Hilltops attraction centres on a lone pine

A popular tourist attraction in Australia’s Hilltops Region focuses on a tree that became a symbol of courage.

A lone pine – long a poignant reminder of Australian and New Zealand spirit and sacrifice at Gallipoli in World War I – is a centrepiece of the Memorial Park at  the town of Boorowa.

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The pine stands silently at the end of an avenue of trees and plaques honouring the 26 Boorowa district men who were decorated for meritorious service during the ‘war to end all wars’.

Situated in an attractive location alongside the Boorowa River, the memorial park was established in its current form to commemorate the centenary of ANZAC in 2015.

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Lone pines have become a feature of World War I memorials in Australia, in memory of the battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli – in which more than 2000 Australians and an estimated 5000-7000 Turkish soldiers died in about four days.

The Hilltops Region included the towns of Boorowa, Young and Harden-Murrumburra, in the south-west of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous State.

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These traditional rural areas have combined to create a modern and vibrant tourist area, focusing on history, culture, craft, agriculture, vineyards, restaurants, and quality stone fruit.

Hilltops Region travel

Lambing Flat Chinese Garden

Silence…. Except for the faint trickle of running water and the occasional splash of nearby Black Swans, the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was peaceful and quiet.

Although only four kilometres from the thriving town of Young, in Australia’s Hilltops Region, the site could just as easily be a world away from anywhere.

It’s particularly hard to imagine the violent events that occurred nearby almost 160 years ago, during tension between Chinese and European gold miners.

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These events, known as the Lambing Flat riots, led to a law called the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act – the beginning of the so-called ‘White Australia Policy.’ 

However, that was obviously well in the past in 1996, when the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was established to recognise the contribution of the Chinese community to Young and Australia in general.

It would, indeed, be hard to think of a more restful and tranquil place.

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We visited as part of a brief swing through the Hilltops Region, a popular tourist area in the south-west of New South Wales, the most populous State in Australia. 

Hilltops Region covers a diverse, historic and relaxing rural area centred on the towns of Young, Boorowa and Harden-Murrumburrah.

An afternoon storm cleared as we arrived at the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden and the sun breaking through the clouds spotlighted an amazing mix of colours.  

The light sparkled from wet rocks and the colourful plants and trees were reflected from all sides as we crossed the bridge to the garden. 

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After making our way past the marble lion sculptures that guard the garden entrance, we wandered down a pathway covered in yellow and red fallen leaves until we reached the Pool of Tranquility.

The view across the garden to the aptly named Chinaman’s Dam was stunning and we sat in silence, soaking up the beauty of the surroundings. It was good for the soul.

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Sitting in a valley surrounded by low hills, Young is the commercial and service centre for an agricultural area long known for its stone fruit, sheep, cattle, pigs, cereals, and vineyards. 

Under the Hilltops Region banner, the area is also a key part of a growing tourist trade focused in part on history, culture, arts, crafts and boutique farm-gate produce such as fruit jams and spreads.

And, the riots at Lambing Flat (an early name for Young) are a significant part of that heritage. Gold was found in the area in 1860 and, within months, there were about 20,000 prospectors in Lambing Flat – of which an estimated 2,000 were Chinese.

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Apparently believing that the Chinese miners were abusing the settlement’s scarce water resources, Europeans attacked and drove off the Chinese.

When about 11 men were arrested, thousands of miners rallied and demanded their release. The men went to court, but were set free.

Eventually, police ranks were boosted; one European miner was killed; the courthouse and trooper’s barracks were burned down; shots were exchanged; and the Riot Act was read for the only time in New South Wales.

Controversial then, the gold rush period is now viewed as extremely significant in Australia’s development. Young boasts an excellent folk museum, which draws large numbers of visitors.

The town has gone from strength to strength. Among other things, it is regarded as the nation’s premier cherry-growing district.

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And, to get a complete idea of the development of the area’s culture, we thoroughly recommend a visit to Chinaman’s Dam and the stunning Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden. 

Australia Hilltops Region Regional New South Wales travel

Feature: The Hilltops Region

The Hilltops Region of Australia’s south-east has a look all its own.

As the visitor drives north from the tablelands and Canberra area, the countryside changes subtly. A tapestry of sweeping land opens before you, criss-crossed by obviously fertile river plains and occasional rocky outcrops – all relics of an ancient volcano, Mount Canemumbola.

It is these fertile soils that have long stamped the region as a primary industry force; delivering up grains, fine wool, beef cattle and a range of stone fruit.

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As we near our first objective, the town of Boorowa, livestock is wandering through paddocks turned white by early morning frost.

We’re mesmerised by the sunlight bouncing off the icy ground and spotlighting the red and yellows of leaves still freshly fallen from Autumn.

Stopping by the roadside, we attempt to film the beauty, knowing only too well that cameras can rarely do justice to nature’s lightshows.

The Hilltops Region features the historic towns of Boorowa, Young and Harden-Murrumburrah, along with numerous smaller villages. 

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Each has its pioneering stories and storytellers – and each town regularly celebrates its particular culture and history with a series of popular community events.

Together, the towns of the Hilltops are embracing the future; celebrating a diverse past; and carefully promoting a fast-growing tourism economy.

According to its own literature, the Hilltops Region attracted 414,000 visitors in 2016 alone, injecting AUD$79million into the local economy.

This regional development was the main reason for our visit.  We were keen to sample just why Hilltops was creating such interest among travellers – and how the region had played to its strengths to become a tourism buzzword.

And, at the same time, we wanted to see how the population centres themselves  – and the people there – had changed during the development of the Hilltops identity.

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We’d lived at Young more than 30 years ago, so that centre had particular sentimentality to us.

But, we’d been away a long time – and what we found on our ramble through the Hilltops both surprised and delighted.

Join us over the next week as we explore this journey and outline aspects of the Hilltops Region through our eyes.

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Hilltops Region Regional New South Wales travel