The Gold Rush

Woke up this morning after a night of heavy rain. We had to be at the visitor centre early for our mine tour. Unfortunately the tour was cancelled because of the condition of the road to the mine due to the rain. The next tour was due for 2 days time and really Newman didn’t have too much to keep us there so we decided to move on.

We carried on south down the Great Northern Highway towards the early goldfield towns of Meekathara, Cue and Mount Magnet. We stopped for lunch at Meekathara at a good picnic area by the creek with information boards and old pieces of equipment from the goldrush era. Next stop some hundred miles or so later came Cue. It has some lovely classic goldfields architecture with shops with iron awnings, a Gentleman’s Club and some government buildings. These towns all sound very grand but when you get there they are actually very small with few people. Our last stop of the day was Mount Magnet. Gold was discovered here in 1891 and locals claim they dug it up like potatoes.

We stayed at a small campsite on the main road through the town. It was Saturday night so we walked down to the local pub/hotel for a beer. The big difference between an Aussie pub and a British one is that each Australian pub has a seperate area for gambling. A bank of TV screens shows horse racing and pony trotting. There are computers where you can place bets and there are also various lottery tickets and scratch cards that you can buy. The Australians are big, big gamblers. The problem was that the pub like the town was empty so we sat and had a beer with the landlord and landlady whilst watching the Aussie equivalent of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ on a TV set behind the bar. They said they expected a few more people in a bit later on. We moved across the road to a motel bar where there were about 6 of us this time. We met John the gold prospector (yes, they do still exist) and he proudly showed some of the nuggets of gold that he had found. The Irish barmaid told us it was the busiest night they’d had since she’s started working there about a month ago. We had a good night with John and when we got back to the campsite for a late meal there was a German couple also cooking in the camp kitchen so we finished up having a late boozy night.

The next morning we were keen to find out more about the goldfields so set off on a 40km marked tour of the area but it was disappointing. There is nothing really left of any historical interest although these towns are still mining towns but they are mining on a huge scale. Thousands of tons of ore are being crushed every day to extract the gold leaving roadways for heavy machinery for miles around.

The tourism is very much built on the romance of the pioneer gold diggers but afraid we never found the romance, just bits of old machinery and information boards

We carried on with our drive south turning off the Great Northern Highway to the wheatbelt. The scenery changed to rolling wheatfields as far as the eye could see, huge salt lakes and the most beautiful small towns. It was like driving through a film set with houses and shop fronts just as they were a hundred years ago.

We stayed at Wongan Hills for the night with an exciting day ahead tomorrow. We’ve got a very special homestead to find.

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The campsite is based near Beccles in the Waveney Valley in Suffolk.

Dove Cottage,
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