Sydney to Mt Eliza

It is so good to have a GPS to guide you through Sydney, especially when you travel alone, I use two, a Garmin and the inbuilt one. They come up with different routes at times so I follow the shortest one. My first stop was at Wilton for some water tanks about 80 Km south of Sydney on the Hume Highway. The artwork was good, I especially liked the eagle. You could only get to within 100 metres of them because of a barbwire fence.

I stoped overnight at Coolac on a farm stay, a delightful small caravan park with about 20 sites, lots of birdlife around set in farmland and very peaceful. I didn’t book as usual but the park was full, but the manager managed to find a spot on the grass near a power-pole so I was OK, I need that electric blanket! The journey down the Hume the next day took me to a water tank 12 Km south of Tarcutta, I really liked this one.

The big old gum trees made a perfect frame for the artwork. I decided to spend a few days at Chiltern which is between Wodonga and Wangaratta. I have stayed here a couple of times, it is a lovely historic small town and the caravan park is next to a small lake. It is close to Rutherglen and the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park where Marg and I have enjoyed a number of picnics over the years with hampers from the Pickled Sisters Cafe in Wahgunyah.

I went to Wangaratta to see the water tower there, it is near the railway station and the whole area has been renovated and landscaped. The tower has been rendered and the artwork painted on the render. It depicts lots of native birds and animals the live or used to live in the area, plus plants and insects.

The arms protruding at the bottom of the tank are flood lights that light the tower at night, It would look spectacular.

Back at Chiltern to the local toilet block which has a painting of a Regent Honeyeater, a small bird that is now endangered. The Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park, which protects a Box Ironbark forest, is an important refuge for this bird and the small population is slowly rebuilding. From memory I think the bird depicted is named Red, Red, Yellow from the marking bands on its legs. I love the red gum blossoms. This was painted by Jimmy D’Vate who paints animals, birds and flora exceptionally well, I have mentioned his work previously.

On Monday I headed to Eldorado where we camped in 1976 over cup weekend, the third cup camp of what now totals 50 camps over cup weekend when we gather this November, our golden anniversary camp. The drive through the National Park and along Woolshed creek was very enjoyable. The caravan park at Eldorado has changed little over the years. It is a tiny town now but when they were running the gold dredge, Wangaratta was an outpost with 2 policemen compared to 13 at Eldorado. The electricity consumption of the dredge made Eldorado the second largest consumer of electricity in the state after Melbourne.

From Eldorado I went to the peak of Mt Pilot in the National Park and enjoyed a picnic lunch and great views from the summit.

It’s Tuesday and my holiday is drawing to and end so I decided to treat myself to lunch at Tulleries in Rutherglen. I had a Wagu steak with wild mushrooms and Wakame (an edible seaweed). It was delicious, the thick sauce had just a hint of mustard and I enjoyed that as well.

On the way home I drove through the National Park again along Donchi Road that loops around through the park and back to the main road. Marg and I have picnicked by this road, but the picnic table has disappeared. I spotted an orchid while driving slowly so I was pleased with that, Marg used to be the expert orchid spotter. The Lady’s Finger Orchid is about the size of a 5 cent piece.

The country is so green, I have never seen eucalyptus forests green on the ground, but they are now, the ground is covered with native grasses and tiny plants. I think the coming wildflower season will be wonderful.

So a good holiday has been had, around 6,000 Km travelled, flooded roads generally avoided and mostly good weather. Back home on Thursday to cold wet weather, bugger.

If you want to be notified when I post my next blog just put your email address in the box below and click Subscribe. The next blog maybe in November when our camping group gather for the 50th time over cup weekend

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Evans Head to Sydney

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I decided to skip an overnight stop and made the 575 Km trip from Evans Head to Myall Lakes in one hit. Most of it was on the divided Pacific Highway and very easy driving. I did take a diversion to Crescent Head to see artwork on a water tower, I should have saved my time. Unusually most of the mural had graffiti over it, which is very unusual, and maybe a commentary on the quality of the artwork, maybe that is a bit harsh. I managed to find a part with only a couple of “Tags”

However the view south from the headland (Ness for Cryptic Crossword aficionados) was wonderful.

I stayed at the NRMA caravan park at Myall Lakes, which is in the National Park, a great park with lots of trees and other plants, a really beautiful spot.

I went for a drive through the Myall Lakes National park, which was a delight, very much like the Mountain Ash forests of Victoria except the tree ferns are replaced by palms. You can get an idea of the forest from the photo of the walk the the tallest tree in NSW. The flooded gums in the photo below are 50 years old and, while tall, are still very slender compared to the big one.

The big tree, called Grandis, is massive, I had to take a panorama shot to get it all in the one photo. It is a Flooded Gum, 400 years old, 76.2 metres high, 11.5 metres circumference and the first branch is 25 metres above the ground and the diameter of the trunk at that height is still 1.8 metres. A massive tree.

I then drove on through the forest to the Whoota Whoota lookout which gives you a wonderful view north along the coast. This photo is a panorama.

The photo from the lookout below is a conventional photo.

After four restful days at Myall Lakes, I moved onto Sydney where I stayed at Lane Cove National Park. It is a an excellent park with lots of trees and only 16 Km from the centre of Sydney. I booked in for four nights as I wanted to visit several manufacturers of motorhomes. I have decided that I will stop towing a caravan when I turn 80 in a couple of years. I am still comfortable towing and really enjoy living in the van on holidays, but I guess I should make the decision by choice rather than being forced into it.

I have chosen a Trakka Akuna based around a MWB VW Crafter van. It has 4WD which I wanted as I enjoy travelling on dirt roads which can be quite rough. It also has the raised suspension and larger wheels options, but it is not a go anywhere van by any means, you have to make compromises. I will be down-sizing as there is far less storage than in a car and van so I will have to work on that. Hopefully it will be delivered in the first quarter of 2024. Here is a photo of one, mine will be white of course!

I looked at conventional motorhomes built on a cab-chassis but I didn’t like the width of these and the finish was not as good as Trakka. It is a compromise though as the shower toilet is very squeezy and there is less storage. Horizon motorhomes built in Ballina were similar to the Trakka and excellent quality but they use a Fiat van as the base vehicle and they are not imported into Australia in 4WD versions. So the Trakka was my choice.

Tomorrow I start heading back home but will take a week or so to get to Melbourne. I will post another blog on the way. Remember you can subscribe to get an email when I post a new blog, just enter your email below and click Subscribe.

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Tenterfield to Evans Head

The drive from Tenterfield to Evans Head crossed over the Great Dividing Range. It was a very windy road but generally dropping down to the coast. Lots of road works along the way repairing significant damage from the constant heavy rain earlier this year, wash-aways, landslides, rock falls, all sorts of damage. I had a charmed drive as in all but one restricted area I got a green light and went straight through.

The first stop was Casino where there was reported to be a painted water tower. The artwork was OK but the tower was on a hill and the only spot I could get to was in a road cutting almost directly below the tower. The painting was on the tank which was on top of a tall concrete structure, I’m glad it was on my way and I didn’t have to drive a long way to see it.

The lines across the tank are power lines, I had to position myself between the poles, very hard to get a good photo. The sun was right behind the tower which made it doubly hard. The detail of the painting was excellent, maybe the colours chosen were not so good. The lady to the right was very well painted.

Evans Head is at the mouth of the Evans river which is a tiny river being only 17 Km long and dropping only 21 metres over its course, but at Evans Head it is quite wide and impressive by Australian standards. There is only one caravan park at Evans Head and it is a massive park, probably over 300 sites and chock-a-block with vans. Not my favourite type of park, but it is right on a beautiful beach and extremely well run and in walking distance to town, not that I did!

When I arrived I took all the tape off the caravan plug and took a photo of how bad the connector was, only the tape held it together, some pins had to be pushed in individually. But it held together for a couple of hundred Ks. The plug on the car was a 7 pin large round one which seems to be obsolete and only one of the many shops I visited had one and then it was their last. The seven pin flat plug seems to be the norm, so I fitted that to the van and made an adaptor to go to the car so all is good. Here is a photo of the broken connector after I took off all the tape and unplugged it.

While at Evans Head I visited Ballina where there is a water tank on top of a hill overlooking the town. The painting is past its prime and maybe the tank was not prepared so well as the paint is peeling in places. The cyclone fence around it made photography a challenge. This photo was taken through a gap in the gate, the other photos have the cyclone in them.

Back to Evans Head, at the hardware shop, where i bought one replacement plug, I asked about a fish and chip shop in town and the lady directed me to the fisherman’s Co-op. What a find, six pieces of breadcrumbed whiting for $12, absolutely delicious. I was lucky as I had just been to the bottle shop and I had a cold six pack of Coopers Pale Ale in the car. So I bought the fish and chips and sat in the nearby park alongside the river and enjoyed a lovely repast. I repeated it today, just as delicious.

The beach at Evans Head runs forever passed Broadbeach National Park, an undeveloped part of the coast.

The two groins in the photo are the outfall of the Evans River. Tomorrow I’m off the Myall Lakes about 500 Km down the coast with one water tower on the way at Crescent head.

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Tenterfield & Surrounds

On the way to Tenterfield I went through Texas where there was a water tank with artwork. Not the greatest but still worth stopping. I was lucky as a worker opened a gate to drive into the depot so I was able to sneak in and get photos without the fence being in the foreground.

The drive from Coolah to Tenterfield was through undulating country and a really pleasant drive, the roads were a bit average but otherwise I enjoyed the trip, especially stopping at Girraween National Park for a BBQ lunch. The picnic area is wonderful with many picnic tables and a half dozen gas BBQs. The picnic area has a view to Pyramid Rock that can be glimpsed in the background.

From the picnic area there is a short easy walk of a couple of Ks through a bush scattered with granite boulders, it is so scenic, you cross a small creek and then head on a loop through the bush.

The granite arch is spectacular and a feature of this walk.

I really enjoyed the walk, in places it was like a landscaped native plant garden. It was also amazing to see trees apparently growing out of the rock, it’s hard to imagine how they survive.

So off to Tenterfield and set up camp, I have decided to stay here for 4 nights. So on Friday I set off for Undercliffe Falls, sadly there is no viewing platform as the falls would be very spectacular if you could see the whole drop. As it was you had the very carefully climb your way down on wet sloping ground to get to a vantage point. The falls descend 150m over a 30m wide rock face into a deep pool that is used for swimming in summer. They looked great in reality but not so good in photos.

From Undercliffe Falls I headed for Bald Rock National Park where the picnic area was wonderful. I really enjoyed the solitude and quiet and spent a bit of time in quiet reverie, lost in my thoughts. I BBQ’d a couple of sausages and had a battle with a Kookaburra which made 5 or 6 dives trying to grab one. One time he nearly got one when I had a sip of wine and he dived in, I had to slam the wine down and wave my hand to shoo him away. It was close, about 6 inches from success.

Bald rock is so massive that is is impossible to get a photo to show how big it is, I wish my drone was working, this was the best I could do. The rock is the biggest granite monolith in the southern hemisphere, it rises about 200 metres above the surrounding country and measures about 750 metres long and 500 metres wide. The gentle climb to the top was closed for maintenance and I didn’t fancy the steep climb straight up the rock so I missed the view from the top.

The next day I went to Boonoo Boonoo (pronounced bunna-bunoo) National Park, I had intended to visit Basket Swamp Falls but the road had been closed because of damage from recent rains, but the Boonoo Boonoo Falls made up for it, they are impressive falls. Apparently Banjo Patterson proposed to his future wife Alice Walker at these falls. The walk in is an easy 300 metres through delightful bush and the falls are stunning, not sure the photos do justice. The falls drop 210 metres over a granite rock shelf.

Above the falls there were many small waterfalls but the trees made it hard to get a good photo but the walk was very enjoyable.

The road to the falls gives you glimpses of the Boonoo Boonoo river which runs over granite with lots of pools and small rapids between, it is a very beautiful river.

Back in Tenterfield I caught up on some shopping and had to take a photo of the Tenterfield Saddler shop made famous by Peter Allen.

So that is Tenterfield, a very restful stop. Tomorrow I’m off the Evans Head for a few days. After packing up the van I usually couple up on the evening before I leave, which saves me having to do that in the freezing morning temperatures. Today I found my electrical connector to the van was falling apart, one connector fell out as I pulled the plug out, fortunately it was an unused one. Being a Sunday no shops were open so in the end to get mobile I had to remove the plastic centre assembly of the connector from the outer body and carefully plug that into the car socket. Luckily it worked, so I taped it in place with lots of PVC tape so it would not fall out while travelling. I’ll buy a new connector and a second spare so I’m not caught out again. You have to be prepared for all sorts of things when camping it seems.

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Coolah to Cranky Rock

I was pleased to be leaving Coolah, it hardly stopped raining while I was there and the caravan park was muddy, lots of pools of water, an ancient toilet block, a blocked toilet, no camp kitchen, not good. For example, when I was packing up I had to move my van to avoid big puddles and even then to do up the last two roof clips I had to move it again to miss another puddle. Definitely don’t stay at Coolah, I booked in before I saw the park, I had stayed here a few years ago and it was in excellent nick, but run by different people.

So I headed off for Cranky Rock Scenic Reserve a few hundred Ks further north. On the way I passed through Barraba and saw the water diviner silo art again. I was going to take a drone photo this time but my drone was not working properly, something wrong with the camera gimbal.

Cranky Rock Reserve is a delightful camping area and perfect for a drone shot, if my drone was working. There are tress scattered through the park, most of the power sites back onto the bush, you can have fires and the caretaker lights a communal campfire each night. There is a short walk to the “Cranky Rocks” that gave the park its name. The local legend is that a “cranky” Chinese cook killed a local woman after an argument with her, he was “cranky”. He ran away into the bush and was rumoured to have jumped from the balanced rock, on the right in the photo below, and died, hence “Cranky Rock”.

The truth is that he ended up on a station about 30 miles away where his body was eventually discovered. It is amazing how these massive rocks just balance without falling and have done so for eons.

There are so many of these balanced rocks.

As I said the camping area is delightful and very peaceful, one to put on the list for a revisit.

Next stop Tenterfield and a couple nearby National Parks

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Forbes to Coolah

I set off from Forbes in the rain and arrived at Coolah in the rain, it rained all day. I was lucky though the rain nearly stopped at each of the three silos I visited on the way. The roads were in terrible condition, lots of potholes, plenty of very rough sections probably the result of lots of rain over recent months. There was water everywhere all the roadside drains were full, as were the creeks and rivers and the paddocks were waterlogged. The country over vast swathes of NSW west of the divide is sooo flat, look in any direction and you just see flat land stretching to the horizon. No wonder the water lies around everywhere, the one positive was that it wasn’t cold.

The first silo was at Nevertire a tiny town which doesn’t show on most maps, but it has a 21 metre high water tower.

The artwork celebrates the main agriculture of the region, sheep, wheat and cotton. The yellow cylinders are bales of cotton at the bottom of the cotton plant. When travelling through this area you pass many cotton depots with acres of these bales neatly stacked in rows. More of our precious water being exported!

The next silo was at Warren and this was another good one. They are building a new sports complex next to the tower and the artwork celebrates the sports which will be played there. The sports being featured are Cricket, Soccer, Swimming and Skateboarding.

Next stop was Dunedoo where the silos had been painted in 2020 on two sides and the other sides painted in 2021 by a different artist. The 2021 side was painted by Daniel Krause, assisted by Jarad Danby and show Daniel’s son reading a book in a wheat field (and a few cotton plants as well).

The first two sides were painted by Peter Mortimore over three months in 2020. The painting is of Winx and her famous rider Hugh Bowman, who was born in Dunedoo. Also featured is Chris Waller, Winx’s trainer. On the side facing the road is some local fauna and flora.

As would be deemed appropriate I needed a dunny by the time I got to Dunedoo and the toilet provided near the silos was state of the art. Press a button and the door unlocks, which is announced by a “voice”, enter and push the green button and the door locks and the button goes red. You are told the “door is locked”. Nothing happens when you push the flush button, but when you push the door button the door unlocks and the toilet flushes. Strangely, it seems the name Dunedoo does not originate from this dunny or any dunny, rather the name is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning “swan”, which are commonly found in the area’s lagoons.

After a day and night of rain the Coolaburragundy River at the end of the caravan park in Coolah rose just under 2 metres, but was still 1/2 a metre below the level of the park. The ground is so wet that any rain falling runs straight off into the creeks and rivers, though Coolah did get around 35 mm on Thursday and Friday, a considerable precipitation. By the end of Saturday the river had dropped back to its original level, which was reassuring as debris stacked outside some of the cabins in the park showed that the park had been flooded recently. Interestingly the Coolaburragundy River is normally dry.

On Saturday I went for a drive to Coolah Tops National park. The roads had shallow water over them in many places and you had to slow right down as often there are deep potholes hidden under the water. The bitumen road changed to dirt for the climb up to the National Park and it was like driving on a creek bed with many deep erosion gutters cutting across the road. After bouncing around all over the place and travelling very slowly I decided after a couple of Km that I didn’t need to see the park that badly so I turned around and headed for home. Marg and I had visited the park a few years ago.

There was a lovely view up the Coolaburragundy River from the road to the park.

The normally dry Coolaburragundy River was running rapids, a bit unusual for a normally dry river.

Tomorrow will be a rest day and then off to Cranky Rock Nature Reserve for a few days.

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Sculpture Down the Lachlan take Two

The remaining sculptures are located around Forbes, a number are alongside Lake Forbes which loops around Forbes probably an old course of the Lachlan River. There are a series of wonderful parks alongside the lake with a well lit walking paths. The first two sculptures are in Whego Park.

The one on the left is a representation that we are all connected on the journey of life. The three stainless steel intertwined loops, spanning one metre in diameter, form a knot to symbolise strength, courage and peace, and represents the complexity of us all. The artist is Lachlan Ross an Australian sculptor whose body of work consists primarily of large-scale modern contemporary forms in stainless and Corten steel.

The one on the right is called Shadows on the Landing. The stairs to the first landing can be walked on and the partially open door encourages further investigation. The artist is Ingrid Morley who received traditional Atelier style training with Tom Bass Studio School in the 1990’s and now has a workshop based near Jenolan Caves in the Central Tablelands of NSW.

The next sculptures are in Sir Francis Forbes Park and are the Wiradjuri Dreamimg Story Poles with another pole on the east side of the lake. The poles have sculptures of native animals that were important to the Wiradjuri people. One of the artists is Rosie Johnston who is renowned for her large-scale colourful abstract canvasses. Rosie is also the brainchild behind the Sculpture Down the Lachlan trail concept. In 2012 Rosie set about to lobby for funding to create a permanent, inland sculpture trail to generate tourism for our region and diversify the rural economy.

Most of the remaining sculptures are in the centre of town near the post office and town hall. They are an interesting array of artwork.

The final sculpture is of a couple of Wiradjuri women walking together. Also located on the shoreline of Lake Forbes, this bronze sculpture helps to tell the story of Wiradjuri culture. It depicts two Indigenous women with child returning from gathering food. This piece was developed in close consultation with the local Wiradjuri community.

The sculptor Brett Garling is widely known as ‘Mon’ to friends and collectors alike. Mon has had over forty group and solo exhibitions and is an exhibiting member of the Sculptors Society and The Australian Plein-Air Artists Group.

A fascination for the technical aspects of casting his sculptures in bronze led Mon to establish his own foundry in conjunction with his art gallery, Garling Gallery in 2004. This allowed him to have a permanent collection of both his paintings and sculptures.

So that is Sculpture Down the Lachlan, well worth the visit. I have enjoyed my stay at Forbes, a very pleasant place to while away a few days. Tomorrow I’m off heading further north, I may get to Coolah but depends on how the day rolls out, it is a 450 Km trip so I may fall short.

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Forbes Region

On Tuesday I decided to visit some silo and street art around Forbes so I headed off to Manildra where a small water tank and the base of a silo had been painted by Jimmy D’Vate, who has also painted silos at Goorambat, Rochester and Waikerie. His silos are among the best in my opinion and the artwork at Manildra was of the same high standard.

I visited the local cafe to buy a roll for lunch and was very happy with the loaded ham and salad roll that even included beetroot, I would enjoy that later in Nangar National Park. Next stop was Molong which is about 50 Km west of Orange, here a decommissioned water tank had been painted. The tank had been built around 1928 to provide water for steam engines on the nearby railway line.

The main artwork was of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell who traversed this area on his 4th expedition and was guided by Yuranigh a local Wiradjuri man. Mitchell was so impressed with Yuranigh and asked the Governor to organise a suitable headstone for him after he had died. Yuranigh was buried according to the local Aboriginal traditions with carved trees around his grave which indicated he was a significant person in his tribe.

The artwork on the rest of the tank focussed on Australian birds.

My next stop was Nangar National Park, I had visited here 15 years or so ago and had lunch with Marg at the same picnic table so it brought back lovely memories. The picnic and campground is a delightful spot with a creek curling around high hills with clumps of weathered rocks among the trees.

One feature of the park is Dripping Rock which drips throughout the year, but rarely has flowing water. This year is an exception with water flowing over the rock that usually drips. I seem to recall that on our last visit the rock was barely dripping. The road into the park had lots of potholes and numerous shallow creek crossings, not really suitable for a caravan.

From here I went to Eugowra where there was street art to view. This small town has few big buildings so all those that exist had artwork. The town lies on Escort Way named after a famous robbery of the coach carrying gold to Orange. In the attack the gold commissioner was killed by Gardeners gang of bushrangers who escaped with over $2M of gold. The attack is depicted on the right below and Gardners gang on the left under the Farmers painting.

Wednesday will be spent at Forbes with two Zoom crossword sessions to run and shopping to be done. Thursday will be my last day in Forbes and I will visit the rest of the Sculptures Down the Lachlan.

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Sculpture Down the Lachlan

Driving from Grenfell to Forbes was an easy trip with one aspect being quite amazing, something I had never seen in Australia before. Every creek, stream or river contained water and in a lot of them it was swift flowing water. What’s more, all the billabongs were full and most depressions in the paddocks carried water. Quite a wonderful sight, put that together with green grass everywhere, very healthy trees and bushes and it is like you are in another country, quite an experience.

Forbes is on the Lachlan River but I haven’t met Clancy yet! The river runs beside the caravan park and is carrying heaps of water and close to the top of its banks. After setting up I headed off to Condobolin down the Lachlan River where around 10 sculptures had been erected. There are more sculptures around Forbes which I will visit another day.

The first sculpture was a massive Goanna, I think everyone who has travelled in the bush or been camping has seen goanna. The lace monitor is the common one in Victoria and the second largest goanna, growing up to 2 metres in length. The goanna sculpture was probably my favourite and it is massive. Called Varanus, it stands 5.5 metre tall, 20 metres from tongue to tail, and was crafted from 3.5 tonnes of steel and took over 3,500 hours to construct.

Glen Star is the man behind Star Steel Artwhich is based in Alstonville NSW. Glen is a multi-award-winning sculptor renowned for his large-scale steel designs.

Nearby to the goanna was another sculpture called Hunter, it is of a bird getting ready to strike, with wings curved for flight. At 4.2 metre tall, 2.5 metre wide this Corten steel bird of prey won first prize in the 2016 Sculpture Forbes Acquisition Prize. The sculptor is Damian Vick is a leading Melbourne based artist.

?The next sculpture was called Road Kill and it depicts a role reversal where a rebellious kangaroo takes its revenge on a busy stretch of road. People often complain about the damage done to cars after hitting a kangaroo but what about the kangaroo? This sculpture reverses the normal, in it the kangaroo messes with the road.

?The artist drew inspiration for ‘Road Kill’ following a trip to Forbes in 2019, at the tail end of a three year drought. The 3.5 tonne reinforced Corten steel plate sculpture took six months to construct. The artist is Jimmy Rix whose sculptures often relate to personal experiences and familiar objects.

From here it was to an Amazing sculpture, literally. “Amazing” is spelt out in two and half metre high red letters and it was the first large scale sculpture to be installed on the Sculpture Down the Lachlan trail. The letters are made from eight tonnes of steel, sub-framed with heavy plate and a 3-millimetre powder coated outer skin.

“Amazing” is an example of community enthusiasm and energy. This sculpture was designed by local artist Rosie Johnston, and fabricated and installed by local farmers, tradespeople and engineers who volunteered their time. ??It took three years between the construction of the first letter, ‘a’, and its installation along the Lachlan Valley Way.

From here it was to the Tower a sculpture that represents our need to control our resources. In many towns the old water towers stand as sculptural relics and reminders of what we leave behind in our attempts to meet the challenges of life on earth.

The sculptor is Stephen King who is best known for his distinctive carved timber structures that have featured in Sculpture by the Sea both in Bondi, Sydney and Cottesloe in WA for the past 15 years. Stephen was awarded the Helen Lempriere Scholarship at the 2020 Sculpture by the Sea and first prize at the 2020 Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival.

I’m getting hungry by now but I still have four to go before a counter lunch at Condobolin, so I push on to Bird in Hand. This piece represents our responsibility of environmental preservation, sustainability and development. “Bird in Hand” is about the importance of the wetlands to the Australian environment. Wetlands act as flood mitigators, recycle nutrients into the soil, filter water and most importantly provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.

The 6.5 metre, 3.5 tonne piece depicting a realistic hand cradling a great white egret was made from 1600 meters of 10mm, 316 marine grade, stainless steel chain, with 38 links per meter and 4 welds per link. This equates to just over 243,000 welds, taking eight months to complete.

Michael Van Dam is the Queensland-based sculptor of this piece, he is a well known for creating extremely strong and durable sculptures from marine grade stainless steel chain. Originally a Sheet Metal worker by trade, Mike was inspired to try his hand at sculpting in 2010 following a visit to Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.

The next sculpture was Sonata depicting a girl playing a violin on the back of a large bull, it illustrates the delicate relationship between humans and nature. The bull represents the powerful forces of nature in contrast to the fragility of the child and her violin. It is as if the bull is held under a spell by her music.

Sonata expresses the need for an accord with nature; when properly appeased, the raging bull becomes surprisingly tender. It shows the delicate and careful balance required if we are to survive the challenges of climate change and a viral pandemic.

The figures were composed of hundreds of individual 3mm Corten steel plates which had been formed using blacksmithing techniques. Each panel was hammered or pressed to assume the desired form. The 800 kilogram piece took seven months to sculpt.

The artists Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend collaborate to make sculptures and installations in a range of materials featuring familiar animal subjects to explore themes of human history and the relationship between humans and the natural world.

The next sculpture was Within and Without and was my least favourite. There was no explanation of what it was about, maybe that says it all.

The next sculpture was called wandering and was a marvellous sculpture of an aboriginal warrior standing six metres tall. His stance and searching eyes cut a strong figure whilst suggesting that he is searching for something unseen, lost along the way, relegated to the past. ?

The one tonne Corten Steel sculpture explores the notions of strength, vulnerability and connection. The sculptor is Damian Vick who also sculpted the Hunter shown above.

Unlike the other sculptures that feature along the SDL trail, “Wandering” does not have a narrative. While the abstract piece was made in reference to the picturesque landscape in which it sits, it invites the viewer to create a narrative for themselves, so off you go!

It is interesting how the sculpture changes depending on which parts are in the sun and which ore in shadow. The sculptor is David Ball who was born into the Australian bush in 1958. The bush has provided him with everything he values as a sculptor.

The final artwork was “Utes in the Paddock” at Condobolin. Unfortunately there were earthworks in progress and I could only get within a couple of hundred metres. This photo from the brochure will give you some idea of the theme.


There are some more sculptures in Forbes to explore on another day. Tomorrow I head off for some silo and street art.

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I had an interesting evening on Thursday. After a day and a half of steady rain things cleared up but I was a bit concerned that the creek next to the caravan park was starting to rise and my camp was only a couple of feet higher than the current level (I was the only person camped there). I had moved camp to get to a site that was a bit higher and not so soggy so I left the van coupled up and lowered the roof so if I needed to leave in a hurry I could. I talked to a couple of locals and they were reasonably confident I would be OK but no guarantees. So I kept checking the rising level each 1/2 hour from about 5 pm and the kept rising until the creek was well over twice as wide but still below the road level. I was very relieved when I checked at 10 pm and the water had dropped about a centimetre, phew I could get into bed and relax, which I did.

It reminded me of a time we were camped at Ulupna Island when I had done the same thing, checking the level each 1/2 hour. Around 10 pm the Murray started to over-run a bank at the start of a creek that flowed across our access road so we packed up very quickly and moved out to a safer spot. The water was about 30 cm over the road when we drove out, Adam was lucky as he has an all-terrain Sigma! When we checked in the morning the water was about 1.8 metres over our road, not sure what we would have done to get out if we hadn’t moved when we did.

I was heading for Forbes and called in at Collingullie water tanks again on the way, I just love those water tanks

The next stop was in Harden for a couple of disappointing silos. The artwork was not particularly noteworthy and the house owner had planted Cyprus trees along the boundary. Fortunately they were young trees so I could get photos in the gaps, in a couple of years this will not be possible.

From here I headed for Forbes, but as I drove through Grenfell I decided to stop there for a few days. Marg and I stayed here nine years ago when Marg tripped on a discontinuity on the path to the toilet and broke her wrist badly. We had to abort our holiday head for a hospital and then home. We did threaten to sue for negligence but eventually reached a good settlement with the insurance company. It was interesting to observe that every discontinuity in the paths around the toilets has since been ground absolutely flat, no trip hazards now.

There are a couple of National Parks nearby which I thought would be good to visit. They are located on the Lachlan Fold Belt which is a zone of folded and faulted rocks of similar age. It dominates New South Wales and Victoria, also extending into Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. It was formed in the Middle Paleozoic from 450 to 340 million years ago, so there!

The National Park to the east of Grenfell is Conimbla which is covered mainly by open forest of cyprus and gum trees. The park stands out above the mainly cleared surrounding plans having the highest peak in the area. The first road I went down ended in a locked gate not shown on the map, but I got a good view on the return journey.

I had a picnic lunch at the Wallaby Picnic Area the only developed area in the park. I was lucky that it was sunny at that time and enjoyed lunch in a very peaceful setting.

After lunch I walked for a bit up the Wallaby Walking Trail which I enjoyed. Not many flowers but I managed to find a couple. The one on the left is a creeper, it looks like a type of hardenbergia and the one on the right looks like a pale wattle

Next day was not a good one and I headed out in rain toward Weddin Mountains National park. Fortunately the rain cleared while I was at the park. The first place I visited in the park was Seaton’s farm, a small farm that Jim Seaton owned and farmed in what is now the National Park. Jim and his family lived in extremely rough circumstances, a house with unlined galvanised iron walls and roof, no windows except for a couple of shuttered small openings and all built with material recovered from the tip or discarded on farms.

Jim used to gather scrap discarded wire and twist it together to make his fences. He also had a problem with kangaroos so he added height to his fences with small cyprus branches and scrap wire, and he did this for the 3 Km boundary of his property. At the same time he was also working elsewhere as a farm labourer. He built a collection of farm machinery assembled from cast-offs from other farms. The machinery shed is very much the worst for wear today. Just click on the photo to see a larger image.

I then moved on to the picnic area for lunch which is also a camping area. Again I enjoyed a very pleasant picnic lunch in peaceful surroundings.

On heading back home it started to rain again, so I had been very lucky to have enjoyed the park in the dry. Tomorrow I’m off to Forbes for a few days.

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