A treasure trove of natural wonder ready to be discovered. Interview with Thomas Davey.
The Barrington region is steeped in history; can you tell us a bit about it?
The region’s European name was in honour of an English businessman and politician with an Irish Peerage title: the 6th Viscount Barrington of Ardglass in County Down. Although the Viscountcy no longer exists, the name lives on in Australia with the Barrington River, named in 1826 by Robert Dawson from the Australian Agricultural Company, which is born high in Barrington Tops. The pristine waters of the Barrington River still tumble off this ancient volcanic plateau, making their way to the Pacific Ocean on the newly-named Barrington Coast of New South Wales.
The rainforests of Barrington Tops National Park are heritage listed. What exactly does this mean, and can we explore them to learn more?
The renowned Barrington Tops wilderness area forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. This network of forests includes the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest in the world, extending past Newcastle to the south-east of Queensland. These forests are World Heritage protected, which applies only to cultural or natural sites of outstanding importance to the common culture and heritage of humanity. Barrington Tops provides an outstanding example of the major stages of Earth’s evolution. Many of the plant and animal species of the east coast have their southern-most or northern-most limits at Barrington Tops, so the region is teeming with variety. Covering more than 125,000 hectares of unspoilt wilderness, Barrington Tops is a must-see destination with an almost mystical reputation … aeroplanes have been lost and never found within it, whilst convicts on the run have hidden amongst its deep forests for years! Free maps and helpful advice can be found at the Gloucester Visitor Information Centre.
The area is the traditional land of several Aboriginal tribes. Can you explain their history and how the rainforest supported their survival?
The Barrington Coast is country belonging to the peoples of Worimi and Biripi. To the east other tribes also shared parts of Barrington Tops: Wonnarua and Geawegal. The Worimi and Biripi spent time in the high plateau regions during summer months, before returning to their coastal lands for the cooler months. Robert Dawson from the Australian Agricultural Company wrote that the local Aborigines were skilled hunters and gatherers, and perfectly happy with the ample food that the forests and rivers provided, “unwilling to yield up a life of liberty in such a climate, in the forests which support them without labour or toil”.
I would imagine that this precious ecosystem would often be under threat. What programs do you have in place to conserve and protect?
The Barrington Tops parklands are managed by the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, plus the NSW Forestry Corporation. Both organisations welcome visitors to the region and have comprehensive Plans of Management for their respective lands. Visitors will find some 4WD tracks are seasonally closed to enable rest and repair, whilst there are some areas of the National Park that are quarantined due to a soil fungus that’s deadly to the trees. Domestic pets are not allowed in the National Parks and conservation areas, but well-behaved dogs under control are welcome in the State Forests.
What are some of the plants and animals you may see?
Barrington Tops is full of extraordinary wildlife: Parma wallabies, lyre-birds, land mullets, smiling echidnas, frogs that purr instead of croak, barking owls, handsome fruit doves, brumbies and at Devil Ark you can meet Eastern Spotted Quolls and Tasmanian devils. The tree fern groves and towering Antarctic Beech trees are a living link to the ancient forests of Gondwana, so it’s easy to imagine the dinosaurs that once roamed here.
There are many wonderful activities available; can you mention a few?
Outdoor activities are our specialty: paddle like an explorer on the Barrington River by canoe or kayak; go horse riding on riverside trails used by the “gentleman bushranger” Captain Thunderbolt; join a guided tour of the heritage gold mining precinct hidden in the rainforest at Copeland; spot a platypus or fish for perch and trout; search for one of the lost aeroplanes that remain hidden in the high wilderness; or cuddle a Tassie devil joey at Devil Ark.
What types of accommodation are on offer?
The Gloucester region offers accommodation styles and budgets to suit everyone. In the centre of town you’ll find powered sites for camping and caravans, plus there are more beautiful riverside camping areas scattered across the region. There are warmly welcoming B&Bs, self-contained holiday houses, comfy motels, plus a few beautiful retreats in stunning locations. The parklands of Barrington Tops offer remote camping next to quiet waterways, including Polblue: the highest campground in Australia that you can drive to, so you can forget the snow shoes and bring your esky.
When’s the best time to visit, summer or winter?
The high forests of Barrington Tops offer exceptional walks ranging from 20 minutes to 10 hours duration that can be enjoyed year round. You’ll discover rarely visited waterfalls, high altitude wetlands and breathtaking lookouts. Summer is perfect for cooling off in a shaded river or hidden waterfall. Spring and autumn are the most popular times for camping, whilst winter offers the chance of seeing snow plus cosy wood fires for snuggling up to.
Do you have any exciting events coming up for the local area?
Gloucester offers some wonderful events, including the Mountain Man Tri-Challenge, Bush Poetry at the Saleyards, Chill Out Winter Festival and monthly art exhibitions at the heritage Gloucester Gallery. For music lovers there’s Opera in the Church, Poley’s Country Music Hoedowns and the jewel in the musical crown: Craven Creek Music Festival, a unique concert of classical music in a rustic rural shed accompanied by the sounds of birds and cows.
Where can we find out more information?
Pick up a selection of free maps and brochures together with helpful advice from Gloucester Visitor Information Centre at 27 Denison Street, Gloucester. Open seven days; call 6538 5252 or visit www.barringtoncoast.com.au
Interview: Bronwyn Davis.