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Coolah, NSW

One of a number of towns claiming to be "beyond the Black Stump"

There are at least four places in Australia that all claim they either are "the black stump" or are "beyond the black stump". The three with the most persuasive claims are Coolah and Goolgowi in New South Wales and Blackall in Queensland. Not surprisingly Coolah is adamant that it is the home of the real "black stump". It has a physical "black stump" car park even though the idea of "beyond the black stump" is metaphorical, not literal.

The town is a service centre for the surrounding rich Liverpool Plains which are noted for their grain crops, cattle, mixed farming, lucerne and hay, fat lambs and wool. The main attraction in the area is Coolah Tops National Park - a little known, but impressive, destination for bushwalkers, cyclists and campers. It is a parkland noted for its waterfalls, its 120 species of birds, its wallabies, and its nocturnal possum known as the 'greater glider'.

Location

Coolah is located on the Coolaburragundy River 487 m above sea level. It is  376 km north-west of Sydney via Mudgee or 395 km via the Pacific Highway and Merriwa. It is 109 km north of Mudgee.

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Origin of Name

It is now accepted that the Kamilaroi people called the area "weetalibah wallangan" meaning "place where the fire went out and left a black stump" which is where the initial claim that the town should be associated with the folklore expression "beyond the black stump" derived. It was only a short step from that to the naming of an early property as the Black Stump Run and the naming of the first pub in the area as the Black Stump Wine Saloon. Coolah is probably a corruption of a Kamilaroi Aboriginal word meaning "valley of the winds"

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Things to See and Do

McMaster Park
McMaster Park, at the corner of Binnia and Booyamurra Streets, is an appropriate place to have pause and have a picnic. It is the heart of the town and has a pleasant garden, a tourist guide map, barbecues, play facilities and a 19th century bullock wagon. There is also a pine tree grown from a seed sent from Lone Pine by a soldier from Coolah who fought at Gallipoli.

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Other Attractions in the Area

The Folklore of the Black Stump
Coolah certainly has a serious claim to being the district which is most closely associated with "beyond the black stump". The best account of the origin of the term was included in a council application for a grant where the applicant wrote: "‘Early history of Coolah is closely linked with limits of settlement and the Crown Land Commissioners. Governor Darling became so concerned at the spread of settlement that on 14th October 1829 he issued a Government Order defining the ‘limits of location’ or the ‘boundaries beyond which land was neither to be sold nor settlers allowed’. The northern boundary was the Manning River up to its source in the Mount Royal Range, then by the Liverpool Range to Pandora Pass, down the Coolaburragundy River and in a south westerly direction to the settlement at Wellington.

"The Black Stump Run is described in the Government Gazette of 19th June 1850, as an area estimated at 16,000 acres with grazing capacities of 640 cattle. It was bounded by the Coolah Range on the south, on the north by the (Binnaway) road leading to the big river (the Castlereagh). Governor Darling’s proclamation of Limits of Settlement meant that no-one was to go beyond the Black Stump Run." Beyond the black stump came to mean "country beyond the reach of civilised comforts and facilities."

The Black Stump Rest Area
Black Stump Creek, the property known as the Black Stump Run and the Black Stump Wine Saloon were all located 9 km north of Coolah where the road splits and heads to Gunnedah and Coonabarabran. In 1905 the Black Stump Wine Saloon burnt down. Today it is possible to stop at the Rest Area where the old saloon once stood. Not surprisingly there is a black stump marking the spot.

Black Stump Nursery Rhyme Village and Camel Farm
This unusual 'village' features nursery rhyme characters as well as a matchstick work display and 174 gnomes. It is located 5 km south-west of Coolah on the Mudgee - Gilgandra Road and sign posted to the right. Tel: (02) 6377 1375 for details.

King Togee's Grave
The headstone of Butheroe King Togee is located 31 km west of Coolah on the Coolah-Neilrex Road, just past the 'Langdon' homestead. It is a sandstone headstone with a sign reading: 'TOGEE KING OF THE BUTHEROE TRIBE'. King Togee was friendly with the early settlers but was speared to death by a young man named Cuttabush who later became the king of a Coonabarabran sub-tribe. It is an interesting footnote to the Aboriginal history of the area.

Coolah Tops National Park
Coolah Tops National Park, which was dedicated as a national park as recently as 1996, is located on a plateau 30 km east of Coolah via Coolah Creek Road. It lies where the Liverpool Range, the Warrumbungle Range and the Great Dividing Range meet. The park is primarily a eucalypt forest on basalt soils with abundant wildlife. One of the most impressive species in the park is the greater glider, a small possum which can glide for up to 100 metres.

Warung State Forest Road runs through the park. At the park entrance is an information board. Another 3 km on the right is a road to a car park and picnic site which is the start of a 1.5 km walking track which leads to the spectacular Norfolk Falls and on to the Bald Hill Creek Falls where there is a bush camping area. Further along the Warung State Forest Road is Pinnacle Road which heads off to a short track that leads to Cox Creek Falls Camping Area. About another 700 m along Pinnacle Road, to the right, is the park's main campsite known as The Barracks where there is an information bay and toilet-barbecue-picnic facilities. This area is known as a place where giant grass trees abound. Another 3 km along Pinnacle Road there is a car park where there is a short walk to Rocky Creek Falls which offer excellent lookout points from the escarpment. Further north on Pinnacle Road are sign posted departure points for the Racecourse Walking Track (6 km) and the Bundella Walking Track (7 km). The latter leads past a lookout area. At the end of Pinnacle Road is a short walking track to the Pinnacle Lookout, a steep basalt outcrop with fine views to the Warrumbungles. The park has a stand of the largest snow gums in the world. They can be found on the right-hand side of the Warung State Forest Road as you head east about 22 km from Pinnacle Road. There is a walk through the stand.

About 24 km east of Pinnacle Rd, on the left-hand side of The Forest Road, is Breeza Lookout which offers extensive views out over the Liverpool Plains. There is a small picnic area and an information bay. There is also a short but steep track to Shepherds Peak. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/coolah-tops-national-park/travel-info and http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkHome.aspx?id=N0088.

Cunningham Memorial and Pandora's Pass
Located on Coolah Creek Road 26 km from Coolah is a memorial to the explorer Alan Cunningham who pitched his camp nearby and named Pandora's Pass. In 1823 Cunningham was the first European to reach Pandora's Pass which took him over the Warrumbungle Range where he first saw the Liverpool Plains. 4 km north of the Memorial is Pandora's Pass  which is 815 m above sea-level. It offers panoramic views over the Coolah Valley and north to the Liverpool Plains. Check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/landscape/discovery/display/20865-allan-cunningham-memorial for more details.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the district around the Coolah valley was occupied by the Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri peoples.

* In 1823 explorer Allan Cunningham became the first European to reach the district when he crossed the Warrumbungle Range at Pandora's Pass and moved down on to the Liverpool Plains.

* In 1826 Governor Darling declared a boundary to the settlement in New South Wales declaring "land beyond this point was neither sold nor let, nor settlers allowed." This was 9 km north of Coolah. Around this time the Black Stump Wine Saloon was established and named after the Black Stump Run and Black Stump Creek.

* The district was surveyed in 1832 and squatters moved in searching for fresh pastures.

* People began to settle in the Coolah district in the 1840s.

* By 1848 there was a blacksmith operating out of a slab hut and a slab hotel had been built.

* By the 1870s local sandstone was replacing timber slabs.

* In 1905 the historic Black Stump Wine Saloon burnt down.

* The railway reached the town in 1910.

* In 1996 the Coolah Tops National Park was dedicated.

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Visitor Information

Coolah Information Centre, Pandora Gallery, 59 Binnia Street, tel: (02) 6378 5030 or Coonabarabran Visitor Information Centre, tel: 1800 242 881.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful, downloadable brochure on the town and the surrounding area. Check out http://warrumbungleregion.com.au/ckfinder/userfiles/files/Modified%20Coolah%20Town%20Guide%20FOR%20WEBSITE%20220109.pdf for details.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

17 suggestions
  • I query your comment above ‘The railway reached the town in 1910’. My reason is that I have just read an article from The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 7th July 1911, page 5, entitled ‘Coolah Valley Railway’. The article concerns a request to the Minister for Works regarding the construction of “a railway branch line from a point on the Mudgee-Dunedoo line along the Coolah Valley a distance of about 22 miles”. If this artiicle was in 1911 then the railway could not have existed, to Coolah, in 1910!

    Alan Edge
  • Hi, I am a descendent of the Tindall/Shurr/Trahey family from Coolah in the 1800s. I am doing some research as to my Aboriginal Heritage. Would you be able to tell me if it was the Kalamori Group? ..Thankyou

    Kathleen
    • Hi Kathleen. The area around Coolah was occupied by both the Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri peoples. The Wiradjuri had one of the largest of all the areas and it extends all the way down to Albury and covers large areas of the Riverina and the edges of the Snowy Mountains. I would suggest you contact the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Check out their website at http://aiatsis.gov.au. They should be able to help you.

      Bruce Elder
    • Hi Kathleen, I was Barbara MacBeth. My grandmother was Catherine Mary Tindall…nee Schurr…yes we do have aboriginal blood but how far back I’m not sure… will be going to Coolah in a few weeks & what I can find out. How do you fit into our big,family? Looking forward to hearing from you

      Barbara Lovell
      • Just sent an email to Kathleen and it was returned. If she comes again to this page, could she get in touch with Aussie Towns and I will forward her new address to Barbara.

        Bruce Elder
  • Could you please give me some history of the owners of the Black Stump property and the wine saloon.

    Michael Higgins
  • Beyond the Black Stump was government gazetted as beyond Coolah in the 1800s.

    Barbara Lovell
  • The Mudgee – Gilgandra road runs through Dunedoo. To get to Coolah you turn onto the Golden Highway and cross over the Talbragar River. Then turn left onto the Black Stump Way and travel approximately 25 k’s to Coolah. It is this road that the nursery rhyme place is on.

    David Auld
  • Good morning ,
    My name is Kim and I have been trying to do my history for over 20 years and finally think I have come across some information. Now I’m stuck and hoping you can help. It is very confusing so I will try and make it as simple as I can.
    Robert Campbell married Maria [Sarah] Hyatt on the 5th Nov, 1889 and the marriage was consented by Maria’s guardian, William Smith, as she was only 16. Records of her children’s names are Maria S, Sarah Maria and Sarah M. She left her 7th child to the Benevolent Asylum in Quay St Sydney. Then she had a child with Percy Howell from Coonabarabran. Then Sarah went as Sarah Little [her mother’s maiden name] to Coolah where my grandfather Percival Francis Campbell was born. On his birth and wedding certificate she put Sarah Little. Then she was in Hay married to Robert Cole and she died in Deniliquin.
    What I am after is – is this all correct? And was she or robert campbell of Aboriginal descent? And are there is any photos of either of them? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time .

    Kim Opie
  • Good morning, how are you? I am doing some research for the Perth Museum and I have read that Colonel John Arnott advised in an article in 1941 that he had placed an inscription in the stone steps of his garden at Coolah Creek that had relevance to the Shellal Mosaic from WW1 and I am wanting to find out more information regarding this and if there is a photo of these steps

    Thank you

    Patric O'Callaghan
  • Can you suggest any places around the area to go camping and fishing.
    Thanks

    mick
  • Does anyone have any info on the Chinese of Coolah?

    Ella
    • Not sure if you will see this reply Ella as you posted late last year. I have been researching my Chinese family history in Mudgee, Coolah & Wellington. My grandfather and grandmother ran the Kum Chong War & Co. general store in Coolah from around 1914 to 1936. Their names were George & Louisa Coon. Apparently my grandfather built a store and house on the corner of Binnia and Gilmore Streets. My grandparents had 8 children. My mother remembers they had a nanny by the name of Gracie Ryan (nee Schurr). What is your interest in the Chinese of Coolah?

      Margaret
  • Hi looking for a photo of Oakey creek homestead

    Darren mcgarrigle
  • My father was the ambulance superintendent in Coolah from the late 1940s. He took over from Percy Sara. He built the ambulance from a back yard shed to the fine place in Martin Street but because of lack of support from the local people this was taken over by Dubbo goat riders.
    John

    John Melverton