Walcha and Uralla Grinder 159km | 1-2 Days
Start the day with a large coffee from The Fruit Shop, basking in the morning sun at the coffee window and watch the trade of the country town start to take shape; rolling cattle trucks, Land Cruiser parades, and tall cowboy hats on the busiest junction in the town.
This route is free! but if you feel the urge to donate since you had a great day or appreciate the information you can do so here;
This route is a choose your own adventure novel. The two options are; making this a bold 1 day effort OR stopping in Uralla for the 2 day leisure roll. In favour of the two day leisure roll...you do get to enjoy the township of Uralla. Which has a pump track, a brewery and history walk. Plenty to look forward to as you consume the fine parmesan grade gravel of Blue Mountain Road on the way there.
It is not a stretch to describe the Salisbury Plains as perfect gravel riding territory, with rolling views, charming working country homesteads and locals getting about their duties. Thankfully on this route we get to experience such perfection two times. On the way into Uralla and on the way out as you head to Kentucky.
As a passer through, you might not see much going on in Kentucky, in the 2016 census the population was stated as 157. While the only sound might be your freehub, there is an eerie energy of more than meets the eye. In 1870 on May 25, Alexander Binning Walker, a rural lock-up keeper, chased and killed the infamous bushranger Fred Ward, aka Captain Thunderbolt at the Kentucky River.
The township started as an orchading settlement for the returned WW1 Servicemen. The weatherboard cottages on the small blocks were won by ballot for these returned servicemen and women. This township is a part of the Uralla Council area and their website has a great summary of why this area is more than it seems. I have grabbed a couple of emotive snippets…
“Nationwide, the soldier settlement scheme was a disaster, as often the country selected was unsuitable and the blocks were not large enough. According to a government inquiry in 1929, one third of the settlers failed in their attempts to work the land.”
“However, once the orchards started to bear fruit in Kentucky, the area prospered, also bolstered by the surrounding grazing land of Kentucky Station and Terrible Vale, which was producing some of the nation’s finest wool. Churches, schools, halls, and shops sprang up, and lively dances, sporting days, and community gatherings were the order of the day. “
The peacefulness of this idyllic lifestyle was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, when Kentucky, like nearby Uralla, volunteered a high proportion of its men.”
If you wanted to pop into Dobson’s Distillery for a Gin tasting you absolutely should, otherwise find a more hydrating snack at the general store. You could also ask to see 40 historical photographs of the early years of Kentucky which now hang in the Kentucky Memorial Hall.
Another great place to stop is the Walcha Road Hotel. The lunch spot on day two. The Walcha Road Hotel, built in 1870 and sits next to the heritage listed Walcha Road Station - which 100 years ago was alive with trade and industry. The station, still in service, now sits quietly peeking over at you enjoying a cold one at the same pub that served the men and women that sent 7500 bales of wool each year from its platform 100 years ago.
After a long break you can quickly shoot up the Oxley Highway. Just as the blood returns to your legs - turn onto Niangala Road. The powdered gravel finally crunching at your tires. A quick cruise down to the MacDonald river - the winding, willow lined river which demands to be swum in come the summertime.
The afternoon sun behind you, take the romantic journey through quiet country roads and quiet houses of the Walcha locals. The gravel so smooth it conveyor belts beneath you.
Coming with the sun at your back into the town. If you are thirsty for another drink you could always make a sharp left turn to the Commercial Hotel, hidden off the main road. An open fire, warmly welcoming pub. Where the locals park up every afternoon and make sure to keep your ears clean to hear the most current local town gossip.