Sight-Seeing in Tumut District - A Tourist's Impressions

20 June 1908  The Muswellbrook Chronicle        

Railway accidents were in the air; murmurs and broken scraps of conversation along the corridor of the car all hovered round the same topic.

When the mail drew up at Picton and the delay lengthened from minutes to an hour, anxious faces were thrust out all along the train, but we safely reached Cootamundra in time for breakfast. Changing trains, the 65-mile Journey to Tumut was commenced.

As the train advanced, evidences of the dry season were apparent in the waterless creeks, and the old gentleman in the corner informed us that this was the worst season, experienced in the last thirty years.

In the vicinity of Gundagai, though acres and acres of magnificent agricultural country were passed from which a bountiful return had just been harvested, no large stacks of fodder or barns full of hay were observed, so it did not seem as if the pastoralists took the dry weather seriously enough to lay in any store of reserve fodder.

Indeed, in one spot, an up-to-date reaper and binder might be observed standing out on a bare paddock left where it was last used, its gaunt fleshless arms raised as if in a deprecatory attitude at the treatment meted out, and at another the only protection afforded a modern stripper was that of a willow tree.

The train at last rattled into Tumut. This busy little town is set down on the edge of a fertile plain, through which a life-giving stream (that may indeed be called a river) rushes, surrounded by protecting hills.

That this district is bound to play an important part in the history of our development is obvious, for if the conditions holding at present are below normal, it must indeed be a God-gifted country in a good season.

The surroundings of Tumut are naturally pleasing, and careful hands and an aesthetic eye have considerably enhanced nature.

A lovely vista of willow-lined river is obtained from the substantial bridge that carries the Bombowlee Road across.

A clear, pellucid, never-failing stream is the Tumut here, where rowing races might be held over a course a mile in length.

On the rich river flats, and further on the Lacmalac and Brungle Roads, well-cared for farms, with their sound crops of maize ready for pulling, stand shoulder to shoulder; here and there good patches of tobacco leaf; everywhere well-bred dairy cattle; troops of children hurrying along to the town school - all a silent testimony to the closer settlement policy. 

A few years ago these fiats pastured the stock of Bombowlee station - to-day they are the heritage of a numerous population of sturdy farmers.

A trip out on the Kiandra-road, up the West Blowering and along the East Blowering Roads, returning by a detour over the Tumut Plain, revealed further crops of maize, averaging about 50 bushels of the magnificent weevil-proof maize for which the Tumut district is so famous.

The Chinese farms at the head of the Tumut Plain in many cases have goodly-sized areas under tobacco; indeed, as in other parts, the Celestial seems to grow more tobacco than the Australian.

Streaming through the slip- panel on one farm a little mob of medium-weight horses was observed. 

These animals were of the thick-set cob type, hardy and active, and will no doubt bring a handsome return to the shrewd breeder, who is keeping his eye on the rising horse market.

Some very fine crops and farms are found in the vicinity, of Gilmore.

In places here, as in other parts of the district, the young maize stalks have been docked to provide feed for dairy herds, and the harvest seemed to be unimpaired by the process.

The practice of cutting and stooking the maize does not seem to be followed.

The experiment might very well pay, as the maize ripens just as well, and the stalks can be used as feed; the cobs, after the corn has been shelled, may also be ground up to pollard, and one of the best feeds for cattle and pigs will result.

The dairy industry is now an established factor in this prosperous district, and some very fine herds have been bred up in the last few years.

At the butter factory, in this season when the rainfall has fallen below the average, the output is 5 tons per week, but twice that amount is generally made.

The town has reason indeed to congratulate itself on the up-to-date management and appliances of its butter factory.

Adjacent to the railway station stands the freezing works, where at the present time about 220 crates of rabbits are treated per diem*.

It is an object lesson in itself to see the care and attention bestowed upon the packing of the succulent bunny for the English market.

The rabbits trapped each night are brought in by rail and road, and dealt with the same day.

With lightning-like dexterity and never-failing eye the Government grader handles each rabbit.

They are sorted into grades according to weight, damaged and light weights being rejected.

They are then placed in a cool chamber for twelve hours and after wards in a refrigerating chamber for three days.

At the present time 220 crates per diem* are packed, but as many as 4,000 have been dealt with in that time on one occasion.

About fifteen hands are employed in the works, while about 260 men are engaged in trapping. 

Three hundred pounds per week is paid to these workers by whose united effort the plump Tumut rabbit appears on the Birmingham steel-worker's table.

The growth of the export trade in frozen rabbits and rabbit skins is a noticeable development of recent years, and is carried on principally with the United Kingdom.

In 1905 it amounted to 308,051 from the whole of New South Wales.

A visit to the Tumut district would not be complete without paying a visit to the wonderful limestone caverns of the Yarrangobilly Valley, and not least among the pleasures of this visit is the journey - a distance of 47 miles.

Setting out from Tumut, the main Kiandra-road takes an almost due southerly course for a mile or two, and then winds over a few foothills, coming down on a level fertile tract.

Away to the left stretch the golden cornfields of the Tumut Plains. About 7 miles out the road crosses the Tumut River, and admiration is balanced between the beauty of the sylvan glade through which this clear running stream rushes, or the magnificent farm lands, reaching as far as the eye can see to the right, and continuing up the right side of the Tumut to West Blowering.

An undulating stretch of road through sound pastoral country brings the traveller to Talbingo, near the 23-mile post.

A holt may be made with comfort, and the trout ponds on the Jounama Creek inspected.

Continuing the journey, a sharp ascent is now made up Talbingo Mountain for 8 miles, then over Cumberland Mountain, and a descent to the Yarrangobilly River. 

Eight miles and a halt from, crossing the river, and after a rundown of 3 miles from the Kiandra-road, the Caves House is approached between two bluffs of limestone. Here a welcome is always assured from Caretaker Hoad and his kindly family.

The Jersey Cave is usually inspected first. Just within the entrance a heaped mass of fallen roof and broken floor gives a chaotic impression of the cave, but as the visitor winds his way among the glistening formations, bewilderment and ecstasy succeed chaos.

The shawl formation is truly wonderful; the size of the stalactites, ringing like the notes of a good piano when struck by the guide, Cleopatra's Needle, a stalagmite 18 feet 10 inches in height, the inexplicable Mystery formation, the huge parsnips and carrots descending from the ceiling, the columns, statues, and porphyry vases rising from the floor, make an enchanted castle scene.

The Queen's Canopy is a glittering grotto that engages attention as the strong magnesium beams search out and throw up in bold relief the beautiful tracery and delicate colouring.

The Castle Cave has splendours of its own. Barely through the entrance is the Wool Room. 

The formations attain titanic proportions; in instances, stalactites 6 feet through depend almost to the floor.

In this cave, as in the Glory and Grotto Caves, the face of the formations turned towards the entrance has a fleecy appearance, caused no doubt by the disintegration of the limestone deposit in the strong draught which circulates in these caves.

After passing by Parkes's Statue and the Rawson Shawl with its serrated edge, through the Queen's Boudoir, the sightseer is admitted to the glory of glories, King, Solomon's Temple.

Standing in majestic grandeur, this imposing mass of formation, dark in hue, traversed by a dozen shades, with fringes of the most delicate and slender stalactites, is frosted with a mantle of glittering white, which throws back the light like a thousand diamonds.

The wonder-sight of the Glory Cave is the rightly-named Frozen Waterfall. 

The Grotto and the Harrie Wood Caves are also wonderful sights.

Not the least enjoyable part of a visit to Yarrnngobillv Caves is a plunge into the Thermal Spring bathing pool, always at a temperature of 80 degrees, and a supper of delicious Murrumbidgee rainbow trout after passing through the skilful hands of Mrs. Hoad.

The return to Tumut is most enjoyable, though made over the same road as the outward journey.

The ever-changing panorama at every turn in the swift descent from Talbingo Mountain is not to be readily forgotten, especially when the fertile valley of the Upper Tumut spreads itself at your feet.

*per diem = per day.

The above article appeared in more than a dozen other newspapers in 1908. Ed.