Saturday, 22 September 2012

19 - 21 September - Griffith - West Wyalong

19 September 2012
We hit the road early this morning to reach Leeton, about 50 kilometres away, for a tour of the SunRice factory at 9.30, but unfortunately my navigational skills were absent today and we got lost!!  So, we didn’t make it for the tour.  When we found the Information Centre the tour has been discontinued, thank goodness.
The success of the MIA is largely due to the success of the rice industry.
Trials carried out by the NSW Department of Agriculture at the Yanco Experiment Farm showed irrigated rice production was suited to the temperate Mediterranean climate and heavy clay soils of the region.  The first commercial crops were grown in 1924.  The region has become the most efficient and innovative rice growing and processing area in Australia.  SunRice is the international brand of Ricegrowers Limited, which has its headquarters in Leeton.  SunRice is owned by about 2,000 Australian rice growers..SunRice produces and markets an extensive range of rice and value-added rice food products.  It’s Australia’s largest exporter of processed food products and fifth largest rice food company in the world.
This area is home to some of Australia’s most successful wineries including De Bortoli, Casellas and McWilliams.  300,000 tonnes of quality wine grapes are grown annually, that is around ten times bigger than the Hunter Valley.
Leeton & Yanco exist due to the activity of wealthy Irish landholder, Samuel McCaughey, who on his property ‘North Yanko’, demonstrated that irrigation was possible.  He built dams and re-directed water on his own land to show politicians that it could be done.  His influence led government to commence constructing a giant irrigation scheme in 1906, and in 1912 the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) was officially opened.  McCaughey was knighted in 1905.
His North Yanko Mansion was built in 1899 to host a visit by Prince Edward, Prince of Wales.  It now accommodates the boarders and classrooms of Yanco Agricultural High School.
Sir Samuel McCaughey's mansion - now the Yanco Agricultural High School  - Leeton
Leeton’s layout owes much to the design work of influential American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin, who also designed the neighbouring town of Griffith following their successful design of Canberra.  Six-hundred people lived in Leeton in 1913, mostly in canvas tents, when the first town allotments were released.  Take up was slow due to the loss of young men and their labour to World War I, and than the flu epidemic of 1919.  More farm lots are created as part of the post-war Soldiers’ Settlement Plan and in 1922 the town entered a boom period.
Roxy theatre - Main Street  -  Leeton
As we travelled around today we could see water lying around in the paddocks as a result of the flooded Mirrool Creek in March.
As we drive around and see oranges left on the trees we wonder why?  We were told by one of the growers the price they receive at the moment is $100 per tonne and it costs them more than $100 per tonne to pick.  Hence they are left on the trees, what a waste!
Henry Lawson arguably Australia’s most read and revered poet and correspondent for the greater part of the 20th century, spent almost two years as a resident of Leeton from 1916-17.
Henry had been struggling with alcoholism, becoming less productive, depressive and at some risk.  He spent time in gaol and in mental institutions.  At the request of some influential friends, the NSW Premier agreed to help Lawson dry out and organized to have a job created in Leeton.  Leeton and Henry were a match.  On one hand a prohibition town, on the other, an alcoholic who needed to escape temptation.  Unaware that the job offer was an intervention he accepted the position of publicist of the MIA.  Lawson and his friend, patron and housekeeper Mrs. Byers stepped off the train from Sydney sometime in January 1916.
Lawson was a writer first and found the constraints of producing promotional snippets for the region increasingly frustrating.  He resigned in November 1916 on learning his contract was being reviewed.
He withdrew his resignation, but less that a year on he returned to Sydney.  He died in Mrs. Byers’ Sydney home in 1922 of a cerebral haemorrhage.
Henry Lawson's residence  -  Leeton
On our return journey wetravelled through some lovely undulating, grazing and cropping country including Barellan, which is the birthplace of Evonne Goolagong.
Giant Tennis Racquet & ball  -  Barellan
20 September 2012
Griffith  -  West Wyalong
We headed north on sealed back roads for about 55 kilometres and missed all the traffic.  After turning east on the Mid Western Highway we climbed up through the ranges to Sims Gap.  Since we left North East Victoria at the end of August we have been following the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, so have been in very flat country and it was a nice change to travel through the hills.
As we left Griffith we passed through a huge range of agricultural and horticultural country such as rice in flooded paddocks, oranges, olives, vegetables, grapes, canola, wheat to mention a few.  Further down the road there were eight new enormous broiler sheds, unoccupied at this stage, but the chicks will no doubt be there shortly.
We made our way through the sleepy little town of Rankins Springs with many of the deserted shop with their windows boarded up.
We arrived in West Wyalong which is at the junction of the Mid Western and Newell Highways.  The original occupants of the district were the Wiradjuri people.  Explorer John Oxley was the first European to investigate the area in 1817, prophesying that “From want of timber, grass and water, it would never be inhabited by civilized man.”  Despite this statement squatters began to settle the district in 1833 recognising the area’s agricultural potential.  Vast sheep and cattle runs were introduced and the area became known as ‘The Blands’ after a Sydney doctor.
It was not until Joseph Neeld discovered gold in 1893 that a centralized settlement developed.  The town of Wyalong was laid out in 1894 to service the new population of up to 10,000.  However, a settlement to the west at the “Main Camp” had already developed which also boasted the “White Tank”, the only established water supply.  Hence in 1895 West Wyalong was officially laid out.  West Wyalong’s crooked main street reflects these days as it follows the original bullock track that curved around trees and gold diggings.  The Wyalong fields were reported as one of the most productive gold fields in the state until the 1920s.
After lunch we took Mollie for a walk and examined the Douglas DC3 Dakota – built in 1943 in Oklahoma City, the plane was donated to the West Wyalong Lions Club who made it a feature in the Lions Park outside our caravan park.  
Douglas DC3 Dakota in the park  -  West Wyalong
With over 220 roses the Rose Garden is situated across the road.
Curved main street of West Wyalong - followed the original bullock tracks around the trees
We walked along one side of the main street with some very old, well kept buildings, down to the walking track (which ended up being the flood drain) and back to the caravan park.
Park - West Wyalong
21 September 2012
West Wyalong
We took Mollie for a walk first thing this morning then took our lunch and headed north through Ungarie (which is where the AFL football family, the Danihers, hail from) which is in the heart of the ‘Wheat Country’.  They are bailing Lucerne here at the moment.
Ever since we left the Murrumbidgee River we have encountered an enormous amount of Patersons Curse – some of the paddocks are purple.
Our first stop was Lake Cargelligo which is an unexpected oasis in the heart of the wide, brown Riverina plains.  The lake dominates the town and is home to many bird species including the rare black cockatoo.  This is where we sat and had our lunch beside the lake while Mollie had fun chasing the swallows.
Mollie chasing swallows at lunchtime  -  Lake Cargelligo
As we left Lake Cargelligo we noticed 8 huge pylons with lights on the top.  It is Australia’s 1st Integrated Solar Thermal & Energy Storage Power Station 3MWe.
Solar Thermal Power Station  -  Lake Cargelligo
We headed to Condoblin which is the area explored by John Oxley in 1817 and Thomas Mitchell in 1836.
Main street  -  Condobolin
The town of Condobolin was proclaimed in 1859.  The railway arrived in 1898 and the town’s population boomed, assisted by finds in 1885 of copper north of the town and in 1896 of gold in the district, north-west of the town.  A major copper and gold mine was in operation at Condobolin from 1898 until around 1910.  Agriculture is still a major influence on the town, production having expanded with the damming of the Lachlan River in 1935.  Wheat, barley, canola, wool, sheep and cattle are produced in the district.  In more recent years irrigation has brought horticulture and cotton to the Lachlan River area.

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