We are coast dwellers. Even our road trips up to this point have been down the east coast to visit my olds or up to warmer Queensland climes. With covid making sure we can't go too far by car or plane, we decided to head west to New England NSW, Tenterfield specifically. We have wanted to visit Tenterfield for some time but our inland plans always got deprioritised for one reason or another.
Tenterfield, sitting pretty just below the Queensland border, is part of the 'granite belt', an area of the Great Dividing Range bridging both QLD and NSW. Non cryptically, the area got its name from the predominantly granite rocks, some clusters monumental and others insignificant, that dominate the areas landscape. It is cool, high country, and it is unmistakable rural Australia. Locals receive you warmly in person or respond to your fleeting greetings from the car window with a friendly hoo roo and tip of the brim. The town itself is tidy and proud with more than its fair share of incredibly interesting heritage listed buildings to gawk at... if you like that sort of thing... which we do, very much. The landscape is sweeping and textured, with golden hued beauty wherever we looked. A photographer's dream. My local friend informed me that the soft floaty brown grass that I was so attracted to (and took far too many photos of) was in fact known as 'Love Grass'. It apparently turns the hills a stunning soft pink in the Spring. This, of course, means I'll be taking another drive inland to see this sight in a couple of months!
Other than the setting itself, our well chosen cosy cottage, and the midday beers on Day 3, and the stupidly cute farm animals by the side of the road, our four day expedition was highlighted by our adventures in nearby country. Only half an hour in the car took us to Bald Rock National Park where we hiked for nearly 8kms, at times a Grade 5 climb, conquering the Bald Rock monolith with our little people alongside us and an even shorter drive saw us exploring Captain Thunderbolts hideout - a devilishly handsome 'gentlemen bushranger', who roamed the bush in the mid 1800s. Scroll on to read more.
Because Bald Rock is surrounded by national park bushland, incredibly one of 7 national parks in the area, on approach its scale didn't appear overly noteworthy. But all of a sudden we found ourselves at its base and striding and puffing straight up its steep face. Somehow we missed the memo about the longer but gentler way up! I wasn't feeling awesome to begin with so I physically tired very quickly and exhaustion gave way to some mild anxiety abo ut how the f**k we were going to get down the same way. Looking back down gave me full on head spins. But with Troy's help, Bella and I marched on and eventually joined our spider monkey, Bailey, at the top of the first section. As that sheer face levelled out a bit we could stop to look around and the walk turned into a boulder-rich bushy section which then opened up again to the summit stretch. This last part was signed dangerous but was actually a walk in the park compared to the initial climb. Saying that, it was definitely not somewhere you'd want to be throwing yourself around too much lest you find yourself rolling 200m down a cliff.
We crossed paths with some regular climbers halfway up who subtly sniggered at our ascent story and pointed out the way we probably should've come. After taking in the stunning views from the top, getting belted by a northerly, we trekked back down the longer, calmer way through spectacular immense boulders and huge eucalyptus trunks significantly burnt by the 2019 bushfires, which were already sporting some impressive new growth. On a side note, these trees, along with the blackened trunks surrounding the town, gave the kids a chance to see first hand what they had been hearing and seeing on the news last year when the fires overrun so much of our country. It's not until you see kilometre after kilometre of devastated bush and trees as far up somewhere like Bald Rock that you start to understand the scale of the destruction and the sheer terror of those that live close to those fires. Seeing the regrowth was in itself a beautiful lesson for our children and even myself, it was quite moving to walk amongst it all. Such an incredible hike on every level. Thanks to our unintentional short cut at the start, the whole loop, with a 5 and 9 year old in tow, took us less than 3 hours. Next trip will include hikes in Boonoo Boonoo National Park, another super short drive out of town and a place that boasts a waterfall and secluded swimming holes. Yes please.
I couldn't leave this blog without a mention of the awesome Tenterfield Train Museum. Honestly we could be stayed there for hours. All of us were so into it, incredible history beautifully put together. Bravo Tenterfield. Despite a long drought, an intense and too close for comfort bushfire battering, and now corona virus reducing inter and intra state tourists to the area, you still managed to put on an incredible show for us all. We needed more time, we will most definitely be back. I want to see pink hills, I most definitely want to see that beautiful landscape covered in snow, and I really, really want to see more people visit the area. Frankly they, and our other rural towns, could use our love right now. Lou x