Thursday 10th March 2014:
Most Australians know Tamworth as the country music capital of Australia. For ten days every January it hosts a music festival that is reputed to be the second biggest in the world. It climaxes with the Golden Guitar awards. The Big Golden Guitar is so famous, that Bill and I imagined we must have visited Tamworth previously, until we realised that it was only because we had seen so many promotional shots of the guitar.
(Australians love ‘big’. Tourists could devise a holiday based on chasing oversized folk symbolism, for example, the Big Pineapple (Qld), Big Banana (Coffs Harbour), Big Prawn (Ballina), Big Merino (Goulburn), Big Trout (Tumut), Big Ned Kelly (Glenrowan in Victoria) and the Big Gold Panner at Bathurst . . . the list goes on . . . and on.)
There is much more to Tamworth than country music – for example, some of my younger international readers might like to try their hand at the Leconfield Jillaroo and Jackaroo School, and learn the skills required to be a ‘cowboy/girl’ in the Australian outback. Or you can try paragliding, or aircraft gliding.
For our one day around town, Bill and I followed tamer pursuits, starting off with an early-ish walk beside the Peel River. The riverbank levee was built up extremely high, and the water level was extremely low. It was a stretch to imagine that the river would ever burst its banks and flood the town, but obviously the levee wouldn’t be so strong if that wasn’t a possibility, and there is a paved footpath built on top, with the river on one side and a Botanic Garden on the other.
Within the garden we found the Waler Light Horse Statue. Beautiful, isn’t it? You can just about hear the chink of the bridle as the horse reaches out to the soldier’s hand. It is a tribute to the ANZACS and their horses, who served in WWI and previous wars. Hundreds of thousands of Australian stock-horses, known as Walers (because most came from NSW), were sent to serve as pack-horses and cavalry chargers, only one came home. The memorial is here because the 12th Light Horse regiment comprised boys from the bush of this and surrounding areas. They were involved in many actions in WW1, but on the 31st October 1917, the regiment was engaged in a charge at a town called Beersheba (near Jerusalem), which has become the stuff of legends. . .
The gardens also featured the most modern war memorial I have seen in our country travels.
Our walk offered up a closer look at the local colour – there were the birds . . .
And then there was this welcome from a local driver. It is a bit rude, hope that doesn’t offend . . . here goes . . .
Okay – well, people in the country are usually more welcoming than that, and we did get a lovely greeting when we finally stepped into the museum of the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. The volunteer on duty did assume we were followers of the genre, and reeled off a confusing list of musicians whose memorabilia we would find in their collection. Some we knew, some not – but by the time we came out an hour or more later, we knew a heck of a lot more. Whenever I am writing these blogs of our NSW travels, I often have the lyrics of “I’ve Been Everywhere Man” ringing in my head. (In fact, there is a blogger who made it his mission to go to all ninety-four of the places mentioned in the song.) Well, here is the composer’s preferred mode of travel:
That photograph was actually taken at the “Walk a Country Mile” exhibition at the tourist office. If you only had energy/interest to see one presentation on country music history, then that is the one I would recommend as it is modern, spacious, well ordered, and includes mixed media and short films. Otherwise, if you wanted to immerse yourself in the genre, then you could visit the wax museum at the Golden Guitar, or view the Hands of Fame, Legends Busts or Golden Guitar Winners Plaques street installations. Bill and I did like most other tourists, and posed for our photographs with Slim Dusty & Joy McKean, and sat for a while with Smoky Dawson. These sculptures are in the main street, which also offers fabulous shopping. I particularly liked the details of horse tackle on Smoky’s bench.
Something else that Tamworth claims as its point of difference, is that they were the first place in Australia to light their streets with electricity, commencing from 1888. One hundred years later, Tamworth opened a museum dedicated to the power station, and the history and development of electricity.
Well, we passed on that one, in favour of going to the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC). This is a huge, state of the art complex of stadium, stables, stock holding, and camp accommodation and bathing facilities for horse and livestock shows. Our visit co-incided with the Minature Horse competition. We were fascinated to watch the show-jumping, segregated according to height of the horse. Whichever, way you measure it, these horses are tiny, and the ‘rider’ runs allows beside the horse, communicating via a leash to encourage it over the jumps. Unfortunately – ‘one’ of us left the camera back in the car, so no photographs, but thanks to Wikimedia commons, I can show you one of the stadiums:
We figured that was enough for one day. Time to get back to the luxury motel and discover whether the water was still in the spa bath. It had been let out, and as one friend has since pointed out, my effort to save water was probably interpreted as being too lazy to pull the plug out. It’s those type of misunderstandings that start wars . . .