All about Mitchell

21 04 2009

Mitchell is located on the banks of the Maranoa River, approximately 25kms west of Amby or 87 kms west of Roma. The town was named after Sir Thomas Mitchell, the explorer responsible for discovering the rich grazing lands of south-western Queensland and the western Darling Downs.

Sir Mitchell first explored the area that now bears his name in 1846, but it was not until 1854 that the first station was established. The station, named “Mitchell Downs”, was taken up by Edmund Morey and the main homestead was originally built where the corner of Mary and Winchester streets now stand.

By 1861, the pastoral stations of Eurella, Amby Downs and Forest Vale had also been taken up.

In 1864, the Mitchell Downs Homestead was destroyed by floodwaters and as a result, a new homestead was built in a nearby location. The remains of the original homestead were taken over by Thomas Close and converted into the Maranoa Hotel. A community began to grow, by 1870, post office, general store, butcher and blacksmith had opened and houses had appeared.

The railway line from Roma to the eastern bank of the Maranoa River was completed in 1883, and in 1885 a bridge over the river was constructed to enable the railway line to enter the town itself. The railway bridge was the first bridge to be built with concrete piers in the Queensland Colony.

The Mitchell Courthouse found its way into the history books when, in 1902, it hosted the trial of Patrick and James Kenniff. The Kenniff Brothers were nicknamed the “Last Australian Bushrangers” and were caught in the Mitchell area in April 1902. Patrick Kenniff became the last person hanged in Queensland when he was executed at Boggo Rd Gaol in Brisbane on January 12, 1903. The Courthouse, now closed, has been renamed the Kenniff Courthouse in reference to the trial.

Today, Mitchell boasts a population of over 1000 people. Like other regional towns, Mitchell has experienced population decline, however it has been proactive in minimizing the extent of the decline. In addition to the traditional grain and grazing industries that the town has historically relied on, today Mitchell is home to cypress pine milling, a quarry, and is also experimenting with various broadacre farming.

Things to do and see in Mitchell:

  • The Great Artesian Spa Complex is the star attraction in Mitchell. The Spa is incorporated into the aquatic centre and features two artesian spas – one naturally heated to 38oC, the other at a cooler temperature for those that would prefer.
  • Visit the Yumba. Originally called Reserve 131, the Yumba site was a government Reserve for Aboriginal people in the Mitchell area. Today, the Gungarri people take visitors to the Yumba on a journey through traditional and contemporary aboriginal cultural heritage. The Yumba is progressively being rebuilt by the Nalingu Aboriginal Corporation to create an Indigenous Cultural Education and Knowledge Sharing Centre to encourage greater cultural awareness.
  • The Nature Trail is a 3.2km long walking track along the banks of the Maranoa River. The walk starts (or finishes) at the Neil Turner Weir and provides opportunities for bird watching, fishing, canoeing and other aquatic activities
  • The Kenniff Courthouse features a historical displays (including information about the Kenniff Brothers bushrangers in general), gardens, windmill and information centre
  • Visit the Kenniff Brothers’ Monument (7 km south of Mitchell). The Monument consists of contemprary statues depicting the arrest of Patrick and James Kenniff – the statue of Patrick’s arrest shows Patrick lying on the ground with two policemen standing over him, while the aboriginal tracker looks the other way. The statue depicting James’ arrest shows him escaping the first attempt at arrest, before he was later surrounded and forced to surrender.
  • Admire the local artwork. The Bridging Arts exhibition, called “Booringa – Past, Present and Future,” is a unique open-air aerosol art gallery located on the bridge pylons beneath the Warrego Highway on the eastern entrance to the town. It was an initiative of the local Youth Council and features the work of individuals and community groups. The Cambridge Streetscape recalls the memories of local residents and features works created by members of the local community and professional artists. The Maranoa Arts Complex features works of art by local artists and also hosts  visiting exhibitions of reknowned artists.
  • Mitchell is the gateway to the Mt Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park. Mt Moffatt is famous for its unique rock formations and aboriginal art, and is home to many hideouts used by the Kenniff Brothers. The road to Mt Moffatt is mostly unsealed, is impassable after rain and is recommended for 4WD only. Check road conditions before departure. The area is relatively remote, facilities are basic (camping only) and visitors should be self-sufficient.
  • Ooline Environmental Park is 35 km west of Mitchell. The Ooline tree (or Scrub Myrtle) is currently listed as a vulnerable species under the Nature Conservation Act. The tree is a relic of the rainforests of Gondwana Land and is unique in the sense that depsite its rainforst orgins, the Ooline tree can now only grow in hot and dry conditions.
  • Fisherman’s Rest is a camping, fishing and day-use area on the banks of the Maranoa River, about 7 kms west of Mitchell.
  • Major Mitchell’s campsite is located 35 kms north of Mitchell. The site marks Sir Thomas Mitchell’s campsite when he journeyed through the region in 1846. The site has a shelter and barbeque facility

References:

1. Ryan, M. (ed), (2003) Discovery Guide to Outback Queensland Queensland Museum Publishing. Brisbane, Queensland.

2. Booringa Shire Council Website

3.  Booringa Shire Council Tourism Guide – “Michell: Gateway to the Outback. Visitors Guide to Mitchell, Amby and Mungallala”

4.  Mitchell: Gateway to the Outback Website

5.  Environmental Protection Agency Queensland Heritage Register, Queensland Government

6.  The Australian Government: Shared Responsibility Agreements: Mitchell Queensland





Muckadilla & Amby

21 04 2009

Muckadilla

Muckadilla is located on the Warrego Highway, approximately 40km west of Roma. The town was settled, and in 1889, the first bore was sunk. The water from the bore was rich in sulphur and at the time, sulphurous materials were thought to be radioactive and have healing properties for a wide range of ailments, like rheumatism, arthritis and other debilitating conditions. As a result, people flocked to the Muckadilla area to receive ‘treatment’ from the town’s bore water.

A bathhouse was built in Muckadilla to allow those seeking treatment to easily access the water from the bore – in the day, the Muckadilla Bore Bathhouse was a well-known and prominent Queensland icon. The Bathhouse featured a swimming pool, hot showers and baths and a plunge pool, as well as a mud bath. Staff including nursing staff to help those seeking treatment for their various ailments.

The Muckadilla Hotel opened in 1912 and was located in front of the Bathhouse – today, a mound of dirt at the rear of the hotel marks the site where the Bathhouse once stood.

In its day, Muckadilla was a thriving local community that serviced the surrounding stations and part of the stock route through the area. Today, Muckadilla is still an important grain producing area and despite having its own grain depot, the improvement in machinery, transport and infrastructure has seen the population of Muckadilla decline. However, Muckadilla still has plenty to offer to visitors travelling through the Western Downs or into outback Queensland.

The Muckadilla Hotel is a typical country pub – in addition to cool refreshments, the hotel also provides meals, motel accommodation, a swimming pool and free camp sites (powered sites are provided at a small fee).

The Muckadilla Whistlestop Railway Siding has been moved to the side of the Warrego Highway and is now surrounded by a native garden. The garden contains a playground, tourist information about the local area and features local art exhibits. Walking paths around the garden give travelers the opportunity to stop and stretch their legs and the playground makes it a great place for a break if you’re travelling with children!

*References:

1.  Queensland Holidays Website:   www.queenslandholidays.com.au

2.  Muckadilla Hotel Website:  www.muckadillahotel.com.au

Amby

Amby is located approximately 24 kms east of Mitchell (or 63 kms west of Roma) along the Warrego Highway. Amby is considered to mark where the grain and grazing belts of agricultural Queensland meet, and along with Mitchell, forms the eastern border to the Queensland Outback.

Originally named Amby Creek, the term ‘Amby’ refers to the Aboriginal word for ‘little waterhole’ or ‘female aboriginal’. Amby was settled in 1883 purely as a support town for railway workers and their families as the railway line extended further west. Shortly afterwards, Amby had 2 pubs, butcher shop, baker, post office, store, police station, school, racecourse and a local sporting area.

The Amby Downs Waterhole (locally referred to as the Netting Hole) is located about 5 kms north of Amby along the Warrego Highway. Visitors to the waterhole may make out the remains of the Stage Changeover Shanty that was built near the waterhole – the building was erected in circa 1875 and predated the town.

Improvements in transport and infrastructure have seen many local businesses relocate to Roma or Mitchell. Today, Amby supports a population of approximately 90 people and the declining population has seen a demise of one pub, police station, butcher, baker, school and post office. The railway line responsible for the settlement of Amby still travels through the town, but the railway station has also been closed.

The Amby Hotel is the town’s surviving hotel and is ranked as one of the Great Outback Queensland Pubs. The Hotel offers cool refreshments, meals, accommodation and free camping, and also doubles as the ‘19th Hole’ for the Amby Golf Course. The golf course is a 9-hole course and is nicknamed the ‘No Horse Golf Course’.

In a cruel twist of fate, Amby is partly responsible for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure that has led to its demise. A basalt seam, measuring 10 metres deep, 5 kms wide and 64 kms long has been discovered east of Amby and the local basalt quarry now transports basalt, via road and rail, for use in roads, bridges, dams, and concrete constructions throughout Queensland. It also provides all the basalt required for the base material of all railway lines east of Dalby.

*References:

  1. Booringa Shire Council Tourism Guide – “Michell: Gateway to the Outback. Visitors Guide to Mitchell, Amby and Mungallala”
  2. Queensland Holidays Website:  www.queenslandholidays.com.au
  3. Booringa Shire Council:  http://www.booringa.qld.gov.au/about_council/about_shire/amby.shtml
  4. Queensland Hotels Great Outback Pubs Guide:        http://www.queenslandhotels.com.au/content/files/Search%20Hotel_Supplier_Sponsor/Outback%20Pubs_2008low%20res.pdf




All About Roma

21 04 2009

Roma marks the western boundary of the Darling Downs and links Western Queensland with the state’s East Coast. Originally home to the Mandandangi People, the Roma region was visited by Ludwig Leichardt, and then by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846. Mitchell was impressed by the untouched pastoral lands he saw, and wrote “I ascended an elevated north-eastern extremity of Mount Abundance, and from it beheld the finest country I had ever seen in a primeval state – a champaign region, spotted with wood, stretching as far as human vision or even the telescope could reach.”

A year later in 1847, the first pastoral station of the area was established at this site by Allan McPherson. Named ‘Mt Abundance Station,’ McPherson took up 400 000 acres on which he ran sheep. After constant conflict with the local Aborigines, McPherson withdrew his sheep 1849, leaving it a cattle station. He returned to England and eventually sold the Station in 1856 to Stephen Spencer.

The first signs of a town began to appear in 1861 when a few hastily-built houses were erected close to the Mt Abundance Homestead. The town of Roma was officially settled in 1862, approximately 40km from Mt Abundance. Roma was the first town to be gazetted after Queensland separated from New South Wales to become a colony in its own right, and was named after Lady Roma Diamantina Bowen, the wife of the first Queensland Governor.

Roma was originally settled as an administrative centre to service the growing Western Downs Region. By 1863, Roma had its own Court of Petty Sessions, Police Station, doctor, chemist, several pubs and a Post Office. When the Post Office in Roma opened, the original Post Office at Mt Abundance was closed. By 1880, the railway network had been extended to connect Roma with the rest of Queensland.

In 1857, five years before the town of Roma was established, grapes were grown at Mt Abundance Station. In 1863, Samuel Bassett established the first (and only) winery of the Roma region – the Romavilla Winery. Romavilla sold its first vintage of wine in 1866 and remains Queensland’s oldest winery. It is still operating today and offers wine tasting and sales at its cellar door.

Just over 100 years ago, a work crew drilling for water at Hospital Hill unexpectedly found gas. From this exciting discovery, Roma has grown to be one of the most important gas and oil regions in Australia. The Big Rig, located on the Warrego Highway on the eastern entrance to the town, is a memorial and information centre devoted to the discovery of oil and gas throughout Australia, and in particular the importance of the Roma region. The Big Rig features an interpretive museum as well as a night show that incorporates pyrotechnics and computer simulations that tell the story of Australian gas and oil exploration (with an emphasis on Roma’s involvement). The show also includes the stories of individual characters involved in the development of Australia’s gas and oil industry.

Today, Roma boasts a population of almost 7000, making it one of the largest regional towns in Queensland. It lies at the intersection of the Warrego and Carnarvon Highways and links Brisbane with Western Queensland.  It is also a  major stop on the inland route between Sydney and Cairns (the Great Inland Way).

Things to do and see in Roma:

  • The Big Rig (mentioned above) is a museum dedicated to the discovery and development of Australia’s oil and gas industries (and Roma’s part in the story)
  • Visit the Romavilla to sample some (or all) of the region’s wine products
  • The Roma Saleyards are the biggest inland Saleyards in the country. Sales are held every Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Today, the Mount Abundance Station is open to visitors by appointment only. The station itself has been subdivided into smaller pastoral allotments, but the Homestead built by Spencer from which the town of Roma was created can be visited.
  • Roma is considered the gateway to Carnarvon National Park. The Park is divided into four sections: Carnarvon Gorge, Ka Ka Mundi, Salvator Rosa and Mt Moffat. The Carnarvon Gorge section is the most popular section as it is easily accessed by two-wheel drive vehicles (check road conditions prior to departure) and offers accommodation of all types. Camping is restricted in Carnarvon Gorge itself, however camping is allowed during certain school holidays (visit the EPA website for details). Alternative accommodation (including camping) is available at Takarakka Bush Resort. For those that prefer a little more comfort, the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge offers a more ‘luxurious’ experience for those that would prefer it.
  • Visitors to Roma will be impressed with the bottle trees that line the streets. The Avenue of Heroes down Wyndham Street features a bottle tree for each local life lost during the First World War – each tree feature its own individual Remembrance Plaque to honour each respective fallen Servicemen.
  • Roma’s largest bottle tree can be found at the intersection of Edwardes and McDowell streets – it measures an amazing 8.9m in diameter and was transplanted from a local property to its current position in 1927.
  • The Meadowbank Museum is located 12km west of Roma and offers ‘on-farm’ camping at a low cost. The Museum itself features an interesting collection of early farming implements, machinery and memorabilia and is open for guided tours by appointment. Camping is available all year round.
  • There are many other historical, cultural and architectural features to Roma. These can all be explored on foot via self-guided walking tours. Tours include the Roma Heritage Trail, the Adungadoo Pathway, the Roma Bush Gardens Walk and the Hospital Hill Walk. Brochures can be collected from the Visitor Information Centre at the Big Rig or downloaded here.


References:

When in Roma Website:  www.wheninroma.com.au

Roma Regional Council: www.romaregionalcouncil.qld.gov.au