Every weekend the spectacular countryside of the Gloucester region is a magnet for hundreds of visitors….on motorcycles, in cars and four-wheel drives.

But on the last weekend in October some 60-odd visitors literally dropped out of the sky.

They were attending the third annual Gloucester Aero Club fly-in.

In all shapes and sizes of flying machines, pilots and passengers set course for Gloucester’s picturesque aerodrome – a long strip of green and manicured “lawn” on the property of the club’s president, Chris Maslen.

Throughout Saturday morning the club’s radio system was alive with the call signs of incoming aircraft advising they were on a landing approach under sunny skies, and into a light wind…..another perfect Gloucester day.

From all points of the compass the buzz of light aircraft kept eyes roaming the skies for the next arrival.  And on the ground the growing line of parked aircraft gave spectators the chance to get an up-close look some fascinating machines, and the chance to chat with their owners to learn more about the sport of flying.

A yarn with these dedicated enthusiasts soon dispels the myth that flying is only for the very rich.  Many of the aircraft are in the “ultra-light” category – and cost less than $10,000.

Looking along the line three quite different types could be seen – the most distinctive being the auto-gyro. A design dating back many decades, the auto-gyro looks a bit like a helicopter – but its rotary-wing isn’t driven by the motor. On take-off the plot starts the rotor turning by hand, and then it is just kept spinning by the movement of the air as the plane is pulled along by a conventional propeller.

And then, looking a bit like a land-yacht, the “powered hang-glider” style of ultra-light  was obviously popular.  These slick little machines still use a soft fabric wing like a hang-glider but the pilot and passenger sit below in a sleek capsule loaded with technology.

Finally, there is the conventional ultra-light, looking like a “proper aeroplane”, until you stand alongside and realise just how compact are its proportions.

The Bundaberg-built Jabiru is a favourite – a tribute to Aussie ingenuity, right down to its locally built engine which uses Commodore pistons.

After actually being up in the sky, the thing flying enthusiasts love best is talking about each other’s machines….and the Gloucester Aero Club provided the perfect location, with a camp-site alongside the club house, and a barbecue organised for Saturday evening.

The club has 30 members and as well as hosting visiting pilots, who dub Gloucester the “friendly aerodrome”,  the club makes the ground available for model aircraft enthusiasts, and rents out the club house for social events. 

For Aero Club enquiries, contact 02 65581274

For all that’s happening in Gloucester contact the Gloucester Visitor Information Centre.

 

Ever had a day out and been so blown away by it that you just wanted everyone else to share it too?

And days later you could still see every fern frond, trunk and old moss covered log, brilliant green in the shafts of sunlight that streaked through the canopy layers of the ancient……….?

But I’m getting ahead of myself aren’t I? It’s because that’s what a trip to the ancient Antarctic beech forests up there in the Barrington Tops National Park will do to you! 

Sure, your walking trails brochure from the Visitor Information Centre will guide you to Thunderbolt’s Lookout with its breathtaking views of the wilderness escarpments …the best views on the plateau.

Or to Devil’s Hole Lookout from which, on a clear day, they say you can see Cape Hawke at Forster. 

You can picnic at Polblue Swamp and be totally fascinated by one of the largest of the sphagnum bogs on the “Tops” as you walk the 2k trail that winds through channels of icy water filled with vivid green waterweeds. 

Escape into The Firs is always possible too. There you can be transported to a darker world where your imagination can run riot as you take in this surreal woodland of many species of conifers. 

But the gem of the “Tops” lies just off the plateau down a gentle sloping walk from Honeysuckle Picnic area and into the ancient Antarctic beech forest.

Once your feet step on to the soft, moist, leafy pathway you’re enveloped by the mystic feel of the place. You’ve stumbled into Middle Earth and half expect to see Gandalf, Frodo and a band of hobbits pass through. 

It takes your breath away.

The patchwork of huge old logs heavily coated in thick green moss lit by shards of sunlight filtering down from way up high above the Antarctic beech stands.

The tallest tree ferns forming giant umbrellas make us look like tiny forest folk as we pass under them along the track.

You want to take photos but don’t know where to start.

Capture the intense green? The shadows? The cool crisp air? It’s now 8 degrees in here…18 when we left Gloucester! 

How does one show in a photo the intense power and beauty of these 50 metre  Myrtle Beech  towering  overhead? These ancient species of Gondwana, products of a continental drift some 65 million years ago, from a warmer Antarctica?

Or the contrasting newness of the tiny, upright baby tree ferns, green as peas, standing resolutely, just young, single stalks, determined to grow and play their part in this mind blowing spectacle!

 Amazing too is how, what looks like a ring of trunks knotted together by a gnarley circle at their base is one single tree! Such is the nature of the ancient beech.

The reason for Barrington Tops National Park being declared  a wilderness of World Heritage Status. 

So do yourself a favour. Check in at the Visitor Information Centre at Gloucester for maps ,brochures and information on road and weather conditions. Pack water and a picnic (no shops up there) and be prepared for a feast of forests and the extremes in nature that are found when an ancient world merges with the present.

 

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Sunday,12th September,2010.

 What is the Tri Challenge? 

The founders preferred to call it the “triathlon with a difference”

It’s a triathlon that has landowners taking down fences, moving their cattle and slashing their paddocks to allow access through their properties.

It’s a triathlon that’s almost completely off-road. It’s challenging! It attracts ironmen, kayak champions, mountain-bike experts as well as individuals and teams who love to ride, canoe and run!

Last weekend in Gloucester the 20th Gloucester Mountain Man Tri challenge took place.

 Gloucester loves the Challenge! The whole town gets behind it to make it happen

The Caravan Park overflows with families camping even along the river and B&B’s are well booked as 200 plus competitors, their support crews and gear start arriving on Friday evening.

 By 4pm Saturday all Registrations are in and Scrutineering is complete. 5:30 is briefing time then with race requirements dealt with for the day, competitors have the chance to size up the competition at the energy-loading Carbo Dinner at the Recreation Centre before settling down for the night.

 We’ve had some very patchy weather lately but last Sunday morning dawned a perfect Spring day The Bike leg got under way at 8am for individuals and 8:30 for teams.

Riding the first 7k on tar along Buckets Road is no different from any other triathlon, one might argue, but that’s only till you reach Stanton’s Dairy. It’s then the rider must head across the paddocks (cows out for the day) and onto the track leading up over The Saddle to tackle the roughest section of the 20.4 ride.

This track was accidentally discovered by property owners, Ted Stanton and Warren Landers (it runs down through Lander’s on the other side of the Saddle) 20 years ago. Mark Rotunno, former Australian mountain Bike champion and competitor, reckons it’s the best mountain bike track he’s ever ridden on.

 Once off the tar this unique leg takes the rider along mountain and 4WD roads, creek beds, cattle tracks, rainforest and open country leading to Rocky Crossing where the Barrington River crosses Barrington West road. Competitors don’t get to practice on it before the day. On the Monday after the challenge the place is restored to a working property and all signs of the track are gone…till next year.

 I talked to Cassie, an adventurous 13 year old from Port Macquarie, back for her 2nd Mountain Man Tri Challenge.( you must be 12 yrs old to compete). She’s fearless and tough! Dismissed the long grass on the hill, gullies, ruts, rough climbs and dirt downhills as “a few technicals”. Even Stewie, the winner , declared the section a “a rough comp” .But to Cassie it was just an appetiser for another course next year. We’ll be watching out for her!

 Having pumped their legs on the ride competitors must then transition to their kayaks, which have been securely stored at Rocky Crossing overnight, and then head 10.7 km downstream to Barrington Bridge

On Sunday the river was in a good mood and the rapids along the course were fairly friendly.

However, as with all tri challenges, competitors have their favourite legs and for some the kayak isn’t the one.

Cries of…..

‘Ohhh…my shoulders!!”

“Legs won’t work”

“Boat’s broken…pushed the fin right up through the bottom!’

“Boat’s full of water!”

….could be heard as RFS volunteers hauled craft after craft out of the water and up the bank to where they could be safely stored while waiting to be collected later. Energy bar wrappers ,banana skins, drink bottles and lolly bags sloshing around in the kayaks were signs of refuelling punished bodies as they challenged the river’s twisting 10 plus kilometres.

 For some the kayak leg is a dream run. It attracts ironmen straight from Coolangatta gold!

They think “the paddle is fantastic!”

 But it’s not over yet! It’s out of the kayak, find their land legs, wade back through the river, scramble up the bank and head to the transition area for the 8.8 cross country run to the finish at District Park back in town.

 Farmers had slashed a path through the paddocks, marshals were at stations along the way and the track was marked out with red tape. Compared to the previous run on Thunderbolt’s way it must be much kinder to the feet and legs especially for those who still had their ‘kayak legs” on!

 By the time I got back to the finish , local hero Stewie had already run first through the tape and was looking like he could go again.

He’d had ‘a good run” on the bike leg and done some” record times” even though for him it had been rough. He reckoned “the long grass on the hill had slowed some guys”.

He praised all the volunteers around the course, for their enthusiasm and encouragement .

He was also having a hard time dealing with the fact he was so far ahead of the rest of the field.. 4 mins at the kayak/run transition!

And he told us he does no specific tri training. Just goes in a variety of events leading up to the Tri Challenge . What a Mountain Man!

 And so they came home. Individual entrants, teams, tandem teams, school teams, mixed teams, juniors, junior teams, uni teams….

They came from all over…Coolangatta, Coogee, Bondi, Bar Beach, Medowie, Mona Vale, Mosman, Muswellbrook, W.A., Whitebridge, Paddington,  Port Macquarie, Queenscliff, Fairy Bower, Taree, Gloucester……

 They crossed the line in all manner of moods. Some were aiming for a personal best, some more relaxed even managing a jaunty high-step to celebrate their finish. Dads and mums were joined by excited  kids from the sidelines and they all joined hands to run the last few metres. Others were patched up having ‘lost a bit of bark along the way”. (to quote Stewie).

 John and Mardi ,a husband and wife tandem team who’ve been coming for the past 6 years, have a tradition of tying their shoe laces together for the oval run. It’s just a final expression of togetherness after sharing the same bike and kayak for the last 2 legs of the race.

 I asked one competitor at the finish what single word he’d use to sum up the Mountain Man Tri Challenge. He thought for a bit then definitively declared,

“Fun!”

 And there’ll be lots more of it next year,2nd week of September in Gloucester.

 See you there!

Pleasant surprises are sometimes the result of changing plans on the fly!

Recently, we were making our way back into Barrington after a moving visit to the Barrington Pioneer Cemetery, and were forced to turn round at Rocky Crossing due to recent rain making the ford risky to drive through.

Instead of finishing the loop we started out on we had a decision to make at the three way intersection by the Seeonee property. This point is an interesting one. It marks a spot that offers three roads equidistant from Gloucester. .One through Rocky Crossing, one back by the Cemetery and one by Faulkland Road.

We chose Faulkland Road.

I was so glad we did.

 The road took us by paddocks where horses grazed and frisked, down to a causeway crossing the Gloucester River .This was my introduction to “Fish Friendly” river crossings. The whole area was beautiful. Crystal-clear water torrents plunged over a spillway then continued downstream over rocks and stones in the river bed, between reed and tree lined banks. The percussion of the spillway sounds blended with the rhythmic harmonies of the gentler flow as water moved over and around the pebbles.  

The Faulklands Road crossing over the Gloucester River is one of several causeways which prevented the free passage of fish throughout the majority of flow conditions due to a “waterfall effect” on the downstream side of the structure.

The causeways could not be removed as they provided access to both sides of the river, by local residents. It was necessary to find a solution that both allowed the fish to pass through upstream and provided a crossing for residents.

 Following consultation with NSW DPI, rock-ramp fishways designed to simulate natural stream pools and riffles were incorporated into the crossings .

The new rock ramp fishways have reinstated fish passage to over 15 kilometres of habitat and improved access for key recreational fish species to upstream habitat.

There are three of these crossings along Faulkland Road each as gorgeous as the next. The water was quite cold but in summer they make perfect picnic and swimming spots and are intriguing hands on opportunities for the kids to learn and see something unusual.

 We planned to come back with a picnic and our billy boiling kit as we turned off Faulkland Road into Stanton’s Lane and then onto Bucketts Road and back into Gloucester.

The very idea of ‘going to market” has always aroused feelings of excitement, anticipation, urgency to prepare and the readiness to have a good time.

By definition, a market is ‘a meeting of people for buying and selling’. So, if it’s as simple as that why all the joy and fuss?

You only have to follow the signs through town on market morning, and rewind the path taken by the steady line of souls making their way out with bags of what they came to buy, before the best of it went, and you’ll soon discover what makes Gloucester Farmers Market  special.  

That’s what we did last Saturday.

 Deliberately skipping breakfast we set off in the early morning mist to drive into town. Thirty minutes later, as we walked into Billabong Park I felt humbled by the sincerity each stall-holder displayed in the preparation and presentation of their produce. All had maintained the integrity of the products on offer. Clearly the local farmers are serious in their efforts to bring fresh local produce to the community and carry on the tradition of the region that was begun in the 1830’s by the Australian Agricultural Company.

 As the sun was clearly not over the yard arm at 9am we steered past the enticing bottles of verdelho produced by Gap Hill winery and made notes to self to definitely sample them later. Instead, being truly ready for breakfast, we made a bee-line for the Baked Goods stall with its displays of golden crusted loaves to suit any dietary need or craving. The nutty, home ground flour satisfies the market rules that ingredients must be produced by the stallholder and ensures the food is baked to perfection. It didn’t take us long at all to choose spinach and fetta rolls which went extremely well with the north coast coffee made by the market barista.,

 Bottles of preserves,jams and sauces beckoned from every corner of the market-place. There were olives, eggs, goat products, honey, candles and heritage herbs and seedlings of the most exotic variety. I bought a wild marjoram for my herb garden from Nature’s Harvest and promised myself I’d prepare space for more potted herbs next month. Not everyone needs to grow large amounts to be able to sell their produce. A community stall makes it possible to bring even a few jars of jam or veges.

 It takes more than overnight rain and soft, misty morning to dampen the enthusiasm of market goers, especially when the air is filled with happy voices of friends greeting each other, catching up and even people who’ve just met exchanging thoughts because of the common ground now being shared.

But the sound that stopped me in my tracks as it floated across the morning air was that of violin strings as the haunting strains of Memories drifted through the mist.

A wandering minstrel was playing with all the skill and grace of a concert musician.

Grannies Goodies drew a crowd. Her rustic baking was wonderful! None of your dainty high-tea delicacies. Generous muffin-sized quiches and savoury tarts, slices, scones, pies, all with the same golden crusts as the bakery . She uses the same locally ground as her friend in the stall next door. We bought some delicious date scones to take home.

In awe of the quantity and variety of goods” Granny” offered, I asked how long it took to prepare for her stall. All week, I was told, to shop, make pastry, chop (with the help of husband ) bake and pack. True dedication to bringing fresh local healthy produce to market!

On the way in we had passed the Wagyu beef stall with its tantalising cooking aromas. So, as it was time for another snack we went to sample some of the gourmet rissoles and sausage coils. “Mum grows the cows just out there”, we were told by family members as mum was busy with customers.

Sampling each just confirmed why the Australian Wagyu beef is so highly regarded by connoisseurs the world over. It has a richness to it that is unique. Our city friends will be green with envy when we tell them we can buy such a delicacy at our local Farmers Market.

 “Something for everyone!’ says the brochure for Gloucester Farmers Market. Our final something, on our way back to the Gaphill verdelho, was to try some of the best cheese I have ever tasted. $4 bought a slab of the golden taste sensation and our cries of appreciation drew people to the stall. Before long, there was much nibbling and nodding and pointing as we took possession of our wrapped pieces of 6-month old bitey, slightly crumbly, extremely tasty, with the rind still on, locally made cheese. Next month we’ll try the yoghurt. 

Early records described the Gloucester area as a potential food bowl. Today’s Farmers Markets are living proof that they were right. Gloucester Farmers Market truly does what it claims to. It brings local produce and community together.

So, if you’d like to go, the Farmers Market is held on the 2nd Saturday of each month.  The Market commences at 8:30am and finishes at 12:00noon – click here to see who’ll be selling at the next scheduled market day!

 

Whether you come by train, by plane or by automobile it makes no difference. From the first moment you see the smoke spiralling from the home fire chimneys, you’ll begin to feel the warmth of winter in Gloucester. Because it’s here that the crackling log fires of rural resorts, cosy B and B’s in town or country cottages further out, will take the chill out of winter for you, whether you stay for a week-end or a few weeks.

Gloucester does winter well. Where else will you step into the local pharmacy, and find yourself enveloped in the warmth from a huge wood stove burning in the centre of the shop and lavender aroma permeating the air, allowing you to inhale the soothing vapours?

Where else can your butcher boast being able to provide you with “locally produced hormone free’ beef for your winter casseroles and pies. Darrel told me he’s been buying his meat from the same farmer for 20 years and makes sure his supply of bacon bones, ham hocks, gravy beef and mince is always in abundance for when the cold weather sets in. So, you too can live like a local and fill your holiday kitchen with good old-fashioned cooking that you just don’t get time to enjoy, in the rush and bustle of everyday life back home.

Fancy one of “the best pies in the world”? That’s what the locals call them and when I asked at the bakery if they have a winter speciality I was introduced to their super meat pie topped with gravy and mushy peas. Just the thing to help one thaw out after a frosty night!

Everyone’s talking about “the big Wednesday frost”. It was cold everywhere ..city and country alike. But even the big chill couldn’t make the town seem uninviting. There was no customary al fresco dining along the main street and the café doors were all closed but inside there were contented souls with steaming mugs and plates of warming treats and a golden welcoming glow that beckoned as you passed.

Winter’s a time when it’s so easy to hibernate, stay indoors rather than rug up and do outdoor things. Gloucester has the very cure for that.

It’s the Chillout Festival!!

This is when everyone in town chills out, not curled up on the couch in front of a fire but outside in the winter chill! This year it happens on 31st July. The whole town goes into carnival mode with markets, music and festival magic. You can feast on local wines, cheeses and gourmet organic delicacies, ride the historic rail motor to Bundook,

marvel at the expertise of the woodchop contestants or enjoy the Vintage Car concourse. But best of all you can get to know the locals who love to chat so that all day long you will revel in the warmth of community.

There’s no doubt about it. Winter in Gloucester is rather wonderful. When you want a change from the village feel to your holiday, mother- nature has her specialities for you as well. Just toss your gortex jackets, woolly hats, scarves and gloves into the car with your hiking boots, head out into Barrington Tops National Park and take an envigorating walk through  the ancient beech forests. Chances are they’ll even be covered in snow!!

So if it’s a warm, friendly, country village atmosphere you want for your winter sojourn, you’ve found it when you come to Gloucester!

 

Would you give anything for a week or two without ever hearing the kids say, ”I’m bored!”?

Bring them to Gloucester and have a holiday that could be the start of a tradition that becomes part of your family history!!

Naturally, where you stay depends on what you all like to do. The great thing about coming to Gloucester is you have endless choices.

Will you camp in the holiday Park in town or out by the Little Manning River at Gloryvale or Bretti Reserve?

Perhaps somewhere that offers horse riding might keep the kids happy.  You can book your holiday at the Gloucester Visitor Information Centre and they can also guide you in your choice of place to stay.

Last year two friends of mine brought their four children, bikes, skateboards and grandmother and they had the best time from daybreak to dark, camping in town using the skateboard bowl and bike track in District Park and exploring the countryside. They even joined other kids in the park in a giant mud slide which was a trade-off for all the rainy days at the time.

 If camping’s not your cup of tea, there are animal friendly homesteads and farm stays available close to town, eliminating the need for kennels and catteries before leaving home.

Self-contained cabins and cottages are ideal for families.

Choose from modern, Federation, country, village, on a ridge, in the valley, atop a hill amongst birdsong or by a river where there’s fishing.

Other options are to holiday, resort style, or in a friendly Bed and Breakfast which offers meals cooked in heaven!

 Once your family has settled in and is ready to have fun you’ll be wishing the days were twice as long. Decisions, decisions! Better just work them through the list of things to do!

There’s horse riding, skate boarding, swimming, bushwalking, bike riding, bird-watching, canoeing, fishing, mini golf, picnicking.

Drive and explore Gloucester tops and Barrington Tops with their waterfalls, ancient Beech forests and breathtaking lookouts.

For a quieter day visit the art gallery or the library, take photos or paint.

There’s always something special going on in Gloucester. Your reason for a getaway could be the Annual Gloucester Show in March, Poley’s country music Hoedowns at Easter and in October,the Shakespeare Festival in May. A calendar of the year’s events is always available from the Visitor Centre.

 You never know. The moments spent listening to the flowing waters at one of the Fish Friendly fords along Faulkland Road or gazing in awe from the heights of Thunderbolt’s Lookout or walking along trails in the ancient beech forests, just might be the dawning of the realisation your family has found Gloucester is the place they want to come back to year after year.

Love to take photos? Looking for breath-taking scenery? Go for a drive in the Gloucester area countryside. At every turn is a landscape you
will want to frame. Take a bush-walk. You’ll be surrounded by scenes you will want to
remember. Relax with a coffee at an outdoor café. You’ll be inspired by
portraits of country living.   

You don’t have to go far out of town to see what I mean. The
Buckett’s Way east towards Taree, takes you out into the heartland
of the valley where farms are nestled on hillsides and creeks wind by
the foothills of the Mograni Range.

If you head out at sunrise or sunset you’ll find the views of
Gloucester vale and west towards the Bucketts hills even more
wonderful. The farmers have a knack of positioning their dams among the folds

of the ground where they develop an ecosystem of their own being
home to water hens, frogs and bird-life as well as being the essential
waterhole for resident cattle.

Myriads of birds dart and sing..not just flocks of minors, sparrows
and pigeons and the occasional parrot. Even the crows look sleeker,
shinier and definitely more relaxed than their urban cousins.
Friends back home probably wouldn’t believe how country crows hunker
down like a cat, on fences and branches, unless you had proof on your
camera.

Park the car and walk a country road like the one towards Bunyah.
You’ll want to remodel your tiny mailbox back home, build a country
fence with a swinging gate out front or maybe get some chooks to
roam freely around the yard. And you’ll have your photos to remind
you why you wanted to.

But if it’s rocky streams, rapids,overhanging foliage, dappled
light and shadows you want, head out the other side of town on
Thunderbolt’s Way and pull into Gloryvale where the little Manning
river reserve will have you feeling glad you charged that extra
battery.You’ll want to camp ..and it’s allowed …well at least take a
picnic and spend the afternoon snapping to your heart’s content.
Other magic pictures can be found by turning left just outside
Barrington and driving down to Rocky Crossing or one of the many
fords where the Barrington and Gloucester Rivers criss-cross the
road.

A smorgasbord of photo opportunities awaits you in town. From the
Heritage Walk for historical buildings to one of the prettiest parks in
NSW…..the rest is up to you!

Who knows, you could end up with a prize winning photo you might
like to enter in Gloucester’s annual photographic competition!

Are you a biker, a bowler, a gardener, a gourmet, a poet, a painter, a pet lover, a parent, a reader, a writer, a motorist, a musician, active, reflective, young or simply young at heart ?

There are 100 things you could do in the Gloucester region which would have you planning your next visit even before you have finished your first.

Be sure to call into the Visitor Information Centre in town to get any maps, brochures and details you might need.

Take the Gloucester Tops walking trails in the eastern section of the Barrington Tops National Park for starters and get back to nature with a bushwalk to remember!

You’ll find woodlands, wetlands, waterfalls, wildlife and scenery to wow you!

There’s an easy track here, like the 20 minute walking loop or the 90min loop, which gives you a steep climb out. Both allow you to explore an ancient Antarctic Beech forest.

Or you could head out to the northern section of the National Park and take the Barrington Tops forest road for a variety of tracks, trails, plateaux, lookouts and scenery which will leave you in awe of the powers of nature itself.

And you’ll be following in the footsteps of Frederick Ward alias “Captain Thunderbolt” excellent horseman and feared bushranger, who was at large in these parts between 1863 and 1870.

Did you know the Barrington plateau rises from sea level to 1,500metres high? No wonder day visitors come back into the Information Centre in Gloucester saying it’s another world, climate wise, up there. The vegetation, too, is a world apart from at sea level. On the Tops you’ll find forests of snow gums..covered in snow some winters..as well as sub-tropical rainforests and 2,000-year-old Antarctic Beech Forests..as in the Gloucester Tops area.

They say Barrington Tops is “a little closer to heaven” and with 120,000 hectares of unspoilt wilderness to enjoy there, they have to be right!

So start planning your Gloucester visit now… there’s so much to see and do!