The clocked slowed down, I’m sure of it. Somewhere over the Blue Mountains it gained time, (or lost depending on which way you looked at it.) There’s no other explanation for it. How else could you combine climbing through an old gold mine, historical street wanders, bush walks, long hot coffees, games of cricket, museums, river explorations, meandering meal times and copious amounts of rock scrutiny? This is what happens when you spend a long weekend in Hill End, you gain time, by going back in time.
If you hadn’t heard of Hill End, you probably wouldn’t be the first. It’s a tiny old gold rush town that used to boast 10,000 people living within it’s gold encrusted hills. Not now though, now it has a whittled down community of about 120 permanent people apparently.
Along with gold, Hill End has also been a draw card for many artists. Peter Adams did an incredible photographic series (and stories) of all the long term locals that had lived in the area. (This book is absolutely divine, and I’m kicking myself for not getting it when I was there.)
Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend were also regulars going back a bit further, with the iconic Australian painting- The Cricketers (R. Drysdale) set there.
The tiny township has (and is) being preserved for its historical past as a part of National Parks and Wildlife. What this means is that, you can walk down the street, and really imagine how it all used to be. Signs and photos help bring this old gold town to life again. You can imagine the muddy streets, the noise of the mine work and the smell of the days that once were. Amazing stuff.
Another thing that makes this town a bit special is that I have family buried here. For someone who thinks quite a lot, my brain got quite a work out imaging the lives of some of these people while wandering through the old graveyard.
Orange, reds, brown and blue. There were many trees still with their autumnal colours in the tiny town. A most vivid of blue sky, and stars, so many stars.
You can easily forget just how magnificent the stars truly are when you live in a big city. Sitting out in the pub’s beer garden on one of the cold nights, all rugged up and eating our food, I quietly wondered whether the gold seekers over the years had ever looked up.
I hope so. Looking up at the sky on our last night, it looked like the night was littered with all the gold specks that the miners themselves had been so desperately seeking. It seems it was there in the sky all along.
A wonderful place to visit if you want a tiny snapshot of Australia’s gold rush history.