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!!