Some pics of trips with Armidale Bushwalkers.

 

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Blue Hole Gourmet Walk, 5th December

Some years ago, a couple of us went out with a group that specialised in very casual short walks followed by very organised long lunches. The memory of those prompted Blue Hole Gourmet walk.

Thirteen of us parked at the Blue Hole. We short-cut across the river at the point where the concrete sluice used to lead the water off from the now-destroyed dam. The sluice runs along the contour, and as the Threlfall Track runs beside it, it was very easy walking. Andrew lead us along the path to the right, and we saw the cuttings and embankments that allowed the grade to be maintained. The walk was well signposted, and there was a major display after about 250 metres, giving a good overview of the construction and use of the scheme. The commonest plants are Casuarina cunninghamiana (River Oak), Bursaria spinosa (Blackthorn), Lomandra sp (Mat-Rush), and Leptospermum polygalifolia (Teatree), and a number of other plants were flowering.

About 2.1 km from the start , a sign showed where a large pipe lead the water down into the generating station 140 m below. Apparently, water poured down the 40 cm 'penstock' at up to 2000 cubic metres a second, reaching velocity of 48 metres per second, and generating up to 1000 horsepower..

About 300 metres later was one of the highlights of the walk. A track leads off to the right to an exposed, and unfenced, lookout. From here you can look up the gorge to see the large tumbled granite boulders characteristic of the Gara, and see the large walls of rock opposite that make Gara Gorge a Mecca for local climbers. Some of us, lacking a head for heights, were glad to get back onto the less exposed main track.

A further 400 metres on, we came to the Power station Lookout (with Strong Safe railings !) There's a good view of Mushroom Rock opposite, and you can see where the Power Station used to be located. We thought about climbing down into the bottom of the gorge to work there on a rainy midwinter day- how grey and miserable it must have been. It's surprisingly hard to see the course of the river, as it turns right behind a bluff towards its junction with Salisbury Waters to become the Macleay. The track originally ended here - now it continues on, round to left, to start to climb up to the Rotary seat, where we paused to get our breath back . At this point, a couple of the party had to head back, but the majority followed David's lead to turn right off path and head straight uphill (almost due East) about 150 metres. We crossed the fence running N-S at the corner, then walked on bearing of 30 degrees (along the edge of the gorge) for a further 700 metres to another fence, from which we could see the carriages. We crossed a sharp little gully, then another fence, and about 10 minutes later arrived at the Carriages.

The Carriages are on the property "Silverton", owned by the Waters family, telephone 0267-753755. You should ring them as a matter of courtesy, after booking through the Uniting Church (telephone 0267 - 7723233) - they actually manage the site. The campsite is best accessed from the Grafton road, turning right onto the Silverton Road just before Cooney Creek, 18.4 km from the Grafton Road -Marsh Street intersection. It's then a further 7.7 km of well-formed dirt to the Carriages campsite (total 26.1 km)

We wandered around discussing their feasibility for future activities, then backtracked to the Threlfall walk. A further 30 minutes and we were back at the Blue Hole picnic shelter starting the real business of the day- lunch.

First came the drinks - a variety of beers, wines and cordials. Then a range of cold meats, salads, and comestibles, with Margaret's quiche winning a place near one walkers heart (his stomach). Then the sweets- a variety of cakes and slices, including one that had ridden a bicycle out with Paul to meet its fate. When people were too stuffed to move, we held a surprisingly productive meeting, elected a new secretary (Jane Growns) and planned a number of walks taking us into the second part of the year. Maybe we all realised that we'll need to keep walking if to reduce the damage to our fitness done by the excellent lunch. It was a GOOD day!

(For those interested, there's a detailed plant list and a Blue Hole/Carriages planning list -about 30 pages- available from David . )

 

 

 

 

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