Tuesday, 31 May 2016

An update on the NSW Towns project

It has been close to a couple of years since I have written an overall progress report on our project to visit every town in NSW.  Although it has slowed down a bit due to:

  1. last years long trip getting aborted due to bad weather; 
  2. roads between the Sturt and Barrier Highways being closed due to rain;and 
  3. us spending time at Mallacoota 

we have continued to plug away,  Since August 2014 we have ticked off an extra 61 towns (thus the total is 261 visited) of which 38 have been additions to the Register of NSW War Memorials (so we have added 11 since the previous summary).  Here is where we have been (pink icons are the places we have added).
 This is the remaining towns on the Register (excluding about 200 in Metropolitan Sydney, which I am cutting out as too messy to visit),
It is unlikely we will get to Lord Howe Island!

There are a few places quite close to home which we must deal with as we wander about on 'normal business'. Having done that, there are to my surprise a couple of pockets that could be handled by one or two-day trips.  By way of example, there are some on the South Coast ...
.. and another patch in the Southern Riverina
This is not too far from Rutherglen and certain centres of oenology so seems to have a few ducks lining up!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Industrious Coonabarabran

This post has flowed from:
  • Driving in to Coonabarabran and noticing the large number of motels along the main drag; and subsequently 
  • Discovering that the 2011 Census only recorded 68 people working in the Accommodation industry.
So it was time to resolve this apparent conflict.  Of course, as will be obvious below, this leads into all sorts of other interesting fact about Coonabarabran.

A first step was to attempt to clarify whether there are in fact a lot of motels in Coonabarabran.  I passed on sites such as Tripadvisor and Trivago as I was unsure how places got listed there, but suspected coin of the realm was involved.  Instead I consulted visitNSW.  This listed 12 Motels in the town - all along the Noisy Newell.  Adding in a couple of caravan parks (also on the main drag) gives an average of about 5 employees per establishment.   This is probably reasonable as most of the places would be run by a couple of owners with a part time maid and a night receptionist.

I had previously found that employment in the Accommodation industry was 0.83% of the population of the town, significantly higher that the Australian value of 0.56%.

We have also noticed a lot of motels etc in our local town of Queanbeyan: the Census shows them to employ 228 people  or 0.6% of the population of 37994 people (0.66% if employees in Public Administration and Safety are excluded to reflect Queanbeyan's role as a dormitory for Canberra). You have just entered the world of "Oooops!  Nice try, hakuna cherooti",  On looking at visitnsw for Queanbeyan only 8 motels are listed, giving an average employment of 28 people per motel: I have heard of personal service but that would be ridiculous.  Obviously a lot of people in Queanbeyan must work in the motels etc that festoon Canberra,

Let us try again with the city of Dubbo.  At the intersection of the Newell and Mitchell Highways it is a major crossroads in NSW and is located 400km from Sydney, so a convenient drive from that city.  It is fairly isolated so the employees should all work in the city.  There are 316 employees in the accommodation industry or 0.81% of the population: very similar to Coonabarabran.  It is interesting that there are 34 establishments listed on visitnsw giving an average of 9 employees per establishment: while much higher than Coonabarabran several of the motels seem to be well above the capability of a "Mum and Pop" operation with 50+ rooms and in some cases mention of Conference facilities.

All of this leads me to conclude that Coonabarabran is punching above its weight WRT Motels and my first impression was correct.

I then looked at the overall employment profile of Coonabarabran (the 'a' key on my keyboard is begging for mercy by now) going for the high level Industry Divisions (eg Accommodation is part of Accommodation and Food Services.).

To my surprise Accommodation and Food Services rates as the 6th biggest Industry Division at 6.6% of the Labour Force.  It is:
  • smaller than Agriculture etc (25.7%) the three core public service Divisions (Health - 11.5%; Education - 10.2% and Public Administration - 7.1%) and Retail trade (10.1%); but
  • larger than Construction (4.2%) and Transport (4.0%). 
Demonstrating how the banking etc industry has vanished from country towns the entire Financial and Insurance Services Division only employs 29 people (19 of whom are Clerical workers) amounting to 0.94% of the Labour Force.

Having raised one common issue for country towns I decided to complete this post with another: the loss of people in the core working ages of 20-49 years.  This is shown by a summary profile.

Within those three ranges the 10 year groups all show a similar relativity between the town and the nation.  Clearly Coonabarabran is going to be in diabolical trouble in a couple of decades unless something happens to make the area more attractive to people in the workforce.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Watching the Warrums bungle

The only other time we have been here we thought about the concept of a Warrum and concluded that with a Somerset accent it could be a reference to an annelid.  As will revealed we did get a good look at the Warrumbungle Ranges today.

That followed our eyes defrosting after a very cold night: the car thermometer read 0oC but as all the water had ice on it I suspect that was optimistic.  The noises over night that I was aware of  were:
  • Masked Lapwing;
  • Wood Ducks;
  • Fox; and
  • Rooster.
There were no:
  • Noisy TVs or air conditioners from big caravans;
  • Drunks; or
  • Barking dogs from nearby towns.
Once we had brewed and drunk some coffee we went off for a walk.  The route we had planned got a tad confusing so we headed back to the camp to re-do the Pig Hill track.  As we got near the camp a Crested Pigeon landed on Frances and seemed quite happy to stay on her shoulder: it had a coloured band on it so I wonder whether it was a 'pet'.
Having done our walk and finished breakfast (it was now well above freezing) we headed into Coonabarabran for a look round.  Item 1 was the very prominent War Memorial.
I wasn't aware of this area being a cycling centre but this array outside a bakery suggests that to be the case.  Presumably they go to the National Park: we saw to evidence of cyclists anywhere we went.
The church of St Laurence appeared to have some interesting architecture and glass work but as it was - very unusually for a Catholic Church - locked up we'll never know.
After a wander and a pie - only plain were left but it was a good specimen of the the style so 8/10 - we headed for Bulgadie and another Bird Route.  To my surprise Bulgadie has a Memorial Hall, which we discovered when making sense of the instructions for the Bird Route (based on coming from Barradine rather than Coonabarabran).
We then crossed the road and visited the cemetery which was in the road in which the Route starts.  I noticed a small parrot on the ground: a female Turquoise Parrot!  A strong contender for Bird of the Day.
Then some treecreepers turned out to be Brown Treecreepers  ..
... several Peaceful Doves were seen as were 8 Diamond Firetails and, in the farmyard across the road 6 Plum-headed Finches.

Heading off down the road the Warrums were Bungling, in this case looking rather like a hippo.
A white dot on the RHS skyline in this image is Siding Springs observatory
As we proceeded we found many Red-rumped Parrots and a few other species.  Then Frances saw something unusual in a dead tree.  On reversing it turned out to be 18 Cockatiels.

As we drove along we came to several more flocks of these amounting to about 60 birds in total. This is more than I have seen in one area before.  We then started to wonder if we were in the right area as road signs were not evident and the route directions not detailed.  However we were passing plenty of properties so couldn't get too lost.   Then we hit a bitumen road and knew where we were - having been right all along.

Heading back to Bulgadie we spotted some Apostlebirds in a nest, but they had gone before the camera could be wielded.
This did mean we got to see 2 Bluebonnets.  They seemed a bit nervous so the photo was taken through a dusty windscreen.  They are on the edge of their range here and thus became Bird of the Day.
The fire was lit soon after we got back to the camp.
Looking off to the farmland I noticed a Landcruiser ute with a big spotlight on the roof heading off along a farm lane.  Shortly thereafter came the first of a series of loud bangs: my guess is a centre-fire rifle such as would be suitable for improving pigs.  Quite a few shots were heard over the hour or so, but I have no idea how many (or what) things were shot.

Overnight was quite warm (7oC at 7am) and cloud had come in.  In fact it sprinkled with rain at 3am, leading us to get up and put a few things under cover.  However it didn't really start to rain until we had packed up and were on the road.  All good.

As we drove through Coonabarabran on the way out, I was again struck by the number of motels in the area.  However on checking Table Builder for 2011 Census data there were only 68 people employed in the Accomodation industry.  While at 0.83% of the population it is greater than the 0.56% of the Australian population in that industry it is still a lot lower than I would have expected.  I shall have investigated further.

When we got back to Mendooran the gutters were flowing and we had to jump them for our touristic snaps.  Here is the War Memorial.
Any wall seemed to have been decorated with murals.

The next two images were of a single mural showing a country race meeting.

An excellent little town that is trying hard to make it attractive.

On to Dunedoo where there was a large Art exhibition which was the main reason for us diverting past there. It also had a War memorial so another Town was ticked off.
The slogan for the exhibition was "pencil it in"!
I stayed in the car with the small dog.  Frances rated the exhibition as quite good - the artists were mainly semi-pro at best, but they had lots of works so deserve encouragement.

The icon for Dunedoo in the Swan.  I have no idea why but Swan statues and images were everywhere.  I think there was a Big Swan  somewhere but we didn't spot it (not that we were trying hard to do so).
It was then a bowl down the road to Wellington (pie for lunch - about 6/10 as a bit too juicy: would have been OK with a footy match behind it).  The rain had sort of stopped by then but was showery all the way home, which we reached at about 4pm.

Warruming the Bungles of your heart (?)

This is the first part of the report of a trip to the Pilliga area, just North of Coonabarabran, which is the gateway to the Warrumbungle National Park.  This was part of our "visit every town in NSW" campaign, although few towns were expected to be visited.  It was also hoped that I'd get some less common (in Carwoola) birds of the day.

The day of departure was a tad cool, but with a very nice sunrise.
 The drive was basically a drive.  I had decided to watch for election posters along the way.  As we were going through core Nationals country I expected to see a lot of their stuff.  In fact the only 2016 poster I saw – just out of Yass - was one for Mike Kelly, our local ALP candidate.  At the end of the trip, going in to Pilliga Pottery I saw a reference to Greens in New England – I'd thought we were a fair bit West of that electroate.

Once past Boorowa we commented on how green everywhere was.  They have obviously got a good drop recently.  Most of the rest of the country looked to have been seeded, and we didn't see anyone sowing until we got to We1lington.

We did a small explore of the settlement of Geurie but couldn't find a war memorial so on to Dubbo.  That was basically a large town but we found our way through and out on the road to Gilgandra.  To my surprise the distance to Connabarabran on road signs appeared to be 30km more than I was expecting.  That seemed to be because the distances were taken through Gilgandra, rather than turning off through Mendooran.
This was not a huge problem although trying to pick the right turnoff was tricky as Mendooran Rd was called something else where it turned off the highway.  It did give us a chance to check out these sculptures however. 
 Here is a close up!
Going through the Goonoo State Forest we saw signes warning about Malleefowl.  I was not hopeful of encountering one and Frances did ask if the signs were painted - a reference to birds with 'painted in their name being pigments of the imagination (an Ian Fraser comment).  While the signs were not illusory the birds were.  Emerging from the forest we got to Mendooran which to our surprise had a large campground full of big 'vans.  This must be something to do with fishing on the Castlereagh River.  We didn't stop in the town this time - see next post for that.

So we got to Coonabarabran and headed out North - as the road signs had improved since about 1988 we found the turnoff to the Newell Highway this time -  to the Pilliga Pottery where we intended to camp.  I had spoken to them so knew that they only had unpowered sites.  They did have fire circles and thanks to Frances we'd taken along some firewood to save having to gather it.  Here it is in action
 You will gather from Frances' attire that it wasn't very Warrum.
In fact it was bloody cold.  The next morning the car thermometer read 1oC at 7am and the fire was re-lit to have breakfast in comfort.  We then went out on a walk around the surrounding farm.   In one of her art classes Frances had been made aware of the incidence of natural objects having patterns that could be described by the Fibonacci sequence.  So we were looking for examples of this and found an object that might do so.

It is clear what class of object it was, but which species had dropped it?
Later in the day, at the Pilliga Discovery Centre, Frances found an example in a disply cabinet: it is evidence of Emu.

The area close to the pottery was well endowed with old broken down farm equipment.  I don't think they have ever disposed of anything: the spokes and rim of an old wooden wagon wheel suggest this trove has been in development for some time.
A lot of creative pottery was in the gardens around the buildings.  This ceramic tree was the highlight.

Getting a little out of chronological sequence, at night the 'pods' turned out to have small lights in them.  This shot was with flash ...
 .. and this one without.
 Getting back to the timeline our business on the first full day was to go to Barradine on the Western side of the Pilliga and follow some bird routes.  After enquiring about the state of the roads that went from the Newell in that direction I was told that No. 1 Break Rd (or as it appeared on the signs No One Break Rd) was in good shape, but 'a bit sandy'.  So we went that way.  A fire had been through.
As it was on both sides of the road I assume this was a wildfire not controlled burn paradise.
A mirror image shows the rooster tail behind the car.  
 It was certainly sandy.  I didn't have to use 4WD or deflate tyres to get through but at times was distinctly heavy going.  I found this the worst road we encountered on the trip: it seems that the locals judge the quality of the road solely by the level of corrugation (which was quite low on this road).

On getting to Barradine we found the memorial.  This wasn't in the Register of NSW War Memorials so will get added.
 Outside the Discovery Centre was a amusing emu sculpture!  Obviously a male adult with chick.
 Heading off on the expedition we got to Kenebri.  This didn't have a war memorial or indeed much of anything,  This house was a tad below the average, but only a tad,
Bird life was not greatly evident.  This is not a great surprise as we were there in the middle of the day and there was very little blossom.  This collection of aloes were a surprise, but were on the site of The Aloes homestead on a run taken up in the 1860s.
 At our next stop (Rocky Creek picnic area) there were quite a few small birds around including Speckled Warblers, Inland Thornbill, Jacky Winter and Eastern Yellow Robin.  The last were a surprise in such a dry area.  There were also a few flowers (no idea what).
We headed back across the top of Timballie National Park (not entering because of dog) and out virtue was rewarded when we encountered a Ranger - who seemed as surprised to see us as we were him.  We came across this small dam which is apparently a watering place for Glossy Black Cockatoos (but not when we were there).  We thought that this would be popular with witches as it wouldn't be deep enough to drown in when dunked!  So the concept of a Witch Pond has entered our life!
 A very nice Lookout Tower has been built at the Salt Caves.  It is a little challenging to climb as the stairs are see-through and it it is quite high!
I made it about 2/3 of the way up and decided that I didn't need to go higher to see the Warrumbungles in the distance to the South  ...
 .. or the mind-blowing flatness in every other direction.
We travelled back across Burma Rd which was a bit narrower than No 1 Break but not as sandy .

By the time we got to the camp it was already quite brisk and after a pleasant tea we piled into bed.  I was soon asleep so missed a burst of gunfire, which - when Frances mentioned it the next day I assumed was pig improvement.