Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gulgong - The Town on the Old Ten Dollar Bill

The place was a shambles of old rusty bits of machinery, broken down structures and what was left of some old burnt out railway hand cars. We loved it.

My partner and I had come with a friend and his two children to a park on the edge of Gulgong, near Mudgee. We loved exploring almost as much as the kids did. There were small holes in the ground surrounded by broken concrete walls and the deep dark depth of a steep sided mine hole that was just visible under a metal trellis that seemed less strong than I would have expected. Towering above it, an old wooden a-framed pylon with a small wheel at the top and nearby, next to the blackened rail cars, a huge yellow rusty specimen of a mining conveyor belt. It looks heavy and must have been very noisy when operating, not to mention a hazard for fingers and loose clothing.

Our favourite was the large old crushing machine, which we all spent some time climbing. The central point of the park is a large spiral shaped structure to commemorate mining families in the region and the whole park is optimistically labeled as a mining museum.
It’s not like any museum I have seen before but it has two very great advantages; we could touch everything and be as noisy as we wanted. We explored all the little holes, tried all the levers and climbed over everything that seemed stable enough. We also discovered lots of sharp edged white quartz stones with shiny flecks on the ground.

It is a nice change from the usual playgrounds, even if it is rather burnt, damaged and rusty in places. It reminds me of the fun I used to have scouring the local rubbish dump with my dad in the days before work site safety made it illegal.

Gulgong has a lot to offer for such a small town of just over 2,000 people. It was apparently one of the last places where poor people could set up a camp and try their luck at gold mining and before that, it was home to a large aborigine tribe that named it “Deep water”.

Gulgong is probably most famous as the place where the poet Henry Lawson spent much of his childhood. Henry Lawson’s poems and short stories are a reminder of regional Australia in times past. He writes about every day life including a somber poem about his time in jail called “One hundred and three”. You can hear it on Youtube and it weaves an atmosphere that certainly fits with the visit I had to an old jail in the area.

Gulgong is one of the most unique towns I have visited. The town center is narrow and the original old two story balconied buildings close in on a narrow street with a few cars. There are many beautiful old buildings here, including some of historical significance. Gulgong is well worth a visit and if you need one more reason to call by. It is the town that was featured on the ten dollar note until 1991 when the notes were all replaced with new designs printed on polymer instead of paper. Now that is quite something.

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