What do notorious bushrangers, guinea pigs, great Australian poets and cricketers all have in common? Grenfell of course!
Grenfell is situated in the Weddin Shire in central New South Wales. Less than half a days drive from Sydney and approximately two hours drive from Canberra, Dubbo, Bathurst and Wagga.
Grenfell is steeped in history and much of its old world character has been maintained.
Lacework and verandah posts feature on many Main Street buildings, exuding an old fashioned charm that can’t be recaptured by busier, larger towns. Originally known as Emu Creek, Grenfell welcomes visitors and offers them to soak up the atmosphere of days gone by and to re-live the nostalgia of a time when life moved at a more leisurely pace.
Grenfell is the birthplace of Henry Lawson one of Australia’s most famous poets, who wrote short stories like the slapstick Loaded Dog and the moving Drovers Wife.
The Henry Lawson Festival of Arts held on the June long weekend celebrates Grenfell’s famous son, Henry Lawson, born on a Grenfell goldfield in 1867.
Highlights of the festival include poetry and drama, craft, art and photography exhibitions, street parade and carnival, guinea pig races, go-kart races, fun run, wood chop and food and wine, entertainment for all ages over a great long weekend of activity.
A monument to Lawson now shaded by a sugar gum planted by his daughter, Bertha, is located two minutes drive from the town centre and a bust is situated in the aptly named Main Street.
Ben Hall, one of the most revered bushrangers in Australia’s history, also resided at Grenfell, near what is now the Weddin Mountains National Park.
In 1862, eight bushrangers including Ben Hall and Frank Gardiner carried out what was then the greatest robbery in Australian history when they held up the gold coach outside Eugowra. They managed to escape with £3,700 in cash and 2,719 ounces of gold, the equivalent to over $1 million dollars. The proceeds were never recovered and local legend has it that the booty is still stowed somewhere in the Weddin Mountains.
Ben Hall's Cave, reputed to be Ben’s hideout cave has been preserved by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Situated on the western side of the mountain the cave is a sprightly 30 minute walk with a great view of the surrounding farmland. The Weddin’s have three marked walking tracks. The walk up to Ben Hall’s Cave, the magnificent Eualdrie and Peregrine Lookouts and the Weddin Gap walking track.
The Weddin mountains conserve a range of wildlife that were once much more widespread. Home to emu, grey kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, along with a number of rare species of peregrine falcons, turquoise and superb parrots and the regent honeyeater.
For lovers of history and those interested in bush culture Seaton’s Farm is an important landmark that was built using only material that was readily available. The house was built in 1939, from second hand iron mill off-cuts, mud earth and hand-cut timber. Farm machinery, sheds and yards still exist virtually unchanged. The farm is located close to Ben Halls Cave campground.
Grenfell's original prosperity was built on gold. The town of Grenfell sprang from the discovery of gold in 1866. Soon thousands of miners flocked to the diggings. The gold field was known as the Emu Creek diggings before the name Grenfell was gazetted in late 1866. The town was named after John Granville Grenfell, a gold commissioner, who was killed by bushrangers. During the period of peak production Grenfell was the largest producing gold mine in the colony of NSW. By the mid 1870s the gold began to peter out and the area returned to pastoral pursuits. Read more of the story here.
You can see more about the history of gold mining in the region in The Gold Trail.
Pinnacle Guinea Pig Racing is an institution in Grenfell, the name Pinnacle derived from the mountain near to where the event is held. A group of dedicated volunteers race the local guinea pigs once a year. There is a stadium for the punters, a race track for the pigs who sprint and hurdle their way into local history and all monies raised goes towards the local aged care units. The races have been held since 1980 and are run on Sunday of the June long weekend. The pigs race for the World Cup, the Silver Slipper (this just happens to be an old silver frosted boot with a guinea pig on top) and the Media Challenge. The races are touted as faster than Bathurst cars and more exciting than the Melbourne Cup.
Stan McCabe was an Australian Cricketer from 1930 to 1938 in which he scored six centuries and McCabe was often compared with Donald Bradman. McCabe produced results which places him among crickets immortals by running 187 not out in the first test at the SCG, December 1932 when England’s body line blast came to full fury. He ran 189 not out against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1935 where he scored 100 before lunch. In the test against England in 1938, he scored 232 in just under four hours. Bradman described this as the finest innings he had ever seen and called his team to the window and said, ”look at this, you may never see the like again”.
Iandra Castle. Building of this magnificent home commenced prior to the 1880’s and wasn’t completed until after the original owners’, George Henry Greene’s death in 1911. This home is open to the public by appointment or by tour, however glimpses of the castle can be seen from the road. A drive around the Greenethorpe and Iandra area is worth the visit. You could stop off at Greenethorpe’s Shamrock Hotel for refreshments or a bite to eat while you tour around this very picturesque countryside.
Weddin Mountains National Park - Just 18km south-west of Grenfell, this pristine area is a great place for bushwalking, bird watching, camping or picnicking. Rising 400m above surrounding farmland, the name Weddin is derived from the Aboriginal word meaning "waiting place".
Rare fauna such as the spectacular Peregrine Falcon and Turquoise Parrot along with the kangaroos, emus, and echidnas share this mountain range. The wildflowers bloom during spring and summer and you will quickly see why the original inhabitants, the Waradhuri Aboriginal tribe had a strong ceremonial and spiritual association with the area.
Two marked walking tracks provide access to the highlights of the park. The first which takes one and a half hours begins at the Holy Camp rest area and leads to the lookout below Euraldrie Trig Point. The other visits Ben Hall's Cave. The rest area and Ben Hall's Cave Campground are serviced with barbeques, parking and toilet facilities.
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