Rocks and gardens

When I was a young kid I used to love visiting the Museum of Victoria and pouring over the minerals and fossils, reading each label and description. This morning was a return to that childhood.

First we had a little wander around the Bathurst Market Square, now a park with memorials to surveyor George Evans, the Boer War and, as a centrepiece, a tall brick carillon tower to commemorate those who lost their lives in other wars. 

The Australian Museum of Fossils and Minerals is housed in an old public school and site of the execution of the notorious Ribbon Gang of bushrangers. But that event is a mere blink of an eye ago for the contents of the museum.

There are good descriptions of the colourful minerals on display, a huge range of crystalline compounds. Collecting rocks runs in my family and I recall hunting for garnets and other stones further west of here when we left Melbourne for Queensland.

I’m not sure that Alex quite shares my passions from those days or has the same understanding of the forces at work, but he did say he really enjoyed the museum. That’s the great thing about a broad science education, knowing the great story behind these objects on display.

The same goes for the fossils. While the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton attracts the attention, is the magnificent range of small fossils that tells the best story. Really worth a visit. 

Our focus now turned from the dead remnants of the past and on to the living as we set off to the Mayfield Garden near Oberon. 

These private gardens are simply magnificent. They combine styles from Europe and Asia, with formal and natural elements.

Rotarians direct us to park in a field, with visitors overflowing from the regular car park. There are no seats to be had either. 

Entering the gardens feels like a scene from Spirited Away as pink and blue hydrangeas form walls on either side of the path. Further along lotus flowers float along the lazy stream overlooked by cherry trees and maples. A big stone bridge above a waterfall separates that part of the garden from a large lake with a Chinese pagoda and families rowing boats.

At the top, beyond the family residence, is a challenging hedge maze and other garden features.

There is too much to see in a single day and I should love to be able to take it slower, but we are starving, hot and there is no food to be found.

It was after two when we made it to Oberon township a few kilometres further along. Not much was open, so it is pies from the bakery. 

Though we kow we’d arrive after the attractions closed, B wants to head in the opposite direction past Bathurst to historic Hill End.

I set the GPS navigation on Google Maps, but sometimes its suggestions are not the best. Once past Bathurst we turn the Erlington route and along Duramana Road.

It is narrow, steep and requires a lot of concentration. The mountain scenery is pretty spectacular, but we are worried about returning on the same route. 

We make it to Hill End just after four in the afternoon. This was once a bustling gold mining town, but now it is operated by the National Parks Service. Residents remain, there is a busy pub, a general store, school, post office and police. But there are also signs everywhere describing life as it once existed here.

It’s a beautiful place, with lots of places to walk and discover. You can feel the history of the place and again I wish we had longer to explore.

However, it is getting late. This time we head down Hill End Road and past Sofala. Still a very scenic drive, ut the road is in a better condition. 

We make it down to Bathurst in one piece and have a dinner of Vietnamese food opposite the fossil museum. Now, I think of it, lunch was at a Vietnamese run bakery as well.

Tomorrow we leave Bathurst for further adventures on the Western Plains. 

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