Off the Tourist Trail #7 – Uralla, New England, New South Wales

Fred Ward Memorial Statue, Uralla

Before Uralla, the thought of being tried by a jury of my peers gave me an attack of the screaming horrors. But in the spiritual home of bushranger Fred Ward I found an inarguable defence.

Captain Thunderbolt, Uralla, NSW

For here in Uralla, halfway along the Thunderbolt Way – shortest route from Sydney to the Outback – you can’t scare a kangaroo without it hitting a reminder of Fred’s presence. His rock. His cave. A life size statue in the main street. The McCrossin’s Mill museum that tells his story complete with 9 oil paintings depicting his death. His grave – albeit shrouded in controversy – who is REALLY buried there?!

Fred? Well, c’mon! You can’t call a villainous bushranger by his real name, ‘Fred Ward’, can you? Not with cool names like Ned Kelly and Captain Starlight already out there! And not when there’s a name like ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ going begging!!

But despite Fred’s life of crime – robbing mail coaches, hotels, stores and residences; stealing over 80 horses; and involved in several shootouts with police – he was still considered a ‘gentleman’. No, this is not some new and bizarre definition of the word ‘gentleman’ with which we are not generally familiar – Fred ‘earned’ this consideration because – wait for it – HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY KILL ANYONE!!

So should I find myself on trial, I’ll just use the ‘Thunderbolt’ defence! ‘But, your Honour – I didn’t actually KILL anyone’. That’ll do the trick, won’t it??

Constable Walker’s Memorial Plaque

Of course it won’t if I actually DID kill someone – but I digress…

Constable Alexander Walker finally nabbed Fred – but you’ll be hard pressed to find his memorial plaque in the shadow of the dashing Thunderbolt statue and actually decipher its text!

It’s unclear how much of a mention Walker rates in the annual Thunderbolt Festival.

For a town that celebrates its close association with the notorious Captain Thunderbolt perhaps a little TOO much, Uralla has a surprising number of attractions unrelated to bushrangers, famous or otherwise.

Even so, the town still attracts thunderbolts.

Dangar’s Lagoon from the Bird Hide, Uralla

One look at the ominous autumn storm clouds gathering over the mountains and we turned back from birdwatching trip to nearby Dangar’s Lagoon, pausing only to pick up a quick lunch from one of Uralla’s two fine bakeries. Beating the rain by nanoseconds, we scuttled back to our cosy on-site van in the terrific Uralla Caravan Park, well off the highway bisecting the town. I’m sure the wild thunderstorm* raging directly above added a frisson of extra pleasure to the bakery wonders we consumed, but it’s not an experience I’d want every year decade lifetime … But at least the resultant drop in temperature kept the snakes at bay when we picked up where we’d left off at Dangar’s lagoon later that same day!!

New England Architecture, Council Chambers, Uralla

Maybe just an April 2011 thing, our second storm in two days bailed us up in the fabulous Burnet’s Books. Of course being forced to wander aimlessly through multiple rows of wonderful antiquarian books isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but Pilchard had to tell me the storm was over several times before it sank in!!

And when the countryside’s ablaze with the onset of autumn – the region isn’t called ‘New England’ for nothing – the jaw-dropping waterfalls and spectacular New England and Oxley Wild Rivers National Parks** nearby don’t need the added lure of bushranger hidey-holes!

Autumn Colours, Uralla

Unlike much of the rest of OZ, the New England plateau has 4 distinct seasons and Uralla’s winter temperatures reportedly reach -14º C – making it a less obvious choice for to play ‘let’s go on the run’. For us, the world class showers in the only caravan park amenities block with wall heaters I’ve seen in OZ staved off the autumnal chill – and the Fung Wah Chinese restaurant’s excellent Saturday night buffet reinforced what I already knew. I like my food – and comforts – WAAAY too much to do the bushranger thing. I guess that means I’m just too soft to be an outlaw!

So maybe I won’t have to use the Thunderbolt Defence after all …

Autumn Colours, Uralla

One day we’ll find ourselves able to stay as long as we like in a place – but this visit wasn’t it. En route to the FAAAAABULOUS Lord Howe Island, the next steps of our trip were locked in.

But our next move WAS assured. A short drive down the road to Glen Innes – to pick up my free Celtic Glitter Mug!! But that’s another story …

* Rivalling our previous experiences at Bowen, Queensland
** Watch this space for a separate post on more regional attractions!

These photos are part of the worldwide celebration of skies around the world on SkyWatch Friday!  There’s plenty more to see … just click HERE!!

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46 comments

  • @Betty – Thanx, my friend!! Hope you’re having a great weekend!!
    @Jen – Yeah, it’s probably pretty versatile – except in cases of actual murder!!

  • hmmm…i’m going to have to remember that defense! great shots!

  • Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry

    fantastic shots with great composition.

    beautiful skies and warm, autumnal colours!!

    nicely done:)

  • @25BAR – Welcome, and thanx!! This bushranger only stole thoroughbred horses – that way he could make a quick getaway!!!

  • That statue of the man on the horse looks rather nice.

  • @Alessandra – Haha, good point!! At least the robbers achieved some ongoing notoriety – most politicians sink without a trace!!
    @Stewart M – Thanx! And you DO know there’s a word for people like you, don’t you??!! Look forward to the Grampians shots …
    @Lilly – Who knows what he was like? But whether being a ‘good bloke’ or a ‘nice guy’ excuses criminal activity is an interesting question we could debate over your seafood chowder!! Virtually, of course!! Have a great weekend!!
    @Michelle – ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ immediately makes the story sound even MORE interesting – and definitely more exciting!!

  • Michelle (Confessed Travelholic)

    What an interesting story about Fred ward!

  • Lets see, whether your a villainous bushranger, or “Tony Soprano” type Mobster, aren’t they all gentlemen, and they are gentlemen – H-m-m-m-m, “Robin Hood” stole from the rich and gave to the poor. “Tony Soprano” type mobster was very good to his “family” n friends, so is it OK to say “Fred Ward”, even though villlainous bushranger, who didn’t ever kill anyone, had a kind, gentle way about him to those he cared about? People can rob you, but in today’s times, one isn’t just robbed, they are tortured,(etc)and killed and that is a very sad fact of life to get 12 bucks? Love the photos Red, especially how the wires appear to hold up “Mr. Ward”.
    Cheers, Lilly

  • Hi there – great set of pictures – and as has already been pointed out, clever use of the wires in the first shot.

    Cheers Stewart M.

    PS: one more lot of Grampians pictures to come!

  • Golly you really like to make monuments of robbers :-). In other countries they do too but call them politicians. 🙂

  • @bettyl – You’re welcome!! It’s OZ tour central here at my blog!!
    @Judy – Thanx! I’ve had so many compliments about this shot, I had a more critical look at it! I took it primarily to record the bird hide and lake, so it’s weird the aesthetics work so well!
    @Angie – Thanx for dropping by! I wasn’t sure what the bird was – and jealous as hell that we haven’t seen the WA race of this parrot!! One day …

  • @lina – Thanx for dropping by, plenty more where these came from!! Come back anytime!!
    @lotusleaf – yes, it’s a bit of a contradiction in terms!! Glad you enjoyed – come back for more!
    @Life Ramblings – Welcome, and thanx! Got to appreciate the autumn colours where you can – they’re not so common in OZ!
    @Tatjana – thank you, and same to you!!
    @magsx2 – the statue appealed to my sense of drama, but impossible to photograph without the wires! One day we’ll underground them all …
    @LV – well, thank you! My work is done!!

  • @Joan Elizabeth – We NEARLY stayed in Guyra – it’s got the highest caravan park in OZ, and the ‘Lamb and Potato’ festival has a certain appeal too! Maybe next time …
    @River – Capt Thunderbolt’s name was really Fred Ward – it IS dull!! Ned Kelly sounds a LOT better, even though that’s his real name!! I just put it in as comparison for the dull FW name – sorry for the confusion!!
    @afanja – Welcome, and thanx! You too!!

  • Great shots! That bird you were asking about was a ‘twenty-eight’ parakeet’.

  • Love that one photo with the water so clear and reflecting the clouds – so pretty!

  • Thanks for a great tour!

  • Enjoyed your visit. You always share such lovely photos and history of different parts of your world.

  • Hi,
    Fantastic statue, and some great shots as well.

  • Tatjana Parkacheva

    Very nice photos.

    Regards and best wishes

  • lovely photos. beautiful reflections and sky and the autumn colours are exquisite.

  • A gentleman brigand:) Beautiful shots! I enjoyed reading your article very much.

  • Wonderful shots, I specially like the reflecting lagoon.
    Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend!

  • Are you telling me Ned Kelly was actually named….Fred Ward? How dull.
    Unless I read it wrong.

  • Love your story. 20 years ago I used to travel this route a lot by bus on my up to Qld to visit Mum and Dad. It used to stop in Gyra in the middle of the night and was FREEZING. But as you say, makes for great autumns.

    I remember also seeing Thunderbolt’s Rock as a kid and wondering how he squeezed into the cracks to hide.

  • @Jayne – Ha! We Aussies LOVE a good conspiracy theory – the body was apparently identified the next day, but maybe the police just wanted to close the case??!!
    @magiceye – well, come back anytime! Plenty more useless information aka fascinating facts where these came from!!
    @Beach Bum – well, they’re some temperatures to which you’re probably more accustomed!!! Thanx for those kind words, my friend!
    @FruitCake – Yeah, that’s what the caravan park owner told us!!! Happily, I didn’t experience that low myself … temps pretty good in early April when we were there!
    @Ann O’Dyne – HHHMMMmmm… perhaps deeply ironic that Thunderbolt’s descendents work for Telstra!!! Somehow, the legend obscures the fact he had a wife and kids!
    @Rajesh – Welcome and thanx!
    @eden – Thanx to you too – come back anytime!!

  • Great post. Beautiful photos.

    Have a great weekend.

  • @ladyfi – I couldn’t get an angle without the wires, so tried to make them work for me! Glad you approve, and thanx for dropping by!!
    @Wendy – And here I was wondering if we had anything in common … books speak a universal language, right? Virtual travel is the next best thing if you can’t do it for real …
    @alicesg – We Aussies ROCK a good weekend!
    @PDP – Ha! Now you mention it, I think I actually prefer the scoundrels of yesteryear!! At least they were open and honest in their life of dishonesty (yeah, that DOES make sense!)

  • Beautiful place, scenic beauty.

  • I talked once to a descendant of Capn T – she worked for Telstra in Sydney and told me a great story I now forget.
    I do envy your wonderful roaming – keep it up for both of us. x x

  • -14??? -14 Celsius??? Thanks for the lovely photos and the good oil on Cptn Thunderbolt. These will tide me over until the temp is a min 22 overnight and it is safe for me to visit…

  • Damn good post and awesome pictures!

  • that was fascinating!!

  • Fred’s not dead, baby, Fred’s not dead.
    Weeeell, he wasn’t buried in that grave but slipped the net for Canada 😉
    Love the post and photos, brrr, don’t think I’d be staying there or going on the run in winter thereabouts!

  • Great post Red, this sounds like one of your more successful outback adventures. Australia certainly has some interesting scoundrels in it’s past (not to mention in it’s present!!) Beautiful, beautiful Autumn trees, can’t beat the colours.

  • Lovely photo of the statue and the lake with the sky reflected in it. Have a nice weekend.

  • I am so loving my arm chair travels through Australia, thank you!! I’m still laughing at “Pilchard had to tell me the storm was over several times before it sank in!!” regarding the thunderstorm and the book store…that would be me, ekk!!

  • What lovely reflections and blue skies. Love the composition of that first shot!

  • @Tina – Welcome back, my friend! Will be over to visit shortly!!
    @Towanda – Well … a bushranger is arguably just a cowboy turned BAAAAAAD!
    @Windsmoke – Yes, for who else in society would the ‘Thunderbolt defence’ be an acceptable excuse for inappropriate behaviour??!!
    @MMT – Thank you so much for your kind words and FAAAAABULOUS poem!!
    @Andrew – England, of course!! The US N/E is also derivative – and as far as I recall, OZ settlers came from England – one way or another!!!

  • @J&L – yes, this part of OZ looks unlike any other! And Fred has the dubious honour of being a bushranger for the longest time of any of them!!

  • Called New England after England or the US New England?

  • Magical Mystical Teacher

    The reflection shot is superb!

    SKY LOVE

    Sky above, sky aglow,
    Sky of rain and sky of snow;
    Sky of hail, sky of sleet,
    Sky cavorting o’er the street;
    Sky of black, sky of blue,
    In all seasons I love you!

    © 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

    Sky in a Puddle

  • Fred Ward may not have killed anyone but still caused heartache and mayhem just like a good Bushranger should :-).

  • I always did love cowboys; why not bushrangers.

  • Hi there long time didn’t hear any news from you. I am visitng you here my friend…how things with you over there ? What an awesome country land over there, really hoping one day I will leave my foot print 🙂

  • Jane and Lance Hattatt

    Hello:
    We are, were, absolutely fascinated by the exploits of bushranger Fred Ward but, as you suggest, it is always good to have a ready made defence up one’s sleeve should the occasion demand.

    The countryside does, indeed, look wonderful.

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