Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|16 May 2015
Bingara to Tamworth
Another cool to cold night (but not as cold as some recent ones) was followed by a bright and sunny morning with a blue sky. We left Bingara bound for Tamworth today with Barraba as the immediate destination. The road was fairly good with several recently renewed stretches of bitumen. The road runs south through a broad river valley devoted to cattle grazing and gently, but definitely, rising from under 300 metres elevation leaving Bingara to be above 600 metres by the time we reached a roadside sign proclaiming the Nandewar Range. This is the very rugged mountain chain through Kaputar National Park west of this valley and closer to Narrabri, but we were crossing a very subdued spur which looked more like foothills compared with the vertical rock faces in the national park.
Although the road initially ran through grazing land there were large areas of eucalyptus woodland covered in large gum trees but without undergrowth; the ground was covered in long, thick grass which appeared to be favoured by cattle. Land use changed a little as road elevation increased; the timber remained with cattle but there was now some crop covered paddocks. One or two wheat paddocks; but also a number of paddocks covered in bright green, low growth which we took to be a legume of some sort.
The Binangra to Tamworth road is named the Fossickers Way, probably to establish itself as tourist route. Between Binangra and Barraba some roadside signs indicate suitable fossicking areas giving some credibility to the roads touristy name. The topogaphic map shows many old mine workings in the area confirming geological variety of the area.
But there were far more signs pointing along tracks designated as "Bird Routes" which is the term generally used to describe places where birds can be seen. A series of bird routes are designated between Warialda (on the Gwyder Highway) through Binangra all the way to Barraba. Judging by the number of bird routes there appears to be many good bird-watching sites along this valley and up onto Nandewar Range. This is classed as an Important Bird Area for conservation of the Regent Honeyeater.
Barraba is a town on the Manilla River with population (2011 census) of 1150. The future town site was surveyed in 1852 and gold discoveries in the 1850s helped the growth of the township. The town of Barraba was proclaimed in 1885. The railway line to Manilla opened in 1908 (the last train ran in 1983 and the line mostly closed in 1987).
Copper was discovered near Barraba in 1889 and mined near the newly formed village of Gulf Creek. Copper mining peaked in 1901. Asbestos was mined at Woodsreef, also near Barraba from 1970 to 1983.
Although some mines still operate, Barraba is described as primarily a sheep and wool centre but our observations were more of a service township supporting rural properties on the surrounding tableland; these properties engaged in varied agricultural activity including grazing sheep and cattle as well as cropping. The shopping centre is made up of mostly older buildings; streets are lined with trees all dropping their leaves as winter approached.
Leaving Barraba the Fossickers Way continued south across undulating tablelands with the now abandoned train line to one side. The road trended gently downhill to Manilla which is a slightly larger township at the junction of the Manilla and Namoi Rivers. Through traffic was directed around the cental part of Manilla so we didn't see anything of the shopping centre before continuing on towards Tamworth. South of Manilla the road ranin long, straight, gently descending stretches through grazing and cropping land with one quarry visible in the middle distance as a contrast to the mainly rural scenery.
16 May 2015 - page 2
Tamworth is a large rural centre (population of the Regional Council area was 60,500 in mid-2014) and houses spread for several kilometres around the original centre so we had several kilometres of busy urban roads as we made our way through Tamworth onto the New England Highway heading east from the town to the caravan park we had selected and checked in for a couple of nights. We were one of very few travelling caravans in the park.