The days may be short but they are beautiful this time of year and a drive out to Wisemans Ferry is a great trip. Breathtaking sandstone cliffs and a winding road, a calm river and the little putt-putt ferries are nature’s best. Then, add a new -- well, old -- museum in the historic Wisemans Ferry Inn & Hotel to your day along with a chilled pint and a juicy steak. A great autumn day. . .

 

At the front of Wisemans pub, two enormous trees provide shade for those who love their grog in the great outdoors. The thick sandstone walls, exterior and interior are reminders of the original residence built by Solomon Wiseman in 1826. The sandstone was hand-huened -- can you imagine the effort that required? Today the hotel has five original fireplaces -- four are in working order and when fires are lit in the chilly months, we enjoy the ambience of the 1800s.

 

 

Back in January, we toured the renovated accommodation on the first level. Timber floors are Australian Cypress -- a honey coloured native timber that is termite-resistant. This flooring is the original -- from Wiseman's early construction and is beautiful. Each freshly painted room and modern ensuite is dressed with dark rich antiques, elegant textiles and linens that are in keeping with the period.  You have stepped into a country gentleman's stylish home – probably quite stylish for 1800 Australia.

 

 

Perhaps the most revealing of our convict ancestors’ inventiveness is the cooked oyster shell ‘mortar’ sealing between the sandstone rocks.  Then, limestone was unavailable, so this make-do ‘tabby’— crushed cooked oysters shells mixed with water, sand and ash still holds the rock today.  

 

      

 

Each Saturday and Sunday (and public holidays), Cobham Hall Museum is opened to the public from 1-3 pm. The opened-ended large room is filled with typical objects and bits and pieces of Solomon Wiseman’s day

 

Now, back to the Bistro verandah, the view, a cool brew and that juicy steak! 

 

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Each year, we publish (yes, that old technology, print) the Villages of Hawksbury and Hills for readers who want a take-away with pretty photos to read, with a glass of wine or a cool beer at their leisure. Our print copy arrived Monday afternoon and you will soon see it in cafes, pubs, visitor information centres, hotels and libraries. Pick up a copy -- it's free. We began with reminiscing about our travels in the past 12 months.

 

      

 

Get up, get out & go. . .in The Hawkesbury and The Hills

 

 

We wish words could convey the beauty and delight of a place as captured in our ‘mind’s eye’.  Luckily, photographs transport us to those enchanting places we retain in memory.  Else, why would we subject our friends and family to never-ending Instagram or Facebook updates of our wonderful trips?

 

Throughout the Guide and on our website we share our trips around the Hawkesbury and Hills with photos from many sources. If, with words, we haven’t convinced you to travel into your backyard playground, these photos should do the trick.

 

As we prepared for this2016/17 edition, change is in the air and change will impact the way we live in this broad, sweeping area.  Discussions and plans of amalgamation – merger – of The Hawkesbury and The Hills are underway.  Traffic, public transport and construction daily alter the landscape and citizens are uneasy about the transformation.  Yet, small villages across the shires – Kurrajong Village, Bells Line of Road, Dural, Glenorie, Wisemans Ferry, Windsor, and Richmond remain, to a great extent, unchanged.

 

We find nature’s dramatic scenes across in our travels:

·       Rivers – Hawkesbury, Grose and Colo – swollen and fierce after heavy rains.

·       Sandstone slopes and deep dark canyons of the Blue Mountains.  Untamed dense ancient forests.  

·       Breathtaking Bells Line of Road.   

·       Diverse ‘cool climate’ gardens at Mount Tomah.  Waratahs, bright and red.  

·       Flat lowlands bedded with turf.

·       Dark lagoons home to lily pads and surrounded by Ebenezer grape vines.  

·       Steep sharp curves of sandstone and gum trees standing tall overhead— a country road drops precipitously into Wisemans Ferry.

 

Off the busy thoroughfares, back roads are leafy and less travelled. Farms, orchards and produce stands dot the roads on the way to Glenorie, to Gross Vale or Bells Line of Road.  And, river fishing? According to locals, “fishing is probably the second biggest recreational use of waterways – of course, after picnicking.”

 

Our European heritage beckons at Rouse Hill House and Farm. The house, somewhat elegant stables and farm animals along with the old school house returns us to our colonial days.

 

Our most recent discovery: Yarramundi Reserve, a fantastic family spot adjacent to the lower Hawkesbury end of Springwood Road.   Here the Grose and Hawkesbury Rivers converge – water is clean and rather cold.  Little ones – from toddlers to school kids build sandcastles on the beach or skip stones across the water – we hear from our little experts – “these stones are “the best”.  Kids feed the ducks, fish with grandpa and run around and scream with joy.  You’ll see teens and adults in kayaks and canoes, or fishing from the big rocks. There is a carpark, but be forewarned – in the summer months best arrive early – the Reserve is a popular destination.

 

 

Here a short list of new ‘finds’ along with a few of our established favourites.

 

 

·       ‘Convict Footprints’, May 2016 performances are now in the fifth year on the Old Great North Road (Wisemans Ferry).  And performances in the          summer months at Bella Vista Farm (Baulkham Hills) ‘Convict Footprints’ follows life on the farm for our convict ancestors.  

·       Fine spirits in the Hawkesbury at Ironbark Distillery – award-winning and industrious entrepreneurs

·       Purple Noon Gallery in Freemans Reach opens six exhibitions in 2016. Charming gallery in beautiful rural location

·       The Sydney Polo Club: Join the walking group on Thursday mornings, 8:30am  ...fast pace, but even terrain and great company.

·       Tree Top Adventure on Springwood Road in Yarramundi is a towering activity in the tree tops near the Yarramundi Reserve. Sore biceps but                worth it!       

·       Rouse Hill Organic Markets, Saturday 8am – 1pm through October 29.

·       Richmond Good Food Markets  Saturday 9am - 1pm

        Windsor Mall Sunday Markets   Sunday 9am - 3:30pm

·       Australiana Pioneer Village – Wilberforce.  Living history each Sunday

·       Kayaking on the river – terrific for triceps – and,  oh so beautiful in the early hours

 

      

 

Adventure Conservation: At Yarramundi, we meet a number of Willow Warriors – these hardy volunteers,, in partnership with other bushcare and landcare groups,  clean the river of nasty black willows, an effort which coversabout 80 to 90 kilometres of the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers and their tributaries.  Get fit with canoeing and kayaking. Have fun with camping and cleaning up the waterways. This is conservation at its best.

So, for another year, these are merely a few reasons you should find your way to the Villages of Hawkesbury & Hills.  

 

                                                                                    

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