Along the Away

a traveler's tales

Hill End Camping Trip

I spent a very happy, autumn-y weekend camping on the ANZAC Day long weekend in Hill End, at ‘The End Festival of Arts, Feasting and Heritage’ organised by NSW National Parks. Located in the central west of New South Wales, Hill End is around 70km from both Bathurst and Mudgee, and just under 4 hour drive from Sydney. It is an Historic Site managed by the NSW National Parks and home to a community of about 100 people.

My friend Oceana sent me a link for the event and it sounded like the perfect weekend mix of music, local food and drink, and the Aussie bush! Joined also by another friend, Giselle, we left Sydney early on Saturday morning and drove up through the Blue Mountains for an easy drive stopping only for coffee along the way.

Hill End Camping Trip

We were charmed straight away as we drove down the main road framed by golden trees ablaze in their autumnal glory! Later we realised there are two campgrounds in town, we took the first sign we saw to Glendora Campground which happened to be the furthest from the main road, whereas The Village Campground is right behind the main road. The Village offers more ‘convenience’ and is suitable for campervans, Glendora is more rustic and feels like it’s in the middle of the bush, so it was the best choice for us. It was only a twenty minute walk to the centre of town, and we enjoyed the beauty of the stroll in the morning, afternoon and even at night under the bright starry sky.

Hill End Camping Trip

After we picked a campsite (we had a few false starts thanks to some large mounds of ant nests squatting on many of the sites) we set up out tents, figured out where to leave our envelope with the camp fees, and called a local to get some firewood (thanks to the notice on the campground notice board). Then we walked to the main road in the direction of the music we could hear. It was perfectly cruisey – folk, bluegrass and country music played by local musicians from Bathurst, Orange and the Blue Mountains.

The main event area was much more humble than I expected, just a small grassy area with a stage on one side and a border of food and wine stalls. According to the promo, there was ‘craft beer and wine from the Bathurst, Mudgee and Orange areas and a feast of regional food offerings’, I’m not sure it was quite as plentiful or diverse as that, but there was standard food fare to be had. We found the pop-up wine bar, Moubar Vintage, in one of the main street’s shopfronts and it was excellent, a great atmosphere and menu, local Bathurst wines and ciders by the glass, matched with rustic food and cheeses. My hipster hopes were satisfied (I’m eye-rolling myself).

An exhibition in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church showcased contemporary artists curated by the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery in collaboration with the Hill End Arts Council. We timed our visit to watch the breathtaking ‘The Hill End Interlude’ musical performance by Kim Deacon and Robyn Stokoe Godfrey. Featuring voice, harp and cello, and some wonderfully funny and entertaining stories by Kim Deacon, who many years ago acted in Australian TV shows but has since travelled all over as a musician and now lives in the house across the road from the church.

Hill End Camping Trip

At night we were lucky to take part in a public light experience – Peter Solness’ ‘Field of Orbs’. We got a hold of one of the light orbs and took turns joining the group swinging them in a synchronised walk under the direction of Peter. It was spectacular to watch and I tried in vain to take a good photo – I took my Sony Alpha A6000 but I still don’t really know how to use it properly, so it was hit and miss. I envied the many people who set-up with their good cameras and tripods and seemed to know what they were doing.

On Sunday we went to the Hill End Visitor Information Centre & Museum, which is located on the hill on the way in/out of town in the former hospital building. I knew nothing about Hill End before I came, but learned a lot about it’s glory days as a former gold-mining town and artists’ colony. It is very hard to reconcile it’s history with the charming, laid back atmosphere it has today. The displays were very engaging and painted a real picture of the hardship of earning a living and trying to get by during the gold rush years. The history of the mining in the area was all the more interesting as there are bushwalks around the area where you can see remnants of old mines. The centre’s former life as a hospital was evident with a lot of old and quite frankly, SCARY, medical equipment including utensils and beds. Outside there are old buggies and carriages, none of which look particularly comfortable for today’s roads let alone the bumpy lanes of yesteryear!

Hill End Camping TripHill End Camping Trip Hill End Camping Trip

We went for a drive to the nearby Beaufoy Merlin Lookout, which offered absolutely spectacular views across the Turon Valley. There are a couple of benches there to sit and enjoy the expansive sky and golden light bouncing off the landscape.

Hill End Camping Trip

Then we went for a walk along the Bald Hill Walking Track, a 4km easy loop from near the centre of town. The town’s mining history was ever-present as we walked past evidence of the old mines, stamper batteries and crumbling piles of brick buildings. We had a map we had picked up from the visitor centre so we continued walking on to the Village Walking Tour, a couple of kilometres circuit around town.

We called back into town to have coffee and cake, and were lucky to sit and enjoy some tunes from a local with a guitar.

Hill End Camping Trip

After this it was time to hop back in the car and head back home. What a wonderful opportunity to learn about a little place steeped in history while also enjoying the diverse, creative treasures of it’s present-day community. It was a great weekend adventure, well worth the drive from Sydney!

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Sydney based, coastal dwelling. When I'm not at work I'm somewhere outdoors, or in the yoga studio, or at my local cafe, or pottering at home.

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