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Page 55





Grafton, NSW.


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 in 1932'. 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.

Bendy Bridge

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.

Jacarandas

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 over!

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.

Cafe Staff

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 and tranquility.

Clarence River

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.

Speed Boat

Dad drove the boat and the kids rode the 'sledge'.
Mum sat behind dad and kept an eye on the kids as they frequently fell off.

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 ride.

Steam Engine

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.

Child

All together, ladies: Ahhhhhh, isn't she sweet?

And on our final evening in Grafton, when it was much too late . . .

Sunset

. . . out came the sun.

And a little later, looking back over the caravan, we were totally awed by the beauty of the sky.

Red 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.