out! You can register your ‘Intention to Travel’ by completing this application and returning this to ASA with a AUD $200.00 per person deposit. Once the tour price has been published, the itinerary and ASA Reservation Application Form will be sent to you. From the time you receive the itinerary you will have two weeks to either:

  • Send us a completed ASA Reservation Application Form together with an additional deposit of AUD $300.00 per person. On receipt of this Reservation Application and deposit, ASA will process your booking and if approved, send you a tour confirmation. At this time your deposit of AUD $500.00 is subject to the tour’s Booking Conditions.

Or

  • CANCEL your Intention to Travel in writing. ASA will refund your AUD $200.00 per person deposit, less a $66.00 service fee (including GST).

Participation Criteria

To participate in an ASA tour, you must be reasonably fit, in good health and able to participate in all activities without assistance from Tour Leaders or other tour members. If you require assistance, a fit and able travel companion must undertake to accompany and assist you with all tasks for the duration of the whole tour. ASA’s ability to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your specific needs, your health and safety and the health and safety of other tour members, is of paramount importance to us. For this reason the ASA Reservation Application includes a Medical Information section. As a general guideline, you must be able to accomplish each of these activities without assistance or support:-

  • walk and stand unassisted for at least 2-3 hours a day in hot, humid conditions
  • walk confidently on and over uneven surfaces
  • climb at least 3 flights of stairs
  • embark and disembark from ferries, buses and trains
  • walk up and down steep slopes
  • walk at a steady pace and no less than 1km every 15-20 minutes
  • organise, manage and carry your own luggage
  • follow and remember tour instructions, and meet punctually at designated times and places
  • administer your own medication
Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 13-day tour of New England and the Hunter Valley involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking mainly during outdoor site visits, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs and uneven terrain.
  • A moderate amount of coach travel, several on winding mountainous roads.
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.00-6.30pm).
  • 4-star hotels and motels with 4 accommodation changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand-luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person except in Glen Innes where porterage is NOT available.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Notes

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on weather, clothing and what to pack.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $TBA Land Content Only

AUD $TBA Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 4-star hotels, motels, and at the Goonoo Goonoo Station
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels and motels (excluding Glen Innes, where porterage is NOT available)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets for site excursions
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare to Sydney
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20 kg (44 lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Gallery
Terms & Conditions
Deposits

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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