Grafton, New South Wales, has a population of
about 18,500. It came into existence after Richard
Craig, an escaped convict, discovered
many highly valued cedar trees in the area. Being a smart man, Richard
traded this knowledge for £100 and a free pardon. Boats came up
the Clarence River to harvest the timber and a settlement developed. It
was officially named Grafton by Governor Fitzroy after his grandfather,
the Duke of Grafton, and was proclaimed a city in 1885.
Today, Grafton is divided into its commercial hub on the north bank of
the wide Clarence River, and South Grafton on the opposite bank. The two
are linked by 'the famous Bendy Bridge, an engineering marvel, built
. An engineering marvel it may have been in 1932 but today
it's a real pain. It has only one lane in each direction and is the only
bridge for miles. It has a couple of bends so sharp that traffic going
in one direction has to stop to allow a bus or truck travelling in the
opposite direction to negotiate each bend. The resulting traffic build
up at rush hour was horrendous.
Grafton's 'Bendy Bridge'. Road traffic
travels along the top level. The lower level carries a railway line and a
pedestrian pathway. At the far end
there is a section which can be raised to allow tall boats to pass through.
Grafton's Jacaranda Festival
We were fortunate in arriving in Grafton during the Jacaranda Festival
which is celebrated annually. A jacaranda tree has the most beautiful
lavender-coloured blossom and for two or three weeks during late spring
it looks absolutely splendid; even more so if there are several jacarandas
in close proximity. Grafton has a superabundance of these trees, many
growing along road verges.
Jacaranda trees formed a tunnel of blossom for the traffic and even stained the road.
A wonderful sight and . . . quite a good way to get run
If only the sun had shown its face for
the festival but the sky remained grey and sulky. Jacaranda blossom looks
even more spectacular in sunshine but at least the rain stayed away most
days, often saving itself for an evening thunderstorm. The trees in the
photo had been subjected to heavy rain and high winds during two recent
storms but even that couldn't spoil them.
All the shops closed at midday on the Thursday and the residents of Grafton
were out in force in the city centre, a high percentage wearing fancy
dress or lavender-coloured clothes and hats. There was a funfair in a
park and, close by, a talent competition for the kids. The city centre
streets had been closed to traffic and there were many stalls set up,
adding to the carnival atmosphere. One hitherto quite normal café
had covered its walls in black plastic sheeting with white stars and the
staff all dressed up as . . . I'm not sure what.
The staff in the café. The fourth
girl from the left had dyed her tongue the colour of jacaranda blossom.
I still can't work out the connection between jacaranda and the bra on the microphone
but it was
all good fun and the food and service were excellent.
Meanwhile, twenty kilometres north, at
the Big River Caravan Park and Ski Lodge,
our 'van was sited
on the bank of the wide Clarence River. On the Wednesday that we booked
in there were few caravans in the park, just many empty lodges. We spent
time with our good friends, John and Rhonda, whom we had met in Cairns.
Their son and daughter-in-law own the park which was a paradise of peace
Mid-week peace and quiet. The view of the Clarence River from the caravan.
Then Saturday morning
arrived. Suddenly this quiet, green park became bedlam with power boats
roaring at high speed up and down the river towing water skiers and all
sorts of other floating kid-carrying contraptions. There were motorised
quad bikes ridden by kids smaller than their bikes tearing along the pathways.
We were in danger of being run down by 4 x 4 cars towing boats on trailers.
There were dogs everywhere and one caravan had parked so close to us in
the night that Pam thought she'd better cook breakfast for them. Folks,
this had become a park for young people. Suddenly we didn't belong.
Dad drove the boat and the kids rode the
Mum sat behind dad and kept an eye on the kids as they frequently
To escape the chaos we decided to visit
a little town called Glenreagh where they were running a steam train.
It was a pleasant drive through green countryside and on arrival we discovered
that our train ticket was valid all day - we could use it as many times
as we wanted. Our first ride in the old coach behind the steam locomotive
was very pleasant but having done it once, the urge to go to the local
Golden Dog Hotel for lunch easily overcame any temptation to take a second
Number 1919 built by Beyer, Peacock & Co., Manchester in 1878.
There wasn't anything of special interest
to photograph through the carriage window so I settled for a little girl
hanging out of another window who gave me a shy smile.
All together, ladies:
Ahhhhhh, isn't she sweet?
And on our final evening in Grafton, when it was much too late . . .
. . . out came the sun.
And a little later, looking back over
the caravan, we were totally awed by the beauty of the sky.
And that is all for Grafton. The next
page finds us heading into the mountains to Armidale.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 55 was completed on 6th June 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.