In this series of posts, I draw on diary records to recount some of the road trips we have taken in recent years.
November 2010 (Day 9/320klms)
We left Dubbo and headed off on one of our longer and less interesting drives, along the Golden Highway heading east, as if we were to go back to the coast. (also see ‘Under Australian Skies’, October 2013).
We could have sourced out places and things to explore if we had made an effort, but the townships along the route are all small and not so well known, with place names like Elong Elong, Cobbora, Dunedoo, Uarbry, and Cassilis. We were through them before we had even a chance to realise that the 50klm speed sign had started and finished.
I had the first driving shift and I had the best of it, straight flat roads and a wide viewing angle, surrounded on both sides by flat agricultural land that had either just been harvested or was about to be.
We swapped drivers after a short lunch stop at Merriwa and turned off the main highway to head towards Scone.
The countryside changed immediately, the road began to twist and turn through the ranges of the upper Hunter Valley. This is still sheep and cattle country, but it is also horse stud territory. Some of the properties were very well presented and fenced, screaming “money” in a way that most Australian country properties do not. There is also much hidden wealth, coal mining is a big industry all through these areas, and mining companies are always on the lookout for more places to dig coal or extract the gas.
Our destination on this day was a place called Moonan Flat in the upper Hunter Valley. It is a tiny rural village. Even though the official population statistics say there are 274 occupants, the actual village has twenty residents, one pub and a post office.
We had come to visit yet another cousin and her husband. Our special connection is that I was flower girl at their wedding when I was seven years old, half a century before 🙂
It was our first visit, and we received a warm welcome, not only from them, but also from their dog – whose name is – Bill.
My cousins used to own a cattle property in Dubbo, and Bill should be a farm working dog. Now he seems quite happy to be a pet. We had a great time playing fetch with the ball, although he rarely gave it over willingly. Then he was quite happy to take us on a walk around his town, although he nearly pulled my cousin over in the process. He’s a dog with a lot of energy – just as well their new ranch-style home is on a large block of land.
Bill (the husband, not the dog) was eager to go a few more kilometres up the road to a town called Ellerston. Ellerston Pastoral Station was owned by Australia’s richest man – Kerry Packer, and has passed to his descendants since his death some years back. Apparently its primary purpose is sheep and cattle, but it also boasts some of Australia’s best polo fields. horse breeding, and a private golf course that was rated as the number 4 golf course in Australia. The course was designed by the golfer Greg Norman. It is exclusive and only open to members and guests. Some weeks, maybe only half a dozen people play on it.
Bill was keen to see it. We were able to drive all around the outside of the property, but naturally couldn’t go inside; as there is security on the main entrance, and we were definitely not invited guests 🙂 It was easy to tell the boundaries of the property from the quality of both the fences and the road around it.
I imagine Ellerston existed as a township before Kerry Packer bought the property there, but it looks as if it could be his creation. There is a small school outside the compound that looks quite old, but I understand that these days most of the children who attend are from the employees of the estate. There must be many of those, judging by the number of worker’s houses that we could see in the property’s grounds. I must say I had never seen one private property quite like it before.
Somehow, we have lost our photographs of this day. I could not find any of Ellerston that I could be sure are copyright free. The source for the others is: www.new-england-hway.com.au
Next Destination: Branxton