Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fossicking in New England



Photo: Fossicking, Inverell

Some time ago, I started a series of posts describing the Fossicker's Way, the New England road linking some of New England's best fossicking areas.

Google blogger is down just at present, so I cannot provide details of these posts. I will add links once the problem is sorted.

I did just the first two days in this series, leaving my travellers stranded at Nundle. Now the people from Big Sky Country have put together some useful material on fossicking in New England's Northern Tablelands' region that allows me to extend the series.

Moving from Nundle, visitors travel to Tamworth and then up the western edge of the Tablelands through to Inverell and Glen Innes. Here we come to some great fossicking country. Here the sapphires are plentiful but, they can also be really, really big.

A couple sifting through a pile of wash at Inverell’s 7 Oaks Fossicking Park, can attest to this fact, after discovering a 42.13 carat blue sapphire, the largest stone ever found by a fossicker on site.

According to 7 Oaks’ owner, Peter Black, the stone is “an absolute monster”.

While the size of this find was rare, unearthing gemstones in decent quantities from the region is not, say the resident fossicking experts of Big Sky Country.

Along with the royal blue sapphire, the region is prolific for its rich diversity of gems and minerals, such as aquamarine, emerald, fluorite, topaz, zircon, garnet and quartz.

Big Sky Country is the New England North West region of NSW, part of it intersected by the road known as – yes, The Fossicker’s Way. The best towns to stay in for a few good days of fossicking are Inverell and Glen Innes.

Inverell justifiably goes by the title of ‘The Sapphire City’ because 70 per cent of Australia’s sapphires come from here, while Glen Innes boasts Minerama, one of the biggest annual gem and mineral festivals in Australia.

Here’s a basic guide to some of the fossicking options provided by Big Sky Country.

7 Oaks Fossicking Park, Inverell

This 300 acre property on Frazer Creek is family operated and has been producing sapphires since the 1960's. You can fossick on the natural creek banks, but the easier and most popular option is to sift through the piles of wash supplied to you.

Peter Black had only just bought 7 Oaks in April 2008, when a few weeks later, a couple from Port Macquarie found a 42.13 carat sapphire – the biggest find ever by a fossicking visitor at the park. The stone is estimated to be worth $5,000 to a collector.

Situated 19kms from Inverell, 7 Oaks is open for basic bush camping, with bush toilets, picnic tables and wood fire barbecues. Cost is $20 per day for adults and $10 for children aged 8 to 14.

http://www.sapphiresinverell.com.au/

Phone 02 6725 1582

Billabong Blue Sapphire Fossicking Park, Inverell

This park, 16km from Inverell, makes fossicking relatively civilized. You get to sift through the wash on benches at waist height and the owners, Rhonda and Bill, offer their professional advice should you need it. There’s a cafĂ©, BBQ and picnic areas, water tanks and toilets.

Billabong Blue promotes itself as ideal for the first time fossicker or the seasoned expert, and guarantees every visitor will go home with some coloured gems in their pocket. Cost is $20 per day, or $40 for a family (two adults, two children).

http://www.billabongblue.fossickingpark.com.au/

Phone 02 6721 0500

Poolbrook Gems Fossicking Park, Inverell

Poolbrook is another private property where visitors can fossick for a day for a fee. Located at Frazer's Creek, 26 kilometres from Inverell, visitors must stop at Kottage Kiya Gallery, 8 km from Inverell on the Nullamanna-Emmaville Road, to pick up sieves and get directions from Louise Walburn, one of the park's owners. Louise also gives first-time fossickers some helpful hints. Cost is $10 per day, children under 12 free.

Phone 02 6722 2781

Free Fossicking Sites in Inverell

There are three free areas to fossick around Inverell: Pindaroi Lake, Bukkulla; Frazer Creek, Nullamanna and Swanbrook Creek, Swanbrook Road.

Stannifer Fossicking Area, Tingha

Many of Tingha’s streets are named after the gems found in the district. In this free fossicking area, you may find jellybeans (water worn quartz crystals) quartz and grass stone. Tingha is about 17km south of Inverell.

Glen Rest Tourist Park, Glen Innes

Resident caravanners and visitors to Glen Innes can enjoy the privilege of fossicking through a bucket or bag of soil, with equipment and tuition supplied, along with shaded picnic tables. Cost is from $10 per bucket.

www.gleninnes.com/glenrestpark

Phone 02 6732 2413

Wellingrove Fossicking Reserve, Glen Innes

A peaceful and secluded spot for a fossick, Wellingrove is 19km north west of Glen Innes where you can hope to find sapphires and zircons.

A permit is required from the Visitor Information Centre and it costs from $5 per person a day but children under 12 are free.

Boolabinda Holiday Homestead, Glen Innes

Fossicking is just one of the activities available at this farmstay. You can search for sapphires and zircons in Reddestone Creek for $8 per day, plus $3 equipment hire.

http://www.boolabinda.com.au/ (closed June July & August)

Phone 02 6732 2215

Bullock Mountain Homestead

Bullock Mountain is also a farmstay, where you can fossick through buckets of wash from a disused mine or try your luck in Reddestone Creek. Fossicking park buckets costs $15.00 (includes sieves) while creek fossicking is $10.

http://www.bullockmountainhomestead.com/

Phone 02 6732 1599 – please book ahead.

Three Waters High Country Holidays, Glenn Innes

Fossicking for sapphires, zircons in Reddestone Creek at $8 per day, with equipment hire $3.

www.gleninnes.com/3waters

Phone 02 67 32 4863

Guided Field Tours – Baptist Church Fossicking Club, Glen Innes

This is a group visit to private land sites that occurs most Wednesdays. The group leaves at 9am from the Baptist Church, New England Highway and travels in convoy. A small charge per person.

Other areas to remember for free fossicking around Glen Innes Severn Council shire include Kookabookra, Glencoe, and Torrington State Conservation Area.

Three Creeks Gold Mine, Bingara

Three Creeks Gold Mine is a working mine that re-opened to the public in 2008 after a six-year closure. Owner Paul Myer guarantees that every visitor who pans will find some gold here, from a reef that has been mined since the 1800s. He provides full instruction on gold panning and equipment. Quartz crystals are also dominant here. Gold panning is $25 per day (this includes a mine tour), $15 for kids under 12 and under 5’s free.

There are a limited number of campsites available here as well as an on-site van.

Phone 02 6783 2224.

Iron Bark Creek and Woodsreef Fossicking Areas, Barraba

The Barraba area was known for its gold mines and mining villages in the late 1800s, and these areas are still most worthwhile for a fossick. You may find gold and other minerals such as copper, pyrites, jasper, garnets, zeolite, as well as opaque red, brown and yellow quartz. There are no facilities at Woodsreef Reserve but it is open for camping.

Phone 02 6782 1255

Further Information phone:

  • Inverell Tourism: 02 6728 8161
  • Glen Innes Tourism: 02 6730 2400
  • Bingara Visitor Centre: 02 6724 0066

Both Inverell and Glen Innes Visitors Centres have their own fossicking brochures, which provide detailed information and maps.

Entry point for the Fossickers Way series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Helpful article. Thankyou