Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Snow in Australia's New England

There were quite heavy snow falls at the weekend across the New England Tablelands. This photo by Bonnie Smith shows the Edwardian Langford homestead on the outskirts of Walcha.

Driving too and from Sydney I have often stopped on the road outside just to have a look. I have never been inside. That is a treat I have promised myself for a future occasion.

For people who don't know New England, the New England Tablelands is not as high as the Southern Alps, but it does have six mountains over 5,000 feet (1,524 metres), another dozen over 4,000 feet.(1,219 meters).  Walcha where this photo was taken has a height of 3,501 feet (1,067 metres).

This next shot is taken along Thunderbolt's Way, the road between Gloucester and Walcha that runs past Langford to Uralla and then on to Inverell. Some city people don't like this road because it's narrow in spots and can be a bit rough. You also have to watch for stock and kangaroos. Still, its a beautiful drive that also happens to be the quickest route to Armidale and indeed on to Brisbane.

You would think that snow would be frequent in such high country and indeed it does fall on a regular basis. However, the New England Tablelands are much further north than either the Blue Mountains or Southern Alps, tempering the climate. However, the high country is sufficiently spectacular and sometimes cold enough to form the tourism theme for the Tablelands, New England High Country (Facebook page) .

Armidale at 3,215 feet (980 metres) claims, accurately enough, to be the highest city in Australia. However, while some snow falls every winter, heavy falls are relatively uncommon. For that reason, one of the local rituals over so many years for both school and university students has been to hop into buses or cars and travel north up the highway towards Black Mountain (4,304 feet, 1,312 metres). There students, many of whom have never seen snow before, made snowmen and threw snowballs.

.The last photo is again near Walcha.

Guyra (4,364 feet, 1,330 metres) lies just to the north of Black Mountain. I used to play Rugby Union at school. I remember one match at Guyra with the temperature close to freezing and the snow sleeting in from the west. It was so cold that the tips of my fingers were blue, making it quite painful if you miss-caught the ball, hitting the finger tips.

 They breed them tough in the North. The Sydney schools coming up to play Rugby in Armidale during winter found the hard grounds and the sometimes biting westerlies something of an ordeal.

North of Guyra the road stretches on the Glen Innes (3,484 feet, 1,062 metres) though more high country. I have actually never seen snow in Glen. The road north is usually closed during those very heavy falls.

Each major snow-fall brings a stream of visitors from the sub-tropical coast up the mountain ranges to the nearest snow point. The bush goes very quiet when it snows. Sound is dampened, except for the sometimes sound of water. Even though the roads can be treacherous, there is something very calming about the experience.

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