Rural service town nestled under the Bucketts and known as the Gateway to Barrington Tops.
Gloucester, known as the gateway to the Barrington Tops, is a charming country town nestled in a valley under a range of hills known as The Bucketts. It is a town located in a valley of surpassing loveliness. As early as 1851 the famous colonial clergyman John Dunmore Lang observed that "Gloucester is one of the best sites for an inland town, I have ever seen in the colony. A range of picturesque mountains, called by the aborigines, the Buccans, of about 1200 feet in height, bounds the horizon to the westward. Along the base of these mountains, the River Gloucester wends its way to the northward, leaving a large extent of alluvial land on its right bank, which the Company has cleared and brought into cultivation; the site of the buildings that form the station, including a house of accommodation for travellers, being on a rising ground to the eastward of the alluvial flats. It is altogether a beautiful spot in the wilderness." Today Gloucester is the principal town of a cattle-raising, dairying and mixed farming district.
Gloucester is located 96 metres above sea-level and 265 km north-east of Sydney via the Pacific Highway and Bucketts Way.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The town was named after an Australian Agricultural Company outstation which had been named Gloucester by the manager, Robert Dawson. Dawson observed that the "romantic scenery" of the river valley reminded him of the undulating countryside of Gloucestershire and so he named the town after Gloucester.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Gloucester Visitor Centre
To truly enjoy the rich variety of activities in Gloucester and surrounds you should start at the Gloucester Visitor Centre. They have a remarkably rich and comprehensive collection of simple brochures (mostly folded A4 sheets) which provide details for:
* Gloucester Boomerang Discovery Walk
* Mosaic Walk
* Gloucester - Points of Interest
* Copeland Tops State Conservation Area: Mountain Maid Gold Mine Tour
* Copeland Tops State Conservation Area: Basin Loop Trail
* Copeland Tops State Conservation Area: Hidden Treasure Trail
* Woko National Park
* Barrington Tops National Park - with detailed map
* Barrington Tops - Camping
* Swimming - Gloucester
* Scenic Drives - 1: Buccan Buccans Circuit
* Scenic Drives - 2: Gloucester Tops
* Bicycle Touring and Mountain Biking
* Vineyards Farmgates & Farm Tours
The following details provide an overview of each of these brochures.
Gloucester Boomerang Discovery Walk
This is a pleasant walk around the town. It starts at the Visitor Centre, moves down the main street (Church Street), past the town's Hydrotherapy Pool, around to the Minimbah Gardens, past the Human Sundial, through the Camellia Grove and Pioneer Memorial Gardens, across the suspension bridge to the Billabong Park. The walk takes about an hour and is an ideal introduction to the town's parks and attractions.
Gloucester Mosaics Walk
This is a fun activity which can be done in a totally arbitrary way or you can get the Mosaic Walk brochure from the Visitor Centre. It is essentially a self-guided walk which includes images of the history of Gloucester through a collection of mosaics which appear on walls and footpaths around town. Beyond the two dimensional images there are also planter boxes and seating covered in mosaics in the Meeting Place and a large mosaic platypus in Billabong Park.
The suggested route, for those who don't want to just mooch and discover, is to start outside the Visitors Centre with the meeting place and the wall mosaics opposite and then follow the pavement mosaics along Church Street heading down to the corner at the Roundabout Inn and then up the street for three blocks. There are mosaics every few metres. The project is local and characterised by anonymity - so don't go looking for examples of works by famous artists. Of particular interest are the six mosaics on the wall opposite the Visitor Centre which depict - dairy, steam (ie transport), gold mining, Captain Thunderbolt, timber and the beautiful clarity of the rivers and the mountains in the area. There are also mosaics of chess and snakes and ladders boards near the Visitor Centre. Playing pieces can be hired from the Visitor Centre.
The oldest building in town is known simply as "The homestead" and is located opposite the saleyards, on the western side of The Bucketts Way at the southern end of town. It is a single-storey sandstock brick residence built around 1830 by the Australian Agricultural Company on what was then the main north road.
At 12 Church Street the Gloucester Museum is located in the former shire council chambers (1909). The Wunderlich pressed-metal ceilings are of interest and, to the rear of the building, are the police lock-up and an explosives store from the former gold mining town of Copeland. The Gloucester District Historical Society operates the museum which includes a collection of photographic records, memorabilia and archival material. The exhibits date back to 1826 and include a Pioneer’s Gallery, military memorabilia, aboriginal artefacts, gold mining history, geological specimens, heritage domestic items and much more. It is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 10.30 am - 1.30 pm and Saturdays from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. For more information check out https://gloucestertourism.com.au/2017/05/05/gloucester-museum/#more-3212.
Other Attractions in the Area
Swimming - Gloucester
The Gloucester district sees itself as an ideal place for swimming in the local rivers, at the base of waterfalls and, in the case of the town, availing yourself of the local heated swimming pool The Swimming brochure (available at the Visitor Centre) lists the Gloucester River, the town's Olympic Swimming Pool, the Barrington River, the Manning River at Woko, the Gummi Falls, the Polblue Wetland and the Gloucester Falls as ideal places for a swim, although it has to be remembered that snow can fall on the higher mountains and places like the Polblue Wetland and Gloucester Falls can be icy.
Scenic Drives - 1: Buccan Buccans Circuit
The Visitor Information Centre's Scenic Drive brochures are designed to introduce visitors to the beauty and appeal of the countryside surrounding the town. The Buccan Buccans Circuit is a 34 km drive from Gloucester to Barrington then down behind the Buccan Buccans to Barrington River and Gloucester River. It takes less than an hour, crosses rivers five times and passes through rich Upper Hunter farmlands.
Scenic Drives - 2: Gloucester Tops
This 115 km journey to Gloucester Tops is for those people wanting to explore the eastern section of the Barrington Tops National Park. (The alternative is to drive across the top of the park to Scone.) The attractions include the Gloucester Falls, rainforests, high altitude wetlands, snow gum meadows and the 7 km Gloucester Tops walking circuit and the Antarctic Beech Forest Track.
Copeland Tops State Conservation Area: Mountain Maid Gold Mine Tour
Located 17 km to the west of Gloucester (along Barrington Tops Forest Road) and through the villages of Barrington and the former goldrush town of Copeland (where gold was discovered in 1872). Old Copeland Road leads to the Mountain Maid Gold Mine. About 200 m along the road is the Mountain Maid Goldmine carpark. The Mountain Maid Goldmine commenced operations in 1876 and did not close until 1979.
The mine can only be visited by Guided Tour and the tours can be organised and booked at the Gloucester Visitor Information Centre, tel: (02) 6538 5252. The tours are run on Wednesdays and Sundays at either 10.00 am or 2.00 pm, take around 90-120 minutes, cover a total area of around 1.2 km and involve around 120 steps.
Hidden Treasure Track - Copeland Historic Goldfield
Covering a total of 3.3 km, most of which is easy, and taking around 2 hours return, the Hidden Treasure Track departs from the Copeland Tops State Conservation Area entrance and utilises the original goldmine road. It crosses Back Creek Bridge, passes through a section of dry eucalypt forest as well as areas of ferns and orchids and stands of Sydney blue gums, corkwoods, shatterwoods, red cedar, strangler figs and giant stinging trees. The gold mining remnants on the track include the Criterion Battery (a ten head stamper which was hauled by bullocks from Raymond Terrace in the 1870s) and the Hidden Treasure Mine entrance which lies beyond a series of old shafts. The Visitor Information Centre brochure Hidden Treasure Track has a good map and detailed instructions about the route.
Basin Loop Track - Copeland Historic Goldfield
The Basin Loop Trail, which also starts at the Copeland Tops State Conservation Entrance, is a 7 km circuit (the brochure has a detailed map of the route) which includes sections of the Hidden Treasure Track and traverses the countryside on either side of Copeland Creek.
Bicycle Touring and Mountain Biking
The Bicycle Touring and Mountain Biking brochure lists a total of six bicycle rides in the Gloucester area.
* Waukivory Circuit - a short, easy 11 km ride mostly on the Avon River floodplain.
* Bucketts Road Circuit - an 18 km ride over sealed and unsealed roads along the base of the Bucketts with two short rises and a sharp drop.
* Bowman Farm Section - a 32 km ride with some steep climbs and descents which offers superb views over the valley. It crosses the Bowman River a number of times.
* Copeland Goldmine & Return - a 32 km ride to the old goldmining village of Copeland.
* The Steps Mountain Bike Park - a purpose-built mountain bike park with a 3.5 km single track loop with downhill sections, bridges and technical climbs.
* Craven Forest Circuit - a 47 km ride with challenging climbs and descents noted for its route through the Glen Nature Reserve and diverse forest vegetation.
Camping - Barrington Tops and Gloucester
The National Parks and State Forests surrounding Gloucester have a large number of camp sites and the Camping - Barrington Tops and Gloucester brochure lists a total of 26 camp sites in the district. The brochure is particularly valuable because it lists prices as well as providing details of the camp sites.
The journey from Gloucester to Scone via the Barrington Tops Forest Road involves a 148 km drive via the tiny settlements of Barrington, Copeland, Rawdon Vale, Moonan Flat, Belltrees and Gundy.
The list of activities below are in order of the journey travelled from Gloucester to Scone.
* Honeysuckle Picnic Area and Forest Track
This is an ideal introduction to the unique rainforest of the plateau that is the Barrington Tops. The National Parks website describes the short, 1 km loop walk (which will take less than half an hour) as an opportunity to experience "magnificent Antarctic beech forest with thickets of soft tree ferns, have a look for the beech orchid that grows in its upper branches. The moss covered trunks are a spectacular sight in the misty rain. Rainforest gives way to open forests of brown barrel with an understory of tall mountain banksia, also known as honeysuckle." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/honeysuckle-forest-track for more information.
* Dilgry Circle
Located 54 km from Gloucester and near the Honeysuckle Picnic Area, and heading off to the north, is a 4WD track known as the Dilgry Circle. It is known to most visitors because of the unusual rock formation which looks uncannily like a giant penis. Ask at Gloucester Visitor Information for specific directions.
* Thunderbolt's Lookout
Thunderbolt's Lookout is clearly marked on the Barrington Tops Forest Road and is an easy 400 m flat walk to a lookout point which has a panoramic view across the wilderness of the "tops". It is claimed that it was once a popular lookout for bushrangers. National Parks describes the short walk and the lookout as "Passing through a majestic stand of Antarctic beech trees, where moss carpets the forest floor, look for delicate orchids high in the branches as you make your way to the lookout. Soak in the spectacular vista of the deep valley leading to Moppy River below and Mount Carson beyond. Wedge-tailed eagles often circle in the skies above, looking for prey." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/lookouts/thunderbolts-lookout-attraction for more details.
* Devils Hole Picnic area and Lookout
Located west of Thunderbolt's Lookout on the Barrington Tops Forest Road (around 60 km from Gloucester) this campground and picnic area is located at 1,400 m above sea level in sub-alpine country noted for its snow gums, cold climate woodlands and wetlands. Only 300 metres from the picnic area is the lookout described by National Parks as having "The snow-grassed montane woodland of the gentle Barrington plateau stretches behind, while dense forests, wild gorges, and ridges of the Barrington wilderness lie below. On a clear day, the view extends to the coast, over 90 km to the east." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/devils-hole-lookout-walk-and-picnic-area for more details.
* Gummi Falls
The 4WD - mountain bike track from the Barrington Tops Forest Road heads north from Devils Hole to Gummi Falls, a beautiful small falls, which lie on the northern border of the park. This is a remote sub-alpine camping spot which is known as an ideal place to commune with kangaroos, wombats, the long-nosed potaroo, the spotted-tailed quoll and greater gliders. Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/gummi-falls-campground for more information.
* Polblue Swamp Track
An important stopping point on the Barrington Tops Forest Road, the Polblue Swamp is about 70 km from Gloucester and is edged by black sally trees, snow gums, mountain gums and scribbly gums. The swamp itself is covered by grasses, moss and sedges. If there has been rain it is possible to see wild orchids and in the morning and evening both wombats and kangaroos are common around the edges of the swamp. The easy, flat walk is a 3 km loop which can be done in 30 minutes. Check https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/polblue-swamp-track for more details.
* Barrington Trail
Running to the south from from the Barrington Tops Forest Road just beyond Polblue Swamp, the Barrington Trail is a 15 km, 4WD only (although it is popular with mountain bike enthusiasts) which is open in the summer months between October and May. It provides access to Little Murray Campground (5 km from the main road); Junction Pools campground (12.5 km) and Mount Barrington picnic area (15 km). It is also the access point to the Aeroplane Hill walking track and the Careys Peak walking track. For detailed information check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/4wd-touring-routes/barrington-trail.
* Polblue Falls
Accessed from Horse Swamp (a campsite accessible by 4WD) the falls can be seen from a short, 500 m return walk from the Polblue Falls picnic area.
* Dingo Gate and the Road Beyond
After driving across the "tops" it is strange to stop and have to open a gate but it serves as an excellent break as this is the point where the sub-alpine forests of the "tops" give way to the cleared valleys which drop dramatically down to Moonan Flats and the valley of the Hunter River. The road can be quite dangerous as the hills have a tendency to drop rocks onto the road. It needs to be driven with care.
Woko National Park
Located 36 km north west of Gloucester via Thunderbolts Way, the Woko National Park covers 8598 ha of dry rainforest. The park is located on rugged land once occupied by the Birripi people. It was established in 1984 and today is a wild location - characterised by eucalypt and rainforest communities - which has a camping area beside the Manning River and two interesting walks.
The park is known for its brush turkeys, superb lyrebirds, bellbirds, satin bowerbirds, king parrots, peregrine falcons, red-necked wallabies, pademelons and platypus.
The Brush Turkey Track (an easy 1 km and 20 minutes return) leads from the campground through dry rainforest (where bush turkeys are often seen) into dry sclerophyll forest before rejoining the gravel road.
The Cliff Face Track takes about two hours (it is a steep 4 km return). It branches off to the right from the Brush Turkey Track, passing through pockets of sub-tropical rainforest and past rocky outcrops from the escarpment above. For more detailed information check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/woko-national-park.
Vineyards Farmgates & Farm Tours
The Vineyards Farmgates & Farm Tours brochure describes a circular drive from Gloucester across to Nabiac, down the Pacific Highway to The Bucketts Way and then back to Gloucester via Stroud and Stratford. It lists a total of ten vineyards and cellar doors and three farms (a herb farm, aquaculture farm and honey farm) along the route and recommends two farmer's markets.
A Brief History of the Australian Agricultural Company
One of the little known stories of nineteenth century Australia is that of the Australian Agricultural Company which was formed in England in 1824. It was originally created, through an act of the British Parliament, with the specific object of raising fine wool (merino sheep) and agricultural products in New South Wales which would be shipped to England.
The original company is a reminder that, from the earliest times, there was an elite interest in making money in the infant colony. The AAC, as it became known, was formed by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of England, twenty eight Members of Parliament, the Governor, Deputy Governor and eight of the directors of the Bank of England; the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman and five directors of the British East India Company, and other prominent English bankers and merchants.
It was a fairly ugly, insider deal with the company being granted one million acres on the northern side of Port Stephens and the labour being primarily provided by convicts from Sydney and Newcastle.
The initial area - 464,640 acres (187,960 ha) stretched from Port Stephens to the Manning River and across to Gloucester.
Impressed by the 'romantic scenery' of the river valley, the company's first manager, Robert Dawson, established an outstation which he named 'Gloucester' after the English town as the landscape reminded him of the terrain in Gloucestershire. The Gloucester and Avon valleys were soon well stocked with the company's sheep and a dairy was established on the estate c.1831 for the supply of AAC employees.
The company still exists today. It is now located in Brisbane, is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, and focuses primarily on beef cattle operating 24 cattle stations (most of them in northern Australia) and managing over half a million head of cattle.
The actual history of the company is extraordinarily complex but its involvement in the Gloucester - Stroud area declined through the nineteenth century as bad decisions were made and as changing circumstances saw the company's economic benefits disappear.
The end of transportation in the 1840s and the goldrushes of the 1850s caused labour shortages for the company which, looking for workers, started importing Chinese labour. The sheep flocks declined because they were being grazed on inappropriate terrain; attempts to grow grain proved disappointing; and a lack of labour resulted in the paddock fences collapsing and half the cattle and horses becoming lost or stolen.
By the late 1850s the AAC had sold or removed all the sheep and reduced its landholdings in the Gloucester-Stroud area. Attention turned primarily to cattle with the Gloucester estate proving home to a large and excellent herd.
By 1861 the only structures existing in Gloucester, which was still essentially an AAC town, were a slab-and-bark hut occupied by the resident constable, a wooden hotel with a shingle roof, an Anglican church which had been built in 1860 at the expense of the AAC, and a blacksmith's shed. Elsewhere on the AAC estate were cattle yards, which held up to 4000 head, an overseer's house, and a brick residence for the usage of the general manager who moved to Gloucester from Stroud in 1860. By the 1870s the Gloucester estate was overrun with brumbies and 1500 were shot.
* Prior to European settlement the area was inhabited by the Gringai Aboriginal people.
* The first European to pass through the area was the explorer Henry Dangar in 1826.
* In 1826 Robert Dawson, the first manager of the Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) which had been formed in England in 1824 with the object of raising fine wool and agricultural products for importation to England, visited the district.
* A dairy was established on the AAC estate c.1831 to supply the company's employees.
* In 1851 churchman John Dunmore Lang observed that 'Gloucester is one of the best sites for an inland town, I have ever seen in the colony. A range of picturesque mountains, called by the aborigines, the Buccans, of about 1200 feet in height, bounds the horizon to the westward. Along the base of these mountains, the River Gloucester wends its way to the northward, leaving a large extent of alluvial land on its right bank, which the Company has cleared and brought into cultivation; the site of the buildings that form the station, including a house of accommodation for travellers, being on a rising ground to the eastward of the alluvial flats. It is altogether a beautiful spot in the wilderness'.
* A drought in the early 1840s was so severe it killed off many of the AAC's sheep.
* The town of Gloucester began to appear in 1855.
* In 1856 Arthur Hodgson, the general superintendent of the AAC, observed that 'the town of Gloucester is laid out with great judgment. The road from New England passes through a part of it. There is a house of accommodation about one mile from the township'.
* By the late 1850s the AAC had sold or removed all the sheep and reduced its landholdings in the area. Attention turned primarily to cattle with the Gloucester estate proving home to a large and excellent herd.
* The goldrushes of the 1850s caused labour shortages for the AAC which started to import Chinese workers.
* By 1861 Gloucester comprised a slab-and-bark hut occupied by the resident constable, a wooden hotel with a shingle roof, an Anglican church (built in 1860 at the expense of the AAC) and a blacksmith's shed.
* A store and two houses were added to Gloucester in the 1860s with another two residences, a post office, an hotel and a police station being added in the 1870s.
* Notorious bushranger, 'Captain Thunderbolt' (Fred Ward), hid out at Gloucester Tops in the mid-1860s.
* By the 1870s the AAC's Gloucester estate had been overrun with brumbies and 1500 were shot.
* When the police discovered Thunderbolt's hideout in 1866 he escaped, though his wife, his two children and another woman were taken to Gloucester and then on to Maitland where the women were released. The two children were sent to a government institution.
* Alluvial gold was discovered to the west of Gloucester, at present-day Copeland, in 1872.
* The gold discovery was kept secret until 1876 when a rush started.
* Subterranean mining commenced in 1877 and, at the height of the rush (1877-80), there were some 3000 people in the area working 51 reefs which yielded 566 kg of gold.
* In 1878 surveyors laid out plans for a new town named Copeland.
* By 1880 there were four quartz crushing batteries in Copeland.
* In 1903 the AAC sold its property to the Gloucester Estate Syndicate which cleared the land, drew up the town subdivision, and sold allotments.
* In 1905 two hotels were built, a school of arts was completed, and the Gloucester Advocate went into print.
* In 1906 the Barrington Butter factory opened and the Gloucester Shire Council held its first meeting.
* A Presbyterian Church was built in 1907.
* The local courthouse was erected in 1908.
* A cordial factory operated in the town from 1910-1918.
* The railway arrived in 1913.
* The Majestic Theatre was built in the early 1920s.
* Gloucester was connected to the electricity in 1923.
* By 1995 coal was being mined at Stratford by Gloucester Coal.^ TOP
Gloucester Visitor Information Centre, 27 Denison Street, tel: (02) 6538 5252. It is open seven days. Monday to Friday 9.00 am - 4.30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9.00 am - 3.00 pm^ TOP