The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. At the time of publication (June 2021) 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 2022.
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.
Newcastle – 1 night
Day 1: Wednesday 9 March, Sydney – Newcastle
We begin with a guided 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 consider 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.
After time at leisure for lunch in the gallery’s café, we view the Matisse exhibition. This Sydney-exclusive exhibition takes viewers deeply into the art of Henri Matisse, one of the world’s most innovative and beloved artists. ‘Matisse: Life and Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris’ is the greatest single exhibition of Matisse masterworks ever to be seen in Sydney. Matisse, who was always hugely influenced by literature, began as a Fauvist, moved on to paper cut-outs, and ended with the stunning and serene designs for a chapel in Vence. Through the paintings, drawings and sculptures of this exhibition, you will learn how Matisse continually renewed his artistic vision across his long career, seeking new ways of celebrating the world and the energy he felt in it. Exhibition highlights include his early work ‘Le Luxe I’, (1907), the mid-career masterpiece ‘Decorative Figure on an ornamental ground’ (1925), and the majestic self-portrait ‘The Sorrow of the King’ (1952), one of his great cut-outs of his late career.
In the late afternoon we depart for 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 will enjoy our first meal together at the hotel’s restaurant which specialises in contemporary Australian cuisine. (Overnight Newcastle) D
Tamworth – 2 nights
Day 2: Thursday 10 March, Newcastle – Muswellbrook – Murrurundi – Tamworth
- Visit to artist’s private studio, Newcastle (subject to confirmation)
- Lunch at the Hunter Belle Cheese Café, Muswellbrook
- Michael Reid Murrurundi: Art Gallery & Café
This morning we visit the private studio of an artist based in Newcastle, before 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 Murrurundi via 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.
At Murrurundi we visit Michael Reid’s gallery which showcases contemporary Australian and Aboriginal Art. The exhibition space designed by Dods and Zuccon in 2017 complements the adjacent Bobadil House, a late-Georgian sandstone residence originally built as a Cobb and Co. staging post in the 1840s. There is also a fine garden divided into discrete spaces, creating privacy around the house with towering hedges and lines of London Plane Trees.
We spend 2 nights in the city of Tamworth, the regional centre for the North Western region of NSW and Australia’s ‘Country Music Capital’. In the centre of Tamworth lies the memorial to Slim Dusty and his wife Joy McKean which recognises their contribution to Australia’s music heritage. We enjoy dinner tonight at the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant, ‘The Workshop Kitchen’. (Overnight Tamworth) BLD
Day 3: Friday 11 March, Tamworth – Gunnedah – Tamworth
- The Mackellar Centre & the Jean Isherwood water colour collection, Gunnedah
- Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Statue & Poets Drive
- Dorothea Mackellar Silo Art, Gunnedah
- Weswal Gallery, Tamworth
- Tamworth Regional Gallery
- Author Richard Anderson: ‘Crime and History in the Bush’
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 also view Gunnedah’s Silo Art where Dorothea Mackellar and an extract from her famous poem My Country are immortalized on this 29 metre high, privately owned maize mill.
Following a light lunch in Tamworth, we visit the Weswal Gallery which showcases works from emerging local talent and from well established regional artists.
We then visit the Tamworth Regional Gallery, established in 1919 thanks to a gift of 100 paintings from landscape painter John Salvana who was born in 1871 north of Tamworth. The collection was augmented in 1961 when the Burdekins of Plumthorpe Station, near Barraba, donated their substantial collection of 19th and early 20th century art to the gallery. This included works by Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner, Will Ashton, Sydney Long and John Salvana. More recently the gallery has acquired works by Elizabeth Cummings, Ken Done and Jenny Sages. There will be time after the guided tour to explore the collection of early Australian silverware, indigenous works, and the textile collection.
Early this evening 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. (Overnight Tamworth) BLD
Glen Innes – 3 nights
Day 4: Saturday 12 March, Tamworth – Glen Innes
- Lilburn: Private gardens of Sue Molesworth & Tim Hughes, Glen Innes
- Brandon Station: Private gardens of Fiona and Andrew McIntosh, Glen Innes
This morning we depart Tamworth 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) BLD
Day 5: Sunday 13 March, Glen Innes – Tenterfield – Glen Innes
- Glenrock Gardens, Tenterfield: Guided tour & light lunch
- Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield
- Tenterfield: Tenterfield Saddler, Royal Hotel & St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church
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 visit 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 School of Arts, where Sir Henry Parkes famously made his Federation speech on 4 October, 1889, as well as the Tenterfield Saddler, historic Royal Hotel, and St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. (Overnight Glen Innes) BLD
Day 6: Monday 14 March, 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) BLD
Armidale – 3 nights
Day 7: Tuesday 15 March, Glen Innes – Guyra – Dangar Falls – Armidale
- Ollera Station, Guyra
- Booloominbah Historic House, The University of New England (exterior only)
- Dangarsleigh Memorial
- Dangar Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park
Some great writers have worked as farmers – Robert Burns, Robert Frost, E.B. White and Barbara Kingsolver are just some examples. 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.
This afternoon we arrive in Armidale, dubbed the Cathedral City, of the New England High Country. We begin our orientation tour with a visit to The University of New England. 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.
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.”
During our tour we view Booloominbah, one of the nation’s most magnificent country houses. Now listed by the National Trust, the house was also designed by 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”.
To the south of Armidale lies the grand Dangarsleigh Memorial to the fallen of World War I which was built by Alfred Haroldston Perrott, who lost his eldest son in World War I. He wished as he stated, to ‘do something to keep forever green the memory of those poor boys who would never return.’ We visit this memorial and the nearby Dangar Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park which offer some of the most awesome views in the Northern Tablelands. We look out across deep ravines and gorges of the northern edge of the Park. After a downpour of rain the mighty falls come alive, plunging 120 metres into a ravine, filling it with mist and rainbows. (Overnight Armidale) BL
Day 8: Wednesday 16 March, Glen Innes – Thalgarrah – Waterfall Way – Armidale
- Thalgarrah Station
- 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 be joined by poet, Catherine Wright, the niece of Judith Wright, who grew up at Wallamumbi Station. We depart Armidale 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. 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 to the east. 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. (Overnight Armidale) BL
Day 9: Thursday 19 March, Armidale – Invergowrie – Uralla – Armidale
- Meeting with author Sophie Masson at her home and writers studio, Invergowrie
- New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM): The Howard Hinton Collection
- Museum of Printing & the Black Gully Printmakers (BGP) & printmaker Lizzie Horne
- 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
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.
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.
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.
We return to Armidale in the late afternoon for an enjoyable meal at Tattersalls fine dining restaurant. (Overnight Armidale) BD
Pokolbin – 2 nights
Day 10: Friday 18 March, Armidale – Thunderbolt Way – Gloucester – Dungog – Bolwarra – Pokolbin
- Thunderbolt’s Way & Carson’s Pioneer Lookout
- Dungog & the Paterson Valley: exploring the landscape with Dr Cameron Archer AM
- Bolwarra House: private home of Mr Robert Cameron AO & 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.
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 the charming Estate Tuscany in Pokolbin where we we have a casual dinner in the Brokenback Bar. (Overnight Pokolbin) BLD
Day 11: Saturday 19 March, Pokolbin – Wollombi – Maitland – Pokolbin
- The Convict Trail: Historic village of Wollombi & The Great North Road
- Mulla Villa Farm, Wollombi Valley (subject to confirmation)
- Studio and Sculpture Park of Paul Selwood
- Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG)
- Talk with author Barry Maitland: ‘The Landscape of Mystery’
- Farewell Dinner at the Mill Restaurant, Estate Tuscany
The Hunter River Valley was the first area outside the Sydney basin to be explored by the British, and it became one of the largest penal settlements. In his book The Convict Valley (2020), author Mark Dunn, narrates the fascinating stories about convicts, white settlers, miners and the Aboriginal inhabitants of this region. The Great North Road is one of the best surviving examples of our convict heritage. Constructed between 1826 and 1836 using convict labour, and spanning 250 kilometres, it provided an overland route from Sydney to the fertile Hunter Valley.
This morning we journey south to the historic village of Wollombi which was a stopping place for travellers along The Great North Road. Here we enjoy morning tea at Wollombi’s historic General Store, before continuing south to Mulla Villa Farm. Mulla Villa, built in sandstone by convicts in the 1840s, was the original Magistrate’s Residence for the first Police Magistrate David Dunlop, and his wife Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, who was an Irish-Australian lyric poet and student of Aboriginal culture.
As a minor poet Eliza Hamilton Dunlop contributed to the literary life of the Hunter Valley and her early verse was published in magazines such as the Dublin Penny Journal, the Australian and the Maitland Mercury. Her Australian lyrics were set to music by Isaac Nathan, and from 1842 appeared in his Australian Melodies series. A volume of her collected works, The Vase comprising Songs for Music and Poems, remains in manuscript (Mitchell Library). Mrs Dunlop took a great interest in the welfare and folk-lore of the Aboriginals in her husband’s charge, and was one of the few people to appreciate the literary worth of Aboriginal songs and poetry. She won the confidence of Aboriginal elders, particularly the chief Boni, and transliterated some of the verse of the poet Wullati into English. The poem Nung Ngnun was much praised and widely published. She also wrote on Aboriginal themes. Outraged by the Myall Creek massacre in 1838, she wrote her lament, The Aboriginal Mother. She also preserved Aboriginal vocabularies.
At Mulla Villa we enjoy a morning coffee on the homestead’s restored verandah, and hear about the life and work of this remarkable woman. If time permits we may also visit the preserved cells that houses the convicts who worked on the construction of the Great North Road. We then drive a short distance to visit the property of acclaimed sculptor Paul Selwood. Paul’s work is found in major gallery collections throughout Australia, and on his property he has created a sculpture park of over 50 pieces. Paul will guide us around the property, show us is two studios and talk about his work.
After a picnic lunch, we take the windy road across to Maitland where we take a guided 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.
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 Trilogy. Ash 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 The Mill Restaurant at the Estate Tuscany. (Overnight Pokolbin) BLD
Day 12: Sunday 20 March, Pokolbin – Wangi Wangi – Ettalong Beach – Killara – Sydney
- Dobell House: Home and Studio of the late Sir William Dobell, Wangi Wangi, Lake Macquarie (subject to confirmation)
- Light lunch at The Box on the Water, Ettalong Beach
- Woodlands: where Ethel Turner wrote Seven Little Australians, Killara (subject to confirmation)
This morning 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 continue to the Ettalong Beach Waterfront Reserve for our final group meal at The Box on the Water. Located on the waterfront, the restaurant which serves modern Australian cuisine, offers panoramic views out across Broken Bay.
Our final visit is to Woodlands, Ethel Turner’s home from 1891 to December 1894. Within the state heritage-listed walls of this northern Sydney house, Ethel Turner penned, in 1893, what was to become Australia’s most popular and never out of print children’s novel. First, the title was Six Pickles, then Seven Pickles, before she finally settled on Seven Little Australians.
Ethel Turner was born in England – today at Woodlands a delightful cottage garden marks her birthplace with English flowers and trees. She came to Australia as a little girl and when her publishers suggested she travel to England to gain some ‘English polish’, Ethel refused and insisted she would, as a writer, remain proudly and resolutely Australian. She even broke new ground in her novel by including an Aboriginal legend and writing with sympathy of the plight of Aboriginal people.
Purchased by Malaysian-born Albert Lim and his Chinese-born wife Eva, the couple grew interested in the literary and historical aspects of their new home and have done far more to honour both the author and novel than could ever have been expected. Ethel’s deep love of Australia is honoured in an Australian garden, with seven trees planted for the seven Woolcot children of the novel. Inside the house, the front rooms have been superbly renovated to their 19th century appearance, with a fine bookcase holding copies of Ethel’s books, and curtains and furnishings all in keeping with the 1890s when she lived there. We will enjoy drinks and refreshments at ‘Woodlands’ and have the chance to see the rooms where Ethel Turner wrote her classic novel.
From Killara we complete the final leg of our journey, arriving back into Sydney at approximately 5.30pm where our tour will end. BL