Thursday Travel – Saddle up, it’s Tenterfield

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I don’t know about you, but I sometimes can’t resist taking a break while driving, just to snap some random shots in a town or place I am passing.

Tenterfield, in Northern NSW,  was one such place.

We had been at a conference in Tamworth and were driving home to Brisbane. As the half-way point in the seven-hour drive, Tenterfield seemed the perfect place for a break – and after a quick bite and McWee, we started off again.

But as we headed down the main street, I decided I had to stop again and grab a few pictures.

Tenterfield is a town of about four thousand people – but it punches well above its weight as a key centre in the New England district.

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Because it is at the intersection of the New England Highway and the Bruxner Highway, the town  is a hub for both commerce and tourism – being a three-hour drive from Brisbane, three hours from Byron Bay, three hours from Tamworth and a day away from Sydney.

It sits astride the Great Dividing Range, near Mount MacKenzie  one of the highest points along the Northern Tablelands.

Like many country towns, it’s not exactly flush with cash – but as a commercial centre for a relatively rich rural area, the town has held up better than many similar sized centres around Australia.

It also has a historic cachet – as the ‘birthplace of Australian Federation (Sir Henry Parkes delivered his “Federation Speeech at the Tenterfield School of Arts in 1889).

It was also the site of a secret plan to ‘Defend Australia from Japanese Invasion’ during World War Two (in the mid 1940s, thousand of soldiers set up secret bivouacs, and I’m told that abandoned gun emplacements and tank traps can be spotted along the nearby stock route.)

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Many of the buildings in the main street were built around the turn of the 20th century, and the town still has a lovely streetscape – although as with all country towns, there are signs of wear and tear amongst the heritage paint-jobs and restorations.

As a journalist, I was fascinated to see the old Tenterfield Star building. The newspaper has served the region since 1871 – and while it’s now moved to more modern offices, the windows of its old building see to say “come, look inside, at the history we have brought you”

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Or maybe I’m just a romantic 🙂

So Tenterfield’s more than a toilet stop – other things to check out while in Tenterfield, if you have a bit more time than the 30 minutes we spent there, include the historic Railway Station (now a museum), the Post Office (still operating nearly 140 years after its construction) – and Bald Rock National Park just south of the town.

And of course there’s  the saddlery of George Woolnough – the Tenterfield Saddler made famous in the song by Peter Allen.

Time is a traveller, Tenterfield Saddler, Turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo, think I see kangaroo up ahead …

 

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